Friday, May 6, 2016

The latest rumours on college football realignment (circa 5/6/2016)

I am going to run through this fairly quickly.  I am pulling from Big Ten (Bluevod), Big 12 (MHver3), Dennis Dodds, and a few other sources and pulling what seems reasonable into a shared tapestry.

Let's start at the top of the realignment pecking order.

1) The Big Ten.

The Big Ten has all the money.  Their TV negotiations look to deliver TV payouts in the $40M per school annual range.  (For perspective if we look at the current year's payouts on the escalating scales used for conference TV,  ACC schools are pulling about $16M today and the Big 12 only slightly more).

They are Scrooge McDuck/Richie Rich-rich. 

And they are letting people know.

They would like to pay schools like UT, OU, UNC, Duke, Notre Dame, etc. to be their whores valued conference outlier members to solve the Big Ten's long standing recruiting problem by providing rich new recruiting territories to ruthlessly exploit increase exposure and drive up revenues build a better future together.

Strangely, their targets are somewhat resistant at this point and have actually begun looking at possibilities to save their current conferences. (Very out of character...)

2) The SEC

If the Big Ten is Richie Rich, the SEC is Richie's scheming and envious cousin Reggie.

The SEC hit the gold mine when they landed Texas A&M and they fully realize they are living a charmed existence.  They aren't trying to be #1 in revenue,  they just want to be firmly #2 so you have to talk about the SEC and the Big Ten as a pair.

The SEC would be very content taking Virginia Tech and NC State after the Big Ten guts the ACC or OU and West Virginia if the ACC survives.

Clay Travis recently wrote an article bemoaning the thought that UT might let the Longhorn Network become a Big 12 Network and the Big 12 might expand.  "There's no Profit in it!!!"

As an SEC hater, I read that as, if the Big 12 survives and the ACC survives and the PAC might be propped up by some kind of Big Ten affiliation, then there is no raise for the SEC and eventually the gap between the other 4 conferences will diminish.

Sounds like good news to me.

3) The ACC

A few days ago the ACC is rumored to have gone to ESPN with pitchforks and torches and told them to honor their commitment to create an ACC Network or prepare to get the bejeeezus sued out of you.  One can imagine there may have been more --- a promise not to see ESPN ANY content from any current ACC member.   This would be a heavy threat as ESPN fills a lot of network hours with ACC content.

The rumors coming from a lot of sources is that there was a reversal of position and now rather than ESPN throwing $45 M at the ACC by July 1st for essentially failing to deliver the ACCN, they will instead have a network going/announced by that date.

There is also a marginal rumor that the ACC is looking at adding Temple and UConn.  I have advocated such a move in the past as it would help the northern schools to inject more quality rivals.  This would also cockblock the Big 12 who is apparently quite interested in UConn in order to get a toehold in the New York City DMA.

4) The PAC

There is a lot of chatter that the Big Ten might somehow help the PAC.  It would be totally within character.   Could we see the Big Ten help the PAC negotiate carriage fees?  Could we see Pac content on the Big Ten Network and vice-versa?  Could we see ad dollars moving back and forth based on that content?

This bears watching.   The Pac schools were thrilled with expansion...then they couldn't leverage it.  If the Big Ten helps them leverage it, they become a threat to the Big 12 again and not a potential donor.

5) The Big 12

The latest from MHver3 is that UT and it's two partners... Indentured servants... slaves (Texas Tech and TCU) woke up all enlightened and now all 10 schools suddenly now understand the landscape and in theory are good with expansion.

UT and the Big 12 do not seem far off on LHN to Big 12 Network conversion negotiations (from my read anyway), although UT wants to keep the "LHN" brand in Texas.  OU is fighting this bullshit idea.

MHver3 says the expansion will be all sports Cincinnati and UConn and football-only BYU and UCF.

(It should be noted that no one else is saying this.  Keep in mind our West Virginia leak guys are West Virginia.  Decisions on the Big 12 are made in Texas. As good as their sources may be for West Virginia news, you literally cannot get any farther from the decision makers than that in the Big 12. It's a little like trying to diagnose heart trouble by listening to a toenail.)

Such an expansion seems potentially sensible to OU and UT.  UT and OU get BYU into the conference but don't have to play them in division every year.  The other schools who don't want to mess with BYU's drama or have to schedule around sundays, can dump them easily in the future and do not have to schedule around sundays.

OU, Baylor, and WVU get Cinci in, but again, UT doesn't have to deal with them.

UT and OU get their old Big 12 South back with one notable football only exception ---one biannual recruiting trip to the heart of Florida to play UCF.

I don't like it as laid out...but I cannot deny it does make sense given the sensibilities of those involved.

Update: Well.... That didn't take long to change, illustrating my #1 rule rule of realignment --- it doesn't matter who was the odds on favorite to get in or for how long, expansion decisions are made in favor of whatever school has the required support the moment a conference decides it absolutely has to expand.

Some may ask what is the point of realignment writing if what you write is often not what ultimately occurs.  I would turn that around to get you your answer and ask why readers read realignment articles?  I think we all want to understand the process in advance.   The point is to deconstruct the thought processes at work at member schools, so in some ways the prediction itself is not nearly as important as understanding the logic underneath it.

So our other West Virginia leak guy (Chis Lambert) has pronounced the Big 12's kumbaya moment is over and expansion is again dead for now.

He advises UT and sons are again firmly against expansion meaning that the Big 12 again cannot get the 75% of the league's votes for expansion.

He advised that in spite of that the league is laying the groundwork for expansion by selecting teams.  He more or less confirmed MHver3's reported list of 4 candidates was accurate, but advises that list was so yesterday...Today the list of preferred candidates is BYU, CSU, Cinci, and UConn, but that UT has no desire to vote for them...

more to come....

What the 2015 NCAA football attendence numbers are really saying

Attendance is shorthand for fan support.  So let's listen to what this year's attendance told us.

In General, the NCAA is not very timely about putting their annual attendance numbers with previous years.  Luckily I was able to find a more reliable source ---- "TexasJeremy" from the scout forums for this data (Yeah NCAA, That was a dig!)

Let's start with the conferences sorted by attendance.

(Power 5 conferences)

1. SEC - 78,284
2. Big Ten - 65,998
3. Big 12 - 57,405
4. Pac 12 - 51,333
5. ACC - 48,329
(Group of 5 conferences)
6. AAC - 31,870
7. MWC - 23,744
8. CUSA - 19,825
9. Sun Belt - 17,424
10. MAC - 15,357

I have bolded the "attendance powers" ---schools that draw upwards of 70,000 a game and greyed schools in that very solid 60,000 -70,000 range.

Now a lot of this data is somewhat misleading, but that becomes clear when you start to crunch it a bit.

What isn't misleading is that the SEC destroys all other conferences when you look at attendance.  This is why despite owning a series of incredibly poor states, they can leverage those populations so well with their network. (well... having Texas and Florida helps too, :p)

The only school not in those two tiers is Vanderbilt, the conferences's token private school, whose presence allows the SEC to hide their books.

SEC3. Texas A&M (7) - 103,622
4. Alabama (7) - 101,112
5. Tennessee (7) - 100,584
7. LSU (7) - 93,441
8. Georgia (7) - 92,746
9. Florida (7) - 90,065
12. Auburn (7) - 87,451
16. South Carolina (6) - 78,822

21. Arkansas (7) - 67,326
23. Missouri (6) - 65,120
26. Mississippi State (7) - 61,784
27. Kentucky (8) - 61,295
29. Mississippi (7) - 60,479

66. Vanderbilt (6) - 32,134

The Big 10 has 6 attendance powers (including #1 and #2..) driving their network, plus wealthier states. While the bottom half of their conference is nothing to write home about in attendance terms, the academic associations work for the conference.

Just a very solid conference by today's standards.


1. Michigan (7) - 110,168
2. Ohio State (7) - 107,244
6. Penn State (7) - 99,799
11. Nebraska (7) - 89,998
17. Wisconsin (7) - 78,014
19. Michigan State (7) - 74,661

24. Iowa (7) - 63,142
39. Minnesota (7) - 52,355
47. Rutgers (7) - 47,723
52. Maryland (7) - 44,341
53. Indiana (7) - 44,314
58. Illinois (7) - 41,342
60. Purdue (7) - 37,508
65. Northwestern (7) - 33,366

And now things start to fall apart.  If you notice, the Big 12 has two attendance powers,  the PAC-12 has one and two 60K schools (with Oregon just short of that each year), and the ACC has two with a 60K school.  It becomes pretty clear why each of the three conferences would like to steal the other's attendance power schools.  Add UT and OU to either the ACC or the PAC and the cavernous difference between them and the Big Ten diminishes overnight.

But let's take a look at the conferences individually.

Let's be clear, the Big 12 is both a better attendance conference than it showed last year and by the same token it isn't.

On the one hand Kansas was historically bad after a series of coaching changes robbed the roster of all talent. When they are good, they draw 50,000.  When they are mediocre (I mean when they are normal Kansas) they draw in the 40's.  Last year was an aberration.   They have a quality coach now and the talent should be better this year. If they compete a little better they should hit attendance in the 30's this season.

Likewise UT is finally climbing out of the talent hole Mack Brown left them.  UT's fans are generally spoiled.  They certainly had soft attendance to watch an overmatched team.  The worm will turn for them as well this year.  While they drew in the mid 90's for Tech and mid-80's for most of the out of state Big 12 conference, this year they should see 5000-8000 more fans just due to a much improved offensive scheme and more talent.  I would not be surprised to see UT pulling 100K for good games and 95K for bad.

So just off that  The Big 12 is probably going to be averaging 58-59K this season.  But that is the good news.  The bad is that the rest of the conference cannot bring it.

When you look at how Iowa State (of all places) has ramped up their game, one wonders why schools like West Virginia, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech cannot evolve into 60,000+ draws, but it just seems unlikely.  WVU is isolated so the schedule won't help unless they can aggressively schedule big 10 powers in non-conference.  Oklahoma State probably just needs to focus on pulling a few more of their fans in.  Certainly playing schools like Arkansas, Louisiana Tech, and Missouri would help.  Texas Tech is really hurt by playing schools out of division.  They would be smart to be whispering in UT's ear to just tolerate 12 and cut in conference play to 7 games.

The rest of the conference is fairly mediocre from an attendance perspective. And they are also a mixed bag in terms of esteem, with four of the lowest ranked academic schools in the P5 ranks in Texas Tech, West Virginia, Kanas State, and OSU.

This is the elephant in the room for UT and OU.  This is why while both acknowledge it is their best regional home, neither is ready to commit to it beyond 2025.  This is why they both look at BYU as a good expansion candidate.  This is why one can totally imagine UT and OU walking out one day soon.

BIG 12
10. Texas (6) - 90,035
13. Oklahoma (6) - 85,357

31. Oklahoma State (7) - 57,668
34. Iowa State (6) - 56,519
35. Texas Tech (6) - 56,340
36. West Virginia (7) - 54,826
37. Kansas State (7) - 53,100
49. TCU (6) - 46,767
51. Baylor (6) - 46,160
77. Kansas (7) - 27,282

The PAC is a victim of existing in the nice part of the US. 

Why watch football when you can go climbing or skiing or surfing?  Call them the anti-SEC.

USC and UCLA's attendance moves like the waves from year to year.  Last year was really kind of an off year for both, but when UCLA is on they are both attendance powers.

If the PAC ever did what they really need to and cut their deadweight, they would be a much stronger position.  If they just trimmed Washington State and Oregon State, their attendance would have been a much healthier 55K last year.

Washington has been mediocre since the Don James era, but if two PAC recruiting competitors vanished from their backyard, the winning that fueled their attendance would return.  Likewise Oregon would see a bump.  Overnight, both could climb into the mid to high 60's annually.

Noobs Utah and Colorado are underperforming for no reason.

50,000 was a normal number for Colorado a few years ago.  The Buffaloes need to get better on the field, but maybe more than that, they need to take advantage of nearby opponents.   filling the schedule with games against CSU, BYU, Air Force, UNM, and old Big 12 rivals KSU, OU, and Nebraska would help fan interest.

40-45k is the norm for Utah, but really that is stadium capped.  They need to be expanding Rice-Eccles Stadium in two steps to about 65k.   Salt Lake City is an awesome sized city for a collegiate program and they are the only game in town.   I think they can fill 55K easily and with work could move into that 60K range.  I think if they drag their feet too much on this, they could get into some conference realignment trouble.

PAC 12
18. Southern Cal (7) - 75,358
22. UCLA (6) - 66,858
25. Washington (7) - 61,919
32. Oregon (7) - 57,631
38. Arizona State (7) - 52,712
40. Arizona (6) - 51,393
42. Stanford (7) - 49,917
45. California (6) - 48,800
50. Utah (7) - 46,533
59. Colorado (6) - 39,389
62. Oregon State (6) - 36,079
72. Washington State (6) - 29,407

The ACC has much better bones than the numbers suggest.

FSU and Va Tech underperformed a little.  Louisville could easily expand their stadium and be pulling 55K.  As I covered in the last article on the conference specifically, if Miami built a 65,000 seat stadium within 7 miles of campus, they would likely mostly fill it.  They are a slumbering giant.

Really the ACC looks like a poor conference because of the influence of ESPN over the years.   If you eliminate the schools ESPN encouraged (or at least rubber stamped) the ACC adding for a future ACC network, the picture is quite a bit different.

I recently advocated converting Duke and Wake Forest to Olympic-only members, dropping Boston College, Syracuse, and Louisville along with adding Temple to create an easier product to create a network around.  That would have the ACC at just under 56K per school --- and that is without fixing Miami's stadium issues.

14. Clemson (7) - 81,751
20. Florida State (7) - 73,219

28. Virginia Tech (6) - 60,824
33. NC State (6) - 56,988
41. Georgia Tech (7) - 50,707
43. North Carolina (7) - 49,643
44. Louisville (6) - 49,069
46. Pittsburgh (6) - 48,150
48. Miami (6) - 47,561
56. Virginia (7) - 43,285
67. Syracuse (7) - 32,102
70. Boston College (7) - 30,205
78. Wake Forest (6) - 26,674
80. Duke (6) - 26,427

When you look at the AAC totals, it is pretty clear the AAC needs to shit or get off the pot.

What I mean by this is that right now the AAC is oatmeal.  It isn't bad, but it's pretty forgettable.

They either need to leverage their recent football and basketball success and expand, or the eastern schools need to seriously consider breaking away.

The whole idea of this wide of a geographical footprint was to capture multiple time zones and leverage that into a nice media payday.  Boise State fucked up the first attempt and the AAC schools stopped grinding and accepted a crappy payout.

There are two ways you can fix that.  You can either make another expansion attempt to leverage in more markets and more good draw schools, or you can regionalize and quickly transform your conference into a better Mountain West-level conference but one with good lucrative markets to leverage against.

To me the fulcrum is Texas.   Either you do Texas right and maybe even grab schools like UNM, Air Force, and CSU, or you cut your ties with south central and become a Memphis -eastward new Big East-type conference.

The trouble with a sprawl is that you don't get travelling fans and you lose the chance for program building rivalries.

So which will it be?  A mega-sprawl conference like the old Conference USA?  Or a more regional thing?  This in-between business isn't cutting it.

UConn, USF, and UCF were off last year.  While geography is hurting them, there is no question they will be better in future years.  I could see all three of them in the high 30's again soon.

The south central schools outside of Memphis...I don't know how much you can say that.

If Houston, SMU, Tulane, and Tulsa were not in the conference, the conference would have averaged just under 37K...and that isn't calculating for the off years of UConn, USF, and UCF or the detrimental affect of out of division play on attendance on a conference of this size.

That is certainly something to think about.

Right now the attendance gap between the AAC schools and the MWC schools is about 8K.  That's a pretty big gap.  But shed those schools and that gap is immediately almost twice that!!!

Should the conference want to then consider re-expansion to 12 for divisional play with eastern additions (JMU, Ohio, Buffalo, Old Dominion, UMass, etc.), they certainly could and would still be in a better position than today in media terms.

 If you want to differentiate, that is one way to do it.

On the flip side, there is straight expansion.  If the conference went all in on Texas and the Southwest, it would be a game changer.

Right now part of the reason the AAC struggles is that they have a token presence in Texas.   They are former CUSA v.2 schools and have built a conference that emulates that fairly forgettable conference.  They are going with the same "just enough" thinking.

Thinking bigger would pay off.    Rather than have a token presence in Texas, dominate the region at the G5 level.  Grab all the public regional giants in Texas.  Maybe SMU will block UNT, but adding UTSA, Texas State, and UTEP, would give you access to almost all major markets in Texas and bring in schools that can draw at home and away in state.

That is state-wide media influence.

With those schools in, the AAC would have a lot of appeal to the MWC's eastern schools.  I could totally see UNM, CSU, and Air Force jumping ship for better TV money and Texas recruiting, giving the conference the two military academies they really need to drive TV revenue to high levels in a "national" conference.

Two nine team divisions.  One focused on Texas.

That also would differentiate the AAC from the rest of the G5 by taking Texas recruiting and TV off the table for other conferences.

But like they say in the song "closing time", "You...can'"

54. Temple (6) - 44,159
55. Memphis (6) - 43,802
57. East Carolina (6) - 43,274
61. Cincinnati (6) - 37,096
63. Houston (8) - 33,980
68. Navy (6) - 31,669
71. Central Florida (6) - 30,065
76. Connecticut (6) - 28,224
79. South Florida (6) - 26,578
88. Tulane (6) - 22,930
95. SMU (7) - 21,043
100. Tulsa (6) - 19,622

The MWC is a dinosaur.  It's an old school regional conference with limited TV appeal.  While I like some of the schools, I don't think much of their commissioner or their conference.

They are too oddly comfortable. If they ever get raided, it will probably help them to evolve into a better conference.

They member schools have added and then abandoned Texas schools in several conferences so they've kind of fucked themselves in terms of adding rich Texas TV markets.

I don't understand why the conference isn't offering New Mexico State or Wichita State an Olympic-only membership.  That hits me as dumb given Hawaii is a football-only member.   Adding another tourney level program to the conference will probably increase the conference's at-large bids by one.   But like I said, it isn't a conference whose decisions I respect much.

64. Boise State (6) - 33,612
73. San Diego State (7) - 29,066
74. Fresno State (6) - 29,036
82. Air Force (6) - 26,026
83. Colorado State (6) - 24,917
84. Hawaii (7) - 23,433
89. New Mexico (7) - 22,562
90. Nevada (6) - 22,170
93. Utah State (6) - 21,362
104. UNLV (6) - 19,371
109. Wyoming (6) - 18,060
118. San Jose State (6) - 15,312

CUSA has a fair bit of internal pressures. 

They have too big of a footprint to have as many out of Division games (ie. bad draws) as they have. I think that is a conference that is screaming for expansion to fix that problem.  

Adding say one of the Georgia Sunbelt schools and Texas State would make a world of sense in almost every way.

75. Southern Miss (6) - 28,335
81. Marshall (6) - 26,322
85. UTEP (5) - 23,212
86. UTSA (6) - 23,008
96. Louisiana Tech (6) - 20,977
99. Old Dominion (7) - 20,118
105. Rice (6) - 19,339
110. Western Kentucky (6) - 17,960
111. Florida Atlantic (6) - 17,617
113. Middle Tennessee (6) - 17,210
117. Florida International (5) - 15,381
119. Charlotte (6) - 14,618
121. North Texas (5) - 13,631

The Sunbelt is a better conference under Karl Benson.  They just suck at basketball. 

I think they made a great decision to cut ties with Idaho, but as I have written previously would be very smart to reconsider New Mexico State for a basketball bump. 

They are leaving money (potentially a lot of it in the current market) on the table and stunting the conference's development by being short-sighted.

87. Arkansas State (6) - 23,007
91. Louisiana-Lafayette (6) - 21,596
92. Appalachian State (6) - 21,459
98. Georgia Southern (6) - 20,780
103. Troy (5) - 19,399
107. Texas State (6) - 18,166
112. New Mexico State (5) - 17,486
114. South Alabama (6) - 16,039
123. Louisiana-Monroe (5) - 11,732
124. Idaho (6) - 11,653
126. Georgia State (6) - 10,347

I've written about this at length before.  The MAC is killing the perception of that conference by allowing EMU to remain. 

Any analysis of honestly reported attendance over the last 30 years would show that. They need to man up and kick them out.  Maybe then they can make another overture to UMass as an all-sports member.  Tough living as an indy these days....

94. Ohio (6) - 21,323
97. Toledo (6) - 20,842
101. Bowling Green (5) - 19,608
102. Western Michigan (6) - 19,441
106. Buffalo (6) - 18,457
108. Akron (6) - 18,098
115. Miami (OH) (6) - 15,707
116. Central Michigan (6) - 15,672
120. Northern Illinois (6) - 13,942
122. Kent State (6) - 12,561
125. Massachusetts (6) - 11,124
127. Ball State (6) - 7,974
128. Eastern Michigan (6) - 4,897

ND and Army are fine.

BYU had built up to 3 years of attendance at 64,000 from 2007-2009.   Independence is bleeding them out.

Recruiting has fallen off. 

Their coach left as the situation is untenable.

Their attendance has been down about 7000 the last 3 years and I suspect the number this year is going to be 53,000. 

If Utah gets their stadium expanded anytime soon, BYU may find themselves #2 in the state in attendance.

BYU needs to actively curry any offer they can to get their football program into the Big 12, before the Cougars do lasting damage to their program.

15. Notre Dame (6) - 80,795
30. BYU (6) - 58,532
69. Army (6) - 30,991

Friday, April 29, 2016

How I would save the ACC (...This time, LOL!)

(Updated 5/3/2016 with Miami section) In my past life as Bleacher Report's (only?) dedicated college athletics realignment writer, I wrote a couple of plans to save the ACC from the capricious nature of ESPN.  The ACC is still kicking, and given what actually occurred, I like to think some of the ideas I have injected into the minds of folks in that region may have played a small role. ( might be a totally delusional thought.)

I am inclined to write another because I feel like the eight remaining pre-2000 ACC schools are getting screwed.

To my way of thinking, the ACC always had a bad hand in the era of conference networks because some of their tier 3 rights were sold to ESPN as part of their primary TV deal.  Their commissioner has never been able to negotiate his way out of that problem.

Unlike other conferences, whose members largely owned their own tier 3 rights or could reacquire them relatively easily, this situation complicated the process for the ACC and left them too open to the influence of ESPN.

Every raid the ACC has initiated has appeared to have occurred with ESPN whispering in their ears, "Oh, this is going to work out great for you guys...."  ...and it never does.

I hate that kind of crap.

The latest talk floating out there is that ESPN has reneged on their rumored commitment to the ACC and will not be helping them launch an ACC Network after all.

It appears after all that whispering, ESPN is quite content to see the ACC cut up into steaks.

If the ACC Grant of Rights deals fall apart, the presumption allegedly held by ESPN is that the Big Ten will take the AAU heart of the ACC --- UNC, Duke, Georgia Tech, and Virginia, The SEC will take two -- VA Tech and NC State, and the Big 12 will take what remains of value for a p5 conference.

And just like that, the conference of the VA, NC, SC region would be gone.

It seems so wrong to allow the mistakes of a commissioner to allow a network to rip the conference apart.


My best effort solution to save the ACC.

The plan needs to be envisioned in two steps. 

1) To find their core assets and leverage them in an optimal fashion.

2) To plan for an eventual transition to a Mega conference as the Big Ten and SEC seem likely to do down the road.

If the conference core wants to stay together...and I think they do, I think you need to start by attacking what everyone thinks is the weakest link in ESPN's ownership of the ACC --- Florida State's commitment to the ACC Grant of Rights deal.

Florida State's Board of Directors were pushing to leave the ACC for the Big 12 against the wishes of the academics in Tallahassee.  The academics were able to succeed in part because (allegedly) ESPN told FSU's regents ESPN would help deliver an ACC Network in short order.

That is the alleged version.  This version does seem to explain how FSU went from strongly flirting with the  Big 12 to being a content ACC member again overnight.

If this did occur and ESPN reneged on the deal, FSU would seem to have a strong case to break their GOR deal with the ACC.

If FSU was out would everyone else in the ACC have signed their GOR deals?

I think the whole thing might come down like a house of cards.  I would have the lawyers look at this scenario.  If the lawyers sign off, we go to step 2.

FSU rips apart the ACC before the Big Ten can

Let's say FSU announces they will be leaving the ACC in 2018 for another conference. What happens then?   I think everyone else in the ACC challenges the ACC GOR deal.

Lets say upon leaving FSU says they want to start their own conference. And they invite UNC, NC State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Miami, Georgia Tech, Pitt and Temple to join them as all- sports members with Duke and Wake Forest invited as Olympic-only members.

NEW ACC Starting point
Football (10)
Florida State
Georgia Tech
North Carolina
North Carolina St.
Virginia Tech

Olympic-only members (+2)
Wake Forest

Why would Duke and UNC accept this?  Most of the current ACC privates struggle with cost of attendance rules that are the norm in the P5 ranks now because they draw fans to football games at G5 levels, putting them at a pronounced revenue disadvantage meeting the Cost of Attendence rules. 

Duke and Wake Forest would both to stay in the conference as Olympic-only members but would skirt the COA rules in football and other sports if they chose. 

These membership exceptions would keep Duke, UNC, NC State, and Virginia happy. 

With that lesser burden, the North Carolina private duo could afford a lesser conference dispersal.   In general, the standard dispersal for Olympic-only members in a football conference has been football-only members get 67% of a TV share and Olympic members get a 33% share. 

Bump those Olympic-only shares to 50% for the NC private duo's valuable basketball brands and do something to protect their valued affiliations --- let's say every ACC football member signs a 100 year commitment to play home and home basketball with Duke and Wake Forest during the conference play part of the season and UNC, NC State, and Virginia play them in football in the pre-conference part of the schedule for the next 100 years --- and I am sure both schools' administrators would be OK with the deal... even if the fans were angry. 

With little coercion, the AAC or CUSA might be inclined to take the duo's football teams in --- the Sun Belt surely would, and frankly that is not a bad footprint/level of play for them at all.  They could be football powers in any of those conferences from day 1.  Any G5 conference would be fine. 

That would allow Duke and Wake to please their academics by "playing it straight" with recruiting and recruiting brainy, less developed recruits that UNC and NC state might pass on.  Duke and WF get off the "look the other way in recruiting" bus and UNC and NC State inherit a bigger pool of local P5-level recruits with good grades.  Every ACC school in North Carolina wins.

The TV fallout

TV deals are with conferences.  ESPN's current ACC TV deal that holds all the ACC's first, second, and most of their 3rd tier rights vanishes for the nine schools when they leave the conference.  

With those 8 football members coming with FSU, they also would take the ACC's automatic basketball bid for the NCAA tourney. (The remaining schools could petition to rebuild and likely get a bid too.  Or they could just join the AAC and try to renegotiate that TV deal.  Lots of factors figure in.)

I would try to encourage the left behind schools to go to the AAC and quietly take what terms the ACC schools chose to leave them.  I would make it very clear that to make the ACC work, the old ACC has to be disbanded and several member schools will be left behind until the conference network has been established and operating for at least 4-6 years. 

Money grabs during this process will not be tolerated.  Those are the terms if the excluded schools want to be considered for ACC membership down the road.

I would not be opposed to having the 10 schools joining FSU vote the conference out of existence if needed to avoid a power struggle for earned revenues like NCAA tourney credits.

I would, however, strongly advocate offering the left behind schools some tourney money in excess of what they earned individually to makeup for what they lost leaving the Big East as a "no hard feelings" gesture.

I want those left behind schools in the AAC with no entrance fees.  I would lean on the AAC on this point. 

I would also want Ohio, Buffalo, and UMASS in the AAC with them.  I would offer AAC commissioner Mike Aresco some very lucrative scheduling alliances and other cash benefits if the conference took a Northeastern turn in that manner. 

"You add them, we help you."

The AAC will be the new ACC's feeder league, protected and propped up by the ACC.  They would negotiate in tandem with the ACC and benefit from scheduling alliances.

I basically want to end up with two tightly aligned conferences with clusters of schools.  That will be important in the coming years.

Clustering...My secret to saving the ACC.

The very thing that kills the ACC today could save it.

The ACC's biggest problem is that they have 4 team in North Carolina and 2 in Virginia.  It just doesn't work in the current TV environment.  You can't have 6 FBS schools being fed by 18 M people.  Everything the ACC has done in expansion has been to try to fix this imbalance.

It isn't fixable and it will be even more damaging in the "ala carte" TV era.

It distorts everything the ACC tries to do.  You look at the ACC and they have 1 school per state for the most part. 


In part, because that is the mentality of network building.  You expand with one school per state looking to pile up carriage fees in large population states.

But there is more to it with the ACC.  More than any other conference the ACC is reliant upon this methodology because of the NC/VA cluster. 

The ACC has a regional distortion with this philosophy.  All the P5 level schools nearby are in the SEC or Big Ten and the schools the ACC added don't begin to dominate fandom in their states, so they project to be hard to leverage into a lucrative network carriage fee payout. 

Everything was built with the idea ESPN would help gloss that over, pushing down on the scales for the ACC to help them build a network.  The ACC took chances in expansion because ESPN told them it would allow the conference to overcome it's internal makeup (clustering) problem.

You can see this cluster's negative affect the conference in other areas too. 

Why are the North Carolina schools often quite bad in football in spite of having a lot of talent in the area?  Because you have 4 very good academic schools recruiting the area, chasing the same semi-brainy athlete. (East Carolina, on the other hand, can just grab the state's knuckledraggers and do quite well.)

This is why UNC obnoxiously broke the rules under Butch Davis.  That kind of scenario is likely to occur again at the Carolina publics for that reason.

There is no sense in it. 

Not when you can turn the ACC's clusters to their advantage.

The two things clustering has done well for the ACC is give it undisputed ownership of North Carolina (pop. 10M) and Virginia (8M), as well as 35-60% of the state fan support in Florida (20M), Georgia (10M), and South Carolina (5M) and a strong sense of identity in those regions.

That is the core of the ACC.  Everything else membership-wise is superfluous. As long as they don't lose those schools the ACC will own that notable share of that region.

That feature of the ACC is also why I advocate keeping Pitt, shaving off the rest of the ACC, and adding Temple. 

Penn State may give the Big Ten over half of Pennsylvania viewers, but I am willing to guess that Pitt and Temple combined would give the new ACC about 45% of that stat's fans.  It is a large state (13M), and pretty much right next door to open the door for rivalries and travelling fans.

It mirrors what the ACC core has (good in state support, strong basketball, ok football) and it is not a stretch to imagine both schools developing healthy football rivalries with the NC and Virginia schools.  (Temple in particular would likely recruit New Jersey and Maryland quite well in this kind of ACC.)

That amount of penetration in your included states is a potent stick for starting a conference network.  How is a cable company going to deny that the ACC would not merit carriage fees in any of those states?

Negotiating carriage fees is by all accounts a total bitch, but I suspect this ACC would make it a lot easier.

Lets talk about Tier 1 rights for a second

What would a network offer those schools for their tier 1 TV rights?  I have to think the value would be in line with what ESPN is currently paying or maybe higher.

Frankly I think in this scenario, ESPN would still be the highest bidder for their tier I rights anyway.   ESPN needs that ACC first and some of their second tier content to fill their schedule.  It's cheap P5 content.

Bidding for and securing that content again works out for ESPN.  Plus probably a lot of people at ESPN legitimately feel bad for not honoring the alleged ACC deal, but they are under pressure from Disney to cut costs, so the idea of putting in a fair to generous bid in this scenario is likely acceptable.

It is the environment.  I don't believe it is personal on ESPN's part, so should ACC content suddenly vanish from ESPN's inventory, I'd have to think they would willing to sign another deal to recover it.

Now it can get confusing looking at what each conferences get paid.  The average over the length of the contract for the ACC was $17M per team.  Now that is a back loaded deal.  Forbes showed them at the tail end of the P5 ranks in 2014-15 at what looks like about $14 M per school (with the Big Ten at about $24M).  Regardless of the actual numbers, that will be the approximate relationship between the conferences today... with it looking to get worse in the future.

Lets say ESPN pays the ACC $16M per team today for this season...that means they are paying the 14 full members $224M.  So maybe that number is $2M higher due to the presence of Notre Dame.  Let's drop that $14M per.  

ESPN loves the high profile tier 1 content --- Miami/FSU, UNC/NC State, FSU/Clemson, FSU/GT, Virginia/Va Tech games --- but the ACC tier 2 and 3 games suck. 

No one wants to watch or buy ads on a Louisville/BC, Miami/Pitt, Duke/Louisville stinkers.  Even though they don't pay the ACC much, they still end up not as profitable as with their other P5 stuff because those tier 2 & 3 games are essentially G5 quality content for ESPN.

Which makes this kind of a win-win scenario for ESPN to allow.

Lets say ESPN agrees to bump up pay for the AAC to say $7M per school (roughly plus $70M) --- as that conference will be better ---- and to pay a terrific premium for the new ACC's first tier rights ---throwing a number out we'll say $10M a year ($100M).  ESPN is getting most of the same current ACC/AAC content at $170M ---- about a $54M savings.  That should make Disney happy to provide a parachute for the current ACC members.

It is a good PR move for Disney to cut a deal to help this happen.

Now let's look at tier 2 and tier 3 rights

How hard would it be for these schools to start a regional network and negotiate in-state carriage fees in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Florida?

Given that the conference would be delivering the #1 &2 schools in Virginia,  the #2 & #3 schools in Pennsylvania, the #1 & #2 schools in North Carolina, the #1 school (arguably) in South Carolina, the #2 School in Georgia, and the #2 and #3 schools in Florida, I think it might be surprisingly easy to get in-state providers to agree ---especially if everyone knew what lead to this.

Those states total 66M people.   That's quite a lot in carriage fees.  That is slightly less in the footprint than the PAC-12 and a noticeable bit less than the SEC and Big Ten, but the new ACC would have fewer mouths to feed.

What might the net payouts on such an endeavor look like?

The ACC network might strictly be a regional network carried in those 6 states---no other state might give a crap about the ACC Network --- but I have to think this proposed ACC would exceed breakeven @ $16M per school (ie. plus $66M annually in profit from the ACCN) pretty easily by leveraging the ACC tier 2 and tier 3 content vs. a network.

That is a lot of good content in the eyes of the residents of those states.

Obviously they would have startup costs, but I can't see how they would be much worse than the status quo, and the odds are they would be a lot better.  They would only have to make up $6M a year --- much of which would be recovered by playing better football draws than Duke and Wake Forest.

You'd basically be selling the pre-2000 ACC with Maryland replaced by Miami and Temple (Philly) and Pitt offering the state of Pennsylvania.

This shrinking of the footprint would turn your tier 3 games from BC/Duke to Temple/North Carolina.  That's a much better TV offering.  The ad revenue would totally be there to support it.

With fewer mouths and a far superior leveraging mechanism, the New ACC would dramatically exceed their current per team payouts in short order.
Updated: I am working on an attendance article and I saw a glaring oversight in this article that needed to be addressed.

The Miami problem

I am an out of the box thinker, so I am going to touch on something that has been killing the ACC --- the collapse of the Miami Hurricanes from a National power into what can be described as...I dunno..."a greater Boston College" --- and how to fix this problem with an out of the box solution.

When Miami's leadership was essentially played by local politicians and the UM leaders lost the Orange Bowl ---an extremely well suited home for the Hurricanes, the wheels came off the program. (...well as much as possible in that talent hotbed.) 

The Orange Bowl, a mere 7 miles from campus, was an incredible home field advantage for Miami.  The loss of it probably has been costing Miami 15-20% of it's games, transforming Miami from a nationally significant program into just another "meh" school in the ACC.

You don't have to overthink things.  That is really the only significant change from the glory years.  You win 8 games instead of 10-11 and you aren't going to recruit the rest of the state as well.  It's pretty cut and dry.

That shit's got to be fixed if the ACC is going to make it.

Miami's leadership is not looking at the stadium issue with the right focus at all.  The ACC needs to refocus their attention and frankly serve the "U" a solution on a platter...Because these people running the show have proven to be quite dense.

UM's leadership, specifically former President Donna Shalala, has toyed with the idea of sharing a stadium with a professional soccer team based on really crappy logic that UM only needs 44,000 seats.  This would be Shalala's love of soccer (She is a member of the US Soccer federation's board of directors) either intentionally or unintentionally shitting on the UM football program.

UM only needs 44,000 seats if they play games 20+ miles from campus and have no intentions of being a national power.

The ACC cannot afford this kind of stupidity at Miami.  But I digress...

In general, athletic departments can maintain a stagnant budget from year to year, but they do not handle significant drops in revenue well as they have money pre-committed.

My thought is to leverage that reality. Lock in the ACC payouts for 3 years at their current levels.  Once the conference is generating carriage fees, the money will escalate quickly.  Now it probably won't be a huge escalation like the Big Ten and SEC have seen right off the bat, but I think it would be enough where you might see at least a $3M per team average gain over the next 3 years.  (I want to be clear, that to me is a "safe" number---not any kind of accurate projection.  I think if they follow this plan they will do significantly better.)

Now if we have payouts locked at current levels for those 3 years, that amounts to $9 M per school, times 10 schools, equaling $90 M.

I am proposing the ACC make a very public loan to the University of Miami of  $90 Million at an extremely favorable rate for a commitment from UM to match that revenue from school funds and alumni donations over the next 12-18 months to create a $180M budget tasked to at least pay for some of the buyout of their dolphins contract and build a new 60,000 base seat, expandable stadium at the proposed Tropical Park location.

Now this location a mere four miles from campus is considered at best an uphill battle.  This is where a public offer of $90 Million could shift that equation.

This offer would require the City and County government offices of Miami to make a series of concessions for this location to work. The public nature of the offer would spell out what the ACC would want from the city of Miami in return for that $90M loan, putting appropriate pressure on local government.

Why 60,000 and not 44,000?

Look, I get the thinking of 44,000 as Miami's "magic number".  Miami has drawn averages between 46,299 to 53,837 in their time at the Dolphin's new stadium.  A private university would look at that and think, "well if we set the capacity to 44,000, we are effectively ensuring sellouts." 

That is in general fairly sound thinking for pro endeavors.  It is the basis of "soccer-specific stadiums".  You ratchet down capacity and you created the perception of ticket scarcity.  You can ensure sellouts.  You can jacks up the prices as needed. And smaller stadiums are in theory, cheaper to build and maintain.

...And a soccer advocate would think, "...and if we build it small, it can be used for pro soccer!"

This is OK logic if you are Syracuse, TCU, or Baylor.  There are some huge holes in this logic for Miami. 

If you look at the haves and have not's dividing line in the P5 world, attendance averages south of 55,000 really puts a university in the "have not" category.  Locking a stadium in at a sub-60,000 rate in this environment is not a smart idea if your attendance suggests you have a bigger audience.

The ACC needs Miami not only to be a "have", but also to be a power among the haves.

In 2003, when Miami was really rocking in the Orange Bowl, they averaged 58,135.  This is because with the Dolphins 20 miles north of Miami, there is growth potential in this NFL market that most other private schools in NFL markets do not have.

(I would actually prefer a fixed 65,000, with the university putting together annual aggressive ticket marketing, but I don't think they would be up to the task.)

My thinking is that Miami would draw slightly better (say +3000) due to the proximity of campus and their fans at this proposed location than they draw at New Miami Stadium.  I think if you build the right kind of stadium, a normal crowd of ~53,000 can be expected.  But you are going to need a lot more seat for the likes of FSU, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and LSU.  60,000 would be a good number for now, but if I ran the show, the stadium would have sections designed to plunk in 5000 temporary seats at the drop of a hat specifically for matchups with the big in-state rivals.

I think the rivalry games could push up average attendance and have Miami matching that 2003 high point every year.

This is not going to be a stadium with all the bells and whistles at that capacity at that budget...and it doesn't have to be.  It can be very utilitarian.

What it needs to do ---

#1) put the fans right up on the field.

#2) have good sightlines.

#3) be designed to be loud (add something that reflects the noise?  Perhaps partial roofing for rain as they do in the Pacific Northwest ex. Providence Park? and then shape the underside specifically to reflect the noise back at the field.)

#4) I would say it needs to mimic the layout of the Orange Bowl endzone giving fans both a sense of "getting their home back" and to allow fans to be able to affect red zone plays and games with the noise ---what made the orange bowl such a tough place to play.

I don't know if you can accomplish all of these requirements while trying to serve two masters (Pro soccer).  Pro soccer has a wider "pitch" (ie. field), so they will take every opportunity behind closed doors to try to modify the plans so fans seating can be pushed back several yards to allow a wider pitch.  And I think the principles locally (Shalala---if she is still involved-- and local government) could very well bless that. 

That is exactly not what Miami needs. That would give the U basically the same issues they have at the Dolphins' stadium, just now UM would be footing a stadium maintenance bill for a pro soccer team.

If the ACC chooses to try any out of the box plan like this, they really need to spell out the proximity of the fans to the field in the loan offer.  They would be loaning out $90 M to UM to resurrect a TV darling national title contender... Not to be nice.

You need to restore Miami's home field advantage and stature as a true national power for the ACC to be able to weather this storm.


The Irish factor

And there is always Notre Dame....Notre Dame would still like to avoid being the square peg hammered into the Big Ten's round hole.  Notre Dame rightly understands that their ability to own US Catholic viewership (well over 20 Million in the US) is based on their national football schedule.

Notre Dame as a full member of the Big Ten is Northwestern.  It isn't something they want if they can avoid it.

I don't see why the new ACC would not want to continue their current football semi-affiliation and full Olympic membership with Notre Dame.  

Notre Dame could play 4 only football games against the NEW ACC membership each year --- let's say Pitt, Miami, Florida State, and Clemson (or  Georgia Tech or Temple or a random member in years where Clemson is "off") as their ACC "football buy in".

(Making the number only 4 helps Notre Dame retain the schedule that makes them valuable and frankly offsets Notre Dame's loss of a comfortable basketball and Olympic footprint.)

Those are good TV games for Notre Dame and the ACC and prop up the value of both.  No reason to water it down.

This new ACC is a tough Olympic home for Notre Dame today.  I think the ACC would be smart to make it a little more Notre Dame friendly by adding longtime rival Georgetown.  That gives the ACC a little DC reinforcement (short travel and a media shot in the arm) and props up the weaker northern schools with another good rival.

The ACC can partially offset this by leveraging their alliance with the AAC to fill Notre Dame's out of conference Olympic schedule with Northeastern opponents.

(Some might ask if the Big 12 would just add Notre Dame.  IMO Notre Dame appears to covet the academic affiliation with the ACC schools and that conference's willingness to work with the Irish.)

And what about BYU?

Finally...if Notre Dame would allow it...I would seek to offer a limited version of the same football pathway deal to Brigham Young University.   BYU's deal would not offer an Olympic home and would not offer as enticing matchups.  The goal would be to "lasso in" BYU's football attendance numbers to public assessments of the ACC's strength and to add quality saleable content.  Their affiliation could also be used as a chisel on the Big 12.

BYU would play the second tier of ACC schools in football.  They would have annual football games with Virginia, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Temple, and Georgia Tech propping up those schools' strength of schedule and creating good tier 2 content for resale to ESPN.  (BYU would additionally be required to play the 8 highest rated new ACC schools in basketball once each every year.)

Travel to Utah and playing football at that altitude is tough for anyone.  BYU is consistently good enough to pull upsets at home, which is why the games would be valuable TV content (and why no team likely to go undefeated in the ACC should need to go through the BYU away game gauntlet).

BYU has nothing better going on.  Independence is bleeding them out.  They cannot get any traction on a Pac-12 or Big 12 invite and securing the Cougars (with a deal with a painful exit time) ensures the ACC will always have leverage on the Big 12.

The ACC will promise BYU a fealty deal.  If BYU commits to the ACC, the ACC will promise that any central expansion will yield BYU an all sports home.  BYU needs allies more than anything.  They might take that deal if the Big 12 continues to remain characteristically overly cautious and  doesn't immediately add BYU and Louisville upon an old ACC dissolution.

Football (10+ feature TV games with Notre Dame & BYU)
Florida State
Georgia Tech
North Carolina
North Carolina St.
Virginia Tech

Olympic sports (14 in 2 divisions)
South Coast division
Florida State
Georgia Tech
North Carolina

Central Coast Division
North Carolina St.
Wake Forest
Virginia Tech
Notre Dame


Down the road potential as a MEGA CONFERENCE

A popular rumor today is that the ACC and Big 12 might dissolve and merge.

My suspicion is that there are too many moving parts --- too many kingdoms to protect --- for that to work today.

This plan clears the way for a much cleaner path to a merger of the cores of each conference, should the ACC go that way and lucrative options in other directions if they do not pursue Big 12 schools.

The new ACC isn't going to be any worse than the Big 12 or Pac-12 short term and their long term future could be up there with the Big Ten and SEC. 

The New ACC consuming the Big 12

The New ACC could always eat the Big 12 in 2025.  Call it the Atlantic/Central Conference.   The setup for such a situation is pretty clear.

The ACC has a good thing from a conference president's point of view.  They have the academic chops that thrill school presidents.  The Big 12 is very much a mixed bag along those lines, but the Big 12 is not without academic value.

A lean and trim new ACC simply telling UT and OU, "Hey, do not re-up with the Big 12 on the conference Grant of Rights deal and we will take you and fold you in on very favorable/equal partnership terms." might get a deal done.

They could specify "You would need to affiliate with BYU as a full member and Notre Dame as an Olympic member.  And we would prefer you to chose good academic schools...Other than that, this is an opportunity for you to chose --- from scratch ---who you want in your division.  You have x number of slots."

Both UT and OU favor adding BYU (and would love any affiliation with Notre Dame), but the other Big 12 schools are against adding the Mormon prima donna of the Midwest.

You are talking about giving UT and OU both seats on the expansion committee.

I would not be surprised to see several interesting things come out of that kind of offer, like OU making recruiting territory choices, for example (Dallas/Fort Worth protection ---TCU;  Louisianna/Missisippi corridor addition--- Tulane); UT making academic and in-state political choices (AAU's Kansas, Iowa State, plus in-state large, quality academic private Baylor).  I think Texas Tech and Oklahoma State could be on the bubble with Tech squeaking in to keep them out of the SEC and allow UT to keep firm control of state power and OSU not making the cut because they do nothing for UT and would represent a slightly smaller payout for UT.

If there is no extension of the GOR deal, West Virginia would likely be invited to the SEC.  OSU might be too.

I could see....

Football (20+ feature TV games with Notre Dame)
Atlantic Division
Florida State
Georgia Tech
North Carolina
North Carolina St.
Virginia Tech

Central Division
Texas Tech
Iowa State

Olympic sports (24 in 4 divisions)
South Coast division
Florida State
Georgia Tech
North Carolina St.
Wake Forest

Central Coast Division
North Carolina
Virginia Tech

South Central Division
Texas Tech

North Central Division
Iowa State
Notre Dame

OR should UT prove intractable...

A true Atlantic Coast Conference is a viable alternative

An established network also opens the door for a slow crawl northward as an alternative option.

The new ACC can annex states one at a time in school clusters ---NY (Buffalo & Syracuse ---possibly with UConn),  Ohio (Cinci and Ohio), Massachusetts (UMass & Boston College, possibly with UConn) ---- as those schools' fan bases would be built up by the rivalries inherent in that kind of Big East-like AAC.

This is "down-the-road" thinking...

While individually none of those northern schools can pull statewide interest, in clusters, with an ACC network in tow, those conversations would be easier.

The deals with Notre Dame and BYU would essentially balance football scheduling in an 8/9 setup.  If structured right, it could help Miami get a bump by allowing them to recruit the rich territories of the south with their in division games plus leverage their NYC fans with an annual game in the NYC market out of division.

The deals with ESPN can be structured to make such raids an accepted possibility that doesn't drop the per school payouts to any of the schools in the two partnered conferences.  It is out of the box thinking, but there is enough value there for ESPN to go along with it at least to some degree.

Football (17+ feature TV games with Notre Dame & BYU)
South Coast Division
Florida State
Georgia Tech
North Carolina
North Carolina St.
Virginia Tech

North Coast Division
Boston College

Olympic sports (21 in 3 divisions)
South Coast division
Florida State
Georgia Tech
North Carolina

Central Coast Division
North Carolina St.
Wake Forest
Virginia Tech
Notre Dame

North Coast Division
Boston College

...But that is all based on the ACC taking action today.

There is a lot than can be done to leverage ACC clustering if the ACC schools want to stay together.  The question now is will they be able to resist the money the Big Ten offers in order to work a plan for survival as a group?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Big Ten Expansion coming very soon (hot rumor)

So the end of March brought a hot rumor that makes a ton of sense given the players involved.  The Big Ten is actively looking at expansion.

This rumor originated from a twitter-resident named Bluevod.  Bluevod is described as a poster with some very good insight into the University of Michigan.  (He is credited with being all over the Jim Harbaugh signing long before the rest of the world acknowledged it was feasible.)

This is a guy who has predicted stuff before claiming sources and been proven right.

He claims to have a well-connected primary source (reading between the lines this is his UM guy) and has confirmed the effort with high up sources at Fox and ESPN.

There is enough there to listen.

The reason I am reporting it is because every one of his ideas fits the general methodology of the Big Ten in expansion efforts and the areas targeted fit the needs of the conference.

They like to plot everything out quietly and move quickly to take advantage of sudden changes in the status quo.  They are the ninjas of conference realignment.

What he is saying all makes sense to me as a 28 year tracker of college football realignment.

So what is going on?

First a little background.

Some will deny it, but logic strongly implies that ESPN got at least Florida State, if not the entire ACC, to buy into their latest contract by telling the membership of the ACC that ESPN would launch an ACC network.

It appears times have changed.  Disney wants ESPN to tighten it's belt.  ESPN is apparently looking at comparatively low ratings for ACC content and has decided that they do not want to help the ACC negotiate carriage fees and all the other heavy lifting required to start a network.  ESPN already owns most of the ACC's tier 3 content ---unusual for most power conferences --- and they do not appear all that willing to take something they own (and can put on their own channels) and put it on another channel they would half own --- and have to pay to start.

....Leaving the ACC rudderless and dead in the water.

There is a perception that the ACC grant of rights deal is dead.

Cue Sharks.

This impending situation is why the Big 12 has been looking at converting the Longhorn Network into a Big 12 Network.

The thought widely circulating is that ESPN is willing to see the Big Ten take the AAU core of the ACC ---Virginia, Duke, UNC, and Georgia Tech,  ESPN "holdings" the SEC will add long coveted targets VA Tech and NC State, and half "owned" Big 12 will take Miami, FSU, Clemson, and probably Louisville.

ESPN looks at that and does the math and sees themselves slightly ahead of the status quo and very much ahead of where they would be if they made good on what they promised the ACC, with some of the ACC content drifting down into the AAC's incredibly cheap contract.

But all this ESPN plotting is based on the Big Ten not getting greedy.

Big Ten plotting

[This section has been edited. Bluevod started talking about this Big Ten effort on January 5th and explained the Texas situation then.  I initially missed that.]

On January 5th, Bluevod reported that the Big Ten was looking at Texas, Florida, Atlanta, and the DC markets and was talking to Texas and OU.  The long and short of it, OU was receptive, Texas was not.  No UT, no OU offer? (OU is not an AAU school and for this conference, that matters.)

(This ---come to think of it --- makes sense of that rather random article this spring where OU President David Boren is asked a seemingly very random question about whether OU has a standing offer to join the Big Ten.)

On March 25th, Bluevod wrote if their targeted market pursuit didn't work, they might even consider the California Markets.  That's the Big Ten being greedy.  Also known as being the Big Ten.

That characterization is pretty straightforward and makes a ton of sense.  You look for your homerun first.

This has Bluevod reporting the Big Ten looking at option #2 : AAU schools Virginia, UNC, Duke, Georgia Tech,  plus football powerhouses Notre Dame and Florida State.

This is again a believable scenario.  Let's break it down. 

The Big Ten fully realizes they are playing with house money today.   Cable cutting is real.   This next interval is the Big Ten's big chance to protect their long term standing.

The Harbaugh training camp issue was about one huge factor facing the Big Ten --- their states produce grade A offensive linemen and little else.   To keep the golden goose laying, the conference has to leverage their short term dominance into better recruiting territories.

It is highly likely that the Big Ten is thinking to rip out the heart of the ACC in order to secure a permanent hold on Florida and Georgia recruiting.  Those two states produce the second and fourth most FBS recruits and both always have annual surpluses --- quite unusual.  Adding the large and talent rich states of Virginia and North Carolina (#12 and #10 respectively) as a bridge doesn't hurt either.

Would they take FSU --- a single non-AAU caliber school --- in the package to hit that goal?  I think in this situation where FSU's inclusion would have resonance in Georgia as well, where the GA Tech brand is considered somewhat soft, the answer is "yes".

(Some might note that Notre Dame is not AAU as well.  Notre Dame is consistently ranked among the top 20 National Universities by UN News, with schools like Rice and Northwestern rated as peers.  Some have said if Notre Dame allowed some types of research which they consider religiously unacceptable they would be in.  I can't speak to that.  I can only note that the Big Ten ---a conference that really values AAU status --- has had Notre Dame at the top of their want list for decades.)

Should this go down, the Big Ten would have what they need long term.

What about the PAC talk?

That part of it really suck out to me.  Bluevod peppered in California mentions that were a huge red flag to me.  I asked about them and he clarified.  He said they are talking about different scenarios --- from the sounds of it, mergers, partnerships, associations... Nothing concrete but there is a lot of talk.

Based on my knowledge I am going to try to fill a lot of this in.

Contrary to the beliefs of many, The Big Ten moves to protect itself.  It likes it's identity.  It likes its long term association with the PAC-12.  All of this has been perceived to be at risk since the fall of the College Football Association.

Why were Maryland and New Jersey added?  In part, because they generate a lot of students for the Big Ten, but the conference commissioner admitted it was done to protect Penn State.  Geographic outliers are susceptible to poaching.   The Big Ten likely saw the ACC as a potential poacher down the road.   The ACC has some good brands and their collections of markets were second to none.

If the Big Ten rips the beating heart out of the ACC, there are no poachers for the Big Ten.  Now the question becomes, how does the Big Ten encourage the rest of the FBS world to rally around the PAC?

I would think it would not take long for UT to realize that they are in the worst P5 conference by a wide margin.   With the Big Ten slots filled UT would either have to go west or follow little brother A&M to the SEC.  The latter will never, ever happen.

But that is a decade+ long process.  It isn't just waiting on the GOR expiration.  It is also showing a better financial situation before all the Big 12 schools get comfortable...So how do you speed that up?

Logic says the Big Ten could offer to get in bed with the PAC for TV.   Imagine a two networks in unison.  If you live in the Big Ten footprint and subscribe, you get the Big Ten Network plus the Big Ten/Pac-12 network.   If you live in the PAC-12 footprint you get the Pac-12 Network, plus the Big Ten Network.

That can only profit the Big Ten. I would guess these talks are ongoing and probably very serious.

Another option that is (apparently) on the table is the Big Ten merging?/poaching? the PAC.

In terms of a straight merger, adding 14 Big Ten schools to 12 PAC schools yields 26 total members.   Given that three of the PAC schools are not AAU, this might be a tough sale to the Big Ten schools --- although I imagine they are still politely discussing the matter when brought up.

I can totally see the California schools privately asking the Big Ten to consider poaching them as a fallback plan.  There have been rumors floating that the Arizona schools are unhappy.  How deep does this discontent go in the PAC?

The big problem for the PAC is that the mountain timezone is sparsely populated and that the PAC schools are not located in wastelands where football is the only entertainment.  In order for the PAC to reach the kinds of numbers they need to keep up with the Big Ten and SEC, the PAC needs big markets and popular brands added in the center of the US. 

Fans always take this to mean Texas.  But it could also mean Chicago.

If the Big Ten were to poach say AAU members Cal, USC, UCLA, Stanford, Washington, and football power Oregon (my how the world changes...) for 20, they could add the best of the PAC to their network and go to two 10 team divisions.

Slide Wisconsin, Nebraska, Illinois and Iowa over to the PAC division and you have fixed the PAC TV problem.

Now the PAC has a GOR deal, so an actual raid would be unlikely, but not impossible.

Now obviously, I think the Big Ten and PAC-12 are likely to work out a mutually beneficial TV alliance and that will be that, but at least we have addressed the question, "What if the ACC somehow holds on?"

The Notre Dame endgame

Notre Dame is the favorite school of Catholics nation-wide in large numbers.   Notre Dame joining the Big Ten would strongly reinforce the Big Ten's media hold in the valuable Northeastern TV markets.  Adding Notre Dame ensures the money will be there long-term.  This is why they have always been at the top of the conference short-list.

Notre Dame signed a deal with the ACC that more or less says that if they are going to join a conference it will be the ACC.

The Big Ten is going to look to raid the ACC first because ESPN has figuratively gutted the conference and left it out for the raptors.

But I think maybe that was in part because ESPN always knew the Big Ten would come for the ACC.

An interesting thought is that if the Big Ten were to raid the California schools, the Big Ten might be able to actually finally address the Irish's biggest objection to the Big Ten --- the cost of their National schedule that allows the Irish to tap catholic fans nationwide.

With their network, the Big Ten can do things other conferences wouldn't dare, like conceive a 24 team 4 division conference.

You might have Notre Dame playing Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana, and Northwestern in division with Stanford, USC,  and a rotating opponent (or Washington?) out of division.  Add the academies out of conference and Notre Dame would be pretty happy with that.

I guess tag that as another PAC idea for the Big Ten to ponder as they consider eating the ACC.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

potential first rounders, draft busts, and other random NFL thoughts

Most years, I am consumed by the NFL draft at this time of year.  I read reviews.  I watch a little prospect video and usually I put together what I hope will be an all-inclusive list of potential first rounders.

Here's what I see this year.  (I was being a little lazy with LBs this year. There are probably a could 2-3rd round grade LBs who are not on this list who a team's coaching staff could fall in love with and take at the end of the first round.)  Hopefully this will be useful to people doing mock drafts.

As I said in my last post, this is a weak draft at the top, but upon refection, there is a fair amount of starting capable players on both lines. 

I think you might have 4 NFL starting QBs in this draft with Goff, Wentz, Lynch, and Jones all looking like good prospects for any team willing to bring them around slowly or likely busts for any team throwing them into the fire.

None of the backs in this draft hit me as the complete package.  You have good runners Booker, Dixon, Howard, Prorise, and Collins, but they each have glaring flaws.  It just depends what flaw you can deal with.  Henry and Elliot are very talented, but will they be any more than marginal if their OL's are not up to task?  I find it odd that I am questioning the running ability of the two most highly decorated runners in a draft.  But I am.

Just not terribly excited about this draft...

There are about 20 guys who will be first rounders and about 20 more who have fairly good odds of making it.  Really after you hit about 20, teams start thinking about the value of the additional year on first rounder contracts.  Sometimes they reach even beyond that next tier as a staff falls for a player.

I have tried to list guys who sound like they have a shot to be starters in the right situations and who have attributes a team might fall in love with, leading the team to take the player in the 1(21) to 1 (29) range.

The list

Player Pos Ht Class Wt College Grade/DraftRange
Jared Goff QB Jr 6'4" 215 California   1
Carson Wentz QB Sr 6'5" 237 North Dakota St.  1
Paxton Lynch QB rJr 6'7" 244 Memphis   1-2
Connor Cook QB rSr 6'4" 217 Michigan St.  1-3
Christian HackenbergQB Jr 6'4" 223 Penn St.   1-4
Cardale Jones QB rJr 6'5" 253 Ohio State  1-5
Ezekiel Elliott RB Jr 6'0" 225 Ohio St.   1
Derrick Henry RB Jr 6'3" 247 Alabama   1-2
Jordan Howard RB Jr 6'0" 230 Indiana   1-3
Devontae Booker RB rSr 5'11" 219 Utah   2
Kenneth Dixon RB Sr 5'10" 215 Louisiana Tech  2
Paul Perkins RB rJr 5'10" 208 UCLA   2-4
Alex Collins RB Jr 5'10" 217 Arkansas   3-4
C.J. Prosise RB rJr 6'0" 220 Notre Dame  2-4
Laremy Tunsil LT Jr 6'5" 310 Mississippi  1
Ronnie Stanley LT rJr 6'6" 312 Notre Dame  1
Jack Conklin LT rJr 6'6" 308 Michigan St.  1
Taylor Decker OT Sr 6'7" 310 Ohio St.   1
Le'Raven Clark LT rSr 6'5" 316 Texas Tech  1-2
Jason Spriggs LT Sr 6'6" 301 Indiana   1-2
Shon Coleman RT rJr 6'5" 307 Auburn   2
Willie Beavers LT Sr 6'4" 324 Western Michigan  2-5
Cody Whitehair OG rSr 6'4" 301 Kansas St.   1-2
Germain Ifedi OG rJr 6'6" 324 Texas A&M  1-2
Joshua Garnett OG Sr 6'4" 312 Stanford   2
Christian Westerman OG rSr 6'3" 298 Arizona State  2-3
Landon Turner OG rSr 6'4" 330 North Carolina  3
Joe Dahl OG Sr 6'4" 304 Washington St.  3-6
Ryan Kelly C rSr 6'4" 311 Alabama   1-2
Nick Martin C rSr 6'4" 299 Notre Dame  2-3
Max Tuerk C Sr 6'5" 298 USC   3-5
Hunter Henry TE Jr 6'5" 250 Arkansas   1-2
Austin Hooper TE rSo 6'4" 254 Stanford   2-3
Nick Vannett TE rSr 6'6" 257 Ohio St.   2-3
Tyler Higbee TE rSr 6'6" 249 Western Kentucky  3-4
Will Fuller WR Jr 6'0" 186 Notre Dame  1-2
Laquon Treadwell WR Jr 6'2" 221 Mississippi  1
Corey Coleman WR rJr 5'11" 194 Baylor   1-2
Tyler Boyd WR Jr 6'1" 197 Pittsburgh   1-2
Josh Doctson WR rSr 6'2" 202 TCU   1-2
Sterling Shepard WR Sr 5'10" 194 Oklahoma   1-3
Charone Peake WR rSr 6'2" 209 Clemson   2-5
Michael Thomas WR rJr 6'3" 212 Ohio St.   1-2
Pharoh Cooper WR Jr 5'11" 203 South Carolina  2-3
Braxton Miller WR rSr 6'1" 201 Ohio St.   1-3

Player Pos Ht Class Wt College Grade
DeForest Buckner 3-4DE Sr 6'7" 291 Oregon   1
Joey Bosa 4-3DE Jr 6'5" 269 Ohio St.   1
Kevin Dodd 4-3DE rJr 6'5" 277 Clemson   1-2
Shaq Lawson 4-3DE rJr 6'3" 269 Clemson   1-2
Emmanuel Ogbah 4-3DE rJr 6'4" 273 Oklahoma St.  1-2
Noah Spence 3-4OLB rJr 6'2" 251 Eastern Kentucky  1-2
Shilique Calhoun 3-4OLB rSr 6'4" 251 Michigan St.  2
Carl Nassib 4-3DE rSr 6'7" 277 Penn St.   3
Shawn Oakman 3-4DE rSr 6'8" 287 Baylor   3
Ronald Blair 4-3DE Sr 6'2" 284 Appalachian St.  4
A'Shawn Robinson DT Jr 6'4" 307 Alabama   1
Sheldon Rankins DT Sr 6'1" 299 Louisville   1
Robert Nkemdiche DT Jr 6'3" 294 Mississippi  1-2
Vernon Butler NT Sr 6'4" 323 Louisiana Tech  1-2
Jarran Reed DT Sr 6'3" 307 Alabama   1-2
Jonathan Bullard DT Sr 6'3" 285 Florida   1-2
Chris Jones DT Jr 6'6" 310 Mississippi St.  1-3
Hassan Ridgeway DT rJr 6'3" 303 Texas   1-5
Willie Henry DT Jr 6'3" 303 Michigan   1-5
Adolphus WashingtonDT Sr 6'3" 301 Ohio St.   2-3
Andrew Billings NT Jr 6'1" 311 Baylor   1-2
Kenny Clark NT Jr 6'3" 314 UCLA   1-2
Austin Johnson NT rJr 6'4" 314 Penn St.   1-2
Reggie Ragland ILB Sr 6'1" 247 Alabama   1
Kentrell Brothers MLB rSr 6'0" 245 Missouri   2-4
Scooby Wright, III MLB Jr 6'0" 239 Arizona   2-5
Myles Jack OLB Jr 6'1" 245 UCLA   1
Leonard Floyd OLB rJr 6'6" 244 Georgia   1-2
Jaylon Smith OLB Jr 6'2" 223 Notre Dame  1-2
Darron Lee OLB rSo 6'1" 232 Ohio St.   1-2
Su'a Cravens OLB Jr 6'1" 226 USC   1-2
Kyler Fackrell OLB rSr 6'5" 245 Utah St.   2-3
Jordan Jenkins OLB Sr 6'3" 259 Georgia   2-4
Jalen Ramsey CB Jr 6'1" 209 Florida St.  1
Vernon Hargreaves,IIICB Jr 5'10" 204 Florida   1
Eli Apple CB rSo 6'1" 199 Ohio St.   1-2
Mackensie AlexanderCB rSo 5'10" 190 Clemson   1-2
William Jackson,III CB Sr 6'0" 189 Houston   1-2
Ronald Zamort CB Sr 5'10" 174 Western Michigan  1-2
Artie Burns CB Jr 6'0" 193 Miami   2
Kendall Fuller CB Jr 5'11" 187 Virginia Tech  2-3
Xavien Howard CB rJr 6'0" 201 Baylor   2-3
Vonn Bell  FS Jr 5'11" 199 Ohio St.   1-3
T.J. Green FS Jr 6'2" 209 Clemson   3-4
Karl Joseph FS Sr 5'10" 205 West Virginia  2-3
Thompson, Darian FS Sr 6'2" 208 Boise St.   4
Neal, Keanu SS Jr 6'0" 211 Florida   2-FA
Jeremy Cash SS rSr 6'0" 212 Duke   2-3
Miles Killebrew SS Sr 6'2" 217 Southern Utah  3-4

As I was looking at this year's draft I took a look back at last year's draft ---specifically the RBs --- and I saw two players fans consider busts:

San Diego RB  Melvin Gordon
Atlanta RB Tevin Coleman

and a back considered a hit last year

Cleveland RB Duke Johnson


This kind of thinking drives me nuts.

I firmly believe 90% of players taken in the top 100 of the NFL draft can play in the NFL.  The question is almost exclusively, "Will they land in a situation that allows them to succeed?"

Are they 4-3 DEs drafted by a 3-4 team?  Are they 3-4 OLBs drafted by a 4-3 team?  Are they 3rd down backs, deadly in the passing game, drafted by teams needing a back who can pick up short yardage and move the chains? Are they QBs who need 2-3 years on the bench refining their mechanics and getting used to the speed of the NFL who are drafted by a team without a legit NFL QB on the roster?  Does their position coach believe in them as a prospect or will they give PT to others?

In general "the NFL system" fucks up most of the talent entering the league.

They do far too much projecting.  "I like how this guy did this on this one play.  I bet if our coaches/strength staff worked with him, he could develop into a guy who can do this all the time."

How about just drafting the guy who does it most of the time already?

San Diego has an atrocious OL. So how do they address that?   They draft a RB who played his entire career behind and exceptional collegiate line.  They draft a guy who rarely ever saw a DL behind the line of scrimmage.  How is that guy going to function behind the Charger's line?

He's a bust? 

I like the Charger's GM, but that is a bust pick, not a bust player.  That is putting a talent into a bad fit.

San Diego sure better pick up some linemen if they want to get anything out of that pick last year.

Coleman is another guy a team is "trying to develop" into the kind of player they wanted.  He is also sitting behind a workhorse RB Devonte Freeman. Now I get it that Freeman hadn't lit the world on fire before the Falcolns drafted Coleman, but does that make Coleman a bust because another player had a breakout year---taking all the carries?


I like Duke Johnson as a player, but it isn't like he immediately forced the fairly marginal Isaiah Crowell to the bench!

The whole thing about draft "hits" and "busts" are so arbitrary.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What I would like to see out of Dallas in this year's NFL draft.

It's time for my annual wish list for the Cowboys on draft day.

As I have looked at this year's draft I have reached some conclusions ---This was a horrible year to be horrible.

This draft sucks.

The only positive I can see is that this draft has like 50 second round caliber DTs.  Unfortunately that is a position Dallas puts a very low draft value priority on.

To understand why I say that, you have to understand what a regular draft looks like.

General draft concepts

Ordinarily a draft will have about 8 to a dozen nice talents who can step in and immediately make an impact.  Positional players who can be pro bowlers from day 1, a few franchise type QBs with minor flaws, and guys who will almost certainly be plus starters in the NFL.

Then there are another 15 or so guys who are likely solid starters.  Reaches may push some of them into the second.

Then there is a tier of 30 or so better "hit or miss guys" who could step into a starting role on day 1 and not embarrass you.  Teams reaching will usually push about 10-15 of those guys well into the third. 

And then you are playing the lottery.

Three rounds are 96  or so picks. This is the top 100 thinking that smart GMs and smart draft followers understand.

If you understand who the top 100 are and land one in each of the 3 first rounds, your odds of pulling 3 starters every year is high.

Dallas doesn't do that

Historically under Jerry Jones Dallas manages to lose their third rounder and come out with 2 guys out of that top 100.  (Reporters have tracked it out over the last few years, but I am too lazy to hunt down the link.)  Dallas over the last decade or so was one of the teams with the fewest top 100 players drafted in that timeframe.

Dallas likes to chase specific players rather than letting the draft come to them.

If it costs you picks in the top 100, it's bad strategy.

Getting back to this year's draft

Goff and Carson Wentz would both be first round picks in any draft, but both have fairly compelling red flags.

Goff to me is like the second coming of Aaron Rodgers and I don't mean that in a good way.  Remember Rodgers came out a year early and was a little under-developed.  In a normal draft he slid into the middle of the first round.

Rodgers got lucky being able to develop as a athlete and grow up as a person with no pressure on him at all in Green Bay.  He got to adjust to the speed of the NFL and refine his techniques without getting the crap beat out of him.  Landing in Green Bay likely saved his career.

I think Goff blew his Cleveland interview while Wentz aced his.  That mixed with  Goff's small hands (Cleveland's head coach doesn't like small handed QBs) appears to have allowed Goff to escape Cleveland.  He should sacrifice a cow to the football gods.   His odds of success in the NFL at least doubled.

Goff is a well coached, spread QB.  He has solid arm and an advanced understanding of passing concepts.  He kills teams when he is on and struggles when he is under pressure.  He's a skinny dude and those guys are always at risk to start hearing footsteps when they start getting hit by NFL linemen.

Some QBs have tendencies that allow them to be baited into throwing interceptions.  At this point he is in that crowd.  He is going to have to work on taking snaps under center and more ---adjust to a much less dynamic passing scheme.

He's a risky pick.  He'll probably be OK if Dallas, San Diego, or LA takes him.  He's screwed if Cleveland or San Francisco takes him.

He has recently been compared to Jay Cutler --- an NFL QB with a lot of talent who has big games against dog teams and struggles vs. anyone decent.  That is a sign that his stock is slipping.

Wentz is a workout warrior who impresses all the NFL teams with his demeanor.  He lead NDSU to two straight FCS titles as a starter.

He is big and has all the tools, but coming from the FCS ranks means you have to add another year onto his development curve.

I think he will have a Kenny O'Brien caliber career in Cleveland.

He has been compared to Oliver Luck ---crazy --- and to Blake Bortles.  I think the Bortles comparison is a good one.  Call him Bortles-lite.

Neither of these guys is a slam dunk for what you would usually have in that top tier, but they could go 2&3 in this draft.

That tells you everything you need to know about this draft.

There is no elite tier in this draft.   You start right at the second tier. 

It is the kind of draft you could easily come out of with nothing.

My guide to leveraging Dallas's picks into a winning yield

Here are the assets Dallas enters this draft holding.

4th 1(4)
34th 2(3)
67th 3(4)
101st 4(3)
135th 4(37 -compensatory)
189th 6(14)
212th 6(37- compensatory)
216th 6(41- compensatory)
217th 6(42- compensatory)

If they draft well, they should be able to land 4 starters.  They won't, but they should.

I think step one is to figure out if you believe in either of the top 2 QBs.

Dallas runs a tweaked up variant of Norv Turner's simplified version of the Air Coryell offense.   Norv Turner's offense is EXTREMELY QB friendly.   You need a dude who can throw a slant.   Almost every QB can do that.

Dallas was able to hang around in every game last year that Brandon Weeden, a 3rd string caliber QB with no confidence in his ability to play at the NFL level, played in having that guy check down on every play.

That is a sign that you have a pretty good offensive scheme.

There is a thought that Dallas should take a QB because we won't pick this high again.   The trouble is these are 10-15 level QBs.  If Dallas doesn't pick a QB and Romo goes down or retires, they will be picking in the top 10 again.  That thinking is unsupported.

So the question really becomes "Do you want to hitch your franchise to Goff?" (Cleveland appears sold on Wentz so the option available would be Goff.)

IF you like him, draft him without a second thought.  I am inclined to think the answer would likely be no. 

And given the view of scouts, it makes sense.  If Romo goes down and Goff has to play immediately, there is a good chance Goff gets rattled and his development is permanently derailed.  Then you have blown another top 5 pick.  You cannot afford that.

You have to hit on a top 5 pick with top 5 value.

What if you have questions about Goff in this scenario?

If you do, you need to be looking at dangling the pick to one of the next suitors for Goff --- San Francisco or LA --- to try to get a bidding war going.

The difference between Goff and Lynch as prospects is a chasm.  Goff looks like a good starting QB on the right team.  Lynch is still a very raw talent.   He needs a good situation with good coaching and he probably needs a little time sitting.  He may or may not ever develop.

That's your selling point to both teams.  Both are in a hurry to win. And both can make strong offers.

What I would want from San Franscisco...

I would take a long hard look at Collin Kaepernick.  Again, Dallas has a very QB friendly system.  Kaepernick can throw a slant. Kapernick can take a hit, he can buy time with his legs, and he has the arm to fully utilize our #2 WR's best attributes ---finding the gaps deep on broken plays.

I think Kaepernick and #7 for #4 for Goff is a hell of a haul.  Dallas likely gets the same caliber player at 7 they would at 4 and they get a dramatic upgrade at the backup QB spot with a guy who could easily be the QB of the future.

He wants out.  They could get him to restructure his deal to make it work.   Add a year that would be this year where he is paid like a backup.  He would take that.

Dallas could likely get Shaq Lawson at 7.  I see no qualitative difference between Lawson and Joey Bosa who Dallas is rumored to be targeting at #4.  To me Bosa is another Greg Ellis. Solid NFL DE who might make a couple pro bowls, but kind of a meh return on a #4 pick.

(I think there is a compelling argument that the value in this draft will be in the low 20's where you could get two DE's of that caliber rather than paying for a "brand name" like Lawson or Bosa, but I don't know that teams will want to trade up in this draft and I don't want to complicate this too much.)

Or you could take LA's offer.

I would want DT Aaron Donald straight up for the #4 pick.

I think the Rams would take the deal.   Remember this draft is loaded with DTs and the Rams' own pick would give them the ability to take one of the best of this year's crop to replace Donald.

So the deal is really the most ready QB in this draft for a reasonable downgrade at DT.

I think they would bite.   They need a QB to take the next step and to excite LA fans. There are few options.

Donald would be the unanimous #1 overall pick if he was coming out in this draft.  He's only 24 and fits the key spot on this defense.  He is a two-time pro bowler in 2 seasons.  

He may be the best penetrating DT in this league.   Dallas' scheme is about rushing on every down. He is perfect for this defense.  We have a handful of DL who can occasionally generate pressures but few sacks.  Donald can drive QBs into their grasps.

This is the deal I want.  You can't ask for more out of a top 5 pick than a 24 year old two time pro bowler who is literally the prototype for the most important spot on your defense.

But really either play would amount to maximizing 1(4).

I would fill out the rest of the picks in this manner.

34th 2(3) trade into first for Cody Whitehair

I would advocate trading into the first round here if the right player is available.   Doing so would add one more year onto a player's initial contract.  4(135) would likely allow Dallas to move up  a couple spots to 1(31).   My thinking is that in this draft in particular, Dallas has to hit with picks in the first 100 or so picks --- I don't give a crap about the 6th round picks as Dallas already has a lot of quality people on the roster and adding similar guys seems less of a priority if you consider your team a contender.  You need starter caliber players.  Preferrably four.

If something weird should happen and Paxton Lynch is passed over by a few teams including the Jets at 20,  I'd secure a conditional move into the early to mid 20's.  (Washington at #21 would be a good call.  Their GM believes in avoiding injuries through having a very young team and as such is eager to increase the total number of picks he has each year. He likes to flood his camp with What Jason Garrett refers to as "the right kind of guys" to improve the team culture -- even if he takes a slight talent hit to do it.  He seems like an ideal trading partner for Dallas.  Given that the talent in this draft is off, even though 2(34), 4(135), 6(189), 6(212), 6(216), and 6(217)  only equates to a pick value of 727 vs. his 1(21) pick's value of 800,  he may be more than content to have a lesser pick in a future draft thrown in to "make up" the value.  Maybe even as little as a future 6th when you consider Dallas could call anyone prior to Kansas City - picks valued from 760 to 680 - and make a cheaper deal.  It is sensible for Washington to concede a little to get the bounty of picks they want.)

I think Lynch is a good fit in Dallas (Dallas offers a QB friendly scheme, conservative coaching staff who will protect him.  In the instance the now brittle Romo goes down, should Lynch take some hits due to failures on the line or by our RBs, he would able to take them without it derailing his long term development.)  I think Lynch will simply take a while to learn everything he needs to know. He likely isn't going to start a full season from Day 1, so I do not think there is a danger of a little emergency early PT derailing his development.  Lynch still being available at 1(21) is unlikely though. 

Looking at more likely players to be available late in the first...Of guys who could fall, I have a feeling DE Emmanuel Ogbah and Kevin Dodd will be off the board by the early to mid 20's in the first round.  That's OK.  I only like them if they fall.  I like Whitehair optimally of that trio and I think he could be had at the end of the first.

Whitehair is a polished prospect lacking a little height for being a LT prospect.  He projects as a Zach Martin-lite guard.  We did OK with real Zach Martin, so why not?  He projects as a starting caliber guard who can also offer solid pass protection at left tackle in a pinch. He'll be a cheap, OK starter from day 1 with a chance to become a good one as he gets stronger over the years.  He is not the kind of guy who will get paid a bunch and that has value in itself.   I would love a little pass blocking insurance on the OL given Romo's health lately.

I would also be thrilled with Baylor CB Xavien Howard here.  He is a big physical, ball-hawking #1 CB prospect.  He is occasionally over-aggressive and will get beat from time to time, but has all the talent you want and makes plays too.  Right now we get beat from time to time, don't have anyone who can match big physical receivers, and our CBs don't make plays.  I would be totally content with a starting CB duo of Howard covering the opponents' possession receiver and Mo Claiborne covering their speed receiver in a couple years.

If none of those guys are there, I also would not be opposed to drafting Ohio State QB Cardale Jones at and end of first round spot either and securing him for 5 years.   Now that would be considered a reach by most (and in a vacuum it is).  He is rated as a 4th round prospect who needs a lot of work who some team might take as early as the end of the second because his talent level is elite.  He is basically the second coming of JaMarcus Russell talent-wise (but thankfully there are no indications he is as lazy as Russell).

Jones didn't play much in college (...although he never lost a game) and that is a huge red flag as far as QBs go  (Ideally you want a 3+ year starter so they have to deal with adversity), but he can take a hit and the arm talent of the player knick-named "12 gauge" is obvious.

I think there is a compelling argument that if Ohio State didn't lose their Offensive Coordinator to Houston, Jones might have maintained the level of play he showed in the championship run. (He was still decent this year.) If that had happened he might be at the top of this draft's QB list.

I think he dealt with adversity in college so I am OK with rolling the dice on his talent --- rolled out slowly in our scheme.

Mix that with the fact that Dallas doesn't ask a lot of it's QBs and burning essentially a second in a weak draft to have the Jones project under contract for 5 years actually looks sensible.  (Think 2 years of no pressure sitting behind Romo, learning the game, and adjusting to the speed.  Then Dallas will have 3 years seeing if he is the guy before they have to commit. Jones will be able to step on the field behind a solid OL..That is not a bad return on a second in QB terms and it works well for Dallas' position...)

67th 3(4) RB Jordan Howard Indiana

This is more of a double than a home run pick.  Howard lacks the game speed that other similar grade, promising backs in this draft like Arkansas's Alex Collins and LSU's Kenneth Dixon possess, but he is a 230 lb cannonball who seems to protect the ball a little better than his peers.  Additionally, where guys like Utah's Devontae Booker have a long way to go as pass blockers, Howard's a solid pass blocker.

I think the scouts have him rated about right.   He's a solid NFL back although there is something off fundamentally in his style that will likely keep him from being a long term feature back.  He is such a tough guy that he really hasn't chosen to develop the ability to avoid unnecessary hits. He initiates and invites contact.  You watch his highlights and every run ends with him volunteering for a collision.  You can see the damage piling up. He's either going to be a 3 year NFL feature back or a 8 year NFL short yardage back.   Ideally he would be a short yardage back.  Dallas doesn't have anyone like this and could definitely use this kind of physical chain mover on short yardage plays.

This would also be a good spot for Jones, although you don't get the extra cap help year.

101st 4(3) CB Ken Crawley  Colorado

I'd like tall CB or a FS here.  Crawley is an experienced,  functional 6'0 tall, skinny press CB who can handle speed receivers.  He'd work, but I'd be OK with one of several guys.

Texas Tech's RB DeAndre Washington is a very underrated prospect I would consider at this spot or at 4(135) if we still have it.   He is sound in every way, just slightly undersized.

This video is not the greatest --- I apologize --- It is a "highlight video" nonsense production where you get a ton of useless field level, limited visability shots.  Still every 20 seconds or so you get to see the whole field from overhead and you see all the little things Washington does on every run.  In those instances his ability pops into focus.   The first thing you will see is that his feet are a blur.  He is both tough to get a good shot on and he is constantly shifting his weight and balance.  This is great trait for a long career. He can make a guy miss or elude a big hit.  While at his size he should not have the power to break arm tackles, his explosiveness and elusiveness allows him to "emulate" having tackle breaking-power. He slides right out of a lot of arm tackles.  He has elite vision and quickness and good long speed. And he does all the little things when not carrying the ball. He is a guy who could be one of those rare undersized 1000 yard rushers.

Houston RB Kenneth Farrow II is a vastly under-appreciated prospect.  At 5-10 220 he has what I would consider the ideal build for a feature back.  He is big enough to have power and small enough to be able to redirect his momentum to good affect and not suffer joint injuries.  He combines this good build with very good RB mechanics.  He hits the holes quickly with good body lean to finish his runs.  He compresses down instinctively when going through the line to limit fumbles.  He protects the ball. I am gobsmacked that he is rated as a free agent level prospect.  He will make someone's roster.

There is game footage where his OL is overmatched and he still produces.  He doesn't run tentatively.  He doesn't dance in the backfield.  He picks up positive yards.  That is a HUGE sign he will be able to produce in the NFL.

The worst thing I can say about him is that he goes down to arm tackles a little more that you'd like, but most backs do. It isn't glaring in Farrow's case. Scouts are sleeping on him.