In a series of blog posts I may write in a day or over the course of months, depending on my motivation, I will lay out steps I think should be taken to strengthen the faltering BCS conference. As a former football player for the University of Kansas I have a vested interest in seeing the conference succeed and become a leader in college athletics.
It should be duly noted that college athletics is in the entertainment business. At first glance it may seem as if Kansas’ biggest competitor is Kansas St or Missouri. In reality, Kansas’ biggest competitors are the infinite choices potential fans have for occupying their time. This holds true as the umbrella gets bigger whether it be the Big XII, the NCAA or (professional) sports in general. In addition, student-athletes are professional athletes; poorly paid professional athletes but that is another discussion entirely. Once athletic departments and conferences honestly accept this role as entertainers they can start to amend their business models for revenue maximization.
I’m going to start tonight by addressing Big XII Football and the progressive changes that could be made to strengthen the conference. I’ve chosen football for a few reasons. Most obviously, I’ve played it and can draw from personal experience. Secondly, it is the greatest revenue generator and therefore greatest driver of conference realignment. Football is riddled with problems, most horribly the BCS which unfortunately I am not going to cover right now.
The Big XII’s biggest problem right now is that being in middle America access to major media outlets, and therefore television sets and fans based solely on geography are hard to come by. I would consider the Big XII in an underdog position compared to other BCS conferences like the Big10, SEC and PAC10. As such I believe the Big XII should act as one and embrace a progressive attitude towards the game.
Before delving into changes to be made, one that should be a no brainer is the elimination of kickoffs. The disproportionate amount of injuries is reason enough; it’s a relic of a game long gone, replaced by one of conniving coordinators and jaw dropping execution. I believe a few years ago it was brought to the NCAA that the kickoff should be replaced with a 4th and 10 on the team’s own 35 where the team could either try and convert or punt the ball away. I won’t argue this point, it should be changed tomorrow in Big XII play for safety alone.
Changes like eliminating the kickoff give the game a different feel, no doubt, but different does not equate to bad. For whatever reason conferences develop a unique style of play. I tend to think it taylors most closely to the local recruiting area’s high school talent. The Big10 is still a run first conference with huge lineman. The SEC prides itself on great defense, usually comprised rarely of both speed and power. The Big XII has come to represent the pedigree of the spread offensively. This is not to say the spread isn’t executed well outside the Big XII or the Bill Snyder’s style of play isn’t equally effective at winning games, but for many years the Big XII has been collectively innovating upon the spread.
The seemingly endless supply of great receivers and quick backs coming out of Texas paired with insanely talented quarterbacks has given college football fans high powered air assaults throughout the Big XII. As commissioner of the Big XII my first goal with football would be to turn our games into fast paced, big play, high yardage games. I would start to build an infastructure that developed QBs pro scouts drooled over. This offensive powerhouse conference would also be known for its dominant corners and game changing interceptions.
What this infrastructure would look like, I don’t exactly know. For one, during conference play I would do away with long TV timeouts that kill momentum. I would use short TV breaks following every touchdown in anticipation that there would be a lot of touchdowns and that they would provide coaching staffs just enough time to decide whether they would try and convert or punt on the now replaced kickoff. I would consider reducing the play clock so as to increase the pace of the game. Amendments to penalty yardage would be a possibility and maybe as far as incentives for coaching staffs achieving certain per game yardage metrics.
In addition I would develop a very specific program on QB coaching with input from current NFL GMs and coaches which would be made available to all schools in the conference. On the flip side of development, I would work with coaches to identify real metrics we’d like to evaluate recruits on so as to increase the likelihood that players contribute athletically to their programs. I would also institute a shared high definition recruit film database for conference schools. While this would lead to increased competition for high school recruits in conference I think it would increase the level of athletes overall.
While in conference play why not tailor the game to suit the Big XII’s style of play. With a game play that encourages high paced offence and the recruitment and development tools to help the athletes to succeed the Big XII could soon be a legitimate contender for airtime in major media markets well outside its geographic footprint.
That’s all for now. I’m sure I’ll have much more on the topic in coming days, weeks or months.
I’ve already come up with two additional items for consideration.
First, I would require all strength and conditioning coaches to have a Master’s degree related to kinesiology. It is paramount that we provide athletes with safe, functional instruction. Obviously the product of collegiate sports relies heavily on athletes physical performance and this is a logical step in assuring a high quality product.
Second, I would establish a non-concurrent pro scouting combine for Big XII athletes only. This would serve many purposes but the most important goal is to get Big XII athletes onto professional teams. It’s no secret that the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis is not structured to optimize athletes’ performances. Setting up a more comfortable environment to help athletes test better as well as getting personal interaction between collegiate coaches and NFL GMs and coaches would greatly assist our athletes. Being the first to offer this service, and pioneering the structure and itinerary would also be a great recruiting tool for the conference.
That’s all, more later.