SB Nation has been offering free non-conference scheduling counsel for years now: You should not schedule North Dakota State to play your FBS program. Why? Because they are good enough to beat your team.
After Saturday’s 23-21 win over an Iowa nine months removed from a Rose Bowl, I texted a group of FBS athletic directors to see if they’d consider playing the Bison in any circumstance.
"They’ve got a great program, but no, I’m absolutely not scheduling them. Now I don’t think any [athletic director] I know would," an AD for a current AP Poll top-20 program said.
"You spend the extra $400,000 and schedule a MAC or Sun Belt school, because your fan base might recognize how good they are, but they still expect a win. So it’s the same problem: win a tough game and you’re supposed to, lose and it’s a FCS team that beat you. But I’ll return the call, to be polite."
To be fair, it’s more than $400,000 to schedule a beatable Group of 5 school, which is why NDSU showed up on so many schedules for so long. They made $500,000 to go to Iowa City, a bargain compared to the $1 million minimum asking price of Sun Belt and MAC schools for one-off non-conference games.
A rematch with Iowa or Minnesota (NDSU is 2-1 vs. the Gophers) can’t happen now that the Big Ten has restricted FCS scheduling for its teams. NDSU’s next chance for an FBS win (they’re 8-3 all time and on a 6-0 streak) is at Oregon in 2020. The Bison are so good, they’re having trouble scheduling non-conference FCS opponents, too.
"I’d be shocked to see a Power 5 school schedule them between now and [2020 vs. Oregon]," the AD said. "If you did, it would most likely be a school with a budget issue trying to save some money."
Down with the CEO athletic director
If Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin ends up replacing Jeremy Foley at Florida, he’ll jump from one end of the SEC’s power spectrum to the other. Florida’s annual revenue of $147 million is the sixth-largest budget in the country, nearly doubling Mississippi State’s $75 million, per USA Today’s database.
Regardless, Stricklin is a college sports lifer, starting as an assistant sports information director at MSU, his alma mater, and working up through jobs at Auburn, Tulane, and Baylor.
There are trends in athletic director hires, just like coaching, although not quite as cyclical. For years, ex-coaches were popular choices for AD roles. It wasn’t uncommon for a retiring head coach to take over a whole department, like Nebraksa’s Tom Osborne or Tennessee’s Robert Neyland, and it’s a trend that continues today (South Carolina’s Ray Tanner, Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez).
In recent years, facility wars have meant more hires of candidates with strong fundraising backgrounds. A 2014 Sports Business Journal study determined that of the 82 percent of Division I ADs with prior business experience in college sports, fundraising was the most common background.
"We’ve come to learn that dynamic growth, whether it’s facilities or endowments, comes from discovering new revenue streams inside the existing base of fans and donors and alumni," an SEC AD told SB Nation. "But finding those opportunities and working with people requires a particular talent, and it’s one that can be hard to understand working outside of college sports."
As some athletic budgets have grown to well over $100 million annually, several major schools extended the logic that departments responsible for nine-figure businesses should be run like actual business.
"This is definitely a business, no doubt, but I don’t know any Fortune 500 guys who have to navigate school presidents and provosts and alumni," an AAC AD said. "Successful ADs maintain and work at relationships with people who are almost anti-business in their thinking."
Enter names like Dave Brandon, former Domino’s CEO-turned-Michigan AD, and Steve Patterson, ex-NBA G.M.-turned-Texas AD. Former USC AD Pat Haden was not a veteran of Heritage Hall or college sports; the former Trojans quarterback came from private equity.
Brandon, Patterson, and Hayden are all gone from top-10 jobs, all for more or less the same reason: Mismanaging personal relationships on the consumer side while fielding bad teams on the product side.
Texas and Michigan remain the most stunning examples of what corporate management does to college branding. Brandon resigned in October 2014 just as thousands of Michigan students were planning an in-game protest of his tenure. Patterson fought with alumni while raising prices on fans and cutting corners on coaches before resigning in 2015.
SB Nation spoke with multiple Power 5 ADs who expected Florida to avoid replacing Foley with a candidate who has an exclusive business or television background.
"I think it was a fad to bring in business people," an ACC AD said. "And you saw where it resulted in a lot of them coming across like a bull in a china shop, firing people immediately, clashing with fans. Also, if I have 22 sports at my school; two of them make money. Would I run them like a business? No, of course not. I wouldn’t expect to cut 20 programs."
"Florida pursuing Scott is a great sign that despite the size of their budget they’re focused on the total picture, not just revenue," said the SEC AD. "Because you could bring in any number of corporate heads who might find new ways to make Florida more profitable, but they’re going to be at a loss dealing with any one of the problems or controversies that can happen in college sports."
FUN WITH COMPLIANCE: WESTEROS ELIGIBILITY EDITION
Arkansas offensive lineman Dan Skipper could* appear on Game of Thrones next season and remain NCAA-eligible.
* I kinda doubt the producers are interested, because I just made this idea up on Twitter, but whatever.
After the 6’10, 319-pound senior Wun-Wun’d a TCU field goal attempt, the internet took notice of Skipper’s size and resemblance to a high fantasy warrior/creature. Surely that man could fell a Clegane!
Pretty sure Dan Skipper is the backup for The Mountain on Game of Thrones.— Jake Harris (@Jakernaut) September 18, 2016
Yeah, but what if that actually happened? We asked our friend Brad Barnes, of Texas A&M’s FANTASTIC compliance department, because he often answers our stupid questions.
@38Godfrey It's possible to act & be paid for it yet retain one's NCAA amateur status. A RB/actor at Northwestern led to that rule.— Brad Barnes (@TAMUCompliance) September 12, 2016
That player is Northwestern’s Darnell Autry, who was granted a waiver in 1996 to appear as an unpaid actor in the horror film The Eighteenth Angel while still a running back for the Wildcats.
FWIW, the film is about Shooter McGavin trying to save the nerd girly from She’s All That from becoming Satan’s vessel, and it looks FANTASTIC:
Per Barnes, Autry’s waiver led to a revision that players could pursue paid acting roles, as they were not profiting from athletics.
So then: #DanSkipper4GOT
After two weeks of watching Saturday college football exclusively via paid legal streams, I can definitively state that CBS sucks.
You can check out the complete SB Nation college football streaming guide here. For reference, I’ve been using Playstation’s Vue service on three devices: a standard PS4, a Roku 4, and a first-generation iPad Air. My connection is a standard Comcast XFinity package with an average of 89 mb/s downstream.
Everything’s been pretty good! When you boil it down, services like Vue and Sling are really just paid access to streaming apps like WatchESPN and Fox Sports Go. You can watch games using the Sling or Vue interface but it’s just easier to access the particular app you need.
Except for CBS, who blocks access to anything airing on the CBS Sports Network and makes it incredibly difficult to watch the SEC on CBS.
If you have a laptop or traditional computer you can access a free, legal (sometimes) HD stream of the SEC on CBS game from cbssports.com. Don’t expect a clean, reliable stream, though. For both the Alabama-Ole Miss and Kentucky-Florida games, I experienced terrible streams. ESPN and FOX streams were HD quality on the same connection.
It’s a bad stream, but at least it plays on your traditional computer. If you have a mobile or set top device, that access is prohibited. CBS wants you to pay for its CBS Access service, which for $6 a month gives you your live, local CBS affiliate.
That’s $6 a month for one SEC game a week, plus Army-Navy, plus 15 CSIs.
There are end-arounds. If you have folks over and want to watch Florida-Tennessee on your normal TV, you can run an HDMI cable from a laptop to your TV. You can also buy an HDMI antenna that receives local free broadcast channels, but you’ll have to install it.
Or CBS could find a way to make one college football game a week accessible without having to pay a separate subscription for programming uninteresting to sports fans under the age of 55.