Small Market Football

January17/ 2000

  Enough chit chat of clean colons, scary bridges and kinky little gals in Blue Springs … it’s time for some hard core Football PROFUNDITY.  I’m talking heretofore unwritten unvarnished TRUISMS on “the New ACC” as we are 60 days from Kickoff 2004.  When you click on “Read More” today you will be “Locked & Loaded” with enough “Damn, I never thought about it that ways” to be the star of your 4th of July picnic. 

  • I love attending college football games … I’m a pushover for all the color & pageantry.
  • I like to think “my team” has a chance to win but appreciate an exciting well played game regardless of the outcome
  • I have no illusions about the realities of Big Time College Football
  • I was, and remain, opposed to the formation of “The New ACC” under its current form

   Having set these parameters … let us examine the concept of “Big market vs Small market” college football.

   “Big Market – Small Market” is a Major League Baseball term delineating the harsh reality that franchises in smaller markets simply cannot compete year in-year out with the behemoth franchises with virtually unlimited $$$ to sign free agents and maintain extensive talent development programs.  Allowing for the occasional “lightning in a bottle” situations … the “big market” teams begin each season with sizable advantages in their favor … more proven talent on their roster.

   In the NFL, on the other hand, a Green Bay can put as strong a team on the field as New York; and Charlotte can develop as successfully as Chicago.  Coaching and personnel management count for more in the NFL than they do in MLB. Every NFL fan can legitimately have “champagne wishes & caviar dreams” of a Super Bowl “this year”.

   “The New ACC” is akin to MLB. We are not talking $$$ as the mitigating factor however.  For the ACC member institutions it is an issue of “degree of institutional commitment to academic compromise”.  

   Miami and Florida State are the Yankees and the Red Sox.  They both “talk the talk and walk the walk” when they say “having a nationally prominent football program is of prime importance to our university PERIOD … no Buts … no “within the framework of our overall academic mission …”.

   Every school WANTS to win.  Every Chancellor, every trustee, every AD, and certainly every coach and player (and God Knows every alumni/fan!) would love the exhilarating sense of pride and achievement in being National Champions.  With very few exceptions, even the roving gangs of jock-hating faculty squirrels that inhabit each campus, admittedly more so at some schools than at others, would be proud of being associated with “a winner”.  

   The owner of the Kansas City Royals WANTS to win a World Series too as do his economically underprivileged colleagues in other small markets. If the Marlins can do it one year … maybe we can too.  And they can “catch lightning in a bottle” on occasion. But don’t bet on it.

   The New ACC has four acknowledged “Big Market” members … Miami, FSU, VaTech, and Maryland.  The commitment to having a nationally prominent football program is in synch from top to bottom within those institutions.  Yes, you will even find grumbling dissidents among their tweed jacketed academics and hairy armpit academicettes, but their grumbles are muffled at those four schools.  A 5th school, Clemson, could be placed in that category as well.

   UVA, GaTech, and Boston College occupy a 2nd strata of member institutions where the level of commitment to Football Success is sincere but not as dominant.  A change in Chancellors, a new Trustee Prez, a firebrand faculty dissident and the pendulum easily could swing back to the dreaded “within the framework of our overall academic mission …” status.

   That leaves our four North Carolina schools.  Oh, I know you hot to trot Wuffies do so want to believe they are on a balls to the wall express train to the BCS … but in the post-#17 era and with a new Chancellor-to-be, and with “the new math requirements” looming down the road.  Our Lupine friends have a “governor” on their accelerator that, over the long run, will decidedly impact their hell bent race to BCS glory.  Through no fault of Chuck Amato, Wendell Murphy, Doc Holliday, Lee Fowler, et al.  The commitment within the Athletics Dept is clearly there.  But at the higher institutional level the “within the framework of …” is clearly in command.

   As for the remaining three schools … UNC, Duke, and Wake … there is really no pretense.  “The academic mission” is the straw that stirs the drink.  His army of critics notwithstanding, it is to Richard “Dickie” Baddour’s best interests for UNC to be the #1 Football program in the ACC.  I have no doubt that Jimmy Moe would think it quite a fine achievement too.  Is there a single all-powerful jock-hating squirrel with his/her hand inhibiting the throttle?  No … despite the Lunatic Fringe’s demands for “a human to hate” and sacrifice … it is an overall entrenched institutional mindset … shared by both Duke and Wake AND NCSU.  Who is to say it is either incorrect or not a practical point of view?  Well, actually the goggle-eyed loonies “say” … they could give two shakes of a rat’s rear about academics. There is some merit to their angry protestations (Gawd help us all!).


Swagger’s Stumper

These Hungarian-born  brothers 

were among the first “sidewinder kickers” in the NFL … ?


   Cutting to the chase … the equalizer is quite simple … admission requirements in excess of NCAA minimum requirements.  Guess what friends and neighbors … Winning Big Time College Football Ain’t About Fancy Facilities & Impressive Graduation Rates … it’s about Fast, Strong, and Highly Aggressive MEAT ON THE HOOF.  While Heels and Wuffies brag about how many hot tubs and pool tables they have in their fancy “player lounges” … LSU, FSU, OU, Miami, SoCal et al display their multiple National Championship trophies and Heismans in their decidedly less fancy Football Centers.  Betcha didn’t know that … DUH!  FSU is currently upgrading their facilities after fielding a dominating program for 25 years out of what by comparison is a Ford 150 “facility” compared to the uber-fancy Kenan and Murphy, and now add Duke’s Yo, Center “Escalades” that Carolina and State rave about. They have no football national trophies to rave about.

   Although currently at a crossroads with their program, the most heralded college football school on Earth, in South Bend Indiana, has “facilities” that Richmond County High School would consider Spartan.  It ain’t bricks and mortar .. it’s open range access to the best on-field talent in the country year-in and year-out.

   Bless his heart … when John Bunting says “we recruit kids who are ‘our kinda kids’ and want “the Carolina Experience” … he immediately excludes most of the top 100 high school bluechip talent that wants BCS glory and to be “the next Ray Lewis, Charlie Ward, Deion Sanders, Peter Boleware, etc.  John better say he wants “our kinda kids” because he CAN’T GET the academically marginal kids any way.  So long as Miami, FSU, VaTech, and Maryland CAN freely recruit such football talent (which they can and do!) … they will out perform UNC’s team year-in and year-out.

   Regardless of what the Football Gods may have in store for John Bunting’s coaching career, ANYONE who coaches at UNC, Duke, Wake, and even NCSU will have the same governing circumstances to deal with … yes, even “he” who does NOT have a lot at Governors Club.

   One “deals with it” by finding the elusive “linchpin recruit” (spelled Phillip Rivers) and you ride him to all the glory you can for as long as you can … and hope against hope that you find another gold nugget in your recruiting sluice pan.  Chuck found his the first day he dipped his sluice pan in the recruiting stream … John Bunting has not been so lucky … and John’s original grubstake is about exhausted.  Mining Gridiron Gold is a very risky bizness.  There are far more bankruptcies than bonanzas.

   Yes … Wolfpack Football is ahead of Tar Heel Football these days … but history says that is cyclical … the foundations for both programs are similarly rooted “within the framework of our academic mission…”  Either school should enjoy any perceived advantage for as long as it exists … if Triangle Braggin’ Rights is all that really matters then “the New ACC” doesn’t really effect either fan base … but those “champagne wishes & caviar dreams” of competing annually for the top rung of “The New ACC” should be placed alongside those Kansas City Royals fans hoping to be playing baseball in mid-October. 

   Much more on all this in the weeks to come as we unveil our own special perspective on the upcoming season … a perspective that “ya jest don’t get anywhere else” …

   We took a lotta heat for a “too easy” Silver Bullet question.  Yeah, it was a 70 mph belt high fastball … but we like to give everyone a chance to “go yard” every once in a while.

   Swagger’s out on Long Island right now with the PGA Codgers.  Throgs Neck Bridge looms ahead on Thursday afternoon. Keep our brave road warrior in your prayers.

   TV video coming on-line very soon.  Overnight ratings had BLS “a big hit” on NEWS14 … future appearances assured in days/weeks to come … 

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