Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Hire

As anticipated by many, Heather Lyke made her move today and cut ties with now former Pitt Men’s Basketball coach Kevin Stallings.  Now the pressure lays directly on her shoulders to find his replacement.  Hiring Kevin Stallings was a massive blow to the Pitt basketball program.  Firing him now was the right move but making the correct hire for his replacement is just as important if Pitt wants to get back to were they were 7 years ago, when they were the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Pitt is a good job.  Pitt is going to be one of the better jobs available this year (the NCAA/FBI thing won’t start bringing down programs for another 1-2 years, if ever).  Pitt, despite what many people say, can pay big bucks for the coach they want.  They showed that by paying big bucks to a coach they didn’t want, in buying out Stallings.  In my mind, Pitt is the 2nd best job available this offseason, behind only Louisville.  Even with pending NCAA sanctions, Louisville has the history and the money to attract ANY coach they want.  After that, you have teams like Pitt and Mississippi and maybe Georgia (if they fire Mark Fox).  Other than that, there doesn’t look to be many major conference jobs coming open this year, which helps Pitt.

I have already given you my Coaches NOT to Hire.

Here are my Top 5 choices for the next basketball coach at Pitt.

1. DAN HURLEY – Head Coach at Rhode Island
If you haven’t read my previous RANT making a case for Hurley, here it is.  Hurley is in his 6th year at Rhode Island and has the Rams entering the A-10 Tournament as the #1 seed and regular season champs.  Hurley will NOT be back at Rhode Island next year.  His team currently is loaded with seniors and he has basically maxed out his earning power at Rhode Island with his last contract extension.  Hurley is a proven winner, who has won at both Wagner and Rhode Island after taking them over as rebuild projects.  He is clearly the top mid-major coach this year, that is ready to take the step to the to the next level.  Louisville could also be an option for Hurley, but I think the Cardinals are going to try and make a big push for Xavier head coach Chris Mack.  If they strike out with Mack, Hurley may be their next target.

2. MICK CRONIN – Head Coach at Cincinnati
I’m going to set this at about a .5% chance of happening.  Cronin is the only name on this list that I think might choose to stay at his current job, rather than taking the Pitt job, if offered.  He is in a pretty good spot right now.  Cronin is born and raised in Cincinnati and a graduate of UC.  Cronin makes $2.2M coaching there, but I don’t think money would factor into Cronin’s decision much.  The biggest question is does he want to leave Cincinnati, his alma mater, and try his hand in the ACC?  Cronin has a great background, coaching under Bob Huggins and Rick Pitino before getting his 1st head coaching job.   Cronin was at Murray State for 3 years before going to Cincinnati, he took Murray State to the NCAA Tournament in 2 of his 3 years there.  He is in his 12th year at Cincinnati and has the Bearcats ready to return to the NCAA Tournament for the 8th straight year.   Likely not going to happen, but if Lyke doesn’t give his agent a call, she isn’t doing her job.

3. MICAH SHREWSBERRY – Boston Celtics Assistant Coach
Here is your head-scratcher name, but trust me, he’s candidate and a darn good one at that.  Although Shrewsberry has never been a head coach, he has worked for some good ones.  He has spent 8 of the last 10 years working under Brad Stevens, who in my opinion is one of the best basketball minds in coaching.  He worked with Stevens for 3 years at Butler, including both years Butler made it to the National Championship Game.  Then he went to Purdue and worked with Matt Painter, where he was very instrumental in recruiting.  This year’s Purdue team, which has spent most of the year in the Top 10, is a senior laden team.  Shrewsberry is a big reason those seniors are at Purdue.  In fact, he was invited back to their Senior Night this year because of his ties to that senior class.  Shrewsberry returned to Stevens bench and is in his 5th year with the Celtics.  He is a defensive minded coach and is credited for the development of two of the Celtics top young players, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, both lottery picks.  Shrewsberry would like to return to the college ranks and do so as a head coach.  I don’t always have inside information, but I can say with 100% certainty that Shrewsberry is interested in the Pitt job.

4. RON SANCHEZ – Assistant Coach at Virginia
Just like any assistant coach, you always look at who they have coached under to try to determine how what type of coach he might be.  Sanchez has spent the last 12 years on the bench of Tony Bennett, arguably the best defensive head coach in college basketball.  Sanchez has established some solid recruiting ties in the ACC as well, which could certainly help Pitt as they look to improve their roster.  Sanchez is one of the hot assistant coaches that will certainly have opportunities this offseason to become a head coach if he wants to make the jump.  One worry that some might have is that he has worked under just 1 coach for his professional coaching career (he did work under Mike Davis at Indiana as a Grad Assistant). 

5. THAD MATTA – Former Head Coach at Ohio State
Matta was actually on my original DO NOT HIRE list, before it was known that he is healthy and wants to get back into coaching.  He is #5 on this list simply because nobody really knows how healthy he really is.  Pitt can’t afford to hire a coach right now that only lasts 2 years before being forced back into retirement from a pre-existing condition.  Matta left Ohio State last June due to lingering foot and back issues that made it difficult for him to do his job.  In his final year at Ohio State the Buckeyes went just 17-15, it was the only time in his 17-year career as a head coach that he did not win 20 or more games.  Matta made 2 Final Fours, including 1 National Championship Game while at Ohio State.  He also won the Big Ten regular season title 5 times and won the Big Ten Tournament 4 times.  If Matta is healthy and wants to give coaching another try, Pitt should 100% call him and gauge his interest.  He has ties to Pitt AD Heather Lyke, from her time at Ohio State.  Pitt also has some similar recruiting areas to what Matta would have been used to at Ohio State. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Who Is Next At Pitt?

Kevin Stallings has now completed the perfect season, 0-18.  Pitt is just the 2nd ACC school to ever accomplish this feat.  By the time we wake up tomorrow Stallings could and should be fired.  There is no sense in Athletic Director Heather Lyke delaying the inevitable any longer.  Fire Stallings now and hire the next Pitt Men’s Basketball Coach ASAP (even if it is not announced for another few weeks because the new head coach still has his team playing.)  The key however, is this hire.  After the disastrous Kevin Stallings Experiment, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher and Lyke cannot afford to miss on this hire.

Let me say once again, that I am 100% hitched to the Dan Hurley wagon.  If you missed my Rant a few weeks back making a case for him to be the replacement, here it is.

Obviously, I am not making the hire, so I am sure that others will be considered by the decision makers at Pitt as well.  If they don’t get Hurley from Rhode Island, I don’t really have anyone in particular that I would really pull for to be hired.  I like the idea of a guy like Ron Sanchez, the Associate Head Coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett.  I think Mick Cronin, at Cincinnati, might be someone to talk to and maybe gauge his interest.  Steve Forbes at ETSU was going to be a hot name, but he reportedly just agreed to an extension recently.  Who knows if that holds up.  I’m intrigued by some other names that I have heard mentioned as well, but I am going to keep those names to myself for the time being.

One thing I can say is that I know who I DON’T want Pitt to hire as their next basketball coach.  Being that this has been a hot topic between Pitt fans since roughly mid-January, I have heard tons of suggestions for the next coach.  I have seen them on Twitter, on Pitt message boards, in text conversations with friends.  Some have been good suggestions.  Others have been awful.  Those are the ones that I am going to address here.

(NOTE: I wrote this in Early-February in anticipation of Stallings being fired.  This was BEFORE the Sean Miller information came out late last week.  He was however on my original list of coaches I DID NOT want at Pitt, so I left the original comments and thoughts as to why.  What happened to him last Friday night doesn’t change anything in my mind.  Anyone that was paying close attention to the situation knew that there was another show to drop.  He was a HARD PASS for me before the news came out and he still is today.)

SEAN MILLER: This is the same Sean Miller that just 2 years was running away from this job, and the rumors of being tied to the job, as fast as humanly possible.  It ended with his dad bad mouthing Pitt and basically saying that his son would never coach at Pitt.  If that same Sean Miller, now suddenly wants the Pitt job, then his situation at Arizona with the FBI investigation is WAY worse than any of us think.  As I said before, this is a VERY important hire.  The last thing that Pitt needs is to hire a guy whose top assistant for the last 11 years was in court last week on bribery and fraud charges in connection with the ongoing FBI investigation into the NCAA.  NO THANKS!

BRANDIN KNIGHT:  Remove the name “PITT” from Brandin’s coaching resume and replace it with schools like Seton Hall, Virginia Tech, Georgetown, Michigan, or Ohio State.  Would you still want Brandin Knight as the next head coach at Pitt?  I didn’t think so.  I’ll never understand why so much importance is put on whether or not someone is from Pitt (or Pittsburgh).  Being a Pitt guy really isn’t all that important.  Being able to coach and recruit is.  Nobody knew who Ben Howland was before he got to Oakland and he is the guy that turned the whole program around.  Heck, I bet most people reading this now, couldn’t tell me where Howland coached before coming to Pitt.  I know people wanted Knight to get the job when Dixon left and looking back, he probably couldn’t have done much worse than Stallings.  But if he were that good of a coach, don’t you think someone else would have scooped him up and given him a head coaching job?  Don’t you think Dixon would have at least offered him a spot on his staff at TCU?  Knight is currently at Rutgers.  And he isn’t even the top assistant there.  BY THE WAY… Ben Howland coached at Gonzaga, UC Santa Barbara and his only head coaching experience before Pitt hired him was at Northern Arizona.

KEVIN WILLARD:  If Pitt had to hire a “Pitt Guy” I’d rather have Willard over Knight, at least he has head coaching experience.  Still, hiring a Pitt guy is not important and there are much better candidates than Kevin Willard out there, even if he is a Pitt Alum.

ARCHIE MILLER:  See “SEAN MILLER” and re-read the first two sentences.

RICK PITINO:  See “SEAN MILLER” and re-read the last four sentences.

TOM CREAN:  He was a winner at Marquette, as Pitt fans know all too well.  He also took a dumpster fire at Indiana and turned it around.  In 9 years at Indiana he went to 3 Sweet 16’s and won 2 Big Ten Titles, but he also missed the NCAA Tournament completely 5 times.  Maybe most importantly though, the reason I don’t want Tom Crean is because he is an ass.  He had issues with discipling his players and keeping guys on the roster.  There is a reason that Indiana canned him last year at the first hint of a struggle.  He had the Hoosiers at #3 in the country before they fell apart, eventually losing in the 1st Round of the NIT.

ANDY TOOLE:  I think Toole is a very good basketball coach, but he just doesn’t have the experience needed for the ACC.  He is also another guy that is only getting mentioned because he is in Pittsburgh.  He just finished 7th in the NEC this year.  If he coached at Mount St. Mary’s or a different school in the NEC other than Robert Morris, nobody would know who he is.  I think Toole could eventually do some nice things at a bigger school, but Pitt can’t afford to take that risk right now.

THAD MATTA:  This name gets brought up a lot because of his connection to Pitt AD Heather Lyke.  He was at Ohio State when she was an assistant AD there.  Matta was very successful at Ohio State, taking them to the postseason in 11 of 13 years there, including two Final Four’s.  He retired after last season at just the age of 49 due to back injuries that made the job too difficult.  I have no idea how he is recovering or if he even wants to get back into coaching.  Due to the questions about his health, and the long-term rebuild that the Pitt program has ahead of itself, Matta doesn’t make any sense right now for the Panthers.

BEN HOWLAND:  After getting fired from UCLA, Howland has found himself rebuilding the Mississippi State program, and has them on the cusp of an NCAA Tournament appearance in just Year 3 in Starkville.  There is no doubt that he can coach, and he would certainly be embraced at Pitt if he were to return, however I have two big draw backs on bringing Howland back to Pitt.  1) He is 60 years old.  I would prefer a younger coach to take over a rebuild, because it will take time.  This isn’t just a 1 or 2 year fix sadly, it will likely take 3 or 4 years.  That’s why Pitt will probably have to offer a 6-year deal with lots of guarantees to whoever they get for the job. That would put Howland at 66.  I don’t think Pitt wants to go through this hiring process again in 5 or 6 years.  Ideally, they get someone younger, like Dixon was, who will be there for a long time, again, like Dixon was.  2) This is pure speculation, but I think Howland is dirty.  His long-standing connection with Adidas and his sudden ability to get top tier talent to play at Mississippi State scares me.  With the recent reports stemming from the FBI investigation talking about there being many, many other schools involved in the corruption case, I just don’t trust him.

Bottom line is that any coach at this point would be an upgrade over Stallings.  However, the guys listed above are not guys that could get Pitt back to prominence, like they were within the last 10 years.

Friday, February 9, 2018


The ACC Tournament will conclude exactly one month from tomorrow (March 10th).  Pitt will likely be back in Pittsburgh by the 2nd day of the 5-day tournament, possibly putting a cap on an embarrassing 0-19 record vs. the ACC.  Hopefully by this time next month they will have already begun the search process for their next men’s basketball head coach.  The 1st call they should make in that process is to Dan Hurley.

To be honest, I had hoped that Hurley was a candidate for the opening at Pitt two years ago when Jaime Dixon left Pitt for TCU, but his name was never mentioned during the search.  At that point Hurley, son of one of the most successful high school basketball coaches in history, Bob, Sr. and brother to former Duke star and current Arizona State head coach Bobby, had already made a name for himself in coaching. 

Hurley got into coaching immediately after graduating from Seton Hall, where he was the Pirates starting point guard.  His 1st job was an assistant to his father at St. Anthony’s in Jersey City, NJ.   After one season at St. Anthony’s he joined the staff at Rutgers for 4 years as an assistant.  Hurley then went back to high school and became the head coach at St. Benedict’s in Newark, NJ.  In 9 years at St. Benedict’s Hurley recorded 223 wins to just 21 losses.  St. Benedict’s finished ranked in the Top 5 nationally 4 times in those 9 years, clearly proving he was more than just Bob Hurley’s son when it came to coaching basketball.

After St. Benedict’s, Hurley took his 1st college head coaching job at Wagner College in Staten Island.  He inherited a team at Wagner that went 5-26 the year before he arrived.  In his 2nd year Hurley led the Seahawks to a 25-6 record, good enough for a 2nd place finish in the NEC.  Pitt fans might remember that team, as they came to the Petersen Event Center and beat the 15th ranked Panthers, handing Pitt their 1st ever loss to an NEC opponent.  Hurley then found himself in charge of another rebuild the following year, after taking a step up in competition and leaving Wagner for the Atlantic-10 and Rhode Island.

The Rams were 7-24 the season prior to Hurley arriving.  After taking 2-years to rebuild the URI program, Hurley had a 23-win team playing in the NIT after a 2nd place A-10 finish in year #3.  He is now in Year 6 at Rhode Island, where he has compiled a record of 105-77 going into tonight’s game between the two top teams in the Atlantic-10.  Over the past 4 seasons he is 83-38 leading the Rams, including a 19-3 record this year, which includes an undefeated 11-0 conference record.  

Hurley clearly has a resume that qualifies him for a promotion into a major conference.  Now the question most ask would be, “Why would he want to walk into the mess at Pitt right now?”

That is a fair question.  Here are my 4 reasons why the Pitt job makes sense for Hurley:

1) MONEY!!!  It is plain and simple.

Before we get into the money conversation, let me put an end to the myth that Pitt doesn’t have any money.  There is a big difference between being smart or even cheap with how you spend money and not having money at all.  The ACC has paid Pitt $55M over the past 2 years and another $30M or so will be coming at the end of this current school year.  Pitt has the money to attract a big coach and to buy out their current one.

Now, back to Hurley.

Hurley signed a contract extension with Rhode Island last March.  Under the new deal he is getting just about $1.1M a year, a figure that is considered to be very near the limit to the basketball budget at Rhode Island.  The details to Kevin Stallings current contract at Pitt aren’t public knowledge, but we do know that he made $2.1M at Vanderbilt in his final season and reports are that his buyout after this season, with 4 years remaining on his deal, would be around $10M.  Without knowing the exact numbers, it is pretty safe to bet that Stallings is currently making at least double the amount that Hurley is. 

2) As good as Hurley has been at Rhode Island, how long does he plan on staying there?  6 years is a long time at a mid-major when you have been as successful as he has.  Is he waiting for a bigger job to open?  Maybe, but Pitt isn’t a terrible job.  It is an ACC school, which you’d think would be a draw for a guy born and raised in the NJ/NY area.  It is a program that has had a ton of success as recently as just a few years ago.  Pitt was ranked in the Top 10 for 11 straight years from 2002 to 2012.  They were in the NCAA Tournament just 3 years ago.  This isn’t Rutgers we are talking about.  You could do a lot worse than Pitt if you were a coach looking to jump into a major conference.

3) Just looking at the coaching landscape this season, there doesn’t seem to be many jobs opening up this year in the major conferences.  As crazy as this seems, Pitt may be one of, if not the best job that becomes available.  Sure, you might have Arizona or Michigan State open depending on what comes out about the 2 different scandals that could possibly be tied to their current coaches, but I don’t think Hurley would get either of those jobs even if they became available.  UCONN might come available if they show Kevin Ollie the door.  Louisville has a decision to make regarding their interim head coach David Padgett.  St. John’s was looking like a team that might come open and would be a great fit for Hurley, but Chris Mullin has just led his team to wins over both #4 Duke and #1 Villanova in back to back games.  I think he is safe too.  After that, Pitt is the best job of the group. 

4)  Something that has been somewhat over looked by the many that have argued that Hurley wouldn’t come to Pitt is the fact that his team at Rhode Island this year is very senior heavy.  This would be his chance to strike while the iron is hot.  As mentioned before, URI is 19-3, with all 3 of those losses coming in the non-conference to teams that will be in the field of 68 next month.  4 of the 5 Rams starters this year are seniors, as is their top player off the bench.  Rhode Island is set to lose 64.5% of their minutes played this season.  They currently only have 1 underclassman that averages over 17 minutes a game.  They also lose 74.9% of their scoring including their top 4 scorers.  They are also set to lose over half (57.9%) of their rebounding from this season.  Their best on ball defender, Stanford Robinson, is also a senior.  He currently ranks 7th in the nation in steals.  Hurley will be going through a mini rebuild next year one way or the other, why not do it at a more established program, while getting paid a LOT more money?

Dan Hurley is the guy for Pitt.  After Heather Lyke fires Kevin Stallings at roughly 4:30p (15-seed is scheduled to play at 2pm) Tuesday March 6th, her 1st call should be to Dan Hurley and she shouldn’t take no for an answer.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

College Basketball Rant: Time For Pitt To Quit Stalling

Kevin Stallings needs to go.

There, I said it. 

Pitt AD Heather Lyke needs to rid herself of the awful hire made by her predecessor Scott Barnes. 

That being said, I can think of roughly 6 million reasons why Lyke will not fire Stallings at the end of the season, giving him a 3rd year to further disgrace a once highly regarded basketball program.  Pitt athletics have never been one to spend extra money.  They have always been known to be rather cheap when compared to their competition, both back in the Big East and still now in the ACC.  So, the roughly $6M difference in the Stallings buyout between March of 2018 and March of 2019 seems like a pretty tall ask for the athletic department and Lyke to take on. 

However, you have to wonder how much money keeping Stallings will cost the basketball program.  Ticket sales have been awful this season at the Pete as it seems like every game sets a new all-time low attendance figure for the building.  Wednesday night, the announced attendance was 2,566, which was the lowest attended conference game in the buildings 16 seasons.  On the year, Pitt is averaging 3,885 per game.  If you factor in that 2 of the games were dominated by fans of the visiting teams (WVU and Duke) and remove those two games from the equation, Pitt is averaging 3,053 per game.  Capacity at the Petersen Event Center is 12,508, meaning that this year, on average Pitt is getting less than a quarter (24.4%) of the buildings capacity for their games.  This is the same building that as recently as 5 years ago was one of the toughest tickets to get into for a Pitt Men’s basketball game.

How much money does the athletic department have to lose from ticket sales and from donations into the program before enough is enough?

As for the product on the court, it is bad.  REALLY BAD!

When Stallings was hired, all anyone could talk about was what a great offensive mind he is and how effective and efficient his offenses are.  It seemed like coaches were going out of their way to praise him and his genius.  So, about that offense…

Pitt is now 8 games into conference play with 21 games on the season and they average 64.4 pointe per game, which ranks 336th out of 351 in all D1.  The 68 points they scored on Wednesday against NC State was the most they had scored all season in ACC play and the most points in any game since scoring 74 vs Delaware State December 19th.  They haven’t reached the 70-point mark in ACC play in their last 14 games.  They scored 80 against Florida State on Feb 18th last season.  (12 of the 15 ACC teams AVERAGE more than 70 ppg this season.)

Looking at more than points per game, shines even a brighter light on just how bad the Panthers have been on offense this season.  Pitt ranks dead last in the ACC, shooting just 42.7% from the field.  They aren’t much better from the foul line or from 3-point range, ranking 12th in the conference in both categories.  They also average 15 turnovers a game, which is the worst in the league.  Their 315 turnovers on the season is 40 more than the next closest team.  Pitt has more turnovers than assists this year, something you never saw when Jamie Dixon was coaching.  Pitt ranks last in the ACC in Assist/Turnover Ratio and ranks 299th in the nation (out of 351 teams).

And if you want to get even more analytical, let’s look at KenPom’s Adjusted Offensive Efficiency Ratings (points scored per 100 possessions, adjusted for opponents).  Pitt scores 98.3 points per 100 possessions, which ranks 277th in the nation and once again dead last in the ACC.  The next closest ACC team is Georgia Tech, which averages 103 pts/100 possessions, ranking 186th in the nation.  To put those numbers in perspective, Villanova leads the nation scoring at a rate of 128.2 pts/100 possessions.  Coppin State is last, scoring just 84.6 pts/ 100 possessions.

And remember, those stats are from a team being coached by an offensive savant.  We won’t get into the details defensively, just use your imagination for how bad they are on that side of the ball, and it is worse.

Wednesday’s game may have really pushed things over the edge for me.  Pitt, who is in danger of being only the 7th team in the ACC 65-year history to go winless in conference play, had a chance to win their 1st ACC game of the season.  Pitt had a 9-point lead at 66-57 with 5:54 left in the game.  The Panthers proceeded to score TWO points the rest of the game, getting outscored by NC State 15-3 in that span.  This is how the game played out for Pitt over the last 5:54…
Kene Chukwuka missed Three Point Jumper.
Kene Chukwuka Offensive foul - Turnover.
Jared Wilson-Frame missed Three Point Jumper.
Jared Wilson-Frame missed Three Point Jumper.
Jared Wilson-Frame Turnover.
Kene Chukwuka missed Jumper.
Pittsburgh Turnover.
Marcus Carr missed Three Point Jumper.
Kene Chukwuka missed Three Point Jumper.
Marcus Carr made Layup.
Marcus Carr missed Three Point Jumper.
Pitt had 11 possessions after going up by 9 with under 6 minutes to play.  They proceeded to go 0-6 from 3-point range, with ZERO offensive rebounds.  They had 3 turnovers.  They missed a 2-point jump shot and made 1 layup.  

Overall in the 2nd half, while playing with a lead, Pitt went 0-14 from 3-point range.



A team that ranks 12th in the conference, shooting just 32% from 3-point range, shot 14 of them in the 2nd half of a game they were winning!

In the postgame Stallings made no comment about the bad shot selection down the stretch, instead leaves us with this, “In a stretch of disappointing games, that one was disappointing.” 


To top things off in his postgame presser, Stallings was asked about removing Jared Wilson-Frame from the game with Pitt down 2 with 2:15 remaining, his response “I don’t really recall.  I don’t recall.  I don’t remember even taking him out then.” 

Wilson-Frame led Pitt with 22 points in the game.  He removed the team’s leading scorer and by far their best player on the offensive end all night, after blowing a 9-point lead and didn’t even realize he did it????

The writing is on the wall.  This cannot continue.  The team is still making fundamental errors.  The team may be improving, but it is by such a small margin that it really doesn’t matter.  There are maybe 2 legit ACC-caliber players on the Pitt roster right now.  That doesn’t speak well about the future.  That doesn’t tell me that this team will be drastically better if Stallings sticks around for Year 3.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

College Football Weekly Rant - Bowl Special



This is becoming an annual Rant come Bowl Season as I continue to feed ESPN ideas on how to #MakeBowlSeasonGreatAgain.  My format remains the similar to years passed, which you can find HERE from last year when we revisited this idea.  Basically, because Bowl Season has become maybe 4 or 5 decent games outside the CFB Playoff and a bunch of garbage due to the conference affiliations with the bowls, we have a draft to pick the games.  I mean, who doesn’t love a draft???
The draft order goes by the bowl payouts from the previous bowl season.  These would be sealed bids, and the dollar figures would not be announced the bowls are announced.  This would make it, so no bowls could get an advantage over others.  It would also allow a bowl to make a play for a big game with better opponents if they were willing to pay a premium.  Here is the Draft Order based on the 2016 Bowl Season payouts: (Note: All New Year’s 6 Bowls are protected in the Top 6 spots, but conference affiliation is no longer a part of the bowl selection process)
CFB Playoff Sites:
1. Rose Bowl
2. Sugar Bowl
Remaining New Year’s 6 Bowls:
3. Peach Bowl
4. Orange Bowl
5. Fiesta Bowl
6. Cotton Bowl
All Other Bowls:
7. Citrus Bowl ($8,500,000)
8. Alamo Bowl ($7,775,000)
9. Outback Bowl ($6,308,560)
10. Texas Bowl ($6,200,000)
11. Holiday Bowl ($5,930,000)
12. Camping World Bowl ($5,800,000)
13. Music City Bowl ($5,787,500)
14. Liberty Bowl ($4,800,000)
15. Belk Bowl ($4,623,123)
16. Pinstripe Bowl ($4,200,000)
17. Foster Farms Bowl ($3,600,000)
18. Sun Bowl ($3,447,568)
19. TaxSlayer Bowl ($3,116,429)
20. Las Vegas ($2,800,000)
21. Military Bowl ($2,066,990)
22. Birmingham Bowl ($2,050,000)
23. Quick Lane Bowl ($1,800,000)
24. Cactus Bowl ($1,750,000)
25. Heart of Dallas ($1,667,000)
26. Armed Forces Bowl ($1,557,500)
27. Dollar General Bowl ($1,500,000)
28. Independence Bowl ($1,486,200)
29. Hawaii Bowl ($1,200,000)
30. Idaho Potato Bowl ($1,050,000)
31. New Mexico ($1,050,000)
32. Gasparilla Bowl ($1,000,000)
33. New Orleans Bowl ($925,000)
34. Boca Raton Bowl ($850,000)
35. Cure Bowl ($802,000)
36. Arizona Bowl ($556,840)
37. Camellia Bowl ($500,000)
38. Bahamas Bowl ($450,000)
39. Frisco Bowl ($200,000)

The Draft would be simple, there is no conference affiliation, no automatic bids and no side table negotiations, just each bowl picking their teams, with a just a few rules.

*Bowls will select in order with a pool of 10 teams to choose from.  For instance, the Peach Bowl would have the 1st choice after the CFB Playoff Committee selects their 4 playoff teams.  The Peach Bowl would then have the next 10 teams in the rankings available to pick from (Ideally the Committee would rank all bowl eligible teams, not just a Top 25.  For this exercise I am using the Massey Ratings Index, which does rank all 130 FBC teams.)  With each bowl selections, two more teams come available for the next bowl to choose from.

*No team can drop more than six bowl games.  Meaning that once you show up in the selection pool, if you are not picked by the 1st five bowls you were made available to, you are automatically assigned to the next bowl.

There is no chance that ESPN couldn’t and wouldn’t sell the hell out of this.  Can you imagine a 4-hour show unveiling the 4 Playoff teams, plus a live draft for the remaining bowls?  They could have a greenroom with 72 different coaches/AD’s from all the bowl eligible schools and a “War Room” like the NFL Draft of all the bowl committees.  Every 5 minutes a new bowl representative comes on stage to make their pick followed by team reps coming out on stage for a quick photo op.  Then back to the set and that bowl gets the attention of Rece Davis, Desmond Howard, David Pollack and Kirk Herbstreit for the next 5 minutes while waiting on the next selection.  Let’s not forget about the rankings continuously being unveiled with two more eligible teams for the next bowl to select from.  It would be College Football’s version of the Royal Rumble as everyone waits to see who is next!  Think about it, every bowl gets their individual time in the national spotlight, the coaches get some face time and the network gets millions of eyeballs, EVERYBODY WINS!

Another benefit from this format is avoid the repetition we see every bowl season with the same schools going back to the same bowls due to conference affiliations.  Bowl attendance has been way down recently, and you’d have to imagine it has to do with fans not wanting to go back to the same location every few years.  The current format has teams limited to only a few locations based on their conference tie-ins, this format would make any bowl a possibility for any team and give the bowl the decision to not pick the same teams they have had in recent years.

So, without further ado…

THE 2017 SELECTIONS: (My Mock Fake Bowl Draft)
PEACH BOWL – #5 Ohio State vs #9 Notre Dame
ORANGE BOWL - # 7 Penn State vs #8 Auburn
FIESTA BOWL - #6 Wisconsin vs #14 USC
COTTON BOWL - #19 Michigan vs #13 Oklahoma State
CITRUS BOWL - #10 UCF vs #12 Miami
ALAMO BOWL - #11 TCU (Mandatory Pick) vs #22 LSU
OUTBACK BOWL - #15 Virginia Tech (Mandatory Pick) vs #16 Michigan State (Mandatory Pick)
TEXAS BOWL - #17 Northwestern (Mandatory Pick) vs #18 Washington (Mandatory Pick)
HOLIDAY BOWL - #20 NC State (Mandatory Pick) vs #26 Stanford
CAMPING WORLD BOWL - #21 Louisville (Mandatory Pick) vs #23 Iowa (Mandatory Pick To Avoid Rematch)
MUSIC CITY BOWL - #24 Iowa State (Mandatory Pick) vs #29 Florida State
LIBERTY BOWL - #25 Boston College (Mandatory Pick) vs #30 Texas
BELK BOWL - #27 Wake Forest (Mandatory Pick) vs #28 Mississippi State (Mandatory Pick)
PINSTRIPE BOWL - #32 West Virginia  vs #36 Purdue
FOSTER FARMS BOWL - #31 Washington State (Mandatory Pick) vs #37 Texas Tech
SUN BOWL - #33 Kansas State (Mandatory Pick ) vs #34 Memphis (Mandatory Pick)
TAXSLAYER BOWL - #35 South Carolina (Mandatory Pick) vs #40 South Florida
LAS VEGAS BOWL - #38 Toledo (Mandatory Pick) vs #43 Texas A&M
MILITARY BOWL - #39 Boise State (Mandatory Pick) vs #48 Virginia
BIRMINGHAM BOWL - #41 Duke (Mandatory Pick) vs #42 San Diego State (Mandatory Pick)
QUICK LANE BOWL - #44 Missouri (Mandatory Pick) vs #46 Oregon
CACTUS BOWL - #45 Arizona State (Mandatory Pick) vs #51 Kentucky
HEART OF DALLAS BOWL - #47 Florida Atlantic (Mandatory Pick) vs #49 Houston
ARMED FORCES BOWL - #50 UCLA (Mandatory Pick) vs #54 Army
DOLLAR GENERAL BOWL - #52 Utah (Mandatory Pick) vs #56 Troy
INDEPENDENCE BOWL - #53 Arizona (Mandatory Pick) vs #59 SMU
HAWAII BOWL - #55 Fresno State (Mandatory Pick) vs #58 Navy
IDAHO POTATO BOWL - #57 N. Illinois (Mandatory Pick) vs #66 Colorado State
NEW MEXICO BOWL - #59 Central Michigan (Mandatory Pick) vs #70 Utah State
GASPARILLA BOWL - #61 Ohio (Mandatory Pick) vs #62 Temple (Mandatory Pick)
NEW ORLEANS BOWL - #63 North Texas (Mandatory Pick) vs #64 W. Michigan (Mandatory Pick)
BOCA RATON BOWL - #65 Appalachian State (Mandatory Pick) vs #67 Akron (Mandatory Pick To Avoid Conference Opponent)
CURE BOWL - #68 Buffalo (Mandatory Pick) vs #73 Florida International
ARIZONA BOWL – #69 Wyoming (Mandatory Pick) vs #78 UT-San Antonio
CAMELLIA BOWL - #71 Marshall (Mandatory Pick) vs #72 Arkansas State (Mandatory Pick)
BAHAMAS BOWL - #74 Southern Miss. (Mandatory Pick) vs #80 New Mexico State
FRISCO BOWL - #75 Middle Tenn State (mandatory Pick) vs #81 Georgia State

Change is good.

Change is needed.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

College Football Weekly Rant - Week 15


It has taken four years, but the CFB Playoff Selection Committee finally has me baffled as to the criteria they are looking for to select their playoff teams.
In 2014 the committee put so much stock in Conference Champions that they dropped TCU from #3 to #6 after they beat Iowa State 55-3 in the season finale because they were declared Co-Champions of the Big XII.  The conference would not declare a specific winner.  This left the Big XII out of the 1st playoff as Baylor finished 5th in the final rankings, 1 spot ahead of TCU, both with an 8-1 conference record.
In 2015 it was “Top 25 Wins” that the committee preached about during the selection process.  That helped Oklahoma jump from 15th in the original rankings to 12th, to 7th and finally to 3rd in consecutive weeks as they beat 3 Top 25 opponents during that 4-week span.  OU then dropped from 3rd to 4th in the last rankings while not playing on the final week of the season.
In 2016 it was “big wins matter, bad losses don’t”.  In Week 11 last season Clemson and Michigan both lost to unranked teams on last second field goals.  Clemson dropped from #2 to #4, Michigan remained at #3.  #4 Washington also lost that week, they dropped from #4 to #6.  Despite those losses, all 3 teams remained very much alive for a playoff position.
This season, the message received by the committee was “don’t lose”.  This advice is important in all sports, but has the potential to be very damning to the landscape of college football.
In 2017 the committee went against their policy of making Conference Championship’s important, by keeping the Big Ten Champ out for the 2nd consecutive year.  The PAC 12 Champ was also left out this season.  However, for a 2nd straight year, a team that didn’t even play for a conference championship was selected.
The committee also threw out the idea of Top 25 wins being important this year, when they selected Alabama over teams like Ohio State and USC.  Leading up to the final rankings the committee said publicly that teams 5-8 (Alabama, Georgia, Miami, Ohio St) were all very close in consideration.  Ohio State proceeded to beat an undefeated Wisconsin team that ranked #4 going into the game, but remained behind Alabama, who did not play.  Remember Oklahoma falling in the rankings when they didn’t play the final week of 2015? Alabama moved UP this year by doing the same!  Alabama finished the regular season with just 2 wins over teams in the Final Top 25 (#17 LSU & #23 Miss St.)  Ohio State had 3 such wins and all 3 were against teams ranked higher than either of those 2 from Alabama (#6 Wisconsin, #9 Penn State & #16 Michigan State).  USC entered the week at #10 and beat #13 Stanford for the 2nd time this season.  Maybe it is fitting that Ohio State and USC will be playing each other in the Cotton Bowl this season.
When it came to “good losses” or “bad losses” this year the committee was very inconsistent.  When Clemson lost to a Syracuse team that finished 4-8 on the year, the committee pointed to the fact that Clemson’s QB entered the game with a nagging ankle injury and ended up leaving the game for good in the 2nd Q with a concussion.  The committee basically gave Clemson a pass due to injuries, which can be a slippery slope considering the nature of the game and the fact that every team is battling injuries every week.  At the same time, the committee seems to have penalized Oklahoma for their home loss to Iowa State, who had a QB making his 1st career start.  That Iowa State went on to have a much better season than Syracuse.  The Cyclones finished 7-5 and are heading to a bowl game. 
As I mentioned before, the biggest takeaway coming from the committee this year was simple, “don’t lose.”  And just like that we are back to the BCS Era.
Looking at solely the loss column is not an effective way to judge football teams and it is an awful message to send to teams, coaches and AD’s who schedule football games.  As I say almost every week in my Rant Rankings, I try to ignore how many losses a team has when I evaluate them.  You certainly have to consider the final result of a game, but you also have to take into consideration the opponents, the situations that may take place in a game, the scheduling (USC’s playoff hopes were killed by its own conference scheduling) and how teams have played since those losses.  By selecting Alabama, who had just 1 loss, the committee overlooked that they didn’t challenge themselves with their non-conference schedule.  Alabama has not played a true non-conference road game since 2011.  They also have played an FCS opponent in 9 straight seasons, all those games coming in November, when most other teams are playing conference games.
Some of the best games in the college football season are in the opening few weeks of the season when you get Power 5 teams going out of conference to face other Power 5 teams.  If teams take note of Alabama’s scheduling and try to mimic it, it will be the fans that lose out.  Auburn played Clemson the past two years, losing both games.  Ohio State and Oklahoma also have played each other the past two seasons, the visiting team winning both games.  USC went on the road and played Notre Dame in a rivalry game this season, they lost.  You have to wonder to yourself, if Auburn had scheduled a Sun Belt opponent instead of Clemson this year would they be in playoff?  An 11-2, SEC West Champ that beat Alabama head -to-head would have probably made the playoff instead of Bama this season.  What about Ohio State, what if they play Bowling Green and beat them by 70 this season instead of challenging themselves by playing a team like Oklahoma?  12-1 Big Ten Champs, yep they are probably in over Alabama too.  If USC plays San Jose instead of Notre Dame, is a 1-loss PAC 12 Champ in the playoff instead of Alabama?  Probably.
The Committee needs to be much more transparent with their selection process in the future to allow teams to enter the season, knowing what they will and will not be judge by.
And by the way, all the people out there saying this season is why they should expand the CFB Playoff to 8 teams, STOP IT.  There weren’t 4 teams deserving this year and now we want to try to find 8 deserving teams? NO!

Just for reference, in case you are interested, here is the official protocol used by the selection committee, or at least they claim it to be…

Friday, December 1, 2017

College Football Weekly Rant - Week 14



I believe that to get a spot in the College Football Playoff you should have to earn it.  How do you earn it?  You beat good football teams.  Anybody can go 12-0 or 11-1 or 10-2 and beat a bunch of nobodies in the process.  Honestly getting double digit wins is something to hang your hat on, but it doesn’t prove you are the best.  Penn State is 10-2 this season, they are 0-2 against teams in the Top 20.  Good season?  YES!  Should they be considered one of the best teams in the country? NO WAY!
This brings me to Alabama.  This is not your daddy’s Alabama football team, and this has not been your daddy’s SEC this season.  Alabama has been pushed around in the trenches in ways we haven’t see in Tuscaloosa since Nick Saban arrived.  The SEC is ridiculously top heavy this year too.  There are a lot of not good football teams playing in that conference this season.  Including Alabama, there are 3 teams of note in the SEC.  Alabama has only played 1 of the other two this season and was dominated.  This happened last week in the Iron Bowl against rival Auburn.  What exactly has Alabama done this season to earn that #5 ranking in the newest CFB Playoff Rankings? 
Consider this, Alabama’s best wins are against #17 (AP) LSU and #24 Mississippi State.  Another 11-win team has wins over the #16 and #23 teams in the AP and they are ranked 9 spots behind Alabama in the CFB Playoff Rankings.  Oh yea, and UCF has ZERO losses!
Do I think UCF should be in the playoff? No.  And neither should Alabama.  They had their chance to prove their worth last week and came up empty.
Every team that is playing this weekend has a chance to get that big win on their resume that they might be lacking.  They also have the opportunity to claim a conference championship.  Both things that Alabama does not have this year and won’t get, as they are sitting at home watching football this Saturday. 
The College Football Playoff Committee needs to do the right thing, JUST SAY NO TO ALABAMA!  

*Upsets Makes College Football Great.  Pitt beats an undefeated Miami team to shake up the rankings almost 10 years to the week of them doing the same thing to #2 West Virginia.  Both wins came in down years for Pitt, 4-7 going into both games., and both wins knocking the #2 team in the country out of National Championship contention.  Miami has an opportunity to get themselves back in contention by beating Clemson this Saturday in the ACC Championship Game.  West Virginia didn’t have that luxury.
*Rivalry Games Make College Football Great Too.  Obviously, the Iron Bowl was the biggest rivalry game on the schedule, but The Game between Michigan and Ohio State was good too, until the Buckeyes realized that Michigan didn’t belong on the same field as them.  You also hated great annual rivalry games like Clean Old-Fashioned Hate, the actual name of the game between Georgia and Georgia Tech.  The Apple Cup, which helped decide the PAC 12 North.  All of these games and many more rivalry games are just one of the things that make college football and all of college sports so much fun.

*Quality Championship Games. We have a great lineup of games this weekend, beginning with the PAC12 Championship on Friday night.  It isn’t just limited to the Power 5 conference championships either.  Lane Kiffin, in his first year at FAU, has the Owls playing the C-USA Title game.  Scott Frost, in possibly his last game at UCF, is trying to remain perfect on the season and win the AAC Championship.  Oh yeah, the Saturday schedule of those Power 5 games is pretty great too.  All 4 games on Saturday will have major impact on the final CFB Playoff Rankings that will come out on Sunday.  I do wish that they would do a better job at staggering the starts of these games.  Both the Big XII (12:30p) and the SEC (4p) will have all eyes on them, while the ACC and Big Ten both kick off at 8p, meaning viewers will be giving their remote controls a workout Saturday night.  To me, playing those games at 12p, 3p, 6p, 8p makes a lot of sense, but whatever.  Enjoy the games!
*Rankings.  This year has been so unpredictable, why would the final week be any different?  I am now hoping the Top 4 just win on Saturday and they remain the same for the final rankings.  I don’t think Alabama or Ohio State deserve a shot in the playoff, so the best way to keep them both out is for the Top 4 to win.  That said, I will be very interested in seeing how the committee adjusts if there are upsets on Saturday.

WOW…  Where to begin?
As I sit hear writing this late Thursday night, I feel like no matter what I write in this section pertaining to Tennessee will be outdated by the time most of you read it, but at the same time it is something that must be discussed.  If that is the case, I will do my best to keep this updated.  Let’s get to the other schools that have hired coaches already first however.
UCLA Bruins – As I wrote last week, UCLA had 1 target in mind and it was the Big Fish in this year’s coaching pool, Chip Kelly.  The Bruins reeled him in.  This is a great hire by UCLA.  It brings Kelly back to the PAC 12 and to a program desperate for success.  In Southern California Kelly should have a field day recruiting the type of players he needs to run his exciting offense.  Being in LA it also gives the Bruins a Face of the Program, while also allowing Kelly to not have media barring down on him 100% of the time, like it would have been had he taken one of the SEC job.  This was a great job by UCLA and is a perfect fit for Kelly.  It won’t happen next year, because the roster is going to need turned over to fit his style, but Kelly will have the Bruins competing for the PAC12 South Title soon!
Florida Gators – The Gators lost out on the Chip Kelly Sweepstakes and chose not to wait around for Scott Frost and UCF to play this weekend in the AAC Championship Game, so they moved ahead and swiped away former Gator assistant and current Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen.  Mullen has been in the SEC for the past 13 seasons, starting at Florida when Urban Meyer took over the Gators job.  Mullen had been with Meyer at his two previous stops as well, Bowling Green and Utah.  Mullen was a good hire and a safe hire by the Gators, which might be exactly what they needed.  Florida has been looking for stability at the position since Meyer retired in 2010.  I still believe waiting for Scott Frost would have been a more dynamic hire and certainly one that would have re-energized the fan base.  I also think that Willie Taggart would have been a great hire at UF had Mullen decided to stay at Mississippi State.
Mississippi State Bulldogs – Speaking of… I love the hire by Mississippi State to replace Mullen with Joe Moorhead.  Moorhead, a Pittsburgh native, was the offensive coordinator at Penn State the last two seasons and the brains behind the dynamic offense that gave scoreboard operators nightmares.  Moorhead, like Mullen when he was hired at Miss St, is a younger up and coming offensive coordinator that was on a lot of AD’s radars this year.  Credit the Bulldogs for wasting no time and getting their man.  A bonus on Moorhead is that he even comes with a head coaching background.  Moorhead inherited a 1-11 Fordham team and in 4 years went 38-13, never having a losing season.
Oregon State Beavers – Scott Barnes at work ladies and gentlemen… It was believed last week that Barnes had lined Beau Baldwin lined up to be the next head coach at Oregon State.  Baldwin is the Associate Head Coach at Cal this year and was a widely successful Head Coach at both Central Washington and Eastern Washington, who he turned into an FCS powerhouse.  Baldwin has tons of recruiting ties in the Pacific-Northwest and was a slam dunk hire.  He was also recommended by the Reitmeyer Coaching Search Firm (check my twitter for other recommendations).  Then Scott Barnes happened.  Barnes, paying nearly $200K to the same search firm that helped him hire Kevin Stallings at Pitt, did a complete 180 as he backed away from Baldwin to hire Jonathan Smith.  I’ll give you a few minutes to Google him to find out who the heck he is… Smith is a former Beavers QB and was the OC at Washington, one most UW fans are thrilled to see go (sound like Stallings leaving Vanderbilt).  The only thing that makes me understand this hire is that Scott Barnes made it.
Mississippi Rebels – Without much room to bargain for any head coach the Rebels did the wise thing and named interim Head Coach Matt Luke the new Head Coach.  Luke is a Mississippi native and played for the Rebels.  He is well aware of the pending NCAA sanctions set to come down any day and is willing to be the guy to battle through the sanctions and try to rebuild Ole Miss.  By the way, Mississippi spent $137K for a search firm to tell them to hire the guy they already had!
Nebraska Cornhuskers – Although I don’t get it at all, it seems that Nebraska is going to get their Golden Boy Scott Frost to come home and attempt to save the dumpster fire known as Nebraska Football.  Nebraska was willing to do what Florida wasn’t, which was just simply WAIT.  Frost wasn’t doing anything before the AAC Championship Game and Nebraska was fine with that.  I think Frost could have (and still could) do much better than Nebraska, but this seems like a done deal after reports came out this week that Nebraska Legend Tom Osbourne called Frost and told him that it was time to come home.  This is a great hire by Nebraska, I will just never understand why Frost would take this job at this point in his career.
Texas A&M Aggies – Speaking of better jobs that Scott Frost is passing over for Nebraska… Texas A&M.  The Aggies are all-in right now on Jimbo Fisher and it looks like it might payoff. Reports are out there that they are willing to pay $75M over 10 years for the current FSU head coach.  The bad news is that if Fisher backs out and stays at Florida State, the Aggies could have a huge drop off in options. (UPDATE: Jimbo Fisher has resigned from FSU and will be the next head coach at Texas A&M.  We will include Florida State is next week’s addition of the carousel.)
Arizona State Sun Devils – All reports currently have the Sun Devils playing to win everygame next season and hiring former NFL head coach Herm Edwards.  Nothing shady about this possible hire, as the current ASU AD is the former agent of Edwards, hmm.  Edwards hasn’t coached college football since he was the DB Coach at San Jose State in 1989.  Another hire, if it happens, that makes no sense.
Arkansas Razorbacks – The Arkansas search has been oddly quiet for as long as it has been going on.  It seems like there is no one that actually knows what is going on there.  They are also in need of an AD.  Reports earlier in the week had big money boosters reaching out to agents and even directly to coaches, while the school, with their interim AD conduct their own search.  If Tennessee wasn’t the mess that it is, I have a feeling a lot more people would be talking about the bizarre search going on at Arkansas.
Tennessee Volunteers – AND HERE IT IS…  The worst coaching search in the history of all coaching searches… The 2017 Tennessee Volunteers.
We all laughed when they thought Jon Gruden was going to Knoxville and when he turned them down, it was expected.  What wasn’t expected was the list of other candidates they would miss on.  Here is the complete list (as of Thursday Night).
Jon Gruden
Dan Mullen
Scott Frost
Greg Schiano (a whole other disaster)
Jeff Brohm
David Cutcliffe
Jim Bob Cooter (no, I did not make up that name just to see if you were paying attention. He is a former Vol and current OC with the Detroit Lions.)
Mike Gundy
Dave Doeren
Kevin Sumlin
Lane Kiffin (not officially pursued, but he has made it clear via social media that he has no interest and is actually enjoying the mess going on in Knoxville.)
Tennessee never even considered the coaches that were recommended by the Reitmeyer Coaching Search Firm, although none of the coaches I mentioned (James Franklin, Justin Fuentes & Dana Holgerson) would go near that mess at this point.   Who knows where Tennessee turns next.  (UPDATE:  As if this couldn’t get any worse, Tennessee has fired their AD John Currie, who had been on the job for 8 months.  This was apparently done while Currie was meeting with Mike Leach about the position.  And to top it off, reports have former Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer sabotaging the entire coaching search from the start because he wants the AD job.  WOW!!!) (UPDATE #2: It worked… Phil Fulmer is the new AD at Tennessee, unreal!)

I now release my RantRankings the day prior to the CFB Playoff selection releasing their updated rankings.  Be sure to check that out.

That is all this week.  Make sure the refrigerator is stocked, the spare remote-control batteries are nearby and enjoy the games!