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Sep 30

This Week in Wildcat History

Posted by: Samuel Clemens at 9:45 am | Leave a Comment (0)
Category: Random Notes

Welcome back friends.  We’re glad that you’ve made it here for another round of This Week in Wildcat History!

Most likely, you’re here because you are a University of Kentucky Wildcat football fan.  By virtue of that, it should come as no surprise that, much like some of the streaks that we’ve talked about during the past few weeks, there are certain ghosts in Kentucky’s football closet that we just aren’t particularly proud of.  You know, kind of like that crazy cousin that you have.

In a lot of ways, the 5th game of Kentucky’s football season is very similar to that crazy cousin you’re thinking of.  You know it’s going to find a way to show up every year, yet no matter what colors it disguises itself in this time around, and no matter where the meeting takes place, you can almost always count on leaving with a sour taste in your mouth each and every time you’re together.

Well folks, it looks like the holidays are upon us.

As you well know by now, the 5th game of the 2010 Kentucky football season will commence on Saturday shortly after 11:00 in the fine southern town of Oxford, Mississippi, when the University of Mississippi Rebels play host to our heroes in blue.  The Cats enter Saturday’s contest having lost the 5th game on their schedule during both of the previous two seasons.  Those two losses, on the road in both Tuscaloosa and Columbia, came by a combined 5 points.

On top of that, Kentucky enters Satuday’s SEC showdown having lost the 5th game on their schedule during 15 of their previous 20 seasons.  Needless to say, game number five is another trend we’d all love to see reversed with regard to Kentucky football.

The 5th game of the 1997 season, however, brought tears to the eyes of Kentucky fans for a far different reason than those referenced above.  It was during that game – on October 4, 1997 – that Tim Couch found Craig Yeast down the left hashes for a 40-34 overtime victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide.  The game marked only the second victory in Kentucky’s history over the Tide and the first time in the history of Commonwealth Stadium that the home crowd had the pleasure of removing the goalposts from the air above the endzones.

During the last 50 years, Kentucky has played on October 2nd on eight different occasions, splitting those contests with four wins and four losses.  For those of you keeping score at home, the only 10/2 matchup in the past half century between the Cats and the Rebels from Oxford was a 1993 tilt that saw Kentucky emerge victorious by a final score of 21-0.  So, we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

That 1993 matchup was one of 20 times that Kentucky and Ole Miss have met on the gridiron since 1964.  During that span, the Rebels hold a slight advantage over the Cats, having won 12 times to Kentucky’s 8.

In recent years, the great state of Mississippi and its lovely residents have been very good to this guy, and I hope that – beginning next week – the season finds a way to turn itself around for the good people in Oxford.  On Saturday, however, I’d love nothing more than for Kentucky to roll in and out of town like that crazy cousin, leaving behind the sourest of tastes for the home team and its fans.

Until next week.

Sep 23

This Week in Wildcat History

Posted by: Samuel Clemens at 11:30 am | Leave a Comment (2)
Category: Random Notes

Photo Courtesy of the Miami Herald

Welcome back, friends, to the ever-informative This Week in Wildcat History!  Granted, you may not actually be informed about anything that really matters, or about anything that will affect the outcome of this weekend’s tackle football game, but we can’t do everything around here now, can we?

As you well know, the Cats enter this Saturday’s contest at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on the beautiful campus of the University of Florida with a sparkling 3-0 record on the season – a record that is mirrored by their opponents.  But you’re not here to learn anything about this year – you only want to relive the glory days.  So, to the glory days we go!

Kentucky enters Saturday’s matchup riding a 23 game losing streak to the University of Florida’s Gators, having last beaten their southern brethren on November 15, 1986 by a final score of 10-3.  That game was held in Lexington.  If you’re looking for last time the Cats defeated the Gators in Gainesville, you may be surprised to learn that the year was 1979.  Shockingly, the 31-3 gridiron victory by the Cats was overshadowed that year by the debut of the Garfield comic strip and the introduction of Saddam Hussein as the President of Iraq.

In any case, we’ve talked the past few weeks about the Kentucky football program’s affinity for streaks, and, as you can see, that theme holds true for this series.

During the past 20 years, Kentucky has suffered 13 losses against just 7 wins during their 4th game of the season.  Not surprisingly, the University of Florida has been a fairly regular opponent for the Cats on their 4th game of the season during that time frame, as well.

The season’s fourth game served as a bit of a stepping stone for the University’s current football success during their 2007 campaign, when Trevard Lindley scooped up a loose fumble at the end of the first half and sparked a Kentucky comeback on the road in Fayetteville over the Hogs, 42-29.  That game also served as a bit of a coming-out party for a guy you may have heard of, Derrick Locke.

We won’t, however, go into too much detail from the 4th game of the 2004 campaign, one which featured the best looking UK football uniforms and the most embarrassing home loss that this guy has ever witnessed in person.

The Cats’ recent history in games played on September 25th, however, offers slightly more room for optimism than you might expect.  During the past 50 years, Kentucky has played 6 games on 9/25, amassing a record of 2-3-1 during that time frame.  The boys from Lexington (not to be confused with “The Boys” of University of Louisville and Porcini’s fame) enter Saturday’s contest riding a two game losing streak on the 25th of September, having lost to – guess who? – the University of Florida in 2004 and 1999 by final scores of 3-20 and 10-38, respectively.  Prior to that, the Cats recorded a tie against the Kansas Jayhawks on 9/25/1982, a game that notched the only glimmer of hope in a season that saw Kentucky compile a record of 0-10-1.

The West Virginia Mountaineers fell victim to Kentucky on 9/25/1976.  And the Cats split a pair of September 25 games with Ole Miss during the 1971 and 1965 campaigns.

Also of note, while Kentucky did not play on September 25, 1969, that date should be considered a victory for Wildcat fans everywhere (as well as all other human beings), as it marked the arrival of the lovely Catherine Zeta-Jones to this earth.  You’re welcome.

Until next week.

Sep 16

This Week in Wildcat History

Posted by: Samuel Clemens at 11:01 am | Leave a Comment (1)
Category: Random Notes

Welcome back, TGR faithful to the Week 3 edition of This Week in Wildcat History!

In case you haven’t yet heard, your beloved Cats will be facing the University of Akron Zips this Saturday.  The game will mark the first ever meeting between the two universities.  Thanks for stopping by.

What’s that?  You want more?  Ok, I suppose I can hang around for a few minutes.

The Cats will enter Saturday’s contest riding a two-game winning streak on September 18th, having racked up 51 and 44 points, respectively, in victories over the Indiana University Fighting Hoosiers during the 2004 and 1999 seasons.  In fact, one would have to dig all the way back to 1993 to find the last time that Kentucky lost a football game on September 18.  So, we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

What isn’t always nice, though, is the Cats’ ability to perform consistently during the third game of the college football season.  As Kentucky fans, the season’s third game has brought us a little bit of everything over the course of the past 20 years.  During that time, UK has registered 11 wins against 9 losses.

We’ve been privy to highest of the highs – as seen during the season’s 3rd game in 2008 when “Stevie Got Looooose.”

And we’ve witnessed the lowest of the lows – as witnessed during last season’s 41-7 demolition at the hands of the Florida Gators.

But, last year’s 3rd game did bring us this moment, so I guess it wasn’t a total waste.

In any case, we’ll undoubtedly look forward to Saturday, when our opponents from Akron bring their talents to Lexington for the first time.

See you in the Red Lot.  Go Big Blue.

Sep 9

This Week in Wildcat History

Posted by: Samuel Clemens at 12:00 pm | Leave a Comment (1)
Category: Random Notes

This week in Wildcat History made its grand entrance into the internet world last week with a bit of a dud and, unfortunately, this week might also leave a lot left to be desired.  Unlike last week, however, it won’t be due to a lack of effort. 

You see, there simply isn’t much history between the Cats and this week’s opponent from the other side of the Commonwealth State.

Many of you probably recall the 2008 meeting in Lexington between the Cats and the Hilltoppers.  You know, the one where Kentucky came away with a 41-3 victory.  If you’re fortunate enough to remember that classic tilt, then you, my friend, know all that there is to know about the UK-WKU rivalry.  For that game, played on September 27, 2008, has been the lone meeting between two of Kentucky’s finer institutions of higher learning.  It was on that fateful day that Western joined the likes of Wisconsin, Virginia, and Lexington High School as their all-time record fell to 0-1 against the Big Blue.

Historically, the second game of the season has been one of the kinder weeks to the Wildcats.  In fact, Kentucky has won during the season’s second game the last 12 years.  During that span, UK has largely beaten up on cupcakes like Norfolk State, UTEP, Eastern Kentucky, and Murray State, but also has somewhat quality wins (at least on paper) over Louisville, South Florida, and Indiana during the season’s second game. 

One would have to look all the way back to 1997 to find the last time that the Cats dropped the 2nd game of the season.  That year, the SEC schedule dictated that the Cats travel to Starkville to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the second game of the season and Tim Couch, Derek Homer, and the gang failed to come home with a victory, falling prey to the ringing cowbells by a final score of 35-27.  That defeat marked the 8th consecutive time that Kentucky had fallen during the season’s 2nd game. 

That’s right.  When it comes to streaks, Kentucky football takes a backseat to no one.

The season’s 2nd game has brought Wildcat fans many highs and many lows.  During the 2002 campaign, the second game saw the Cats put up one of the largest point totals in program history against the UTEP Miners, winning by a final score of 77-17.

However, the shoe was on the other foot nearly a decade earlier in 1994, when the Cats were clobbered in Gainesville by Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators by a final score of 73-7.

And who could ever forget the week two meltdown against those same Gators just one year prior in Lexington?  It was that day, on September 11, 1993, that Florida freshman Danny Wuerffel hit a streaking Chris Doering for a game-winning TD with 0:03 remaining on the clock, as the #7 Gators drove the length of the field in the game’s final 1:23 to erase a three-point deficit in a 24-20 Gator win. 

Seventeen years later, the streak still lives on.

If you’re one of those people who needs to relive the pain to appreciate where we are now, feel free to take a quick gander at the video below.  If not, just head over to Commonwealth and make sure the Cats build on their 2nd game streak against the Toppers and make it 13 in a row.

1993 UF @ UK

Sep 2

This Week In Wildcat History

Posted by: Samuel Clemens at 12:00 pm | Leave a Comment (1)
Category: Football

As we get set to kick off another season of Wildcat football here in the Commonwealth, we’re going to use this space to take the first of many looks back throughout Kentucky gridiron history.  Over the course of the coming weeks, we’ll be hopping into our time machines and reliving some of the more memorable moments in UK lore, as well as breaking down the Cats history with each week’s given opponent.  Luckily, this week we get to kill two birds with one stone (no pun intended), as the Battle for the Governor’s Cup has been the season opener for Kentucky all but twice during the better part of the past two decades.

What you’ll read below isn’t exactly an accurate depiction of what will become TWIWH, but when coupled with a side order of laziness, one thing should be evident this week.  It’s regurgitation time around the tailgate.

No, not that kind of regurgitation.  Regurgitation in the sense that we’ve already covered this topic and are going to re-post a piece from here at TGR seen earlier in the summer.  If you’ve already read it, please accept my sincerest apologies.  I promise I’ll try to do better next week…

_____

To the majority of residents of the state of Kentucky, there is likely no more exciting September afternoon than the day when Kentucky and Louisville get together for their annual gridiron clash.  The buildup for the rivalry game is felt throughout the entire spring and summer, and for a place that is so often dubbed as a “basketball state,” the Battle for the Governor’s Cup sure does manage to light a fire under both fanbases that would be hard to find even in the most football obsessed regions of the country.

This year’s tilt is no different from any other season.  The anticipation is being met with hints of uncertainty on both sides, and there’s little doubt that Kentuckians have once again placed a special emphasis on the game.  And with a new head coaches on each sideline and a newly renovated home stadium for the host team, the first game of the season is once again being built up as a make-or-break game for both programs.

It’s standard for Kentuckians both wearing blue and wearing red to view the annual rivalry game as a barometer for the entire season.  The standard thought process is fairly simple.  Win the UK-UofL game, and you’re going to have a good year.  Lose the UK-UofL game, and your season is doomed for failure.

But, is it really that simple?  Or is the outcome of the rivalry game be a bit misleading?

(For the sake of the argument, we’re going to look only at the modern series to answer that question.  While UK leads the overall series with UofL by a count of 13 to 9, Louisville holds a lead in the modern series by a margin of 9 to 7.  For those of you keeping score at home, Kentucky won all six of the contests between the two schools between 1912 and 1924 – and did so by a combined score of 210-0).

After a little bit of research and a few simple mathematical equations, I was able to discover the following:

In the 16 years since the modern rivalry was renewed, Kentucky has come away with 7 wins.  In two of those seasons (1994 and 1997), the Cats still had a losing season.  The other five times that the football Cats were victorious against the Cards, they went on to post a winning record for the year (1998, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2009).  Thus, if we can use recent history as a way to predict future results, that means:

  • A Kentucky win vs. Louisville = 71% chance of a winning record for UK at season’s end.

Obviously, Kentucky has lost the other nine meetings with Louisville since the rivalry was renewed in 1994.  In seven of those years, the Cats have finished the year with a losing record (1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2005).  During the other two seasons in which they lost to Louisville, the Cats posted one winning record at season’s end (2006) and one .500 record (1999).  Thus:

  • A Kentucky loss vs. Louisville = 78% chance of a losing record for UK at season’s end.

So, things look pretty cut and dry for Kentucky.  Beat Louisville, have a good season.  Lose to Louisville, have a bad season.

However, the flip side of the equation is the effect that the game has on the rest of the season for Cards.

In seasons where Louisville has won the game against Kentucky, they have posted eight winning records against just one losing record.  Meaning that:

  • A Louisville victory against Kentucky = 89% chance of a winning record for Louisville at season’s end.

Yet, in seasons where Louisville has lost the rivalry game to Kentucky, they have posted just four losing records, offset by 3 winning records.  Thus:

  • A Louisville loss against Kentucky = 57% chance of a losing record for Louisville at season’s end.

I was once told that statistics can be shaped to say whatever you want them to say.  In this case, however, I set out with an initial thought in mind, only to see the statistics show me something that I didn’t necessarily want to see.  For, when looking at the results of the modern UK-UofL series, a few things jump off the page – the most notable of which is the strong correlation between a Louisville victory over Kentucky and the Cards subsequently using that victory as a springboard to a successful season.  On the other hand, a Louisville loss to UK does not necessarily spell doom for the rest of the season for the Cards, as they have managed to still eek out a winning record in nearly half of the seasons in which they have lost to the Cats.

Simply put, the statistics show that the rivalry game is far more likely to have a positive effect (following a win) and far less likely to have a negative effect (following a loss) on the remainder of the season for Louisville than it does for Kentucky.

Does this mean that the game means more to the Cats than to the Cards?  Does it mean that UofL has less pressure to win than UK?  Or is it simply a set of data that could be viewed in an entirely different manner if broken down a different way?

You tell me.

Aug 19

Summer School’s Final Session: It’s all about the $$$

Posted by: Samuel Clemens at 1:45 pm | Leave a Comment (7)
Category: Random Notes

profit margin

Well folks, it’s been a great summer.  As I look back, I’m proud to say that we’ve tackled quite a few topics.  Some difficult.  Some not so difficult.  And some just downright silly.  But, like all things in life, Summer School 2010 must come to an end – but before we drop the tailgate and usher in the 2010 football season, I’ve got one last session planned for you guys.  Chances are that you might find it more boring than Bill Curry’s play calling, but we’ll give it a shot anyways.

So, with our last topic of the Summer, we’ll take a look at the almighty dollar and it’s impact on college athletics.

We often hear how college athletics is such big business.  And, from a high level, that certainly appears to be the case.  Advertisements can be found on scoreboards, baselines, and outfield walls.  Coaches appear in more local commercials than Ronald McDonald.  It seems as though the college experience is selling out for a paycheck every time we turn around.

But, after the NCAA’s most recently released Revenue and Expense Report for Division I Athletic Programs, I’m convinced of only one thing.

If college athletics is big business, it’s one of the most poorly run businesses I’ve ever laid eyes upon.

Answer this quickly: What is the most important objective to operating and maintaining a successful business?  If your answer was anything like mine, it had something to do with making money.  Thus my new found hypothesis as to the business savvy in college athletics can be directly attributed to the shocking revelation that only fourteen (14!) Division I athletic programs generated more revenue than their expenses during the 2008-09 academic year.

Let me repeat that: Out of 335 Division I institutions, only 14 generated a profit during the 2008-09 academic year.  All of the other Division I colleges and universities lost money on their athletic programs.  And, though the report doesn’t say it, chances are that Divisions II and III didn’t fare quite as well as Division I.

There’s a lot of great information in the report, but I wasn’t about to go reading through all 105 pages, so here are a few of the more prevalent findings:

  • Median expense per student-athlete at FBS institutions showed a 10.8 percent increase from $69,000 in 2008 to $76,000 in 2009. The average number of participating student-athletes remained essentially unchanged, while total expenses increased.
  • In the Football Championship Subdivision, the median generated revenues decreased from 2008 by 3.1 percent, as compared with a 6.0 percent increase from 2007 to 2008. Median total expenses also decreased slightly (0.8 percent) from 2008.
  • No FCS athletics program reported net generated revenues in 2009. The median negative net generated revenue (expenses in excess of generated revenues) in 2008 was $7.9 million and $8.7 million in 2009. The net losses have increased steadily over six years.
  • Only 2 percent of football programs, 6 percent of men’s basketball programs and 2 percent of women’s basketball programs in the FCS reported net generated revenues (surpluses) for 2009, which is consistent over recent years.
  • For Division I institutions without football, the median generated revenues fell by 1.2 percent from 2008, after seeing a 9.0 percent increase from 2007 to 2008. The median total expenses increased by only 1.5 percent from 2008, much better than the 10 percent from 2007 to 2008. Thus, revenues and expenses in this subdivision are moving in a parallel course. No athletics program in this subdivision has reported net generated revenues since 2005, while one reported small net revenues for 2004.
  • Crazy, right?  I mean, forget the fact that only 14 schools turned a profit for a second.  The median expense per student-athlete at an FBS institution was $76,000?  That’s unbelievable.

    I’m not sure that there are many specific takeaways from the report other than the most obvious of all – spending in college athletics is rising at an alarming rate, a rate that certainly can’t keep its current pace.  We all want bigger and better facilities, but the reality is that it’s just not feasible.  I’m afraid at this point, though, that we’ll just have to hope that in trying to keep up with the Joneses, all of the neighbors don’t burn down their own homes.

    Aug 5

    Summer School Session #11: My Take on the Kanter Situation

    Posted by: Samuel Clemens at 12:03 pm | Leave a Comment (7)
    Category: Random Notes
    Enes Kanter isn't a new name, but the Nike Hoop Summit was a first opportunity for a lot of mainstream fans to see him play.

    With this week’s resurfacing news that the eligibility status of Kentucky’s superfreshman post man, Enes Kanter, remains in question, I thought I’d take a few minutes to try to dive a little deeper into the situation.  Unfortunately, that means we’ll have to wait until next week to take a look at the absurdity of some more new NCAA football rules, but with the basketball Cats trip to Canada coming up next week, I think it’s fair to say that the Enes issue has risen to the forefront.  I hope you agree.

    Let’s start with the obvious – that being that the eligibility mess that Kanter is currently facing should be a surprise to no one.  We’ve seen eligibility issues galore in recent years – particularly pertaining to the amateur status of incoming college freshmen.  Unfortunately, it’s these amateurism issues that seem to drag on forever, whereas academic issues are fairly cut and dry and can be resolved without much back and forth between all parties involved.

    And, maybe it’s the eternal pessimist in me, but if I were you Cat fans, I wouldn’t be shocked if the first #0 in program history had to wait a while before trotting out onto the court at Rupp Arena for anything more intense than a simple layup line.  That’s not me making a prediction of what will happen, Lord knows I have no insight on what will go down.  That’s just me being a realist.

    Need proof?  Look no further than two of last year’s more highly-touted freshmen (non-Kentucky division).
    On one hand, you had Deniz Kilicli, the European big man who chose to play his college ball for (gasp) the West Virginia First-Half 3 Point Shooting Brigade.  But, it wasn’t until the 21st game of the season – a February 3rd tilt with Pittsburgh – that Kilici was allowed to step foot on the court after serving an NCAA mandated suspension for playing with a European professional team prior to his arrival in the States.

    Think that was rough?  Think again.  Or at least go talk to Mississippi State Bulldog Renardo Sidney, who was forced to sit out the entirety of what would have been his freshman season, as well as 30% of his sophomore season for receiving improper benefits valued at over $11,000 during his prep career.  Sidney, according to the story printed in the LA Times back in March, wasn’t forthcoming and truthful in interviews with the NCAA.  From the article:

    “Mississippi State also found that Sidney violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when he provided false or misleading information throughout the eligibility process, according to the NCAA statement….Our members have made it crystal clear that student-athletes who receive impermissible benefits, either directly or indirectly, and who lie to the NCAA must be held accountable,” said Kevin Lennon, the NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs. “This case is about more than a student-athlete. One of our core responsibilities is to ensure a level playing field for all student-athletes and their teams. No team or individual should have an unfair advantage.”

    So, what does this all mean for Kentucky and, more specifically, Kanter?  Well, to me at least, two things are pretty clear:

    1. elite international prospects have, in the past, fallen into a trap dictated by a system that all but forces them to play with professionals, and

    2. the NCAA doesn’t like being lied to

    Luckily, the first of those concerns appears to have been resolved, with the new NCAA rule that allows international prospects to compete as amateurs while still playing with professionals, provided they do not accept more than necessary and actual expenses in doing so.  Back in April, upon Kanter’s commitment to the Big Blue, the always-great Mike DeCourcy had this to say about the NCAA’s rule change to Bylaw 12.2.3.2.1:

    “The Kanter case is revolutionary because it might be the first in which a European-born player coveted at the professional level in his home country chose to turn down that opportunity in order to play collegiately in the United States.

    Kanter competed in at least nine games for Fenerbahce in the 2008-09 season — four in the Euroleague, five in the Turkish league — as a deep reserve getting few minutes. It’s been suggested the club put him in those games to make NCAA basketball less appealing for him because of the college rule that has mandated a one-for-one penalty for international players who, regardless of whether they were professionals themselves, competed alongside pros.

    However, the NCAA finally recognized the absurdity of this rule and entered exception 12.2.3.2.1 into its legislative process. The change would allow athletes to compete on professional teams provided they do not accept “more than actual and necessary expenses.”

    For their part, both Calipari and the Kanter family have attested that Enes followed the guidelines listed above, receiving no more than necessary and actual expenses during his time with Fenerbahce.  However, there is obviously still some doubt in the eyes of the powers to be, as Kanter has yet to be cleared from an amateurism standpoint.  Without having any direct knowledge of the situation, one can only assume that Fenerbahce is stating information on the contrary to what Enes has said, or that the NCAA officials charge of the case still have some doubts about Kanter’s truthfulness.  If neither of those assumptions are true, it seems pretty cut and dry, right?

    In the end, we as fans are left shaking our heads and wondering exactly what is going on behind the scenes.  This situation, much like that with Dez Bryant’s amateurism issue last fall (as well as many others along the way), is taking quite a bit of time to be hashed out.  Now, I’m certainly not here to defend the NCAA’s actions, rulings, judgements, or anything of the like, but I do have a question for you, TGR folks:  If given the choice, would you rather the NCAA do its due diligence and make the correct ruling on a situation, even if that means having it bleed into the season and forcing the student-athlete to possibly sit out a portion of the season?  Or, would you rather see the NCAA act swiftly with it’s ruling, rendering a student-athlete eligible (or ineligible) before the season begins, but also leaving open the possibility of a Derrick Rose-like situation where facts are discovered after the issue was originally thought to have been handled?

    As fans, it seems as though we want to have our cake and eat it to.  Obviously, in a perfect world, the rulings would be quick and fair and accurate, and none of this would ever be an issue.  However, the reality of the situation is that there are far too many layers of dirt to uncover, and that likely means that one of two things will happen:  Either the NCAA will act quickly to make a ruling before the season begins (one that, unfortunately, might be made without all of the necessary facts); or the NCAA will collect all of the necessary information before making a ruling (which will likely be sometime after the season begins).

    As stated before, I – just like all of you – have no way of knowing or predicting what will happen between now and November 15th.  But I would be interested to hear the thoughts around the tailgate and, specifically, how you would like to see cases like this be handled.  Perhaps if we voice our concerns long enough and loud enough, the powers to be may actually have to pay attention to us…

    Jul 29

    Summer School Session #10: College Football Rule Changes – No More Eye Black

    Posted by: Samuel Clemens at 2:05 pm | Leave a Comment (18)
    Category: Random Notes

    As we approach the beginning of the college football season, now seems like as good a time as any to revisit a few of the rule changes that the NCAA’s Football Playing Rules Oversight Panel put into place for the 2010 campaign.

    From what I’ve seen throughout my years as a sports enthusiast, it seems that most rule changes fall into one of two distinct categories:

    • To promote fairness/equality/or help level the playing field, or
    • To promote the safety of the competitors

    In the upcoming weeks, we’ll take a look at a couple of rule changes for the 2010 football season that fall into one or both of those categories, but for today, we’re going to focus on the one rule change to major college football that simply makes you shake your head and wonder how in the world we ever got to a point where it was necessary to create a rule about this silly stuff in the first place.

    Following the lead of the National Football League, the NCAA has banned the use of eye black containing any words, numbers, or symbols, effective at the start of the 2010 season.  The rule also states that there may not be any words, numbers, or symbols on a player’s person or tape (other than game information on a player’s wrist or forearm).

    Though it is difficult to pinpoint the exact time in which the eye black messages became a major trend, but one would be hard pressed to find anyone more responsible for the boom of the recent fad than former Southern California running back Reggie Bush, who just so happens to be in the news quite a bit these days for some other things that occurred during his playing days in LA.

    Bush, if you will recall, famously wore the numbers “619”on both pieces of eye black, representing his hometown of Spring Valley, California.  The electric running back likely had no idea what kind of fashion statement he was making at the time, but in the years that followed, we as college football fans were privvy to a look into the minds and hearts of what motivates some of the game’s most colorful and most talented performers.

    Eye black messages have allowed us to see wonderful tributes to young fans from the likes of former USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, who wore the name of a 15 year-old California boy who suffered from bone cancer as inspiration.  We’ve also seen some ill-advised advertising from the likes of Jimmy Clausen, who wore the Adidas symbol on his eye black for a period of time.  And, we’ve witnessed plenty of fools make themselves look rather silly with messages such as “Google Me,” “Feel Me,” and even some in support of fallen heroes.

    Most recently, of course, we all witnessed Tim Tebow’s spiritual messages via certain Bible verses worn under his eyes during his time as a Florida Gator.  In fact, according to the Florida Times-Union, it very well could have been Tebow’s impact that led the NCAA to enforce the rule on eye black at all.

    Tebow wore his first message against LSU in 2008, writing Phil 4:13 (for Philippians 4:13), and did it the rest of his career. He was criticized by opposing fans and some members of the media for it, but there is no doubt that it has had a profound effect on people. He wore John 3:16 for the BCS National Championship game in January 2009, and the verse was the most-searched item on Google the next morning.

    But there won’t be any more eye black messages on Saturdays now, either, because the NCAA’s Playing Rules Oversight Panel voted on Thursday to prohibit words, numbers, logos or symbols on eye black. It will take effect in the 2010 season.

    Naturally, it has been dubbed the Tim Tebow Rule.

    The NCAA, for it’s part, denies that any one student-athlete in particular caused the rule to take effect; however, what we’re left with now is, unfortunately, an upcoming season full of Saturdays where we won’t quite know which players to Google, which ones to Feel, or which ones support dog fighting.  It’s quite unfortunate if I must say so myself.

    So, TGR folks, my question to you is this: If your tailgate association allowed you to wear a message on your eye black, what kind of message would you send?

    “Beer Please”?  “Win City”?  “Buffet Monster”?

    Let’s hear who you would rep in the comments.

    Jul 15

    Summer School Session #9: The Expanded NCAA Tournament

    Posted by: Samuel Clemens at 12:26 pm | Leave a Comment (1)
    Category: Basketball

    Image courtesy of media.al.com

    Earlier this week, the NCAA announced the new format for its freshly expanded 68 team Men’s Basketball Tournament.  Our main man R.F. touched on it briefly a few days ago, but I thought that the subject deserved a little more love.  I mean, there’s no greater 3 week spectacle in American sports than the NCAA Tournament, is there?  Not in my mind, there isn’t.

    For the majority of my life, I had the pleasure of witnessing a 64 team NCAA Tournament format, and, with all due respect to numbers both higher and lower, there couldn’t be a more perfect number for the Big Dance.  Now, you could certainly argue that, with a 64 team tournament, some deserving teams are left out. You could also argue that with 64, there are a few teams who make the field and are actually undeserving of being there.  But, from a formatting standpoint, you can’t argue that 64 isn’t an ideal number of teams.

    No matter where you begin the tournament, the outlook is simple.  Win 6 games and you’re a National Champion.

    Unfortunately, 64 went to 65 in 2001 and the perfect bracket went by the wayside – likely never to be seen again in Division I Men’s Basketball.  With the announcement earlier this spring that there will be an addition of 3 more at large teams to the field beginning in 2011, we’re now going to see four “play-in” games prior to the beginning of the traditional first round games during the first Thursday of the Tournament.

    The NCAA has dubbed this new format as the “First Four,” which, in my opinion, is a fairly catchy name to an otherwise mediocre idea.  Under the new format, the four lowest ranked at large teams in the field will face off against one another for the opportunity to earn the right to a 10-12 seed (where they will then face a 5-7 seed in the traditional first round), and the four lowest ranked automatic qualifiers will face one another for the right to earn two of the tournament’s 16 seeds (where they will then serve as sacrificial lambs to two of the tournament’s 1 seeds).

    After months of debating, it seems as though the Men’s Basketball Committee at the NCAA has settled upon the ultimate compromise with regard to their newest format.  Many thought that they would simply throw the eight lowest ranked automatic qualifiers to the wolves, effectively creating three additional “play-in” games like the one we saw last year between Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Winthrop (I think those were the two teams?).  Others felt that the need for higher television rankings would encourage the NCAA to force the eight lowest ranked at large teams to play against one another in these “First Four” matchups – effectively creating 4 made for TV games involving power conference schools (wherein last year’s tournament could have likely seen a Mississippi State – Virgina Tech matchup under the new format).

    Personally, I think that the new format is fair to everyone.  It doesn’t favor the little guys, nor does it favor the power conferences.  Sure, it’s going to be more confusing than Travis Henry’s house on Father’s Day, but, honestly, that’s not my problem.  If the powers to be want to make things more difficult than they should be, I say go right ahead.  So long as I’m not the one who has to figure out all of the logistics, I’m fine with just about anything.  The perfect bracket has been gone for a decade now, and besides, we all knew that expansion was going to come around again eventually.  And, you know what?  It’s going to come again sometime in the future, as well.  Just look at all of the times throughout its history that the tournament has added more teams.  In the end, there’s really no sense in getting attached to any particular format, no matter how catchy it’s name might be.

    But, just because I think it’s fair, and Gary Parrish is fine with it, and Joe Lunardi approves of it – well, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right thing to do.  For every positive reaction to the decision, there’s an Andy Glockner who is disappointed about it or a John Gasaway who sees problems forthcoming with regard to the setup of the games.

    So with that I ask you, TGR readers, how would the hoodlums at your favorite tailgate gathering choose to set up the new 68 team NCAA Basketball Tournament?  Throw some meat on the grill, grab yourself a cold snack, and stop by comments section for a few minutes to discuss.

    Jul 8

    Summer School Session #8: The Importance of the Louisville Game

    Posted by: Samuel Clemens at 11:57 am | Leave a Comment (6)
    Category: Football

    Image courtesy of cardinalempire.com

    To the majority of residents of the state of Kentucky, there is likely no more exciting September afternoon than the day when Kentucky and Louisville get together for their annual gridiron clash.  The buildup for the rivalry game is felt throughout the entire spring and summer, and for a place that is so often dubbed as a “basketball state,” the Battle for the Governor’s Cup sure does manage to light a fire under both fanbases that would be hard to find even in the most football obsessed regions of the country.

    This year’s tilt is no different from any other season.  The anticipation is being met with hints of uncertainty on both sides, and there’s little doubt that Kentuckians have once again placed a special emphasis on the game.  And with a new head coaches on each sideline and a newly renovated home stadium for the host team, the first game of the season is once again being built up as a make-or-break game for both programs.

    It’s standard for Kentuckians both wearing blue and wearing red to view the annual rivalry game as a barometer for the entire season.  The standard thought process is fairly simple.  Win the UK-UofL game, and you’re going to have a good year.  Lose the UK-UofL game, and your season is doomed for failure.

    But, is it really that simple?  Or is the outcome of the rivalry game be a bit misleading?

    (For the sake of the argument, we’re going to look only at the modern series to answer that question.  While UK leads the overall series with UofL by a count of 13 to 9, Louisville holds a lead in the modern series by a margin of 9 to 7.  For those of you keeping score at home, Kentucky won all six of the contests between the two schools between 1912 and 1924 – and did so by a combined score of 210-0).

    After a little bit of research and a few simple mathematical equations, I was able to discover the following:

    In the 16 years since the modern rivalry was renewed, Kentucky has come away with 7 wins.  In two of those seasons (1994 and 1997), the Cats still had a losing season.  The other five times that the football Cats were victorious against the Cards, they went on to post a winning record for the year (1998, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2009).  Thus, if we can use recent history as a way to predict future results, that means:

    • A Kentucky win vs. Louisville = 71% chance of a winning record for UK at season’s end.

    Obviously, Kentucky has lost the other nine meetings with Louisville since the rivalry was renewed in 1994.  In seven of those years, the Cats have finished the year with a losing record (1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2005).  During the other two seasons in which they lost to Louisville, the Cats posted one winning record at season’s end (2006) and one .500 record (1999).  Thus:

    • A Kentucky loss vs. Louisville = 78% chance of a losing record for UK at season’s end.

    So, things look pretty cut and dry for Kentucky.  Beat Louisville, have a good season.  Lose to Louisville, have a bad season.

    However, the flip side of the equation is the effect that the game has on the rest of the season for Cards.

    In seasons where Louisville has won the game against Kentucky, they have posted eight winning records against just one losing record.  Meaning that:

    • A Louisville victory against Kentucky = 89% chance of a winning record for Louisville at season’s end.

    Yet, in seasons where Louisville has lost the rivalry game to Kentucky, they have posted just four losing records, offset by 3 winning records.  Thus:

    • A Louisville loss against Kentucky = 57% chance of a losing record for Louisville at season’s end.

    I was once told that statistics can be shaped to say whatever you want them to say.  In this case, however, I set out with an initial thought in mind, only to see the statistics show me something that I didn’t necessarily want to see.  For, when looking at the results of the modern UK-UofL series, a few things jump off the page – the most notable of which is the strong correlation between a Louisville victory over Kentucky and the Cards subsequently using that victory as a springboard to a successful season.  On the other hand, a Louisville loss to UK does not necessarily spell doom for the rest of the season for the Cards, as they have managed to still eek out a winning record in nearly half of the seasons in which they have lost to the Cats.

    Simply put, the statistics show that the rivalry game is far more likely to have a positive effect (following a win) and far less likely to have a negative effect (following a loss) on the remainder of the season for Louisville than it does for Kentucky.

    Does this mean that the game means more to the Cats than to the Cards?  Does it mean that UofL has less pressure to win than UK?  Or is it simply a set of data that could be viewed in an entirely different manner if broken down a different way?

    You tell me.