Monday, February 19, 2007

Comissioners, recruiting, and busted brackets

June 19, 2008 Note: This is a post that originally appeared on Golden's Football Rankings and is reproduced here for posterity.

One of the more interesting developments in college basketball in the last couple of years is the emergence of ESPN’s Bracket Buster Day. Basically, ESPN has convinced about half of the Division One teams in the country not to schedule any games on one day. ESPN then arranges match-ups for all of those teams, where each team plays someone from another conference that they normally wouldn’t play. It’s great for college basketball fans, especially those who follow the mid-major conferences. It is, however, a royal pain in the you know what for someone trying to maintain a basketball ranking database ;-)
Bracket Buster was last Saturday. The real winners from a conference standpoint were the Horizon and WAC, who both went 7-2. On the other end of the scale, the Ohio Valley went 2-9. The most impressive victory went to Southern Illinois, which scored its first victory on the road against a ranked team since 1976, when it won by 4 at Butler. Also scoring a big win was Winthrop, which won at Missouri State.

Golden’s comment about the disappointing class from Ohio State illustrates one of the problems with the recruiting rankings. All of the different recruiting rankings base their overall scores on the number of recruits a school signs. In terms of average # of stars per recruit, OSU had a top five class. But because they signed half as many as some of the SEC schools, they appeared to have a “mediocre” class.
This brings up another interesting point. SEC schools traditionally “over sign” players. That is they sign more players than they have scholarships for, assuming that some will fall by the wayside. An interesting examination of this is found here.

This is of course is what Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney was responding to in his quite surprising broadside of the SEC. While I agree with much of what Delaney was saying, I’m not sure that it’s really an argument that a league commissioner should be making. Yes the SEC schools do operate a little differently when it comes to marginalizing players who don’t make the cut and cutting academic corners for their “student”-athletes (see Auburn independent study programs), but it’s not like the Big Ten is squeaky-clean. One look at the typical Ohio State linebacker’s class load will confirm that. The argument Delaney is making falls into an old regional stereotype of southerners as dimwitted that dates back almost 200 years. It’s no truer than the old yarn about southern teams being “faster” and northern teams being more “powerful.” Leave that argument to the fans on the message boards and in the bars. Stick to making sure the Big Ten network finds its way onto every local cable station, and find a way to make a playoff work in college football.