Mountain West takes an important step forward
Within the sphere of college football on cable television, there are two categories in the minds of many viewers: ESPN and Not ESPN. Sure, there are offerings like CBS Sports Network, NBC Sports Network, BTN and Pac-12 Networks, and they all do fine work. But, to many fans, if you're not on ESPN, you don't exist. See: Network, SEC.
Of the 10 existing conferences, the Mountain West has most often been on the wrong side of that equation. Most of the conference's TV package existed on the now-defunct The Mtn. Once that endeavor folded, the MWC migrated to Versus, which was transformed to NBC Sports Network in 2011. Added together with CBS Sports Network and you get the Mountain West's television package. For the notoriously prickly television viewer, it's not good to be a nomad. Especially a nomad that had a minimal presence on a network that, whether we want to admit it or not, owns college football - or at least the vast majority of its major television properties.
That's why the conference took an overlooked but important step forward on Thursday when ESPN added 15 MWC games to its 2013 slate, bringing the total package to 22 games this fall.
"The Mountain West and its member institutions are very pleased to be re-establishing a television partnership with ESPN," commissioner Craig Thompson said when his league's agreement with ESPN was announced in March.
And here's the kicker, MWC schools won't have to move their games to Tuesday or Wednesday to get airplay on the one-stop shop for college football programming, either. Of the MWC's 22 games, 15 are on Saturday and the rest fall on Thursday and Friday. MACtion is not migrating westward.
Here is the schedule:
Sat., Sept. 7
Tennessee - Martin at Boise State
Fri., Sept. 13
Air Force at Boise State
Fri., Sept. 20
Boise State at Fresno State
Sat., Sept. 21
Wyoming at Air Force
Fri., Sept. 27
Utah State at San Jose State
Sat., Sept. 28
Southern Miss at Boise State
Fri., Oct. 4
Nevada at San Diego State
Sat., Oct. 26
Fresno State at San Diego State
UNLV at Nevada
Sat., Nov. 2
Nevada at Fresno State
Army at Air Force
Fri., Nov. 8
Air Force at New Mexico
Sat., Nov. 9
Nevada at Colorado State
Utah State at UNLV
Sat., Nov. 16
San Jose State at Nevada
Wyoming at Boise State
Thu., Nov. 21
UNLV at Air Force
Fri., Nov. 22
Navy at San Jose State
Sat., Nov. 23
New Mexico at Fresno State
Sat., Nov. 30
New Mexico at Boise State
San Diego State at UNLV
Air Force at Colorado State
Leach: 'God made few D-Lineman. Don't believe me? Go to the mall!'
It's basically a guarantee that once you've been a head coach in more than one conference that at one point or another you'll be asked by a member of the media about the SEC and what sets them apart from the other conferences across the country.
That's exactly what happened to Mike Leach on Sirius XM yesterday, and Leach responded as only he can, and he actually makes a very interesting (and valid) point towards the end of the call.
"I've found all the conferences to be the same," Leach explained. "I think the media just gets all fired up and pumped up."
"Eventually some conference is going to have a run of say, strong running backs for a brief period because they've been really good at rushing the ball. Or they'll have a brief run of strong quarterbacks and then people will be really good at throwing the ball and they'll have some high profile quarterbacks."
"What I've found is that between the major conferences, they all have the big 300 pounders, they all have fast people, they all have skill people...the SEC, the Big 12 and the Pac 12. I'm not kidding you, I think all three are nearly identical, with one exception."
Leach explains that there is little to no separation between skill players in each conference, but then expands to say, "I will tell you whats different about the SEC. I think the defensive lineman are faster in the SEC."
"God made very few defensive lineman. If you don't believe me, just go to the mall and then say 'If we were to have a pickup football game, how many of these really guys really belong on the defensive line?'"
Now that you've heard that...let it soak in. Makes a ton of sense doesn't it? Now going to the mall and people watching will never be the same.
Mic'd up at Washington State: 'Get your popcorn ready'
The two main ingredients in making a good mic'd up session are quality coaching content, and great one liners.
This mic'd up session with Washington State defensive line coach Joe Salave'a has them both accounted for.
Enjoy this one, and be sure to see the end where Salave'a explains to his unit what football is all about.
Which current coaches will be College Football HOF bound one day?
The National Football Foundation announced Tuesday that Wayne Hardin and Bill McCartney will enter the College Football Hall of Fame in December. We could speculate about who may or may not get in the Hall in 2014, but let's look further down the road to which current coaches will make up the Hall of Fame classes of 2024 and 2034.
Before we start naming names, first we must understand what exactly is required to get into the College Football Hall of Fame. The National Football Foundation's criteria reads as follows: "A coach becomes eligible three years after retirement or immediately following retirement provided he is at least 70 years of age. Active coaches become eligible at 75 years of age. He must have been a head coach for a minimum of 10 years and coached at least 100 games with a .600 winning percentage."
That 10-year rule means coaches like Jim Harbaugh and Chip Kelly are out unless their NFL stays are shorter than anticipated. And the .600 winning percentage rule means that a coach like Jim Grobe, whose 2006 ACC title makes him undoubtedly the greatest coach in the modern history of Wake Forest football, could wind up on the outside looking in when all is said and done with a 106-107-1 record, even with a much higher degree of difficulty than conference-mate Jimbo Fisher.
With that out of the way, let's break this down in tiers.
Absolute, 100 Percent "Doesn't Need to Win Another Game and He's In" No Doubters
Nick Saban - 154-55-1 (.737) at Toledo, Michigan State, LSU and Alabama. Saban was a member of this tier before he even stepped foot in Tuscaloosa. Six seasons later, he can probably have his own floor named in his honor.
Urban Meyer - 116-23 (.834) at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State. Meyer is the rare coach that has two national titles and two undefeated seasons - spread throughout three different schools - to his credit.
Frank Beamer - 258-127-4 (.668) at Murray State and Virginia Tech. Like a few other coaches on this list, Beamer's success on the football field has created prosperity for the entire university, as the Hokies have climbed from independence to the Big East to the ACC during his tenure. Eight conference championships and 13 New Year's Day bowl appearances don't hurt, either.
Mack Brown - 235-117-1 (.667) at Appalachian State, Tulane, North Carolina and Texas. One of the game's best program builders earned ultimate validation with Texas' 2005 national title. He's registered 11 seasons of double-digit wins and will enter the FBS all-time top 10 wins leaders this fall.
Bob Stoops - 149-37 (.801) at Oklahoma. The Sooners have camped out on the Big 12 championship podium since Stoops' arrival with eight conference crowns to go with the 2000 national championship.
Gary Patterson - 116-36 (.763) at TCU. The Horned Frogs have climbed from the WAC to Conference USA to the Mountain West to the Big East to the Big 12 during Patterson's tenure, making him one of the most important figures in the history of Texas Christian University. The Horned Frogs' all-time wins leader garnered 10 national Coach of the Year honors in guiding TCU to back-to-back BCS appearances, capped by a 2011 Rose Bowl win, over the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
Bill Snyder - 159-82-1 (.662) at Kansas State. At a place where four wins was a successful season, Snyder has twice put the Wildcats within a whisker of playing for a national championship. If he's not the best coach in college football history, he's in the team picture.
Steve Spurrier - 208-77-2 (.728) at Duke, Florida and South Carolina. Already in as a player, Spurrier is the winningest coach in Florida history and well on his way to becoming the same at South Carolina. If you wanted to make the case Spurrier has compiled the best career of anyone on this list, I wouldn't fight you.
Les Miles - 113-42 (.729) at Oklahoma State and LSU. Before he won the 2007 national championship and two SEC titles in Baton Rouge, Miles compiled the best winning percentage of any Oklahoma State coach since before 1950.
Brian Kelly - 199-68-2 (.743) at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Notre Dame. Similar to Meyer, Kelly has orchestrated two national championship teams at one school and then led two different schools to undefeated regular seasons. When one of those schools is Notre Dame, with five coaches already in the Hall of Fame, you might as well go ahead and get your ring fitted.
Mark Richt - 118-40 (.747) at Georgia. With two SEC championships, a claim to six SEC East titles and two BCS bowl wins, Richt has done everything short of winning a national championship.
Larry Blakeney - 168-99-1 (.629) at Troy. Like Patterson and Beamer, Blakeney's two decades running the football program have helped raise the entire university's profile. Since Blakeney's hiring in 1991, the Trojans have risen from a Divison II independent to a member of the Sun Belt Conference, making seven I-AA playoff appearances and five bowl games (with five straight Sun Belt titles from 2006-10) along the way.
Paul Johnson - 147-65 (.693) at Georgia Southern, Navy and Georgia Tech. Johnson has won his way at each of his three stops, claiming two national titles with the Eagles, taking Navy bowls in five of his six seasons and has yet to miss a bowl in five seasons in Atlanta.
Just Biding His Time
Chris Petersen - 84-8 (.913) at Boise State. Other coaches won at Boise State before Petersen took over, but none reach the level of national acclaim that Petersen has brought to the Broncos. In seven seasons he has seven double-digit win seasons, five conference titles, two perfect seasons, three one-loss seasons and two Fiesta Bowl wins.
Nothing to Worry About, But a Top 5 Finish or Two Wouldn't Hurt
Bronco Mendenhall - 74-29 (.718) at BYU. The best coach in BYU history not named LaVell Edwards, Mendenhall has never missed the postseason in eight seasons at the helm, registering five double-digit win seasons, two Mountain West titles and three top 15 finishes. All he needs now is a signature season.
Kyle Whittingham - 71-32 (.689) at Utah. Though the Utes have yet to find their footing in the Pac-12, that by itself is a compliment to the work Whittingham's program put in while members of the Mountain West Conference. Taking over for Urban Meyer, Whittingham guided Utah to seven straight bowl seasons, including the best year in school history - a 13-0 campaign in 2008 capped by a Sugar Bowl win over Alabama and a No. 2 final AP ranking.
There's a Lot of Good There, But Is There Enough Greatness?
Frank Solich - 117-63 (.650) at Nebraska and Ohio. The Huskers never missed a bowl game in Solich's six seasons, as he took Nebraska to the national title game in the 2001 season and is still the last coach to bring a conference championship and BCS bowl win to Lincoln. Solich has also taken Ohio to three MAC championship games and five bowl games.
Gary Pinkel - 163-98-3 (.623) at Toledo and Missouri. Pinkel led Toledo to the 1995 MAC title and has since won five division championships at his two stops, but no conference crowns. He took the Tigers to eight bowls from 2003-11, peaking with a 12-2 mark and Cotton Bowl win in 2007, and the Tigers certainly wouldn't be in the SEC today without his sustained success.
Mike Leach - 87-52 (.626) at Texas Tech and Washington State. The Red Raiders went 10-for-10 on bowl appearances in Mike Leach's tenure on the South Plains, peaking with an 11-2 season in 2008, but never played in a Big 12 championship game or a BCS game. However, you can't discuss Leach without acknowledging the part he played in popularizing the most prevalent offensive system in college football today.
June Jones - 107-75 (.588) at Hawaii and SMU. If Jones takes SMU to a BCS game or its equivalent in the upcoming playoff system, he's in. If he doesn't, he's out. Jones does have a long history of involvement with the National Football Foundation that will play in his favor, though.
Paul Pasqualoni - 151-90-1 (.626) at Western Connecticut State, Syracuse and Connecticut. Pasqualoni has but one top 10 finish in his career but his resume of four Big East titles and four New Year's Day bowl games at Syracuse trumps that of his predecessor, College Football Hall of Fame coach Dick MacPherson.
"Give Us a Solid Decade Like That and We'll Talk"
David Shaw - 23-4 (.852) at Stanford. Two seasons in is far too early for projections like this, but Shaw's 11-2 debut season and 12-2, Pac-12 and Rose Bowl winning follow-up hits elbowed his way on to this list.
Mike Gundy - 67-35 (.657) at Oklahoma State. After a 4-7 opening season, the rest of Gundy's tenure has been the golden age of Oklahoma State football. The Cowboys' 49 wins since 2008 are the most in school history over a five-year span. Gundy's team came within a breath of playing for the national title in 2011 and still managed to go 12-1, winning its first outright Big 12 championship
Pat Fitzgerald - 50-39 (.562) at Northwestern. Like Spurrier, Fitzgerald is already a Hall of Fame player. Like Spurrier, Fitzgerald is the winningest coach in his alma mater's history. With his first 10-win season, bowl win and top 20 finish out of the way, Fitzgerald is on his way to duplicating other parts of Spurrier's resume as well.
Bret Bielema - 68-24 (.739) at Wisconsin. Now at Arkansas, if Bielema can come close to duplicating his three top 10 finishes and three Big Ten titles at his previous stop, the Razorback faithful will fit him with a gold-plated hog hat.
Art Briles - 67-58 (.536) at Houston and Baylor. Already a legend in the Texas high school ranks, Briles brought Houston the 2006 Conference USA title and the greatest season in at least 20 years at Baylor with the Bears' 10-3, Heisman Trophy-winning campaign in 2011. He is also the only coach in school history to lead Baylor to three straight bowl trips.
Butch Jones - 50-27 (.649) at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. Jones has won four conference titles in his six seasons as a head coach. If he can come close to duplicating that at Tennessee after the lost decade the Vols just endured, he'll be a made man in Knoxville forever. Or at least until the next season, whichever comes first.
Kevin Sumlin - 46-19 (.708) at Houston and Texas A&M. With Texas A&M's first 11-win season since 1998, first Heisman Trophy winner since 1957 and first top five finish since 1956, Sumlin's debut blew the doors off even the most maroon of Aggies' expectations.
Mark Hudspeth - 84-29 (.743) at North Alabama and Louisiana - Lafayette. If he retired today, Hudspeth would be more of a divisional candidate with 66 wins and five Division II playoff appearances at North Alabama, but you can't argue with his back-to-back 9-4, New Orleans Bowl-winning seasons in his first two years at Louisiana - Lafayette.
Still Playing Their Way Into Contention: Gary Andersen, David Cutcliffe, Mark Dantonio, Larry Fedora, Brady Hoke, Ken Niumatalolo, Rich Rodriguez, Charlie Strong, Dabo Swinney.
Add it all up and you get 29 coaches with a combined 3,449 wins. It's a good thing the Hall of Fame is moving into a larger building soon, they're going to need all the extra space they can get.
Inside the Annual DFO Meetings: How to Plan a Bowl Trip
Let's jump forward in time a few months, to Dec. 8 to be exact. The college football regular season has just ended the day before and now it's Selection Sunday - the day 70 teams fortunate enough to qualify for bowl games learn where they will close their season. Once the matchup is announced, most on campus nod and then put it out of their mind for the time being. Players study for finals, coaches go recruiting and fans look forward to the next basketball game.
But while everyone else temporarily goes their separate ways, one man hunkers down in his office and devises how exactly to move the small army that is a football program, its accompanying entourage and their equipment to set up shop at a far away location for a week's worth of time and come back in one piece. And does it all well behind the curtain of what the average fan sees on game day.
As TCU's Director of Football Operations (DFO), Mike Sinquefield told a crowd of his peers and one member of the FootballScoop staff on Tuesday morning, he has been just about everywhere by now. In his 13 seasons at the post, TCU has competed in the Western Athletic Conference, Conference USA, the Mountain West and now the Big 12, which means they've run the gamut of the college football postseason experience. They've been close to home (2003 Fort Worth Bowl) and far away (2011 Poinsettia Bowl). They've been to new bowls (in three trips to Houston, TCU has played in three different bowls with three different names run by three different staffs), and they've been to old bowls (the 2011 Rose Bowl).
From the minds of one of the experts, take step seven levels inside the College Football Machine and see how you move a football team, its coaching staff, equipment staff, video staff, student support staff, administration, band and their families, to a new location for a week's stay and live to tell about it.
Plan ahead: Sinquefield's bowl prep starts in August by gathering full legal names of anyone and everyone who may possibly make the trip. Of course, you can be a little more certain about things when you haven't missed a bowl game since 2004.
Be as thorough as you can be on your site visit: In one of TCU's trip to Houston, the Horned Frogs happened to be their hotel's first guests after being closed for a decade. As commonly happens with new facilities, not all of the kinks were worked out upon TCU's arrival, which meant in this case a member of the TCU traveling party was met with a stream of black water after turning on the shower. They didn't return to that hotel.
You can't stress this one enough: Get everything you can figured out ahead of time. Does your defensive line coach need a white board for position meetings? If your practice site is 45 minutes from the hotel, what's the best way for the video staff to get film cut up for the coaching staff as fast as possible?
The most important meal of the day: If Bowl A offers your coaches, players, administrators and, most importantly, their wives and children a free breakfast every morning, you'd better figure out how to provide that same experience in the following years even if Bowl B and Bowl C don't cover that expense because a $7 per diem won't get you very far in, say, downtown Los Angeles.
You'd rather fly than drive: When your school plays with driving distance of campus, traveling party members get the feeling they can come and go as they please, reservations or not. With farther away bowls, you're either on the airplane or you're not.
It's up to you to fill the free time: The bowl staff will provide events for your coaching staff and events for your players, but most of them don't include the wives, the assistant athletic directors and student trainers. Find out which events will let additional parties attend and which ones will let you buy more tickets because, ultimately, everyone in your party wants to do what your coaches and players are doing.
When at all possible, get creative: Minds were blown across the room as Sinquefield detailed TCU's solution to handling players' per diem cash. Instead of handing each player $400 cash that can't be replaced if lost or spent within two hours' time, the Horned Frogs give each player a debit card that triggers a set amount of money at pre-ordained times.
Once again, don't forget: This year's free perk is next year's expectation among your travel party.
So next bowl season, when the average fan loads up a plate of leftover ham and pumpkin pie and settles into the couch for a night of bowl action, remember the DFO, who moved a small army, laid out its itinerary, balanced its budget and provided them breakfast to boot.
Creating a video like this will help you establish expectations
The coaching staff down at Grapevine HS (TX) gets it. They understand how to motivate and connect with their players using video as one of many tools at their disposal.
After hearing at a coaching clinic how Les Miles and his staff put together clips each week aimed at showing his guys "who we are", and seeing the "Wide Receiver Blocking Done Right" video from Texas A&M from back in December, the staff decided to put together a video of their own.
This video was shown to the receivers just before the start of spring ball to help put them in the right frame of mind and set the expectations of the unit. The design of the video is outstanding and we hear that its aim of illustrating the desired identity of the receiving corp worked out exactly as they drew it up.
This is another great example of a video that coaches at every level can do in order to illustrate the vision and expectations of your position group, or specific side of the ball.
O'Brien: 'We were 8-4. We don't have the market cornered on anything'
When you think of programs that have historically turned non-scholarship players into major contributors in a few short years, Penn State's name likely comes to mind.
In the big picture of things, Bill O'Brien has played a small part in that reputation with just one year under his belt, but he has put his mark on things by renaming the program a "run-on" program in an effort to recognize the hard work and effort of his non-scholarship guys on a year round basis. Also, when O'Brien first arrived on campus he reached out to programs like Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin to better understand their ultra successful formula for targeting, and developing non-scholarship players.
There's no doubt that developing players, especially with the scholarship restrictions in place under NCAA sanctions, is a top priority for O'Brien and his staff.
Asked about successfully identifying and developing "under the radar" players yesterday, O'Brien humbly explained that they don't think they do things any better than anyone else, they're simply focused on getting better.
"We don't think we do anything any better than anyone else. We just believe that we know what we want, we go out there and we try to evaluate prospects. We try to recruit the right way, scholarship or non-scholarship, and when they get to Penn State we try to put them in the proper role where they can excel."
"We certainly don't feel like we have the market cornered on scholarship, non-scholarship...or really anything. We were 8-4, so we don't have the market cornered on anything. We're just trying to get better."
Video: This recruiting pitch is about as good as it gets
When it comes to recruiting pitches, having one of the best college environments in the country is about as good as it gets. Numerous outlets, including ESPN and Sports Illustrated have crowned Madison, Wisconsin as the best college town in America.
After listening to ESPN's Scott Van Pelt rave about the town, overall college environment and then watching this video, it becomes pretty tough to argue.
Madison has a ton to sell to prospective student athletes.