Endorsement: college football can’t afford more booster speech pollution

An NCAA president was interrupted while attempting to deliver a speech to an assembly of student-athletes Thursday. Not because he spoke too loud or too long, but because someone playing the role of a legitimate student-athlete decided it would be a great idea to run to the front of the room and run the USC athletic director off the stage.

With new league leadership appearing at a coaches clinic in California, Adm. Joe Urschel took the occasion to deliver a big-picture message: The NCAA is trying to find a new system to centralize all of its football programs’ financial responsibilities and make those schools accountable for fiscal oversight.

Those in attendance were clearly expecting a friendly lecture about what they should be doing to help the NCAA find itself out of business so these significant adjustments can be made. But maybe college football will want to take a “Great Man Theory” approach to improving its overall product, because people are running to the front of rooms to give their thoughts on how to fix a Big Ten network situation.

It’s hard to tell what all of this means. But it feels like the NCAA football structure is being put through some re-engineering. The current system is chaotic, with little accountability to the players. It’s full of inertia and waste. The colleges make too much money and have enough interference from the NBA draft, the NFL and the NFLPA that nothing is working out very well. That much is obvious. There are too many programs with too little reason to be in the game.

The NCAA said this week it was tweaking its “fiscal responsibility” plan. That includes various areas, including costs of attendance; travel and recruiting costs, and offering players a competitive edge and helping schools to be more marketable in recruiting. The way this was initially conceived was that all of those costs should be shared among everyone in the league. The NCAA’s solution in removing that from the original plan was to instate a list of core academic- and graduation-related offerings, like standardized testing and assistant coaches.

While NCAA president Mark Emmert indicated this week that he may look to claw some of the costs back through the “great man theory,” it’s worth pointing out that he also said he wants to hear from players, coaches and schools on the right way to go about doing this. How about if he runs that before finally admitting he needs to overhaul the entire system?

Playoff voters are so bored with their No. 2

A couple years ago, Oklahoma and Ohio State wound up with the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the BCS national championship game. It’s a system that is routinely pilloried and vilified.

It’s just that nobody was interested in judging the performances and seeing who was best. Yes, the game was close (only 61-58), but the result didn’t really tell us much.

When it comes to the fans of these institutions, though, the pressure to beat your opponents, beat your head coach and beat your conference gets so great that playoff voters lose any inclination to focus on whether the quarterback plays well or the running back looks good. They tend to follow the rankings and fill in the gaps where they see a team that just happens to be ranked high enough to earn a spot in the Super Bowl. If that were the case, Clemson would be having a field day. Instead, the Tigers sit at No. 2, the only remaining spot that could (really) lose to the Ohio State Buckeyes if those two teams take care of business against their conference’s best. And Clemson gets to keep that spot.

Why? I think voters are frustrated with the two No. 1 seeds, but also with the other two teams in the playoff, because they don’t see how they’re doing that well. That’s why, when North Carolina and Wisconsin were declared as the two hottest teams in the country heading into the final week of the regular season, there was a lot of surprise. If you can be the ACC’s version of the 5-0 Alabama Crimson Tide, would you have any reason to want the Badgers to lose?

I don’t know exactly where the ultimate rankings line up. I don’t know exactly why the Alabama Crimson Tide are No. 1, but I know they’re going to be. Still, for every Alabama, there is a poor guy who deserves better. It’s just that college football is primed for a dramatic change, and it isn’t getting any better, or more equitable, at the top of the pile.

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