CFB Rocks the Opening Weekend

September 5, 2016


(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

After botching last year’s playoff with an ill-advised NYE experiment, College Football came roaring back with a fantastic opening to the 2016 season. Houston puts an exclamation mark on its application to the Big 12 with a convincing win over Oklahoma, Aggy fans get set up for their usual soul-crushing disappointment with an early win, LSU athletic director friends Tom Herman on Facebook after stepping on a bear trap with a “neutral site game” against Wiscy @ Lambeau Field, Alabama looks like the 1985 Chicago Bears (again) while picking their fangs with USC, solid Clemson/Auburn, Georgia/NC matchups. Oh, and Texas defeats No. 10 Notre Dame in double overtime.

No that’s a true freshman throwing that ball, not Tom Brady.


I promise- it only looks like Tom Brady.

Did I miss anything? Oh yeah Arkansas had a dramatic one point victory over a directional school from Louisiana. Borderline necrotic….or something.  Oh wait, I know, Ole Miss and Florida State will be playing tonight. So the playoff has seemed to change the incentive structure for out of conference games. The playoff selection committee does not prize victories over tomato can opponents, so some of the big boys are lining them up and playing big match ups- which is great for the fans.

Opening weekend a’int over yet!

Denny and Alan put the 2014-15 season in the Books

February 2, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So Denny, another football season has moved into the books. What did you make of the Superbowl last night?



Yes Denny, the Superbowl…


Was that last night?

Yes Denny. Did you watch it?

Yes now that you mention it I did watch it. Good to see the hometown team win. Otherwise pretty boring. When did The Onion start producing the half-time show? *sip*

Over a decade ago Denny, but I agree, the whole thing seems stale. @@puff@@

Just can’t stay interested. How long until college football kicks off?

We have many desolate months to face Denny, with only National Signing Day and the NFL Draft to tide us over in the meantime.

I can muster a little interest in March Madness. Have you ever gone to watch the games at a Vegas sports book? So many people have bet on the games that there are hundreds of people cheering and groaning at the end of every game. Good fun @puff@

You’ll have to take me out in the Gulf Stream. What did you think about the first college football playoff?

I told you not to sleep on the Bucks, but I’m still amazed that they beat Alabama and Oregon with their 3rd string quarterback.

Yes that was a bit of a shock. First start, crushing victory in the Big 10 championship, second start whip Alabama, third start national championship. Jones should drop the mic, lift his arms in a V and walk off the stage.

Only Denny Crane could avoid regression to the mean after that. Of course, if he were Denny Crane, he’d just be getting warmed up. @puff@pufffff@

*sip* Quite. Any thoughts on next year Denny?

Getting clobbered in the bowl games is not going to sit well with the SEC West, but they can’t keep the East down forever. TCU might have been the second best team last year and should rule the roost in the Big 12. Out west, keep an eye on Stanford, UCLA and Arizona. In the Big 10, the Harbaugh era begins but the Bucks have a head start. Keep an eye on the Domers.

See you next year Denny?

@puff@ Bet on it!





Party at the Moontower…err…I mean Texas Bowl

December 11, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So the Razorbacks and the Longhorns are renewing their ancient gridiron hatred this year in the Texas Bowl in Houston. Two teams will enter and one team will leave with (insert drumroll) a winning record on the season!

Ah how the mighty have fallen-the records of both teams stand at a lowly 6 wins and 6 losses. Sigh. At least this provides 14 badly needed additional days of practice for the rebuilding from scratch Longhorns.

My prediction: Texas 6, Arkansas 3. University of Texas at Austin cultural ambassador at large Matthew McConaughey promises to close the windows before engaging in the traditional post-victory bongo naked ritual.

What is your prediction?

Jules and Ringo on the Week in College Football

October 19, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

C’mon Yolanda- what is Fonzie like?!?


Correcto-mundo! And that’s what we’re gonna be, we’re gonna be cool. Now Ringo, I’m gonna count to three, and when I do, I want you to let go of your gun, lay your palms flat on the table, and then tell me what happened in college football this weekend. But when you do it, do it cool. Ready?


Say what again! I dare you! I spent the weekend detailing a car with a toothbrush, I missed all the college football games and I am NOT IN THE MOOD. One, two, THREE!!!

Alright mate (puts gun down)

Good- now tell me what happened.

So…it breaks down like this- Florida State beat Notre Dame on a controversial late call, but it probably doesn’t matter ’cause the selection committee is going to recognize the fact that the Irish outplayed the Seminoles on their home field. So if the Irish win out, I think they will still make the playoff. IF they do, they might get the chance to play FSU on a neutral field.

I would like to see that! Go on….

Oklahoma got beat by Kansas State, so that’s their second loss and they are out unless things go 2007 levels of weird. Baylor also had their first loss at West Virginia, and they looked bloody sloppy doing it.

Would you say that they are eliminated Ringo?

No I would not say they are eliminated, but they had better get their act figured out quick because TCU and Kansas State will be competing with them for a Big 12 birth, if there is going to be a Big 12 birth. TCU looked really strong beating up on Oklahoma State.

Too bad they blew that huge lead last week. What about the Big 10?

Michigan State, Nebraska and Ohio State all beat middling conference opponents, but that will all sort itself out eventually. They all have lost a game already so no guarantees.

How about the West?

Oregon, Utah and Arizona State are still in the running after victories this weekend. Arizona was off this week but also has only one loss.

What else happened this weekend? Anyone send a message? I mean besides Florida State?

Alabama sent one loud and clear by beating Texas A&M 59-0.

59 to nothing? Just a couple of years ago they were selling t-shirts claiming that A&M was like the moon ’cause they ‘control the Tide.’ Well well well- a’int nobody gonna shepherd them through the valley of SEC West darkness!

They’ve been blown out three weeks in a row…

THREE.WEEKS.IN.A.ROW! That is just inspiring. Now…reach in the bag and hand me my wallet.

How will I know which one it is?

You’ll know it when you see it.

(Finds wallet)

Now this is the situation. Normally both of you would be dead as fried chicken. But you happened to pull this while I’m in a transitional period. I don’t wanna kill ya, I want to help ya.  What’s in my wallet Ringo?

Don’t you mean ‘what’s in your wallet’ mate?

Don’t get cute Ringo- open the wallet!

(Opens wallet)

Two tickets to the college football national championship game in ATT stadium?!?

Correct. Put them in your pocket Ringo-they are yours. Now with the rest of them wallets and the register, that makes this a pretty successful little score. I ain’t just givin’ it to you. I’m buyin’ somethin’ with those tickets. Wanna know what I’m buyin’ Ringo?


I TOLD you NOT to say that!!!!


Your life Ringo. I’m givin’ you those tickets so I don’t have to kill you. You read the Bible?

Not regularly.

There’s a passage I got memorized….nevermind, it’s not a real verse anyway. Take the tickets and get out of here before I change my mind. I’m almost certain that the Tide will be rolling into Jerry-world so you’d best get out of here before I snap out of it.








What did we learn in this week’s episode of College Football Denny?

October 12, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So Denny what did you make of college football this week?

Arkansas and Texas are the guys in the PG movie that everyone is reallllly hoping it will happen for. They need to be the guy in the rated R movie.

You are right Denny. Baylor after all has claws and teeth, and they killed the bunny in the 4th quarter when they really needed it.

**puff puff**

What else?

The Egg Bowl is looking like an elimination round for the playoff. Whoda thunk it? Even if it isn’t both of those teams deserve a medal for punking the Aggies. Have I ever mentioned how loathsome those….

Many times Denny- but don’t forget there is another elimination round coming next week….

Ah yes Notre Dame travels to Tallahassee to take on Florida State.

What do you make of that game Denny?

Hmpphf, the Seminoles should be distracted, but the Irish have to change planes in Atlanta. I’ll take the Seminoles.

I’m looking for a little Irish magic in that one Denny. You of course remember the 1993 game…

Absolutely…and also what Boston College did to them the following week!

Now Denny- what have I told you about hating on the Domers?

**puff puff**

I don’t hate the Domers, I just don’t like a team having their own network.

Yes Denny well then what about the Longhorn Network?

Well now see here, that, that’s different….

And the blatant CBS SEC homer-ism? Yesterday they claimed that 7 SEC teams controlled their own destiny for the playoff, but that the winner of the Baylor-TCU game would “need help.”


And some of those teams were from the lowly SEC EAST….

Outrageous! You are right-there has never been media bias to match that. Fill me up would you?

Certainly. I haven’t been able to muster any interest in the Big 10 lately, but what about out West Denny?

Don’t sleep on Michigan State and the Buckeyes. Out west, Oregon is not dead yet…UCLA is getting close…Arizona finally lost despite a rally to USC.

See you next week Denny?

**puff** @sip@ **puff**

Count on it.






Wake Up America- College Football > NFL

October 5, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Wow…what a week in college football, and an opportune time to note would should be obvious: 32 teams running the same offense and the same defense is relatively boring compared to the grand chaotic mess of college football. Yes the athletes are the creme de la creme, but they are all pretty close to doing the same stuff they have been doing for decades.

Huge upsets this week. Undefeated but unranked Arizona beats Number 2 Oregon on the road with their anti-Super Duck kryptonite: huge. Ole Miss beats Bama- seismic. TCU knocks off Oklahoma-they can’t do that to our pledges, only we can do that to our pledges. Arizona State knocks off USC with a 50 yard bomb as time expires while USC players stand around in the end zone and watch it happen-


Hilarious. Mississippi State finally bursts the bubble of Texas A&M after they pull countless 4th quarter comebacks in the SEC: priceless.

Now before someone takes to the comments section to note just how awful my beloved Longhorns have been this year, let me note that I am painfully aware of just how awful my beloved Longhorns have been this year. That’s just part of the deal. The Longhorns were terrible when I was an undergraduate, wandered between awful and decent in the 1990s, finally got it done in 2005, declined thereafter and have hit rock bottom this year. Being a long-term college football fan is similar to reading about the rise and fall of empires in history books- it just takes longer and is far more visceral.

Oh, and you may have heard that there is going to be a 4 team playoff this year, thanks to this guy:

My Longhorns are in a purgatory, but it doesn’t matter- college football itself is great. The Arizona Cardinals are undefeated and my fantasy NFL team the Psychopaths are 3-1, and that is nice, but I’m most thankful that it is less than 9 million degrees in the shade outside and college football is rolling. Wake up America- the greatest show on turf is taking place outside of your local NFL stadium.

P.S.- I neglected the big upsets in my neighboring state to the north, as Utah State defeated previously unbeaten and ranked BYU, and Utah beat previously undefeated and highly ranked UCLA.




Hogs Triumphant!

February 6, 2013

In a remarkably exciting upset, The Arkansas Razorbacks crushed the #2 Florida Gators last night in basketball at the Bud Walton Arena (“The Basketball Palace of Mid-America,” as the announcer likes to say).  My experience last night re-affirmed my confidence in the theory that school sporting events increase social capital, as I argued in yesterday’s post.  When the Spirit Squad forms their pyramid with the backdrop of a giant Arkansas flag, as pictured above, I have to admit that I get a little misty-eyed.  Sports make me feel more connected to Arkansas and my university, as I’m sure they do for others.

We were even graced with an appearance last night by Bubba Hog, whose dance enhances social capital with a good belly laugh in addition to the flag- pyramid’s tear to the eye.

Lastly, everyone should keep their eye on Michael Qualls, a freshman who jumped so high last night that I believe his head bumped the hanging scoreboard.  Here’s a highlight reel for Qualls from earlier games:

The Second College Football Missile Crisis

September 8, 2011

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

We interrupt your regularly scheduled education policy wonk nerdapalooza to bring you this update on college football!

A few years ago the Big 10 conference succeeded in pulling in a lot of money with a Big 10 Network, and then announced that they would add a 12th member (they had operated with 11 members since Penn State joined the fold in the early 1990s).

This set off the first College Football Missile Crisis. The Big 10 has long yearned for Notre Dame, and also dreamed of adding the 24 million television sets in Texas. Rejected by Notre Dame and Texas, the Big 10 added Nebraska.

During this first College Football Missile Crisis, the Pac-10 made a huge play for Texas as well, offering to add the Colorado, Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to form the first 16 team super conference.

Larry Scott, the PAC-10 commissioner, crafted a shrewd offer for the University of Texas. The inclusion of Texas Tech would lessen political issues, and constituted a sweetener that the Big 10 would be unwilling to match (all Big 10 schools were AAU members until Nebraska got the boot last year- quelle horreur!)

Furthermore, by including a bunch of neighboring schools of Big 12 and the Arizona schools, Texas and Oklahoma would basically have their own mini-conference to minimize travel. One trip to the West Coast per year (So-Cal, No-Cal, Oregon or Washington) plus a trip to Arizona every year (bring your golf clubs) and then a bunch of places you are already familiar with. Scott’s plans brought in major media markets in Texas and Colorado for the PAC 16 network to exploit, and gave the network a supply of games in the Central Time Zone (the East Coast tends to be asleep by the time a Pac-10 night game hits the air).

Three problems arose with this plan. First, Baylor summoned up the blood in an attempt to get the Texas legislature to quash it. Second, the Aggies decided that they didn’t want to join the PAC-X, and began to make noises about joining the Southeastern Conference. Finally, Texas decided that the same reason that the PAC 10 wanted them was the same reason they didn’t want to go: they would contribute more than took out. Instead, Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds extracted an agreement to allow individual schools to create their own networks and sell their 3rd tier rights from the Big 12. Sensibly, Scott decided not to match this offer.

Colorado, not taking any chances with Baylor’s political machinations, quickly accepted an offer from the PAC 10, the PAC 10 also brought on The University of Utah to create the PAC 12. Fox and ESPN actually increased the total amount of money going to the Big 12 despite having lost Colorado and Nebraska (fragmentation of the television market has networks paying a heavy premium for live sporting events these days) and the College Football Missile Crisis drew to a close well short of Armageddon.

…or so it seemed last year.

ESPN partnered with the University of Texas to create the Longhorn Network, pledging a minimum of $300 million dollars over a long period of time for what amounts to 3rd tier rights (out of conference road kill football game, basketball games the networks don’t want, and Olympic sports). Despite the fact that the average payout to Big 12 teams had just doubled, the wailing and gnashing of teeth began. It all reminds me of this:

Now, this is the part of the story where the Aggies dive off the deep end. During the First College Football Missile Crisis, elements of the Texas A&M Board of Regents, including an a former University of Alabama football coach (seriously) banged on pots for the Aggies to join the SEC. This ignited a fan rebellion which was only put down with difficulty, and which was reignited by envy of the Longhorn Network.

So shortly after signing long-term agreements with Fox and ESPN, the Aggie brain trust started pounding on the door of the SEC, which just so happens to be entirely tolerant of members selling their 3rd tier rights. In fact, six out of the top 10 schools in generating 3rd tier rights revenue are….wait for it…..SEC schools. I’m willing to bet that they are all chomping at the bit to benchmark their inventory against the Longhorn Network as soon as their current contracts expire. If they aren’t, they need to fire their athletic directors.

Last week or so A&M sent a letter to the Big 12 announcing an exit date contingent upon their acceptance in another conference. Yesterday, the SEC Presidents met in Atlanta and unanimously voted to accept A&M’s application to join the SEC, contingent upon each of the Big 12 schools signing a waiver of any right to sue the SEC conference.

Imagine a state legislature passing a voucher law contingent upon the teacher unions signing a legal document pledging not to file suit against it in court. Some of the universities have contingency plans, and some do not. Most notably, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas state face an uncertain future if the Big 12 expires. You may remember the current President of Baylor University:

Yes, that Ken Starr! The possibility of Starr going on a fishing expedition discovery process seems to have deterred the SEC. Say what you will about the Whitewater fiasco, but there can be little doubt regarding Starr’s ability to exact vindictive revenge if provoked. Sure, the SEC wants A&M, but only if A&M falls into their lap. It reminds me of how Fred Thompson “wanted” the Presidency: he’ll take it as long as he doesn’t have to work for it. Otherwise they are good with being a movie star with a stunning young wife the most successful athletic conference in the country.

Facing a conference abyss, rumor has it tonight that Baylor and some of the other smaller Big 12 schools aren’t going to sign a waiver unless the University of Oklahoma decides to stick with the Big 12 conference. Oklahoma, quite understandably, still seems interested in joining the PAC-1X conference. No one really seems to care whether the Aggies take their inferiority complex/delusions of grandeur over to the SEC for a weekly dose of gridiron humiliation: put some popcorn in the microwave and pull up a chair! The schools without good options just don’t want the conference to implode.

I will say this in defense of the Aggies: the Pac 1X would be an odd fit for them:

As a Texas fan, my main concern with the Aggies going to the SEC is the exposure the other teams will get as they turn A&M into their doormat, and begin some of those extra special SEC style recruiting tactics, like showing up with a dufflebag stuffed with $200,000 cash money. Given that the Big 10 has a research consortium that seems to bring in an extra $200m-$300m a year in research dollars, much of which is agriculture related, the obsession on the Texas A&M board of regents with joining the SEC tells us what we need to know about them: they are making decisions like t-shirt wearing football fans rather than as regents.

The Texas athletic department has been trying very hard to have their cake and eat it too. They want their network, and to be a part of a conference. They have also revealed some control freak tendencies. An astute Longhorns sports blogger noted that college football is supposed to be about fun and the Big 12-2 or 3 and counting is simply not much fun. Personally, I’ll be hoping that Texas joins a PAC 16- that would be the most fun. If I were a regent charged with enhancing the academic prestige of my university, I would favor the Big 10. Longhorn fan would much rather be sitting on the beach in So-Cal than freezing in the snow in Ann Arbor, but tooooo bad. The Big 10 research consortium would exceed the loss of the Longhorn Network many times over.

What they have actually been trying to do is to keep something called the Big 12 together: its local and allows them to operate their own network. Texas operates as an independent with a conference, getting the best of both worlds. It looks to be a bridge too far. Dodds wonders why the maples can’t be happy in his shade, but it sure looks like they can’t. Another possibility is an alliance of independents. Texas scheduled both Notre Dame and BYU (a new independent) and they scheduled each other last year. Hmmmmm.

If the Texas third tier rights are worth $300m, the bean counters in the Texas athletic department are surely curious about what their 1st and 2nd teach rights would fetch. Whatever decision they make, I hope they will make it enjoyable for the fans and wildly profitable for the university, in that order.

Let’s see what happens next…

You Mess with the Bull, You Get the Horns!

May 31, 2011

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Last year, college athletics went through a bit of realignment. The Big 10 conference announced its intention to expand, setting off a tidal wave of intrigue and speculation. The PAC-10 made a big play to become the PAC-16 by adding Texas, A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado. Colorado bolted to the Pac-10 before Baylor could take their spot, the rest of the prospective PAC-16 members stayed in the Big 12, now properly known as the Big 12 minus 2. Nebraska also left the Big 12 to join the Big 10 after the Big 10 was unable to secure either Texas or Notre Dame.

The Big 10 is the only conference to have a research consortium (along with the University of Chicago) and a big issue in the expansion was membership in the American Association of Universities- a private club of major research universities. At the time of expansion, all 12 members of the Big 10 (don’t ask) were members, but recently the AAU took the unprecedented step of booting the University of Nebraska-Lincoln out of the club, which required a 2/3 vote of the member institutions. UNL became the first member of the AAU in the 111 history of the organization to face ejection.

During the time when the Big 12 had 12 members, Nebraska and Texas were often at odds. The Texas side of the story, which is the only one I have heard, is that there was a knock-down dispute over admission requirements for athletes at the conference inception. Nebraska wanted them low, Texas wanted them higher. Texas had the vast majority of tv sets in the conference, Texas won. Resentment festered among the Children of the Corn.

So…it just so happens that two former Presidents of the University of Texas at Austin are now high-ranking officials at the AAU, leading the Omaha World Herald to report on conspiracy theories that the AAU boot was payback. 

Personally, I doubt that athletics had much to do with this decision. It is more fun, however, to believe that it did.

College Football Chaos

February 12, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Frank the Tank, an Illini attorney and sports blogger, lays out an index of expansion targets for the Big 10.

The Big 10, which has had 11 teams since the inclusion of Penn State, has started a cable network and is seeking to expand. Frank does an admirable job of looking at the real issues in such an expansion (mainly money, followed by academics as a distant second). Frank ranks the teams on the Big 10 hit list: Texas first, Notre Dame second. Everyone else ranks as a “meh” addition.

The PAC-10 has announced an interest in expanding as well. Currently, however, the Pac 10’s television contract is weaker than the Big 12 contract. Possible PAC-10 targets include Utah and Colorado. Colorado and Texas came close to joining the PAC 10 in the 1990s.

The Big 12 has been good to Texas. Texas generates more athletic revenue than any other school and has established itself as a national power in all the major sports. The status-quo isn’t bad. Having graduated in 1990, I still remember getting our heads handed to us by teams like Baylor and the University of Houston on a regular basis.

Texas must compete with the SEC and Big 10 schools, however, and currently receives less than half the Big 10 television take. If there are going to be super conferences (Big 10, SEC) then Texas must consider an invitation to join. What they cannot allow is for Colorado and Mizzou to bolt with the largest only tv markets in the Big-12 North to other conferences and languish in a diminished leftover conference.

Quite frankly, Notre Dame must either get a much more lucrative tv contract from someone, or they would be crazy not to join. Despite the deal with NBC, Notre Dame currently ranks third in the state of Indiana behind U of I and Perdue in tv revenue. If the Big 10 schools can’t figure out how to use $10 million in additional revenue per year for each school to leave the Domers behind from a competitive standpoint, ummm, let’s just say there would be some athletic directors who need to be fired. Notre Dame enjoys a unique national following, but no brand can endure the beating of losing indefinitely. Notre Dame may be able to keep their status as an independent, but it will not be by getting paid $9m per year by NBC. 

Speculation is already running rampant. Let the games begin…

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