Sunday, May 31, 2009

video page update

The video page is now updated with the stomping delivered to Johns Hopkins in the lax quarterfinals. It is the last lax game I have for this year. All is not finished, however. I have baseball, too. Sad to say, I don't have the win over Stephen Strasburg the wunderkind, because I set the TiVo to fire-and-forget and ended up with the last half of a rain-delayed UGA-OSU as well as the first part of TFSU-Marist. Yay programming. Sorry about that. There will be at least two other games' worth of baseball awesomeness to be enjoyed, however, and with any luck, more on the way.

Friday, May 29, 2009

recruiting board update

A smallish update, so preceded by a couple loose ends.

First, obviously, in about half an hour (as I type this) we'll find out if we have anything for Stephen Strasburg. If I'm Brian O'Connor, which I'm not, every runner becomes an opportunity to manufacture a run. The hit-and-run and sacrifice bunt ought to be applied liberally. You can't sit back and wait for a big inning like the kind we got in the ACC tournament. Never happen against this guy. The coach has got to be active.

TLx4's Bird left some comments on the coaches poll post yesterday which sort of dovetail nicely with a few things I left out. In order....

First, let me start by saying that I knew the guy that used to fill out Chan Gailey's poll ballots when he voted. He said Chan would only really put in his input for the final poll but was mostly too busy during the season to worry about it.
This brings up an excellent point; namely, the coaches don't even bother with this shit. It's a common joke that the ballots are filled out by a graduate assistant or the team secretary or someone. How much truth there is to this joke, I don't know and very few people really do, but obviously there is some. If the coaches can't be bothered, why are they so insistent on having a poll in the first place?

1) The coaches don't want to be dragged up and down the street when their ballots show conference/regional/irrational biases.
Then don't show irrational biases. Conference and regional biases are less easy to get rid of, because you tend to think the people you play are really damn good, but like I said yesterday, part of being a head coach is being dragged up and down the street. In real life, with privileges come accountability; the coaches apparently feel above this.

2) To protect coaches from their conference offices for not voting their own teams into BCS games. It keeps the poll less political by making sure no one is obligated financially to make a decision that will determine the BCS lineup. Imagine the pressure Mack Brown'd get from the Big 12 office to vote straight Big 12 teams if they actually could see his ballot.
Something that shouldn't happen, to be sure. But to me, transparency trumps this sort of thing. And if there are lot of, say, Big 12 coaches punching a lot of Big 12 tickets, the ability for the rest of us to see what's going on can keep the conferences honest too. If a conference really does put effective pressure on its voting coaches, it won't take long before some intrepid reporter asks, "hey, how come all the ballots have Florida and USC at the top, except for the Big 12 ones which have Oklahoma?"

OK, that done, and it's time for the rather skimpy recruiting board update.

- Off the board are LB Ty Linton (to UNC) and DE Jordan Paskorz (to Michigan) as well as DE Dakota Royer, who dropped us.

- New on the board is S Darius Lipford, a Duke commit who's looking around. ($) He'll stay red until such time as he decommits from Duke, which seems very possible.

- Moved up to blue are OT's Miles Dieffenbach and Khamrone Kolb. I'm still not really sold, exactly, on our chances with Dieffenbach, and considered moving him to yellow instead (he was red before) but a top four is a top four.

- Dropped to red is WR Adrian Flemming.

I have a feeling Paskorz isn't the first recruit we lose to Michigan. Ken Wilkins and Marcus Rush are going to be in Ann Arbor this weekend and I think at least one of the two, leaning toward Wilkins, will commit then and there.

That's it for today, folks. Enjoy the baseball this weekend.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

coaches' poll is once again a farce

So, football coaches can't handle the heat.

That's the only logical conclusion to the story that the coaches' poll in football is going to go back underground. Starting in 2010, once again you won't be able to tell who voted who where, despite the fact that each coach directly determines 1/180th of the national title picture.

I can see one, and only one, legitimate reason. Let's say Mack Brown needs to figure out where to put Oklahoma, who he's beaten but who is still in the title hunt. Brown truly thinks Oklahoma is overrated. Doesn't think their defense is so hot. He can think of five teams he thinks would beat Oklahoma. He can put them sixth and nudge their overall standing ever so slightly downward, but obviously, if the rest of the country thinks Oklahoma is #2 and the Texas coach is voting them #6, there's going to be a lot of flak aimed his way, and no amount of explanation will make it go away.

This, however, is ridiculous. Don't coaches put up with this stuff on a daily basis anyway? Didn't Al Groh have to walk past Beta Bridge and find that someone wanted him gone badly enough to spend money on a few gallons of paint? Why are you starting this guy and not that guy? Why did you call that play? Why didn't you punt? Why did you punt? Seriously - when you're hired as a head football coach at a major university, if you're surprised that people are going to question what you do and even get angry over it, you're at your first and last job. And if Mack Brown votes Oklahoma #6 when everyone else thinks they're #2, who's gonna hate you? Oklahomans? They already do! Who cares?

This is why you see the Blogpoll directing voters to vote based on what a team has done rather than what they might do, once there's enough evidence to go on. Yes, it still requires a certain amount of guesswork, but it's much easier and more accurate to compare the resumes of two teams that haven't played than to try and guess who'd win if they played. And a lot more objective. If someone is being stupid about a team, you can whack them upside the head with the hard evidence. If they still stubbornly think that team is the best in the land based on stuff other than the results, well, you can argue all you want, but an opinion is an opinion.

The convenient excuse the coaches have is that they hired Gallup to advise them, and of course Gallup told them they should make it anonymous, because that's all Gallup ever does. Gallup is in the business of conducting polls that are as close to statistically accurate as possible. Anonymous is their business. It's like being unsure of whether or not to sue someone and asking a trial lawyer for advice. Hiring Gallup was either really dumb or a calculated move to provide a shield to hide behind.

This is not a poll that ever pretends to be statistically accurate, nor does it ever need to be, nor should it ever try to be. When Congress votes on a bill, are you looking for a statistically accurate representation? No, obviously. You could argue that, in theory, a closed vote would ensure the best representation because Congressmen could vote their conscience (HA) without being bothered by outside influences. Communism, theory, etc. In practice we all know what would happen. Most bills that pass would do so by a vote somewhere in the neighborhood of 100-0 and 435-0 because there would be such shameful behind-closed-doors vote-swapping that the whole exercise would be pointless. Accountability to the people who voted them in is why you don't have a Senator promising to vote for that income tax hike if he can get federal money for that road to his lakeside cottage. At least, not too often.

The coaches' poll should be the same way. Coaches who can't take the heat should get out of the kitchen - and toss their multi-million dollar paycheck into the oven on the way out. Accountability is part of the job description. It's a part of the reason - not the biggest reason, but certainly part of it - why they're paid so damn much. And it's absurd for them to get to have a say in the championship and not have to be held accountable for it. If the coaches don't want to be held responsible for what they say - then don't vote. Simple, you'd think.

This isn't, by the way, about some high-and-mighty "right to know" for the public. You and me, we really don't have that right. It's about trying to make the national championship process the best it can be. Transparency is much better than no transparency - period. The original complaint about the BCS was that people didn't really know what went on. The data got fed into some computers, and some polls were taken, and the whole process churned its gears and spit out a couple of teams who then went to go play for the title. Over the past ten years the BCS has taken steps - slow, torturous steps - to improve this. It's now much easier to figure out than it used to be, to the point where, a couple weeks out from the end of the season, most people know what has to happen for Teams X, Y, or Z to make it to the title game.

It's not like hiding the results produced a better result in the past. Michigan fans know this better than anyone, having had half a championship yanked out from underneath because the coaches didn't have to divulge their preferences. The rumor goes that Phil Fulmer dropped Michigan as far as he felt he could get away with in retaliation for his boy Manning losing the Heisman to Charles Woodson. Why would the coaches not want to put that kind of thing to rest, unless that's actually what went on?

For the BCS's part, they appear to be taking the right tack so far.

"'In the past, the conference commissioners have strongly favored transparency,' BCS spokesman Bill Hancock said Thursday. 'And they will discuss [the new AFCA stance] at the end of the '09 season.'"
That's a plus and hopefully code for "we're thinking of kicking the coaches out on their ass." The BCS has every right to take its ball and go home and leave the coaches' poll out in the cold, and they should. At a time when Congress is sticking its ugly nose into the BCS' business, the last thing they need is one of their key components telling everyone to piss off. The biggest problem for the BCS will be finding a new poll, but that's exactly what should happen if the coaches insist on being babies about this.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I have much links today, some of which don't even have anything to do with the dickjobbing handed out to us by the drooling morons at the NCAA. Let's get those ones out of the way first.

- Jeff White takes a look at the next-year future of the lacrosse team, including some speculation on who will step up and replace Glading, Billings, and Gill on the attack. Schedule-wise, next year will see visits from Syracuse and Hopkins instead of the other way round like it was this year.

- White's a busy man today. But not as busy as the other subject of his blogging, Sylven Landesberg. Check out the offseason schedule he sets up for himself.

- Here's a preview of the upcoming Irvine regional, which mostly manages to focus on the actual baseball and not the moronitude behind it.

Let's take a look at some of the things folks have to say about this whole Irvine mess:

- "Laughable." (Sean Ryan of

- "Virginia got royally screwed. ... The committee had to go out of its way to job Virginia the way it did." (Aaron Fitt of BaseballAmerica.)

- "[Virginia and UC-Irvine] got expletive deleted." (Fitt again, on podcast with John Manuel.) Click the link and pick the May 25 podcast to listen. Another funny quote from the same podcast: "That's what happens when you're so confident in the data you have, like the RPI, and you ignore other data, like, knowing college baseball." (That's more about the inclusion of Baylor and Oklahoma State, because if the committee was truly blind to everything but RPI, WE WOULDN'T BE IN FRIGGIN CALI.) It's a worthy listen if for no other reason than you'll never hear a media outlet rip the NCAA so strongly ever again. They got lotsa great quotes like that one.

- "A little harsh." This is why I like writing a blog. I don't have to understate things.

Here's what numbnuts has to say about this, courtesy of the above link:

“We can certainly understand Virginia getting sent to the West Coast seems like punishment,” Weiser said. “But the Cavaliers had a less than stellar record against top-100 RPI. Some are going to say this is punishment, but I look at it as more rewarding other teams for playing well against some of the top RPI teams.”
Let's take a look at one of those teams they rewarded. The average RPI ranking of teams on our non-conference schedule is 180 - it didn't help that the Coastal Carolina game was rained out. The same average for Middle Tennessee's non-conference schedule is 137. We went 27-1 against that schedule; MTSU was 22-8. They did play Tennessee and Vanderbilt - and went 1-3 against those two teams, being outscored in the four games 36-21. Apparently 5-4 qualifies as a stellar record against top-100-RPI teams, as MTSU also split a series with borderline-top-100 team Mississippi State and swept Missouri State; I defy you to say we did worse against the top-100's in our conference. Would MTSU have a good argument for a better seed than us? Sure - if they didn't play in the fucking Sun Belt Conference.

MTSU is going to Louisville, apparently on the strength of having taken three games from Missouri State - a non-tournament team. Either that or the lesson is you don't have to beat the good teams, you just have to play them. Asshat.

Short of chaining Tim Weiser to home plate at Davenport Field clad only in a loincloth and arming 3,000 pissed off 'Hoos in the seats with paintball guns and rotten fruit, there's only one way to get rid of the rage: Win the regional and transfer it to Irvine. Better them than us.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Villanova game added

While contemplating whether or not to email Tim Weiser, the head of the baseball selection committee, and if so, how many swear words to use, I've finished the Villanova video from the first round of this year's lax tournament. It's a rather shorter video than usual because Villanova was "opposition" only in the most technical sense of the word. Like all others, it is in the video section.


Someone at the UVA administration has been porking the daughters of the NCAA baseball selection folks. Probably an intern or something. No other logical explanation. No other way to describe it. The NCAA couldn't have screwed us harder with a spiny 10-foot pole. I opined yesterday that we would hopefully see a nice favorable matchup, having, I would have thought, earned it by hoisting the trophy in Durham. I failed to take into account the sheer burning hatred the NCAA apparently has for the University of Virginia baseball squad.

This should truly make for some fair competition. We get shipped to California, to face three California squads, including:

- The nation's #1 ranked team in everybody's ranking who matters at all. Five polls, five #1 rankings for UC-Irvine, our regional host. Those are all last week's rankings, but hey, no matter, whatever happened this week apparently didn't count in the seeding procedure anyway.

- The 100-mph-throwing, no-hitter-tossing, 17-strikeout-dealing, #1 pick in next month's draft. This is your first round matchup.

- The reigning national champions.

Are you seriously telling me that the champions of a top-three conference in baseball are the #2 seed least deserving to be placed in a geographically sensible regional? Not only are we the furthest-traveling #2 seed (edging Georgia Southern to Fullerton by a few hundred miles) we're the furthest-traveling team in the tournament, period. This is the reward for being ACC champions? Middle Tennessee gets a short hike to Louisville; South Carolina gets an even shorter trip to East Carolina; Miami gets to stay in-state and go to Gainesville. And we get shipped to fucking Irvine, California. To face Stephen Strasburg. Good one, NCAA selection committee. Thanks for nothing, assholes.

News was equally awesome on the lacrosse front. No screwjob here, just a team that had no desire to win a ground ball or a faceoff, and couldn't deal with a new defensive scheme. Cornell packed the area in front of the crease with five defenders, which meant that attacking the net, whether from behind as Danny Glading likes to do or from in front, Shamel Bratton-style, was fruitless. Any assault on the cage was met with a double-team which made shooting impossible and cut down the passing lanes. And the faceoffs - oh god the faceoffs. According to the box score we actually won 13-of-25, but that didn't matter - as soon as we'd win one, we'd lose it right back because we had no concept of keeping the ball safe. Sloppy.

The real problem, of course, with garbing up for the game and slapping the V-sabre magnets on the car and literally wearing your loyalties on your sleeve and your head and everywhere else is the walk of shame back through the parking lot if you lose. These are the risks you take. Apparently there aren't as many UVA grads in the Boston area as I thought, because the UVA turnout was as miserable as the game. Next time I go to some kind of game up here, people, I expect backup when I get yelled at by random middle-school brats. I think they said, "Go Cornell" or something like that but what I heard was "I need you to run me over with your car." I wasn't in a giving mood, so I chose not to honor the request.

Also: Hokies - til you sack up and have the cojones to face us with a lax team of your own, making fun of ours will not be tolerated. This pansy club team stuff you run ain't cuttin' it.

Bitch bitch bitch, that's all I do, isn't it? Let me leave you with a little perspective: Happy Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


And in more than one sense of the word, mind you.

Congratulations are indeed in order for the baseball team, which big-inning-ed its way to a four-game sweep of the ACC tournament and earned itself the ACC crown. Dan Grovatt is your tourney MVP - he went 8-for-15 (.533) with a home run and 5 RBI.

The tourney was won in the 9th inning against TFSU, but the real turning point was Grovatt's double in the 7th against Duke. Grovatt turned a harmless-looking couple of walks into a run and a dangerous scoring threat, which quickly became Duke's nightmare.

It was definitely the revenge of the low seeds: everyone in the tournament ended up with two losses, except two: us, 4-0 and tourney champs; and Boston College, who snuck in as the eight seed and lost only to Florida State, with wins over Georgia Tech and Miami. BC probably punched a ticket to the national tournament.

The slightly larger picture is this: going into the game, we were tied with TFSU for most ACC championships this season with five. So this was for, like, all the marbles. We now have six to their five: baseball, men's tennis, men's cross country, men's track and field, and men's and women's swimming and diving. (OK, five and a half - we share the track one with TFSU. Also interesting: four of their five are track and field and the fifth is women's cross country. So all they really do is run fast.)

It's the second season in a row that we've snagged six ACC championships and the second season in a row we've led the conference.

Now for the bitching - we do not, repeat not, get to host a regional this year, which is ridiculousness of the worst kind. Clemson (beat 'em), TFSU (beat 'em twice), GT (split the series), and UNC (mercied 'em) all get regionals from the ACC. It's a clear signal that the selection folks valued the regular season over the conference tournaments; besides GT and Clemson, Ole Miss, Florida and ECU also got regionals despite also taking giant dumps in their respective conference tourneys.

Well, we'll be a two-seed somewhere then, and one that certain lower-ranked hosts will be no doubt hoping to avoid. Where will it be? We'll find out tomorrow, but the process of elimination can tell us a few things. We're not going to one of the four ACC sites. Geographically and competitively, I can't see the NCAA shipping us to Fullerton (CSU-Fullerton), Irvine (UC-Irvine), or Tempe (Arizona State), and for competitive reasons I doubt we end up in Baton Rouge (LSU), Austin (Texas), or Oxford (Ole Miss) either. The two lowest-ranked hosts are Louisville and ECU and it's likely we end up in one of those two regionals.

As a final note, none of these games were televised up here, but the championship game is on tape delay tomorrow. Rest assured the TiVo is already set, and sometime this summer, whenever I end up getting around to it, highlights will be YouTubed.

Friday, May 22, 2009

wrapping it up before the weekend

Short post to gather up a few odds and ends before Memorial Day weekend:

Things started off pretty swimmingly in last night's baseball action. My gut feeling is that beating Clemson (a 6-5 nailbiter of sorts featuring outstanding long relief by Andrew Carraway) probably solidified our standing to host a regional. Work left to do if we want to host a super. Probably involves not losing for the rest of the weekend.

The crazy round-robin format of the ACC tournament seems a little weird, but it's actually not too hard to figure out. If we lose tonight to UNC, we don't make the championship game - that simple. If we win, then we're in if Clemson beat Duke, and if Clemson loses, then we're in anyway by beating Duke ourselves tomorrow. Florida State awaits. We're throwing everything we got at UNC tonight, with Danny Hultzen on the mound. Who we start tomorrow against Duke probably depends on whether or not the game matters.

Football recruiting: I always did think Ty Linton would be tough to pry away from UNC, but damn if it ain't exceedingly rude of him to commit there the day after I post a recruiting board update. You're just gonna have to look at a slightly out-of-date board for a week or so.

Last, but oh so certainly not least, it's Final Four weekend in lacrosse. As you probably know. Especially kind of the NCAA to host this at Foxborough again: my butt will be occupying a seat, hopefully for a full two games. I had noticed that of the four teams from the state of Maryland in the tournament, zero of them are in the Final Four - what I didn't notice til today was that it's the first time that's happened since 1994, when it was UVA, Syracuse, Princeton, and Brown. How fun.

High hopes for this weekend. Maybe it'll be a double championship to celebrate? Maybe? And with a little bit of luck I'll have time to work on getting the Villanova highlights up on the YouTubes. Have yourself a fine weekend. Stay safe. Wear sunblock. And hug a veteran.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

recruiting board update

Slow times in the recruiting world. All the kids who knew where they wanted to go are now committed there. All the kids who want to make a decision in the summer are waiting for the summer cocktail circuit of junior days, camps, and everything else. There are updates this week to the recruiting board anyway.

There is also some fluff which you have to read before getting to that:

- Cedric Peerman is awesome, or, Baltimore finds out what we already know.

- Brian O'Connor denies so often that he's annoyed by our late late start to the baseball tournament that the headline writer decided he doth protest too much.

- Brian Carroll fluff in the CDP.

- Twerp fans can no longer make the claim that their coach can eat your coach. Both Ralph Friedgen and Mark Mangino are to be congratulated; Friedgen, for having the dedication to lose a pretty significant amount of weight, and Mangino because he is now the only coach classified as a plutoid by the IAU. No, I haven't forgotten about Cheeseburger Charlie up at Notre Dame, but my fake sources tell me their media guide lists him at a svelte 175 pounds and a 40 time of 4.65.

Bookmark this page because I just used up my entire annual quota of nice things to say about Maryland.

Now, you may have your recruiting board update:

- Dropped CB Louis Young, whose on-and-off commitment to Stanford is back on.

- Added LB Jamal Wallace, CB Urell Johnson, and S Nick Dew to yellow. Johnson is sort of intriguing because he's from Louisiana, which might as well be Burkina Faso for all we've recruited it in the past; and because we're up against a whole batch of different schools instead of the usual suspects. And there's at least some small degree of mutual interest.

- Added OT Miles Dieffenbach to red.

- Moved TE Blake Barker (top four) and C Russell Bodine up to blue.

- Moved DT Anthony Ferguson and LB Brian Laiti down to red.

Of note: Marcus Rush and Ken Wilkins are slated for a visit to Michigan soon. I rather expect Wilkins will commit to Michigan then and there. I'm a little less sure about Rush. He may or may not; if not, you are permitted to take that as an extremely good sign for our chances, as well as a small boost to our standing with QB Andrew Hendrix as well.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Andrew Devlin transfer

This actually broke on the World Wide WebberNet yesterday, but I didn't feel like making it a footnote to baseball. (Side note: This is very poor bloggery on my part. If I'd bothered waiting til today to write that baseball note I could have actually worked with accurate information.)

Anyway, yeah, TE-turned-DE Andrew Devlin is transferring to Pitt. On a surprise-transfer scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is "6-foot-7 250 pound Ryan Mallett doesn't want to run an offense designed for Pat White" and 10 is "Tim Tebow decides to follow his stripper girlfriend to Knoxville," this is about a 1.5. Here you have a guy who was recruited to be the heir apparent to a tight-end dynasty that is basically no more, asked to switch to a position where he'd likely be a depth player for three years. He gave it a whirl during spring practice, and you can't ask any more than that.

Impact on the team is - no disrespect at all here to Devlin - minimal. Nominally, the two-deep at DE is Collins and Conrath for starters, Zane Parr and either Kevin Crawford or Will Hill as backups. The downside is that's a very inexperienced bunch. Only Conrath has any starts at DE. The upside is experience is overrated at DE. Conrath proved that last year. DE is one position where being a holy terror athletically can make up for a lot. And Collins carries himself like a professional and will be just fine. There's room in the fall for one of the other incoming freshmen to make a name for himself, as well.

The other effect on the team is the scholarships. If you've been reading these pages, and you've been buying what I'm selling, you knew already there'd be some attrition. Maybe some transfers, maybe some academic washouts - in any case, by my count, there were 89 scholarships promised out for the fall. So four of those were not going to be on the team come September 6. Devlin's transfer brings it down to 88. Jeff White's linked article above suggests the next to drop may be Kevin Crawford, which would start to make DE depth a little more worrisome.

Anyway, the depth chart is updated to reflect, and it also includes a few new walk-ons.

There's also baseball - the "accurate information" above is the starting pitchers for the next two games, and it manages to make me look silly by naming Matt Packer the starter against Clemson on Thursday. Huh. The article also rather generously states Packer has "struggled at times"; by "struggled" they mean "sucked pretty bad" and by "at times" they mean "whenever we least could afford it." I have seriously wondered whether Packer has been nursing some kind of injury to his elbow or shoulder that he's been keeping secret from the coaches, that's how bad he's been. That he got a start against VT and will do so again this week puts that idea to rest. Let's hope the real explanation is that he's just got a starter's mentality and isn't bullpen material. Danny Hultzen will go against UNC, then it's anyone's guess about Duke on Saturday.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

it wasn't totally roses this weekend

Yesterday when I pointed out the obvious downside of being a Virginia fan - the capacity for inexplicable suckitude outside the comfortable confines of the Grounds - I forgot to mention also that the baseball team is not immune from this, and illustrated the point perfectly by dropping two of three in Blacksburg.

This had the effect of doing exactly what I said wouldn't happen: dropping us to 6th in the conference and the 2-3-6-7 bracket of the ACC tournament. However! I am as bad about predicting other teams as I am our own, and this is good news: I also said the 2-3-6-7 would result in us drawing two of TFSU, UNC, and GT - this also did not happen, as GT dropped all the way to the 4th seed and Clemson rose to third. I ain't skeered 'a Clemson.

So, Clemson Thursday, North Carolina on Friday, and Duke on Saturday. Let's see if I can prognosticate pitching matchups better than I can seeding matchups:

- We'll likely have to throw ACC Freshman of the Year (damn straight) Danny Hultzen at Clemson. The Tigers counter with Trey Delk. Delk began the year as Clemson's ace but missed the middle of the ACC season with a back injury. Solid pitcher when healthy though: ERA of 2.41 and hitters went .258 against him; he can be a little wild though.

- Carolina will use Adam Warren against Duke, who happens to be the one pitcher we beat in our series with UNC. I'm holding out hope then that UNC will hold their ace for the Clemson game and we'll face Matt Harvey, he of the 5.89 ERA. We lit him up in the rubber match of the series this year only to have the bullpen flush the game away. Andrew Carraway will probably be our pitcher here.

- Duke is burning up their two real starting pitchers against UNC and Clemson and frankly it's anyone's guess as to who we'll see. They've been searching all season for a proper third starter and haven't found one; everyone who's started more than one game outside of Christopher Manno and Andrew Wolcott has been awful. The pitcher with the next-most starts is Jonathan Foreman, who's walked a whopping 31 batters in 30 innings. Yes please. Our third starter of late has been Robert Morey, and I think he gets the start here.

So I think we fell into a really fortuitous situation here. We have the chance to take advantage of some advantageous matchups. Our bats are poised to do some damage - if the starters can take us deep enough into games where the bullpen doesn't have a chance to screw it up (6 innings and maybe into the 7th would be nice) then we ought to like our chances to get back to the championship game.

Monday, May 18, 2009

being a virginia fan is sometimes like this

Anyone who's been a Virginia fan for a couple years or longer notices a few trends which the University's teams can't ever seem to shake. Noticeably, of course, our tendency to suck, bad, on the road. I've long since been accustomed to the notion that we can take on just about anyone in the friendly confines of Scott Stadium (FSU, 1995/2005) or U-Hall/JPJA (Duke, 2000/2007), but melt into a puddle of non-football/basketball-playing goo once we take a step outside Charlottesville (UNC 2005, and that whole disastrous Puerto Rico trip.)

A lesser-known quality of UVA athletics, and one that's a lot more fun, is our ability, every so often and always when it's least expected, to blow the damn doors off some unsuspecting fools. See: Maryland, 2002 and 2008, Gonzaga 2007, Miami 2007. That is how you explain yesterday afternoon's game against Hopkins.

I don't otherwise have a lot of analysis of the game, because as with Villanova, I could not possibly do it justice and it wouldn't tell you anything you don't already know. But I have a big mouth, and I have to keep it exercised (figuratively speaking, I don't have one of those talk-to-type programs and if I did use one, you'd know because these posts would look more like "frog bench run skippy freeblebeeblewop.") So, I'll just vomit onto the screen some of the random thoughts I was thinking during the game, just to keep my blogging card up to date:

- Adam Ghitelman is definitely the best goalie in the country with a random consonant after the starting G in his name; take that, Michael Gvozden. Gvozden played like baked ass yesterday, unfortunately for Hopkins, and Ghitelman was the reason the game was a blowout because the defense, while not totally useless like Hopkins', was merely average. Ghitelman made a ton of terrific saves and kept Hopkins from ever feeling like they had a chance.

- If you could take the average temperament of Rhamel and Shamel Bratton, along with their talent, you'd have an unstoppable lacrosse player. Rhamel is a little too tentative at times out there. The TV angle was just so placed that Rhamel was often on a direct line between the camera and the Hopkins goal, and the guy had some very clear avenues to the net that he chose not to take. This is in contrast to his brother, who thinks he is Sha-Mel, Destroyer of Worlds, and charges at the net looking for a shot no matter who or what is draped on his back. He's actually damn good at scoring goals this way, or was yesterday, but also good at heaving it wide when there are open teammates with better shots.

- I might want Shamel to tone it down a little, but not til after the Cornell game this weekend. The announcers made mention of the style Cornell played against Princeton: grind it out, slow it down - you know, like Tony Bennett's supposed to do only doesn't. It worked against Princeton; the game ended 6-4 (Princeton is by no means a low-scoring team) and the two teams combined for just 58 shots, a number we've topped by ourselves a couple times this year. That slow-down is fine and dandy when they have the ball, but when we have it, the best way to stop it is to make them run faster than they want to, and Shamel Bratton's aggressive, charging style is the perfect way to make that happen.

- Don't feel bad, Hopkins. We scored 19 goals against VMI, too.

- Cornell really is a great matchup for us in the semis, but if/when we get past them, who do you want in the championship game? I can't decide whether I want the team that's going to be out for revenge or the team that owns our face for like five years running. Too bad Siena or someone couldn't have made a Cinderella run like UMass in 2006.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

video section update

As promised, the video page is now updated, and you can now view the highlights of this year's Maryland game, the longest ever in D-I lax history. Pretty heady stuff. Enjoy.

Friday, May 15, 2009

omg our recruiting o noez

Some time back, a reader pointed out in a comment the alternating nature of our recruiting classes, in which odd years are awesome and even years suck. This as you're likely to know is a trend going back to about 2004 or 2005, depending on how you think the 2004 class as a whole panned out. I answered the question - that is, will 2010 be any better? - optimistically. I wonder if I was right.

Since the 2004 class yielded Chris Long, Cedric Peerman, Chris Gould, Clint Sintim, and sort-of* Branden Albert, as well as sort-of Olu Hall who had a very studly star rating, let's arbitrarily say this trend began in 2005, when we plucked Eugene Monroe out of New Jersey. 2005 was a very good class. Now, what's got UVA fans really uneasy is the number of commitments at this point in the year: One. Duke has five. In past years, here's how we stood with commitments as of May 15:

2005: 11
2006: 0
2007: 6
2008: 3
2009: 7
2010: 1

There's a very clear up-and-down pattern to that, although I probably ought to caveat the 2009 number by pointing out one of those 7 is eventual decommit Alex Owah; what I didn't count was Caleb Porzel, who'd already committed and disappeared by this time. No matter how you slice it, the best even-year performance as of May 15 is half as good as the worst odd-year performance.

There's also no denying that the even years have been a disappointment in the star ratings. Rivals had all our odd-year classes 6th in the conference and our even year ones as high as 8th and as low as 11th. The best player we got out of the '06 class is Nate Collins, who was also the lowest-rated.

Taking stock honestly, I see no reason why this trend won't continue. If you like to go by nothing but star ratings and recruiting service rankings, you're probably going to be one sorry Wahoo come Signing Day 2010. All the factors are there. By this point in the year most teams have a list of commits; our list is one. It's going to be a small class; any genius who's been keeping track of the scholarships could guess that. We're already overbooked and losing only 12 to eligibility at the end of the year. The recruiting services, when ranking classes against each other, bias the rankings toward big-ass classes. And those who are most likely to commit sometime soon (Conner Davis, E.J. Scott, Marcus Rush maybe, Kyrrel Latimer, etc.) have low-to-medium three-star rankings. Nothing like 2007 when four-stars Peter Lalich and J'Courtney Williams committed within three days of each other in April.

Now. Not a lot of our offered targets have actually committed elsewhere. So while we're not exactly raking them in, we're not losing out in great numbers, either. The biggest losses are probably Silas Redd, Philip Sims, Mark Shuman, Seth Betancourt, and Justin Hunter. Redd and Shuman were in love with their particular school and the only thing that would have stopped them going was a lack of an offer; Sims, we had a shot at, but he was always going to be a hard get, and the same is true with Hunter only minus the part where we had a legit shot.

So there's that for consolation, but it's also very indicative of the coaching staff slow-playing this thing. They're not going to go all-out to fill up the class, because that's the last thing they want to do, lest they lose out on someone they want badly.

Conclusion, then: Star-gazers are going to be sorely disappointed. If this class ranks 10th or lower by the recruiting services, it won't surprise me one bit. But! You might notice I chose two flame-outs from the '07 class as my earlier example; that's on purpose. The strength of the '07 class is not in the seven four-stars, most of whom will probably not have four-star careers. Likewise, the '08 class was badly panned by UVA fans as a huge recruiting disappointment. It was small and sucked ass in the star department. It's also yielded at least seven players who figure to play a major role on the depth chart this year, and that's while these guys are sophomores or redshirt freshmen.

So, actual conclusion: Star-gazers, you're still going to not like the class. I think from a rankings perspective, the top end of the class will look a little better than 2008, in which Ausar Walcott and Torrey Mack were the only headliners. It's still going to be a small class though and most of them will be in the unexciting range. But I think, like 2008, a few years after the class is in the books, we'll learn the lesson for the umpteenth time that star ratings don't mean everything. Kevin Parks, for example, I think will be brilliant. If Ken Wilkins signs up, I think he'll be brilliant. There will be at least one really excellent receiver in the class, and I think we'll be happy with the quarterback we sign, whoever that is.

After some of our big summer events, like Big Fancy Blue-Chip Shindig Day in June and the camp in July, we'll have a lot better notion of how this thing is going to shake out.

*Sort-of, because they prepped and ended up in the following year's class.

Many many many apologies for skipping yesterday's post, but it was Game 7 of Wings-Ducks, y'see. All ended well in that department, and to make it up to you, the Maryland lacrosse game highlights will be on YouTube by Sunday evening.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

soapboxing: the player compensation edition

Because there are those whose livelihoods depend on coming up with timely and readable column material, a couple of events in the zeitgeist of late are likely going to conspire to elicit a small parade of columns on this very topic. The question at hand: should college athletes be paid for what they do?

One event is the absolutely shocking revelation that the evidence continues to pile up against the USC program regarding who paid money to whom. My stance is basically what you'd expect: as a fan of a team that the NCAA bombed back to the Stone Age following a particularly nasty booster scandal (that'd be Michigan, just to avoid any confusion), I hope the NCAA will do the same to USC given that these allegations appear to be about as serious - but don't expect it to. Especially not the football team.

That's not the main thing, though. The mainer thing than that is the lawsuit against Electronic Arts that's currently in its infant stages, filed by former college quarterback Sam Keller. This promises to be a story and a half. Early returns say this thing has wheels. It's not hard to see why. EA will say that they don't use anyone's names, and they don't. This is not likely to fly. Reason is this: Let's say you are a 5'9", 180 lb, 34-year-old, glasses-wearing, Volvo-driving English teacher at East Bum Middle School in East Bum, Virginia who stops at Dunkin' Donuts for coffee and wears red polo shirts to work every day. And then let's say I write a book where the main character is a 5'9", 180 lb, 34-year-old, glasses-wearing, Volvo-driving English teacher at East Bum Middle School in East Bum, Virginia who stops at Dunkin' Donuts for coffee and wears red polo shirts to work every day and is sleeping with all the boys in his seventh grade class. Yeah, you're not going to like that very much, and you will probably see me in court, won't you? And you'll win. The lack of specific names is not going to put the brakes on Keller's case.

The most damning thing for EA is that last year, a court awarded a group of retired NFLers $28 million from the NFL Players' Association for collaborating with EA to scramble their identities on the game so they wouldn't have to pay them royalties. It's no coincidence that Keller's case is on the street now; they're not only armed and emboldened by this verdict, they're enabled by it. As ex-Packer Herb Adderley says in the article linked:

If you look at the 1967 Green Bay Packers in that game, you'll know that the only left cornerback that year had to be Herb Adderley, but they scrambled my face and took the number off of my jersey. Yet, they had my correct height, weight and years of experience.
That's even less detail than in the new claim, where the college players have their numbers on their jerseys.

The problem is this: EA will also claim they're licensed to do what they do by the NCAA. Which is true. The NCAA allows EA to use the logos and everything else associated with college football. This is no different from, say, the NFL, except for one major detail: EA has to get permission from two entities instead of just one. In order to use the actual name "LaDanian Tomlinson", EA gets a license from the NFL Players' Association as well. There is no such association for college players. EA is shrewd. They're like the Wal-Mart of game makers. They didn't get where they are by not knowing their shit about the legal realm, because they've been toeing the monopoly line for years now and totally getting away with it. Their sharp lawyer-types are going to point the finger at the NCAA, which is also named in the suit. After all, the NCAA gets EA's money fair and square for this. And here, again, I'd say EA has a point.

So, what's the NCAA going to do? They have a problem on their hands. These issues - USC and EA - are linked. Players take money from boosters (which get that money from the school) because they think they should get paid when the university makes money off of them. They see it as their fair share. The money made off these athletes is, in fact, the primary argument in favor of paying them, and the fact that Electronic Arts is making mega-squillions off the players' likenesses (if not strictly their names, technically) is now in the limelight thanks to the lawsuit. The NCAA is going to squirm, and they're going to fight tooth and nail to stop payments directly to the players; this is the same organization that barred Jeremy Bloom for taking endorsement money totally unrelated to any of his actual college activities.

Right up front, though, I don't think college athletes should be paid. How do you apportion this fairly? If the University sells a whole mess of #10 jerseys this year, well, they didn't pick that number at random, nor did they randomly pick #20 or #37. Clearly, the schools themselves are selling particular players. So....

- If you divvy out money equally to all the players on the football team, you do not solve the problem of the star player walking through the bookstore and seeing his jersey on the rack and wondering why he doesn't get a cut of that. The backup punter gets the same money he does and all that punter does at practice is jog a few sprints and scratch his ass, and then enjoys the best seat in the house during the game. One of the big arguments in favor of paying the players is, because players won't need money from boosters any more, it'll head off some of the booster activity. No it won't. Boosters have millions. They can outbid anyone for a players' loyalty. But if all the players are paid the same, you're back to square one.

- If you apportion the money based on how much money each player makes for the school, well, this isn't even worth talking about because it's not possible. How do you account for the value of each player? How do you figure how many tickets are sold because a backup linebacker pounced on a fumble and ran it back for a touchdown to win a game? This isn't even realistic because it's impossible to divide it fairly.

That doesn't even touch on the track stars, wrestlers, gymnasts, swimmers, volleyball players, and everyone else that really don't bring in a dime for the school. But how do you justify paying the football and basketball players and not the rest of them, too? Football players are already excused from class with a wink, a perk not typically granted to the cross-country team. Do you pay them all? As the commercial says, there are 380,000 student-athletes ("and just about all of them will be going pro in something other than sports," just so you know which commercial I'm talking about.) If you divide that by three (to roughly approximate Division I) that's 127,000 - pay them all even just a tiny $100 a month extra stipend, and the cost is $152 million a year. This is not feasible. Smaller schools would be killing programs left and right just to keep the costs down.

So maybe you just pay the football and basketball players, the ones that video games get made out of. I say this is a crock. Football and basketball players are already the best-taken-care-of people on any campus. Leave aside the free education ($80-100,000), the free books, free food, and free academic tutoring. Football players never have to go to CVS for a Tylenol. They got painkillers in the team supply. They never have to go to Teeter's to get milk or various other groceries. They get it from the team supply. They never have to go to Best Buy to get a digital camera. They get it from the bowl game schwag bag. If they break their leg skiing, guess who pays for the treatment? How else do you get a free ride to school the way they do? Academics - but that doesn't give you all those great peripheral perks. ROTC - but your ass belongs to the military when you're done.

However. Sam Keller, or whatever lawyer put him up to this, still has a point. In no other area of American life can your likeness be used like this without any compensation. My best guess is that EA is going to have stop making their games so detailed, which would kind of suck because, well, I dunno if you ever played Tecmo Super Bowl, but the fact that you had to use "QB Bills" instead of Jim Kelly was really lame. But I'm not going to waffle on the notion that players shouldn't be paid. Because they shouldn't. The NCAA, on the other hand, shouldn't be accepting all this money on behalf of the players and doing God knows what with it.

If I were king, or the judge maybe, well, first off I wouldn't want this case, because the can of worms that a careless ruling opens up would be enormous. The sides will likely settle somehow because of this. This can be used for good rather than evil, however. A couple suggestions that don't involve random numberless players in video games:

- Force the NCAA to hold at least a portion of the EA money for the players in the game until after their eligibility is up. They get this money if they actually graduate and don't get themselves in any major kind of trouble with the law. A great carrot-and-stick for coaches to use on their guys to keep them out of shenanigans. This would get players paid directly (so I'm not 100% in favor of this idea) but the NCAA would get to keep its precious amateur status.

- Require the NCAA to set up a trust, started with punitive damages from the lawsuit and fed by the EA licensing money. This trust can be used to help players with a real demonstrated financial hardship, like that Clemson kid who was taking care of his brother. It can also be used to help former players who have fallen on hard times, presuming of course that they got their diploma since that's what the NCAA is so big on.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

recruiting board update

It's time for the whenever-I-want-to update to the recruiting board. Nothing fancy. Here's what's up:

- Dropped OG Luke Graham, who committed to Penn State.

- Changed Kyle Baublitz from a TE to a DE, because that's what he wants to play. ($)

- Added QB Sam Gibson, RB Juwan Thompson, and WR Tyrek Cheeseboro to yellow and CB Louis Young to red.

- Moved LB Ken Wilkins and S Kyrrel Latimer to blue. The Rivals headline on the Latimer story says this: "Cavs offer DeMatha DB Latimer, named favorite," which should tell you all you need to know even if you don't have a subscription.

If DeMatha sounds familiar, it's because it's starting to be a little bit of a pipeline our way. The last DB to come to UVA out of DeMatha was a guy named Rodney McLeod, whose name you heard oh about eleventy hundred thousand times during spring camp as a guy who's doing nicely for himself. This means probably not a whole lot, but it's pretty good news anyway. Wilkins gave us a nice shout too, but his recruitment's going to be a lot tougher given the names in hot pursuit. Like, Michigan and Ohio State. Wilkins has the meh-est ratings ever, but an offer pile the size of a small novel. When he cuts his list we'll be on it - when he cuts it again, we'll see.

Monday, May 11, 2009

being #1 has its perks

The baseball team finds itself in a pretty good position coming out of this weekend. OK, not as good a position as we could be in if the bullpen didn't have this habit of pitching batting practice to the opposition, but pretty good. Here's the deal. We're currently in fourth place in the ACC. I harbor no hopes of a top-two seeding, because we're not too likely to pass both Georgia Tech and UNC in our division - not with them both playing bad teams this weekend. Actually I don't think we're going to pass either one. But fourth place is nice for now, because the way the seedings work (#'s 1, 4, 5, and 8 are in one group) a lot of bad things would have to happen for us to slip out of this group. You don't want to be sixth because it means playing two out of FSU, GT, or UNC, but fourth or fifth is fine because no matter what, it's one game against somebody really good, one against someone right at your level, and one against someone crappy. And we know we can beat all of those three really good teams, because we've done it.

The ACC tournament isn't important for the ACC's sake though. We have a national tournament to think of. We will host a regional, we know this; unless there's an unforeseen meltdown approaching, three baseball teams from somewhere in the nation will once again descend on Charlottesville, hopefully to fill a role as sacrificial lambs.

This past weekend, though, gave us a boost in the rankings, and now we're hanging around 10th place in most polls. This is juuuust outside where you need to be to host a super-regional (a seed 1 through 8.) When the RPI comes out tomorrow I suspect we'll see a little boost also, from last week's spot at 12th. The exciting thing is how many ACC schools are in front of us. GT and UNC in all the polls, and FSU as well in most of them. Yes, that makes it harder to win the tournament if there are so many good teams in it, but it also means winning the tournament would be a sure bet to vault us into a top-8 seed and a super-regional. And those other guys aren't kidding themselves that we can't do it, either.

Then again, those other guys don't have the bullpen from hell, either.

But what about that #1 seed for the lacrosse team? It really does wonders for your abilities to advance in a tournament, wouldn't you say? I won't bother boring you with an analysis of the game. There's nothing I can say about it that you couldn't already guess by "eighteen-zip after three periods." Notre Dame was not so lucky. Unimpressed by their ability to dominate a mostly bad schedule, the NCAA slapped them with a 7-seed and a visit from Maryland, who dispatched them without much trouble. Otherwise the tournament went according to seed expectations, though UNC and Hopkins received scares. I am glad that wasn't us. Speaking as a Red Wings fan, one sport with scary sudden-death playoff overtimes is plenty if I want my heart to last me til I'm old enough to forget where I left my reading glasses.

So as expected, Hopkins is next. I refuse to be fooled by the fact that it took them 3 overtimes to knock off a middling Ivy and will probably have the third quarter of our last game against them on constant playback in my head during the entire game this weekend. I get pessimistic like that. On the plus side, UVA was well-represented at the Hopkins away game and I expect we'll be so again in Annapolis. What with the game being held within 50 miles of both schools' alumni bases and UNC-Duke playing at the same venue on the same day, it promises to be electric. It's mid-spring. Annapolis is a terrific town. The stadium is excellent and hopefully will be full. The atmosphere will probably be better than the following weekend at Foxborough. I'm not even kidding. You'd better be there. Wish I could, but I'll settle for the semis and the championship game if we make it that far.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

the playoff that i want and that the nation needs

OK, I said I'd hold off on this til October or so, but I have this problem keeping my flap shut, which is why this blog is here in the first place, really. This is my playoff idea, and yes, I realize everyone and their aunt and their aunt's gerbil has an idea. Which is why I expect a lot of very disappointed football fans when they do get around to making a playoff. Lot of folks going, "This isn't what I signed up for."

The reason for that is because most people don't take into account any of the realities of the situation, they just toss ideas out there that they think would be pretty cool. Hell, even the President of the United States is guilty of this. This idea of mine strives to take into account all the realities of the situation (or at least, the ones I know of) as well as keep folks like me happy. Folks who still like the bowls and still like the regular season with a little drama to it instead of having teams yawn through the end of the season because their ticket is punched for the playoffs.

Keep in mind, now, the Two Truisms I put forth earlier. 1, a playoff will be big (that is, four, six, or eight teams = nonsense) and 2, a playoff will be played primarily on home-field sites. That in mind, here is what I propose:

- The playoff should be sixteen teams.

Look. You can get the sorry notion of a six or eight team playoff out of your head right this instant. Here's why: autobids, duh. Once you institute a playoff like that, it will suck up 90% of the dollars invested in the college football postseason. TV contracts will be huge. Participants will get exposure aplenty. Dollars will fly everywhere. There is absolutely, positively no way a conference commissioner whose conference is already in snug with the BCS, bringing in all that dough, is going to agree to any system where in the future, his conference might be left out. Ever.

That means autobids. And once you have autobids, and you exclude somebody, we-he-hell, Mark Shurtleff will be on line 1, stat. The prospects for an antitrust case as it stands now are shaky at best. Nobody is "left out" of the championship because nobody has any kind of automatic bid to it. Once you do autobid to the championship, you have to have everyone. It will never, ever fly otherwise.

That means 11 teams, minimum. If you just add one at-large, to make it 12, you have solved absolutely nothing. If adding one at-large could solve anything, they'd have a three-team playoff and that would be that. Add five at-larges and you have the nice even number of sixteen.

Now, how to set up the bracket?

- The playoff should use the Big East system.

Check out how the Big East does it in basketball. It's a great idea. They're not the only conference to use an uneven bracket, but they're the biggest to do so. The 9-16 seeded teams play in the first round, advance to face the 5-8 seeded teams, and the winner of those games advance to play the 1-4 seeded teams. Two byes for the best teams.

This is a fantastic idea for football too. It keeps the regular season extremely valuable. You're playing for byes and you're playing for home field advantage all the way through. The best teams only have to win three times to win the title; the lower seeded teams must win five. It would put a stop to the specific playoff criticism I have; namely, that it's too easy for a lower-seeded team to get hot and play its way through, like, say, the Arizona Cardinals. It forces the lower seeded teams to play one more game than they'd have to in a standard bracket, and immensely rewards the higher seeded ones. And there are other advantages too.....

- The playoff should be played on home fields.

They do this in the lower divisions for a reason: because fans aren't going to travel four and five times to go see their teams. Especially not around the holidays when they're trying to make sure Santa doesn't pass their kids by. You want to fill the stadium, you put it close to where the fans are, and that's at home stadiums.

And here's the part that should appeal to the powers that be: Under a standard bracket, played at home fields, only eight teams would be guaranteed a home game. In the Big East system, twelve teams are guaranteed that extra week of sweet sweet revenue. Naturally, of course, there would be fierce and acrimonious discussions about how exactly all that money is split. No matter how you slice it though, spreading the wealth like that (or the pain-in-the-butt of having to host a home game that you get no real benefit from) is something the commissioners are going to prefer.

So the first three rounds would be at home fields - that's how they do it at the other levels too. And then, for maximum hype and maximum sponsorship dollars, a Football Final Four, bid on by cities in the same manner that they do for the basketball one.

- The playoff should be in December.

Or more specifically, the first three rounds should be in December. This is for a lot of very good reasons:

- First, the NCAA and the TV stations could market the everloving shit out of Thanksgiving weekend as the final weekend of the regular season. The regular season doesn't need to creep up into the first week of December like it does now. Make Thanksgiving weekend the weekend in which playoff berths are won and lost, and hold the selection show on Sunday evening the same way they do for basketball.

- Second, it's just too unwieldy otherwise. Extending this thing into mid-to-late January makes a mess of coaches' recruiting calendars and makes the whole damn season too bloody long.

- Third, it would mitigate the excuse that a team had too long a layoff for the championships. They play right away. Three weeks is the longest a team would go without playing, which is plenty long enough to rest up and practice and short enough to stay sharp.

- Fourth, and most importantly so sit up and pay attention: The losers can be invited to bowl games. I don't want to lose the bowls so this, to me, is a really elegant and simple way to work this out. It's one of the things at the heart and soul of this whole idea. Because the first three rounds would wrap up by mid-December, there's plenty of time for the twelve losers to make travel plans for a bowl two weeks later. The bowls are a terrific reward for a good season. You go somewhere warm (usually), you have a good time, get a free schwag bag, and your fans make a trip out of it. It's a system too good to lose. Some of the sponsorship dollars would dry up and the smaller, weaker bowls might get picked off, but if we lose the New Mexico Bowl I'm not gonna lose any sleep over it. 20-25 bowls could still be played, and going to the playoffs doesn't have to mean you don't get to participate. The only teams who don't play in bowls would be the Football Final Four, who would play after the bowl games wrap up. It'd be a bowl-like atmosphere anyway.

- The playoff field should be decided by competition committee.

It works great for basketball.

Edit as of December 6, 2011:

This used to say: "So with the bylaws thing, a slightly revised way is needed to set up the field. Can't just autobid a team from each of the 11 conferences."  Actually yes you can.  "The bylaws thing" was the idea that at least half a playoff field had to be made up of at-larges, upon which some of this idea was based.  Actually it is the other way round.  Half the playoff field must be made of autobids, not at-larges.  I checked this.  It is true.  Either they changed it since I wrote that, or I totally read everything wrong, or the media sources I read totally read everything wrong.  Either way, someone's a dumbass.

At any rate, it has little effect on this proposal.  We're still going with eight autobids and eight at-large bids.  Why?  Because it's a better playoff that way.  Are some people still gonna be pissed off?  Yes.  I didn't say we were going to please everyone.  That's impossible.    So how to do this?  Create an at-large pool. The three conference champs that don't get autobids are automatically entered into the at-large pool, along with ten or twelve or however many of the remaining highest-ranked teams from the newly-created RPI, that the committee must choose from. This would give these conference champions a little bit of a boost, and it would mean that the eight autobids are earned on merit instead of an agreement in a room.  And it would cause the committee to think things like, "hey, Southern Miss actually looks more deserving than West Virginia this year." You could further help the mid-majors that missed out on autobids by stipulating that no conference can have more than two teams in the playoff. This isn't an idea I'm married to, just a suggestion, but it is some food for thought.

Alright, so what of it? Arguments against it? I have some, and I have rebuttals too:

- Final exams? Are these student athletes ever going to be students?

I'm about as worried over this as the NCAA is, which scheduled JMU to play in the I-AA playoffs on December 12, which happened to be the last day of JMU's final exams: Dec. 8-12. They already do this and it's fine. I've never liked this particular anti-playoff argument.

- It's too hard to work the travel arrangements.

Nonsense - basketball teams have a week to figure out how they're getting to Dayton or Greensboro or wherever they find out they're going on Selection Sunday and they do it just fine. The same goes here. And, I envision that many of these teams will have their bowl invite nailed down before actually being eliminated. Bowls and teams will probably know in advance who's going where and have plenty of time for contingencies should a team not be eliminated as planned. Bowls could easily plan to invite the loser of a particular playoff game. Or, they might be, say, the Liberty Bowl and keep their contract with C-USA to take the conference champion, anticipating their elimination - or if that team makes the Football Final Four, plan to invite the team they beat.

- The Rose, Orange, and Sugar Bowls would all be very likely to not get the conference champion they're used to.

True. As a Big Ten fan, the loss of the traditional matchup in the Rose Bowl would be annoying. But less annoying than listening to all these asshole pundits whine about not having a playoff. And the matchups would still be great.

- The season could be as long as seventeen games.

Yes, but highly unlikely. That'd mean a 9-16 seed winning its way to the title game. Chances are excellent the longest season would be fifteen games, and only for two teams. This system actually improves the too-many-games situation by offering up byes and trying to ensure the lower-seeded teams are eliminated before playing too many games.

- This crams up the regular season and doesn't allow any rest afterwards.

Not even true. Most regular seasons are long enough for two bye weeks. Nothing would change here. A lot of teams, Big Ten specifically, finish up the weekend before Thanksgiving and thus would get an off week before the playoffs.

So, to sum up:

- Sixteen teams.
- Big East bracket.
- First three rounds in December at home fields.
- Losers invited to bowls.
- Football Final Four played in neutral city after bowl season.
- Competition committee determines the participants.
- Autobids go to the champions of the eight highest-ranked conferences.

It's brilliant.

Now, keep in mind, my proposing this doesn't mean I actually want a playoff, because I'm not going to kid myself they'll do things my way when the time comes. And I like things more or less the way they are; the BCS needs a serious reworking (for which I have ideas but have not self-vetted them yet for workability) but that doesn't mean I think it can't be fixed. But I think a playoff is coming. And when it does, this is the one I'd want to see.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

it's that time again

And by that I mean it's obviously time to talk BCS and playoffs again! Yay! I love this stuff. I love the disenfranchisement that comes with being one of those folks who doesn't want a playoff. I love being talked to like a playoff is what I want. I love how every Congressman is a fucking comedian. I love how the media slappies line up to give those good ol' Congressmen a pat on the back. The whole affair sickens me.

Let me just get a couple of links out of the way real quick before I get on a roll:

- The baseball team hits more home runs now. Best line: "As usual, U.Va.'s pitching has been superb." Uh, that's "starting" pitching.

- Danny Glading is one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Trophy. Unsurprising; as the #1 seed and having four nominees, having at least one finalist was a lock.

- The ACC baseball tournament isn't coming to Fenway next year either. Damn it. I was all excited to go this year until they canceled, but the consolation was I only had to wait a year. Now I'm out of luck.

OK. Advance warning: I'm cranky. I was up til 1:30 last night watching hockey (it's a Red Wings thing - you wouldn't understand), or more specifically, I was up til 1:30 watching so-called professional referees make a mockery of a hockey game. So: no sleep, Wings lose thanks to the world's dumbest rule, and I've had to put up with Congress all week, grandstanding and whoring for votes as usual instead of doing things that the Constitution actually allows them to do.

Let's start by clearing up some fallacies that pervade the discussion. We'll play Mythbusters, if you will.

- Myth: The BCS excludes certain teams from playing for the championship.

Here's Mark Shurtleff:

"We've established that from the very first day, from the very first kickoff in the college season, more than half of the schools are put on an unlevel playing field," Shurtleff said Tuesday. "They will never be allowed to play for a national championship."
You'd think he'd be a smart guy - he managed to get elected Utah's attorney general. But this is totally, patently false. Either he doesn't know what he's talking about, or he is lying. Here's the fact: As the bylaws are written, every team has precisely the same chance on paper to play for the title. All you have to do is be #1 or #2 in the BCS standings. Nobody is excluded. Whether a system of voters or a competition committee would do a better job is a different debate, and I'm inclined to lean toward the committee myself.

- Myth: The BCS is a monopoly.

The BCS is actually the most capitalistic system in any sport the NCAA sponsors. Jon Stewart tackles the subject nicely. Every bowl is free to negotiate their own title sponsor, TV rights, conference tie-ins, invitations, and advertising dollars. Likewise teams are free to accept or decline invitations, and independent teams can negotiate their own tie-ins as well.

Compare to the March Madness tournament, for which the NCAA actually has been sued in antitrust court. Key line:

The main issue in the case is the current rule requiring teams in all sports to compete in the NCAA tournament if they are invited — or in no other event.
Emphasis mine. The article is from 2005 - the lawsuit has since been settled - but the rule, I believe, remains. If invited, you must go. You can't choose to participate elsewhere. I mean, you wouldn't, of course - that's where all the money is, which kind of emphasizes the point.

But, as I said, the lawsuit was settled. Oh, it was settled all right - by the NCAA buying the NIT. Oh, that should alleviate all worries about a monopoly. Can you imagine any other industry where that would be allowed? Can you imagine, say, Costco suing Wal-Mart for monopolistic practices - and the antitrust judge allows the case to go away by letting Wal-Mart gobble up Costco?

Fortunately, there are rational voices out there. Even ones on the playoff side. Congress doesn't know it because rational thinking isn't their strong suit, nor is recognizing it when they see it, but they're there. And there are those who realize something I've believed for a long time: when the playoff comes, it's not going to be the one you want.

Now, I'm not unrealistic and I'm not irrational. Sooner or later, a playoff is coming. It might not be soon enough for some, but somewhere down the line we will have one. I do have my own idea for it, but that's a post for another day. I'll spring that on you probably around the annual late-October-to-November whinefest about a playoff.

But until that day comes (the playoff, not my post) the BCSers could do something very simple to take a lot of wind out of the sails of the hysterical playoff types: Just stop calling it the BCS.

I'll explaine, but first, a little history lesson: The BCS movement has been around since 1992, when it was called the Bowl Coalition, and later, the Bowl Alliance. It was rather informal, though, and the last straw for the old system was the 1997 season, in which the obvious title game was Michigan vs. Nebraska - two undefeated powerhouses. That game never happened, because the Big Ten, Pac-10, and Rose Bowl weren't signed on, and thus Michigan and Nebraska each played different opponents, beat them, and split the title.

After that, the BCS monster was created. It was a formal attempt to fit a national title game into the bowl structure. It felt like the natural thing to do: get four of the most prestigious bowls together in an agreement to rotate a national title game among them, and in order to keep a level playing field for the four, set up a structure to determine who would play in the others. For a while this worked OK, or appeared to, because it was better than what we had.

But then two things happened. The "little guys" starting pushing for a bigger slice of the pie, and the TV people got greedy. As always, if you can kill two birds with one stone, you do it, and so the BCS Championship Game was initiated. Since then the BCS games have always included one non-BCS interloper.

But the TV greed has also included a lot of things that don't help the BCS' cause. Selection shows. "Autobids" to the BCS. A convoluted system of standings, complete with hurdles to jump if you want to be eligible. But when you get down to it, what is the difference between the Orange Bowl and the Liberty Bowl? Nothing! The ACC has an autobid to the BCS because, like every conference in the land, it has a bowl that's agreed to invite its champion to play, only that bowl is a "BCS bowl". The Liberty Bowl takes the C-USA champ, and the difference between the two is a label named "BCS" and a lot of money. Strip away the label and what do you have? An antitrust suit against a nonprofit organization that's made a perfectly legal private contract with another entity?

The Rose, Orange, Sugar, and Fiesta Bowls have no bearing on the national title. None. They did once. They no longer do. The problem this leaves is that Utah and the MWC, feeling butthurt about the fact that voters think Florida and Oklahoma are better than they are, are launching willy-nilly attacks on the BCS as a whole entity, and they have Congress involved, and the BCS commissioners are now forced to defend the whole thing.

The solution is simple: Disassociate the "BCS Championship Game" from the rest of the BCS. The facts are that no conference has an advantage over any other (on paper) in getting to the title game, but the perception is now poisoned by the idea of "autobids", when in reality the autobid to the BCS is no different than the autobid to any other bowl game that's contractually obligated to invite a conference champion. If you want, invite the Liberty Bowl and the other bowls with conference champion tie-ins to the "Bowl Championship Series" and then not only does the money pie get bigger, but so does everyone's slice - and the worst-case scenario as far as competition goes is that we all find out that Troy and Ball State don't actually belong in the national championship picture. And then we can have a proper debate about the nature of the title game - should it operate like a bowl? should it be a plus-one after the bowls are done? should it be a four-team playoff? - without all this garbage about antitrust suits and false whining about "being excluded."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

i am on yahoo

Background: Doug Gillett, who is better known in the college football blogalaxy as the owner and proprietor of the UGA blog Hey Jenny Slater, is also an occasional contributor to Yahoo's Dr. Saturday, which is their basically official college football entry in the mini-blogosphere they've set up. Doug is writing a semi-regular offseason series on hot-seat coaches, and yesterday's entry is none other than Al Groh.

The point of this being a post all its own is that I was asked to provide a little perspective on the situation, and did so: three paragraphs' worth near the bottom. So, this post exists purely for shameless self-promotion. Actually my contribution was longer, but if you've read this thing of mine even semi-regularly you know I sometimes ramble; regardless, nothing of major import was edited out. I'd post the rest of what I said here, but I forgot to bother saving a copy, so it's lost. Eh bien.

In any case, I'd point you to the article even if my words were not in it, because other than the notion of George Welsh passing on a seven-win standard (if that were so, there wouldn't be an article because Groh wouldn't really be in trouble) it's a worthy article. Even I learned something.

Monday, May 4, 2009

lacrosse pairings

First, I'm contractually obligated (JOKE PEOPLE) to link this: Andy Katz with a nice little fluff piece (but heavy fluff, more like dryer lint than cotton candy) on Tony Bennett. I mean, it's at the Worldwide Leader and on the front page of the mens' basketball section too - pretty cool - so you probably found it already unless you live in Moldova or something. But anyway, I liked it.

Also would like you to read this and this too from Jeff White. Quality interviews. The first is a talk with Sylven Landesberg and the second is tidbits from Groh's press conference after the spring game. They're a little old, but I got some catching up to do. As for Landesberg, it's clear we are way way way lucky to have him on this team, and frankly the program owes it to him to put a quality product on the floor surrounding him. I cannot wait to see what he can do for us next year and hope we get to see what he can do for us for another two years after that.

The main item, which you also noticed if you took a peep at any (well, most) of the papers that cover UVA (or at least their websites) is the national lacrosse bracket. Woo woo #1 seed. This is really excellent as far as the first round is concerned because we don't have to get some really obnoxiously dangerous unseeded opponent like UMBC or Maryland. We get Villanova, and it's their first tournament ever. Later this week I'll make some kind of a lamesauce stab at a matchup analysis of some kind, but the short version goes like this: we should flatten them.

But the second round matchup (assuming we beat Villanova, and yes, I'm looking ahead, as a blogger I'm allowed to do that) is nasty. You've seen them before: Hopkins. If they get past Brown, and they should, they'll be waiting for us in Annapolis. Ewwww.

I really wanted to rail at the injustice of it all. Hopkins lost four games, yes, but to Princeton, UVA, UNC, and Syracuse. And you remember what happened in our game - it was damn close. (And if you don't, why how convenient, you can go check it out in the videos section.) Hopkins is a plenty talented team in their own right, and they're frickin' Hopkins, and....and - In any case, I did plan out a rant on the wack seeding, because putting Hopkins that damn low is injustice to both Hopkins and us for sure, but then I bothered to check out the rest of the bracket, and damn. I mean, who are you gonna move them ahead of? Four of the seven teams beat them, one is undefeated Notre Dame, one is Duke which obviously is pretty good, and one is Cornell which, I mean, co-champion of a three-bid, in the end I think the low seeding of Hopkins is really more reflective of the parity in the top levels of college lacrosse. Of the seven other seeded teams, chances are all of them are looking up at us as #1 and thinking, we can beat those guys. That's not to denigrate our team or our chances, but at any point in the season have we ever looked like the unstoppable machine that #1 basketball seeds typically are? Maybe for a couple periods at a time, but never for a full game unless it was, like, VMI. Too many holes in the defense. Anyway, here's hoping.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

recruiting update

Back in action with a medium-big update to the recruiting board. For real, I tried to post on Friday, but that involved trying to bang one out at work, and that darn job kept me busy. Anyway, back to a daily schedule with a bonus one today. Here's what's changed on the board:

- Removed RB Silas Redd (Penn State) and OT Seth Betancourt (Boston College) who committed places. Redd is a Penn State guy through and through - I think, if that weren't the case, we might have had a real good shot at picking him up. No dice though.

- Also removed RB Donnell (Darnell?) Kirkwood. Christ, the recruiting sites don't even know or agree on what his name actually is, let alone who's offered him ($). Rivals had an offer listed for Kirkwood from us, but he very specifically shot that down, which is pretty rare. So, off the board.

- Added TE Josh Lovell and S Kyrrel Latimer. Lovell, in the interest of full disclosure, is actually a re-add, who came off the board earlier because I saw his name mentioned once, never again, and thought maybe the coaches had thrown that one back in the ocean. That'll teach me to overthink this stuff.

Also, quite a bit of shuffling between the various sections:

- DE Kareem Martin, LB Marcus Rush, LB Ty Linton, S Andre Simmons move up from yellow to blue. Rush has us in a dead heat ($) at the top right now, with Michigan. So I can't lose. I still think UNC will be tough to beat for Linton, but he keeps looking our direction.

- WR Adrian Flemming dropped from blue to yellow. No offer, and as time goes by he'll drop even further without one, since you can't accept a scholarship from a school that hasn't, you know, actually offered one.

- DE Henry Anderson moved up from red to yellow. He's at least mentioning us despite a pretty hefty offer list. This is still sort of a reddish-yellow though, at least if that weren't also called "orange" and used to delineate verbal commits.

- S Dontae Johnson dropped from yellow to red, coinciding with Simmons' move on up. Johnson has always talked a lot about Michigan State anyway.

You might also notice the presence of ratings and stuff. I figured having passed May 1 was as good a reason as any to start putting those in, now that the sites themselves are starting to add them. Blank spaces mean no rating yet. Rivals only has stars by their top 250 at the moment, Scout uses the one-star-of-no-rating pretty liberally even at the end of the recruiting season, and ESPN randomly puts 40 down when they don't know. The nice thing about ESPN is that the usage of said 40 rating has been going steadily downwards as they improve their recruiting coverage, which really only started in earnest in 2007.