The most popular nicknames in U.S. high schools are....
Chances are you could list off the seven most popular high school nicknames in America without much trouble. You probably coach at one, or coach against a couple of them. That's what makes them so popular, after all.
But here's what I found so astounding, the seven most common nicknames (USA listed the top five, but there was a three-way tie for fifth) accounted for nearly 40 percent of all American high schools. There are tens of thousands of high schools spread across the 50 states but in any given five-team district, from the Pacific Northwest to South Florida, chances are at least two schools use one of these seven nicknames.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers unveil 'enhanced' logo, helmet
A year ago, the Miami Dolphins unveiled an "enhanced" new logo, which really wasn't a new logo at all but more like a modernized version of the same thing. On Thursday night, it was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' turn.
Depending on the lighting, the Bucs helmet can look pewter, almost black or silver. pic.twitter.com/8MHcBb3SGV— Phil Hecken (@PhilHecken) February 21, 2014
Retweet if you like the Buccaneers' new helmets and logo pic.twitter.com/OIY40l4wSb— NFL Access (@NFL_Access) February 21, 2014
It's worth noting that Nike has taken over the NFL's uniforms, so the same folks behind the oversized logo trend in college football have now migrated up a level.
Below are Tampa Bay's new wordmarks, primary logo and secondary logo.
So, is this an improvement on the Bucs' visual branding, or change for the sake of change?
Bret Bielema speaks for the first time in defense of the 10-second rule
Bret Bielema spoke at a booster club event in Little Rock on Thursday night, his first public appearance since the NCAA introduced legislation proposing a 10-second defensive substitution penalty after every snap. FootballScoop has previously outlined Bielema's efforts to push for such a rule, and Thursday night offered his first chance to defend the rule.
From the timeline of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette writer Troy Schulte, here are Bielema's comments:
Bielema was asked about evidence regarding injuries. His answer: "Death certificates," referencing the death of a Cal football player.— Troy Schulte (@TroySchulteADG) February 21, 2014
Bielema said opponents of the rule change are "turning a blind eye to the fact," of injury risks.— Troy Schulte (@TroySchulteADG) February 21, 2014
Was asked about perception that the change is from 'sour grapes' by coaches who don't hurry up. "Don't bother me in any way shape or form."— Troy Schulte (@TroySchulteADG) February 21, 2014
Bielema also said he and Nick Saban had no talks prior to issue being brought up at rules committee.— Troy Schulte (@TroySchulteADG) February 21, 2014
Lastly: Bielema didn't sound too confident rule would pass March 6, but he had never seen a rule rooted in safety not pass.— Troy Schulte (@TroySchulteADG) February 21, 2014
And because there was no possible way Bielema's initial comment could truly be as insensitive as it first appeared.
To be clear,Bielema's "death certificate" comment regarding Cal player was in reference to him reportedly testing pos. for sickle cell trait— Troy Schulte (@TroySchulteADG) February 21, 2014
If one of Bielema's players has that trait — he has "half a dozen" — he wants time to be able to get that player out of the game.— Troy Schulte (@TroySchulteADG) February 21, 2014
The Associated Press also covered the event. Among those quotes:
"You have someone pass in the game of football on live TV, (and) see how that affects youth football," Bielema said.— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) February 21, 2014
Mountain West releases 2014 conference schedule
The Mountain West announced its 2014 schedule on Thursday, featuring 48 conference games and 99 total match-ups.
One of the few non-Power Five leagues to have its membership remain steady, the Mountain West will play its second season as a 12-member conference in 2014. Fresno State defeated Utah State in the inaugural Mountain West championship last season, 24-17. The 2014 Mountain West championship will be held on Saturday, Dec. 6 at the home stadium of the conference's highest-ranked division winner.
Now, the highlights.
Non-conference showdowns: Every non-power conference takes its share of lumps in non-conference road games, but the Mountain West has pulled a good number of major opponents into neutral site games or trips to MW campuses. Boise State opens the season against Ole Miss in the Georgia Dome on Aug. 28. Hawaii opens the season with Washington and Oregon State on the islands. Fresno State hosts Nebraska on Sept. 13, while opening the season with road games at USC and Utah. New Mexico hosts Arizona State on Sept. 6, and Utah State draws Wake Forest in Logan a week later.
New head coaches' debuts: In a light year for coaching movement, only two Mountain West schools swapped head coaches. Boise State's Bryan Harsin will open against Ole Miss on Aug. 28, while Wyoming opens the Craig Bohl era at home versus Montana on Aug. 30.
Weeknight games: Only two games are slated as non-Saturday affairs as of today - Boise State's opener at Ole Miss and Utah State's visit to BYU on Friday, Oct. 3. Expect that number to rise as ESPN and CBS Sports Network make their selections.
Games to note: Let's start with the rematch of Fresno State's epic 41-40 shootout win over Boise State Oct. 18 on the blue turf. Or how about San Diego State's shot at redemption for last season's 35-28 overtime defeat to Fresno State, the game that ultimately gave the West Division title to the Bulldogs, on Oct. 4 in Fresno? The season closes with a dandy, Utah State at Boise State on Nov. 29 in a game that may very well serve as a de facto semifinal for the Mountain West championship.
Memo to coaches: Know what's in your contract
A year ago, Mike Groh left his post as Alabama's wide receivers coach to take the same position with the Chicago Bears.
Per his contract, Groh owed a buyout of 20 percent of his salary if he took another position before his contract expired. Groh made $285,000 in his final season in Tuscaloosa, and 20 percent of that is $57,000. Groh has not paid his buyout, and now Alabama is suing him for it (plus interest and fees).
What's interesting here is that Nick Saban could have opted to waive the buyout, as happens in on occasion in these cases, but chose not to. Fifty-seven thousand dollars is a lot of money, clearly, but that chunk of change will obviously affect Groh much more than Alabama or the Chicago Bears. Groh's contract stated he had 14 days to pay the damages and now, a year later, Alabama is taking him to court. Not a pretty situation for anyone involved.
We have no inside information here, but there are two lessons we'd like to pass along. First, do your best to leave any job on good terms. We're not trying to imply Groh left Saban with a bad taste in his mouth - again, we have no idea - but it's never a bad idea to get on the same page with your head man before taking another job. And second, know what you're signing before inking the bottom line on your next contract.
'No coaching stability is like players having a new mom and dad every year'
As it sits right now, East Tennessee State head coach Carl Torbush has two coaches on staff as they prepare for their first season in 2015. They plan to play a handful of games against club team within a 3 hour radius this season.
Defensive coordinator Billy Taylor and defensive backs coach Teddy Gaines are the only full time coaches on staff as it sits right now, and Torbush said that he hopes his next hire is an offensive coordinator, and has fielded well over 300 applicants since the end of the 2013 season.
More than eye popping statistics, or an impressive list of references, Torbush says that he's looking to hire coaches that want to make ETSU a destination location, not a stepping stone.
“A lot of guys are just wanting to move up the ladder. I know that’s the nature of the business, but I don’t want coaches who will be here a year and then leave."
"You have to have stability. If you don’t, it’s like having a different mom and dad every year." he explained to the Johnson City Press.
“I’m not looking for another job, and it’s the same with Billy and Teddy. We love East Tennessee and want to be here. That’s the kind of coaches we’re looking for.”
Ask established, successful coaches at various conventions or clincics this off season for a nugget of career advice, and most of them will reply with something along the lines of "make the most of the opportunity you have, don't take a job with your next career step in mind". Hiring dedicated coaches is especially important for a program that's just getting restarted, and Torbush recognizes that. So as impressive as your resume might be, that's something worth keeping in mind as you apply for other jobs this off season.
The 2014 college football season will begin on August 23
Earlier this month we wrote about the possibility of Sam Houston State and Eastern Washington kicking off the 2014 season in a special "FCS Kickoff" game on August 23.
Now that possibility has turned into reality, as USA Today reported Thursday that ESPN is set to announce the tussle between the Bearkats and Eagles for a 3:30 p.m. ET broadcast on Saturday, August 23.
"We saw the opportunity, saw the need and desire from a programming perspective, and we feel like we can get a significant audience for this game," Brent Colborne, ESPN's Director of Programming for NCAA championships, told USA Today. "Come August 23, right before Labor Day, people are starving for college football. People are ready for football. This is a really cool opportunity to serve those fans."
The Saturday-before-the-Saturday broadcast window, when the pigskin-loving populace is dying for something meaningful to watch, used to be a prime exposure opportunity for FBS programs in various kickoff games, but the NCAA voted to outlaw those games a decade ago, which means Sam Houston State at Eastern Washington will be the earliest a college football game has been played since 2003.
Southland Conference commissioner Tom Burnett and Big Sky Conference commissioner Doug Fullerton each petitioned the NCAA for a waiver, and it was granted. Each team will open camp early and, most importantly, receive an extremely rare exclusive broadcast window. Presently, even the FCS Championship - played on the first Saturday of January - shares a window with the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Fullerton told USA Today that those in the Football Championship Subdivision have discussed the possibility of opening the entire season a week earlier than FBS.
"If this goes well, I would like to put in legislation to offer that up," Fullerton said. "We have a firm start (Labor Day), but we also have a hard ending at Thanksgiving weekend. That's 12 weeks and a bye, with no time off for our kids. It may prove to be the best move to slide our whole schedule that way.
"One thing that I've been concerned about, and some of my colleagues, is I'm afraid with the new (College Football Playoff), it's going to suck all the oxygen out of a post-January bowl season. We wanted ESPN to tell the story about the best teams in FCS better. We also wanted to experiment a bit with an earlier start, with the possibility in the future we might want to move our championship back to before the bowl season."
For now, though, only one game is on the docket. And what a game it is - Eastern Washington has appeared in the FCS semifinals each of the past two seasons, while Sam Houston State made trips to the FCS title game in 2011 and 2012. Sam Houston State knocked Eastern Washington out of the playoffs in 2012, and toppled the Eagles 49-34 in Huntsville, Texas, last September.
Nate Silver says NFL teams cost themselves half a win per season by not doing this
If there was one thing NFL coaches could do to guarantee themselves half a win more per season, you can pretty much guarantee all 32 of them would climb a 30-foot barbed wire fence and then kick the nearest puppy to secure that advantage for themselves. That advantage is there for the taking, Nate Silver says, and yet NFL coaches aren't taking it.
In case you're unfamiliar with Silver's expertise on the topic of numbers, here you go: after analyzing statistical models to call the winner of every political race from the U.S. President to the Billings, Montana, city council, Silver was hired by ESPN to work his numerical magic for the Worldwide Leader in Sports. If he says two plus two equals five, he's got a mountain of spreadsheets proving him correct.
In his latest piece for ESPN, Silver details how analytics have changed the way MLB and NBA teams approach the game. For example, Silver notes how the Boston Red Sox and Oakland A's teams of the early 2000's changed the way baseball approaches on base percentage. Those teams were built on players who simply found ways to get on base, and now OBP specialists like new Texas Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo are signing $130 million contracts. The NBA found that a corner 3-point shot was, over the course of 100 possessions, worth just as many points as a layup. And now the Miami Heat are bringing in defensive stoppers/corner 3 specialists like Shane Battier as the final ingredient to their championship stew.
There is a similar statistical sweet spot in the NFL, but coaches have refused to exploit it: fourth-and-short. Coaches, Silver argues, remain far too conservative in fourth-and-short situations despite evidence that a little extra aggression goes a long way. According to the New York Times, the average NFL team sent its kicking unit onto the field in a fourth-and-short situation when the data says the offense should have remained on the field a whopping 21.7 times over the course of the regular season. All those missed chances added up to 0.5 losses per team over the season, Silver says.
And the reason for erring so often on the side of caution, Silver says, lays at the feet of NFL culture as a whole.
My view is that NFL coaches aren't irrational or necessarily ignorant of the statistics as much as they are poorly incentivized to get these decisions right. The average NFL team has been owned by the same family or organization since 1980 -- for the past 34 years. (By contrast, the average MLB and NBA team last changed owners in 1999.) Furthermore, because of the NFL's prodigious popularity and its generous revenue-sharing policies, even losing or incompetent owners possess extraordinarily valuable products. (The Jacksonville Jaguars are worth $840 million, according to Forbes.) This is a culture that fosters extreme risk aversion. Going for it on fourth down is risky twice over: in the micro sense of staking more on the result of one play, and in the macro sense of defying custom and tradition.
Maybe a decade from now we'll write about the NFL team that rode a wave of situational aggression to a Super Bowl title. Maybe.