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June 15, 2009
Monday with Mike: Toughest, easiest schedules
The Pac-10 plays a round-robin conference schedule, but the league discussed scrapping the round-robin format in favor of an eight-game schedule, which would have given member schools one more non-conference game.
Thankfully, league athletic directors last week decided to keep things the way they are.
The extra non-conference game likely would've meant another early season patsy for Pac-10 members. Instead, unlike most schools in other "Big Six" leagues, Pac-10 schools will have to be content with playing two or three weak non-conference foes instead of three or four (or five, as is the case for some Big East schools).
We bring this up because any discussions of "toughest" and "easiest" schedules have to have a non-conference component. After all, you don't get to choose your league games; the league office does that for you. But schools obviously get to choose their own non-conference games, and you'll see by our list of toughest and easiest schedules by league that teams that don't really test themselves in non-conference play almost always end up with a league's easiest schedule.
This was Alabama's third football probation in the past decade, and the NCAA's official release said the infractions committee "remains troubled … by the scope of the violations in this instance and by the institution's recent history of infractions cases." The new case also reopens the five-year repeat violator window for Alabama, which means the school's repeat offender status will extend until 2014. The last time Alabama was "clean" in that regard? Try 1995.
So what was the football program's punishment for these major violations? Was there a TV ban? A loss of scholarships? Both? Nope. Instead, Alabama was ordered to "vacate" 21 wins in a three-year period (2005-07) and fined almost $44,000.
Vacating a win isn't the same as a forfeit; a team that lost to Alabama can't count what had been a loss as a win. It's just that Alabama now cannot count it as an "official" win.
I'm not here to argue that the punishment was just or unjust; I'm here to argue that vacating wins is one of the stupidest ideas the NCAA ever has come up with – and since we're talking about the NCAA, that's a helluva lot of stupidity to wade through.
Other than Florida State – which, in an effort to keep Bobby Bowden in the race for winningest major-college coach ever, is seemingly moving heaven and earth to try to persuade the NCAA to give back 15 wins it forced FSU to vacate – does any school truly care about vacated wins? Yes, Oklahoma successfully appealed to get back some vacated wins emanating from the Rhett Bomar situation. But come on: I have to think Alabama officials were chortling when they heard the worst punishment for their major violations was having to vacate some wins.
Indeed, while Alabama AD Mal Moore said the school was considering an appeal, university president Robert Witt noted that the penalties "do not impact our future. They in no way affect the ability of our football team to compete fully without competitive disadvantage."
If the NCAA really wants to crack down on major violations, it will take away scholarships, take away TV money and take away the postseason.
When it comes to scholarships, don't take away three or four; take away eight or 10. Teams have a scholarship limit of 85, but coaches can live with 80 or so scholarship players. Once it gets down to 78 or 75, though, the pinch truly is felt.
As for TV bans, the NCAA has said those hurt opposing teams, which – presumably – have done nothing wrong and shouldn't be punished. That's true. Fine, let the offending team's games be televised, but don't give them a cut of a league's TV contract for the length of the probation.
In addition, ban offenders from the postseason and also prohibit them from any conference revenue-sharing from postseason appearances for the length of the probation.
In short, to paraphrase Witt, the NCAA should do something that would affect the ability of a football team to compete fully.
Connecticut unveiled new jerseys last week, and part of the allure for the players is that the jerseys will be made of a cutting-edge stretch fabric. Senior punter Desi Cullen was one of the UConn "models," and he spoke glowingly about the fabric with the media afterward, saying it was "almost [like] kicking naked." Hey, kickers and punters can be out there, so maybe Cullen really has kicked naked before.