College Football Playoff expansion is at a standstill. The people who will decide the playoff’s fate — the 10 conference commissioners and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick — met Saturday through Monday in Indianapolis and came away with little progress.
Swarbrick and commissioners Bob Bowlsby (Big 12), Greg Sankey (Southeastern) and Craig Thompson (Mountain West) comprised a sub-committee that last summer produced a 12-team proposal. The current playoff consists of just four teams.
The 12-team format seemed to have much momentum but has been sidetracked mostly since OU and Texas accepted the SEC’s invitation to leave the Big 12.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 have expressed reservations, though the Pac-12 now seems to be on board.
The Big Ten’s primary sticking point seems to be automatic qualification for the five major conferences — Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, Atlantic Coast, Pac-12.
The sub-committee’s proposal included automatic qualification for the six highest-ranked champions of Division I-A’s 10 conferences. No special dispensation for the Power 5.
And that was a conscious decision.
Tramel:Georgia’s ascension makes the SEC even more difficult for the Sooners
“There are good reasons why we proposed six highest-ranked conference champions, and those reasons haven’t changed,” Bowlsby said.
“We found out the extent to which we (Power 5 leagues) anoint ourselves with privileges, including automatic access, is usually the extent to which we get called in front of Congress or we get challenged legally.”
This is not mysterious. This is not subtle nuances. This is not even the Power 5 being magnanimous to the leagues of less stature.
This is the powerful trying to stay away from the more-powerful — Capitol Hill and the courthouse. This is anti-trust talk and this is politics.
The Power 5 conferences are hard-pressed to say everyone has a fair chance, if some leagues are given automatic entry into a playoff and some are not.
If Bowlsby, whose league was blindsided and crippled by the SEC over the summer, can stand alongside Sankey in support of the 12-team proposal, seems like the other conferences could, too.
“We went into the process trying to think about what was best for college football,” Bowlsby said. “I think the four of us did a pretty good job of that. None of us can truly leave our hat at the door.
“But I think the 12-team model is the one that is best for college football. With five or six weeks left in the season, there’s going to be 40 teams with a legitimate claim to a playoff spot. That’s good for regular-season attendance, that’s good for TV viewership.
“With three weeks to go, there’s going to be 15 still in the hunt.”
Bowlsby actually is low on that number. With three weeks left, I’d estimate 25 still in contention for 12 berths. Maybe 15 going into the final week.
ESPN reported that former Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was the first to suggest automatic inclusion for the Power 5 champions. But the Pac-12 released a statement Monday that said it would support any of the six main expansion proposals:
Tramel’s ScissorTales:Banner year for Big 12 football with Baylor, OSU & OU all in final AP top 10
► The top 12 ranked teams, determined by the playoff committee;
► The top eight ranked teams, determined by the playoff committee;
► The original June proposal, with automatic qualifications for the six highest-ranked conference champions and six at-large bids;
► Automatic qualifications for the Power 5 champions and one automatic qualification for the highest-ranked champion among the other leagues, plus six at-large bids;
► Automatic qualifications for the six highest-ranked conference champions, plus two at-large bids;
► Automatic qualifications for the Power 5 champions and the highest-ranked league champion outside the Power 5, plus two at-large bids.
It seems like the Pac-12 just wants expansion. And you can’t blame the Pac. It hasn’t had a playoff participant since Washington in 2016.
But Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren has taken up the cause. He wants the Power 5 champions included automatically.
“I’ve made my point really clear on why I feel that way,” Warren told reporters in Indianapolis. “I just I just feel strongly with our conference, the difficulty of our schedule, the demands of our schedule, and going back to what was developed, even originally. I wasn’t in the room, but I heard it was originally that the conference champions should be given a lot of credit, and so I’m just following that. That’s important.”
It’s also important to stay out of courtrooms and Congress.
I mean, sure, college football should be of no mind in Washington, D.C. But everyone gets bored, and most people want to be popular.
If you’re a U.S. senator in Idaho or Nevada, or a U.S. representative in Cincinnati or Salt Lake City, why not take a break from the humdrum of politics? Why not commission a hearing and ask Warren and Sankey and Bowlsby why Boise State or Brigham Young can’t get an equal shot?
Or heck, an enterprising lawyer could take up the cause and maybe get it all the way to the Supreme Court. That’s how NIL happened.
That’s what Bowlsby and Co. were trying to avoid.
Carlson:Caleb Williams likely leaving OU for USC & Lincoln Riley isn’t personal. It’s a business decision.
Little drama in OSU, OU basketball
Big 12 basketball drama ruled Tuesday night.
Texas Tech rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit and stunned top-ranked Baylor 65-62 in Waco.
Then Iowa State put a whale of a fight at Allen Fieldhouse, before Kansas survived 62-61. KU’s Dajuan Harris Jr. scored on a drive with eight seconds left, then ISU’s Gabe Kalscheur missed a wing 3-point shot in the final seconds.
While all that was happening, the Oklahoma schools took the court in Morgantown, West Virginia, and Austin, Texas. And the drama ended.
Texas manhandled OU 66-52, and West Virginia dominated OSU 70-60, spotlighting the shortcomings of both the Sooners and Cowboys.
OU had been surprisingly competitive in a 12-3 start. Wins over Florida, Arkansas and Iowa State, plus an outstanding performance in a loss at Baylor, was enough to make us all think the Sooners will be an NCAA Tournament team in Porter Moser’s first season as coach. And that hasn’t changed.
But the Longhorns showed OU’s vulnerability to big, athletic teams. The counter to such a squad is precision and execution. The Sooners lost that matchup Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, OSU went to West Virginia with an 8-5 record and an alarming lack of offense. Nothing in the Appalachian Mountains changed that. The Cowboys were hard-pressed to score, and until that changes, OSU could be flirting with a .500 season.
“Coach (Bob) Huggins’ team was the more aggressive team from start to finish, really,” said Cowboy coach Mike Boynton. “Many times, that’s going to be the difference. Especially on a night where that aggressiveness forces your teams into 17 turnovers and 5-of-19 (shooting) from 3”(-point range).
The OSU offensive numbers were stark. Stark, but familiar. The Cowboys shot below 40 percent from the field (39.7 percent) and 26.3 percent from deep. They made only nine of 15 foul shots. Sixty points can win you some Big 12 games but not many.
“They took us out” of good shots, Boynton said. “Their defense was aggressive, as you always expect, and we didn’t respond the right way, in terms of playing with the level of composure that we needed to, to continue to get good shots.”
OSU’s two best offensive players, Avery Anderson and Bryce Williams, combined to make seven of 25 shots. Isaac Likekele picked up the slack with 11 second-half points, else the Cowboys might have been beaten by 20.
But OSU’s offensive troubles are nothing new. These Cowboys rank 154th nationally in points per game, out of 350 teams, at 73.2, a figure inflated by non-conference victories over Texas-Arlington (88-44), Massachusetts-Lowell (80-58), Charleston (96-66) and Cleveland State (98-93).
OSU ranks 175th in field-goal percentage (.444), 295th(!) in free-throw percentage (.663) and 326th in turnovers per game (15.5), though the latter figure is inflated by the Cowboys’ desire to play fast.
Meanwhile, OSU’s defense is very good. The Cowboys are eighth nationally in takeaways (opponents are averaging 18.7 turnovers per game) and 47th nationally in field-goal percentage defense (.394).
But OSU’s defense is not good enough to offset this OSU offense and lift the Cowboys into the middle tier of Big 12 basketball.
‘Heart and soul of this team’:Why veteran Isaac Likekele is Oklahoma State’s most important player
The Big 12’s middle tier is where the Sooners reside, but that’s going to a difficult position to hold, with the Longhorns having laid out a blueprint Tuesday night.
Rough up the Sooners. Get physical. Push them around.
“I thought Texas changed the dynamic,” Moser said. “Just disappointed in how we responded to their pressure.”
The OU offense suddenly looked like OSU’s. The Sooners have been quite efficient offensively this season. But not in Austin. OU shot 40.4 percent from the field, made just one of 13 3-point shots and missed nine of 22 foul shots. All while making 17 turnovers.
Texas’ variety of athletic big men made OU leading scorer Tanner Groves obsolete. Groves got off just one shot. He rarely was open and rarely touched the ball.
“He’s gotta work harder,” Moser said. “It was not a good night.”
Then Moser re-thought his position. “I’ll say this. Tanner’s been night in and night out for us. It was a struggle all across the board for us. He’s truly been a guy, night in and night out, every day.”
Groves transferred from Eastern Washington. He’s a skilled, burly 6-foot-10 center. But he’s rarely seen the athletic ability of the post players Texas tossed out onto the court, like Christian Bishop and Dylan Disu.
And it wasn’t just the big men. The Texas backcourt physically beat up OU ballhandlers Jordan Goldwire, Umoja Gibson, Elijah Harkless and Bijan Cortes.
“I think Texas sped us up,” Moser said. “You can tell by the turnovers we had. We got rushed. We put our head down and overdribbled into a mess.
“You gotta give Texas credit. We’ve got to respond to physicality better … we gotta look in the mirror, go back to work. We gotta be better, and we will.”
‘I made it out’:How Umoja Gibson overcame a rough upbringing and other setbacks to shine with Sooners
The List: NFL playoff quarterbacks
The National Football League playoffs start Saturday, and quarterback experience always is a factor in the postseason. Here are the 14 starting QBs for the playoff teams, ranked by postseason experience:
1. Tom Brady, Buccaneers: 45 starts, 34-11 record. Both are records, by a wide margin. Perhaps you’ve heard.
2. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: 22 starts, 13-9 record. Big Ben has two Super Bowl victories, though the most recent was 13 years ago. Roethlisberger ranks behind only Brady, Joe Montana (16), Terry Bradshaw (14), John Elway (14) and Peyton Manning (14) in playoff wins.
3. Aaron Rodgers, Packers: 20 starts,11-9 record. Rodgers actually trails Brett Favre, who went 12-10 in the playoffs as the Packer starter. If Green Bay loses the NFC Championship Game, Rodgers and Favre will have the exact same playoff record.
4. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs: Eight starts, 6-2 record. Mahomes has taken KC to three straight AFC Championship Games, losing in overtime to New England 37-31 in 2018, but beating Tennessee 35-24 and Buffalo 38-24 the last two years. Mahomes beat the 49ers 31-20 in the Super Bowl two years ago before falling to Tampa Bay 31-9 last season.
5. Josh Allen, Bills: Four starts, 2-2 record. Allen lost with the 2019 Bills at Houston 22-19 in overtime, then went 2-1 a year ago, with home wins over the Colts (27-24) and Ravens (17-3), before a 38-24 loss at Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game.
5. Ryan Tannehill, Titans: Four starts, 2-2 record. Tannehill with Tennessee won road games at New England (20-13) and Baltimore (28-12) in 2019, before a 35-24 loss at Kansas City in the AFC Championship Game, then losing at home to Baltimore (20-13) a year ago.
7. Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers: Three starts, 2-1 record. Garoppolo in the 2019 playoffs quarterbacked San Francisco to home victories over Minnesota 27-10 and Green Bay 37-20, before losing to Kansas City 31-20 in the Super Bowl.
7. Dak Prescott, Cowboys: Three starts, 1-2 record. Under Prescott, the 2016 Cowboys lost at home to Green Bay 34-31, and the 2018 Cowboys won at home against Seattle 24-22 before losing at the Rams 30-22.
7. Matthew Stafford, Rams: Three starts, 0-3 record. Stafford started Detroit playoff losses in 2011, 2014 and 2016. Stafford never has played a playoff home game. His Lions lost 26-6 at Seattle in the ‘16, 24-20 at Dallas in ‘14 and 45-28 at New Orleans in ‘11.
10. Jalen Hurts, Eagles: No starts. Hurts will be making his playoff debut. Does the College Football Playoff with OU or Alabama count?
10. Kyler Murray, Cardinals: No starts. Murray and Hurts join Baker Mayfield as Lincoln Riley quarterbacks who made the postseason. Mayfield went 1-1 last season with the Browns.
10. Derek Carr, Raiders: No starts. This is Carr’s playoff debut. The one time the Raiders made the postseason, 2016, Carr was injured and unavailable.
10. Mac Jones, Patriots: No starts. But he has the best of reasons. He’s a rookie.
10. Joe Burrow, Bengals: No starts. He, like Hurts, is in his second NFL season.
NFL power rankings:Two playoff teams outside top 14 as 2021 regular season ends
Mailbag: OU to the SEC
My column about Georgia making OU’s move to the SEC more difficult drew quite a bit of response.
David: “Dawgs and Bama are at the top of the mountain in the SEC world. I think in a couple of years, A&M will challenge the top two. Besides A&M, OU will be challenged by several other SEC teams to climb the mountain.”
Tramel: Alabama’s and Georgia’s greatness cannot be overstated. The rest of the SEC’s greatness can and is.
OU has been challenged in the Big 12. Not by the likes of Bama or Georgia. But by the likes of A&M. And the Sooners more than prospered. The idea that A&M is some kind of behemoth is grounded in myth. Maybe the Aggies turn into a superpower. But the A&M drivel today is the same A&M drivel we’ve heard for 75 years, whether Emory Bellard or Jackie Sherrill or Kevin Sumlin or Jimbo Fisher is in College Station. A&M has been to one major bowl in the 2000s. That’s 22 seasons.
More:Here are the OU football players in the transfer portal & those declared for the 2022 NFL Draft
The Blowhard Wind of Faux Amateurism
Fear and dread have settled over many a lover of college football. The coaching carousel. Conference realignment. The transfer portal. Name/Image/Likeness.
There is a sense that the sport so many loves has crossed a threshold of no return.
I have begun receiving emails from people with interesting things to say, and rather than cram them into my mailbag, I thought I would fully share some from time to time.
And today is Gary Edmondson of Duncan, who shared me with a piece he wrote for the Oklahoma Observer, which I thought was worth sharing with you.
“The new year has seen much wailing and gnashing of teeth in Oklahoma. On January 3, 20-year-old college freshman Caleb Williams announced that he was entering the NCAA’s transfer portal, which could see the young quarterback leave the University of Oklahoma for greener pastures.
“‘Greener” is the optimum word here. After years as unpaid, indentured servants, college athletes have now been granted the right to benefit monetarily from their talents. Previously, only the institutions for which they worked were allowed to make money.
“The new system is called NIL, since athletes can now be paid based on what the open market says their ‘name, image or likeness’ is worth. It is only fair. The athletes are doing the work and providing the product at the base of lucrative TV contracts and university marketing arrangements.
“Besides, if college art students can sell their work (I’ve bought some), and music majors can pick up some coin with regular gigs, and other students can be paid for work in their fields, it stands to reason that athletes should have the same rights.
“And now they do.
“One of the first and most ballyhooed examples was Quinn Ewers, a Texas high school quarterback, who skipped his senior year last year and signed a three-year, $1.4 million deal with a marketing company regarding his autograph as he enrolled at Ohio State University. He had other NIL deals as well.
“Still only 18, and without a single college passing attempt, Ewers has now transferred to the University of Texas, where – as reported in Golf Digest, go figure – linemen ‘are poised to start making $50,000 per year via NIL benefits through a booster group called The Pancake Factory.’
“Since many of those in the trenches, especially on offense, toil in obscurity, an outsider might not think their NILs have a high market value. But the boosters who have pooled their money to pay them realize the essential parts they play in any game.
“Yep, where providing under-the-table payola once jeopardized an athletic program’s eligibility, blatant, publicized (for advertising purposes) pay-for play arrangements will now become crucial recruiting tools.
“What will five-star recruit Ewers be worth?
“What will a starting quarterback from a top college program be worth? Even if he couldn’t beat Baylor or Oklahoma State? Caleb Williams is about to find out.
“In announcing his entrance into the transfer portal, Williams said, ‘I need to figure out what is the right path for me moving forward. According to NCAA rules, as a student-athlete, the only way I can speak with other schools and see who may offer the best preparation and development for my future career is by entering the portal. Staying at OU will definitely be an option.’
“An option? Will he stay or will he go? His indecision torments many of the state’s sports talkers, who try to debate pros and cons of his options and downplay his culpability in putting OU into a situation reminiscent of Kevin Durant’s departure from the OKC Thunder.
“Everyone thought Durant would re-sign. So, when he walked, the Thunder got nothing near his trade value. The longer Williams deliberates, the longer the limbo lasts for OU. The team could lose out on possible recruits or transfers who think they need to make up their minds sooner (natural pun).
“In an unprecedented move, OU athletic director Joe Castiglione and head coach Brent Venables, issued a joint statement/sales pitch to try to keep Williams in the fold, pledging to ‘continue to be engaged with him and his family on a comprehensive plan for his development as a student and a quarterback, including a path to graduation and strategic leveraging of NIL opportunities.’
“Does this continued engagement mean that OU will be given the opportunity to beat any NIL offers that float Williams’ way? Will there be a back-and-forth bidding war? An auction?
“The OU statement also cited, ‘OU’s commitment to student-athlete development and its powerful track record of preparing players for the next level, including quarterbacks for the NFL, is unparalleled. Jeff Lebby is one of the most elite offensive coordinators and quarterback developers in the country.’
“Lebby has had no part in this OU QB ascendancy.
“It is a tough spot for pundits. They have to point out the implications of Williams’ decision-making delay without inadvertently offending this fine young man from a fine family to the point that they might be blamed for hastening his departure. Sooner Nation would not be pleased.
“The Williams scenario at OU is being played out in varying degrees on campuses throughout the country. The combination of automatic eligibility through the transfer portal and dangling NIL money has made college football a true minor league operation, the shamateurism of the past replaced by out-and-out professionalism.
“And the schools have only themselves to blame. By refusing to share their income with their workers, they saw worker/athletes arrive at compensation by a route outside institutional controls.
“They have sown the blowhard wind of faux amateurism. They are now reaping the whirlwind of athletic chaos.
“We cannot be certain whether university greed or incompetence was at the heart of the stinginess.
“In a 2020 article which he updated last week for Best Colleges, Mark J. Drozdowski addresses the question: ‘Do colleges make money from athletics?’
“They undoubtedly earn money, but do they make profits?
“He cites 2018-19 statistics that show Texas raking in $223,879,781 that year, followed by Texas A&M with $212,748,002. Your usual suspects are in the top 20: Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Alabama, Florida, LSU. Yeah, the big boys. OU ranked eighth at that time, with an athletic department income of $163,126,695.
“But Dr. Drozdowski points out what I have been aware of for about 30 years, ‘that despite the huge sums of cash seen here, only a handful of schools actually make money through college athletics.’
“At the time there were 65 Power 5 Conference schools. (Recent conference reshuffling has seen a few more schools move into that category.) But among the public institutions that have to report on their finances, only 25 ‘recorded a positive net generated revenue in 2019.’
“Those 25 posted ‘a net median profit’ of $7.9 million. The other 40 reported ‘a negative net revenue’ median of $15.9 million.
“No one in the next echelon, the so-called Group of Five – American Athletic, Conference USA, the MAC (Mid-American), Mountain West and Sun Belt broke even. ‘All 64 of these institutions lost money in 2019, with a median deficit of $23 million per school.’
“Drop down to the 125 FCS (NCAA Division I-AA) schools, who actually play for an expanded football championship and you find all of them in the red, with a median loss of $14.3 million.
“The 97 Division I schools without football posted a median loss of $14.4 million.
“So, Dr. Drozdowski reports: Only ‘25 of the approximately 1,100 schools across 102 conferences in the NCAA made money on college sports’ in 2019.
“So we can speculate that the college’s refusal to compensate their workers was partially due to the financial mismanagement of their athletic departments.
“He and others cite the burden that high revenue sports such as football and basketball carry to support less lucrative sports.
“Dr. Drozdowski’s findings do not surprise me. Almost 30 years ago, I found similar results when promoting the notion that my hometown Sam Houston State Bearcats and my alma mater Stephens F. Austin Lumberjacks should de-emphasize athletic spending in favor of academics. At that time, only 18 percent of NCAA athletic department expenditures were earmarked for scholarships.
“I was ignored, of course, as the schools moved up the conference hierarchy ladder – evidently with athletic department deficits all the way – culminating now with SHSU shucking its Piney Woods rival to join Conference USA. SFA stays in the Western Athletic Conference, which bears no resemblance to the WAC I grew up with.
“I am not anti-athletic. As I wrote in 1993, ‘I love sports. I played as long as my limited abilities allowed – never learning to hit an overhand curve and disproving the theory that small guys are fast. I own an SFA Intramural Champion T-shirt; I wish it still fit.’ Amen!
“My best pals in my small-town schools were fellow athletes. I could – and try to – fill columns with arcane baseball facts. The drive to become a newspaperman was fueled by my love of sports and the great sportswriters at Sports Illustrated in the 1960s.
“My objection to the over-emphasis on college sports back then was that those deficits were being offset by ‘student fee’ money siphoned over to cover the losses. I would guess that situation still prevails.
“To the best of my recollection, eliminating the ‘sports tax’ fees for students would have reduced their college costs by 40 percent. I doubt if college has gotten more affordable over the past 29 years.
“The combination of semi-pro athletics and education is a uniquely American tradition. Elsewhere, the grooming of pre-professional athletes is handled by clubs, where there is no pretense of educational involvement. The only collegiate rivalry of note in England is the rowing competition between Cambridge and Oxford.
“Educational institutions for education’s sake? It can be done.
“Though composed of some of the oldest colleges in the country, the Ivy League was only formed in 1954. But those eight schools signed an Ivy Group Agreement in 1945 that stated, ‘Athletes shall be admitted as students and awarded financial aid only on the basis of the same academic standards and economic need as are applied to all other students.’
“Specific athletic scholarships were banned, according to the American Football Database.
“By 1945, the Ivies had been losing their status as elite sports teams, but trailblazers that they were, they dominated early collegiate sports at a time when fewer schools were as well organized.
“In particular, American Football Database documents: ‘Princeton won 26 recognized national championships in college football (last in 1935), and Yale won 18 (last in 1927).
“All in the past. Over and done. Well, college football was a big enough deal for Yale that its Yale Bowl, built in 1914, reached its final capacity of 64,269 in 1932. Only the departing Sooners and Longhorns have larger venues in the Big 12 today, with incoming Brigham Young also topping that figure.
“Perhaps with a little biased pride, the Yale Daily News cites the Yale Bowl as the inspiration for the Rose Bowl, the LA Coliseum, Michigan Stadium and the Cotton Bowl.
“And speaking of inspiration, OU’s ‘Boomer Sooner’ carries the tune of Yale’s ‘Boola Boola.’
“Yes, sports was once huge among the Ivies. But they decided that colleges should concentrate their resources on education. They do have ample resources.
“OU fans complain about the money available at UT, which has $30.1 billion in its endowment plus many wealthy boosters. By comparison, OU’s endowment stands at $1.65 billion in second place, just ahead of Kansas’ $1.61 billion. (Oklahoma State is fifth at $1.35 billion.)
“As of October, Forbes reported the Ivy League endowments as Harvard $53.2 billion, Yale $42.3B, Princeton $37.7B, Penn $20.5B, Columbia $13.5B, Cornell $10B, Dartmouth $8.5B and Brown $6.9B.
“So if those schools chose to invest in professional college sports, they could ‘kick butt and take names,’ as we were wont to say.
“The question, of course, is whether any other colleges will follow their lead toward a predominately educational mission now that their schools face invasion by outside forces whose money promises to undermine institutional control of their athletic programs and campuses.
“The time is ripe for such a radical reorientation of priorities.
“But I guess the bigger question for most people in the state is: Will Caleb stay or go?”
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.