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NCAA Football: BREAKING NEWS! National Signing Day is Stupid!

LSU commit Leonard Fournette was this year's top recruit.

LSU commit Leonard Fournette was this year’s top recruit.

I will post this every year until people get the message…

There is always uncertainty when players make a jump up in competition level but there is no greater uncertainty than college football recruiting.  Instead of rambling on about why this is the case I’ll just give you the numbers.

Here is this year’s first and second team All-Americans, their scout.com star rating, and position rankings followed by the 2010 class’s 5-star recruits:

1st and 2nd team2_Page_1 1st and 2nd team2_Page_2The average star rating was a 3.4 and the average ranking for each player’s position was  54.7.  Meaning that there should have been 54 players better than these guys in their position not just in college football, but in their graduating class.

Here are the 5-star rated players from 2010: (Click to view bigger)

5starsResize_Page_15starsResize_Page_2

14 (28%) of the 5-stars from  four years ago turned out to be elite players while 21 (42%) of them were busts and 5 (10%) of them couldn’t finish their careers at their schools for different reasons.  The other 10 (20%) were just quality D1-FBS players.

Enjoy your stars and recruiting rankings everybody but know that  they are worthless until the kids play for real.

Richard Sherman Will Be More Popular But Not Richer

Richard Sherman with Erin Andrews

Richard Sherman with Erin Andrews

Richard Sherman gained 300k twitter followers overnight after he called out Michael Crabtree in a post game interview.  Some called his rant a genius self-marketing move.  The problem with the interview is that Sherman instantly became a polarizing personality.  While Sherman may have gained more followers and made himself into a household name, don’t expect any money to come along with it because controversial celebrities don’t make good spokespeople.

Being controversial has helped in other professions.

Being controversial has helped in other professions.

Being brash has worked for celebrates in other professions.  A couple of years ago teen pop star Miley Cyrus was the face of the Disney Channel and had her own Wal-Mart brand.   She decided to completely change her image became the hot controversial topic.  Unlike Sherman, Cyrus makes money from keeping her name in the paper because the more relevant she is, the more likely people are to listen to her music and attend her shows. These are her main streams of revenue.  When she was a lesser-known teen star she had tour sponsors but her popularity began decreasing.  In 2011 she didn’t tour in the United States she said because, “I just think right now America has gotten to a place where I don’t know if they want me to tour or not. Right now I just want to go to the places where I am getting the most love and Australia and South America have done that for me.”  Now she has no sponsors but it does not matter because her controversial transformation from innocent teen to raunchy adult brought her back to relevancy.  Richard Sherman’s bullish personality will make the Seahawks games a bigger draw, and people will pay attention to everything he does on the field.  Unfortunately for Sherman extra ticket sales and higher TV audiences don’t have any impact on his salary.

Floyd Mayweather banked $90 million this year primarily because of his mouth.

Floyd Mayweather banked $90 million this year primarily because of his mouth.

The Miley Cyrus model can work for athletes in individual sports because essentially they are their team.  Floyd Mayweather has more baggage than any athlete in sports but that didn’t stop him from making more money than any athlete last year: $90 million. Zero dollars came from sponsors.  His edgy personality draws attention and the money from the ticket sales and PPV buys go directly into his pocket.

Sherman cannot capitalize on his popularity unless he has sponsors and the sponsors won’t come calling.  Terrell Ownes was one of the biggest names in football during his career but didn’t have any major sponsorship and even said in a 2005 interview, “With the league labeling me as being controversial, I think some companies … would want to do some things, but at the same time they may look at bringing me on-board may tarnish their image.” (“The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch,” CNBC, 4/14.)

Spokesmen are like politicians, they need to be as universally likeable as possible.  Companies don’t want to run the risk of offending customers with any of the faces they use to market their brand.  By all reports Sherman is a nice, smart guy but if his end goal is to bring in sponsorship money he needs to find a better way to do it.  His own agent, Jamie Fritz, was quoted at the end of 2013 saying, “There are a number of successful players in the NFL who don’t have endorsement deals,” Fritz said. “At the end of the day … people have to like you. If they don’t like you, they won’t buy the product you’re endorsing. Richard has a perception of being loud and in-your-face, but off the field, he’s very sincere, approachable and likable.”(Puget Sound Business Journal 12/30/13).

I wonder what he would say now.

Clayton Kershaw’s New Deal is a Bargain

The 25 year old Clayton Kershaw is now $210 million richer.

The 25 year old Clayton Kershaw is now $210 million richer.

Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball and he’s only 25.  But is he worth the seven-year deal that will pay him a MLB record annual salary of $30.7 million a year?  For any other Major League Baseball team the answer is no, but after the Dodgers’ agreement with Time Warner Cable , he is actually a bargain.

Last year when Kershaw’s annual salary was $11 million he was ranked 63rd for pitchers in the NL in Dollars per Wins Above Replacement.  If he were being paid his current salary he would have been 90th.  To baseball stat heads this means that there are 89 pitchers who are more valuable than Kershaw.  While that maybe a great argument against Kershaw’s deal for almost any MLB team, the Dodgers are not just any other team.

The Dodgers TV contract will give them $6 billion over the next 25 years.  That equates to $240 million a year.  They will have to share almost $80 million of that with the rest of the teams, but they will get back $51.7 million from MLB’s national TV deal and $33 million in revenue sharing that will even out anything they give back.  With Kershaw’s new deal the Dodgers payroll will also be near $240 million a year, which puts the Dodgers in the sweet spot for MLB teams. It means the TV contract can cover the payroll and all of the revenue from tickets, ads, merchandise  etc.  will go to the owners.

The Dodgers Ownership group. Robert Patton, Stan Kasten, Mark Walter, Earvin Magic Johnson, Peter Guber, Todd Boehl.

The Dodgers Ownership group. Robert Patton, Stan Kasten, Mark Walter, Earvin Magic Johnson, Peter Guber, Todd Boehl.

According to “Baseball Prospectus”, starting pitchers represented 39.04 % of salaries last season.  If the Dodgers have a payroll of $240 million, they should be paying their starters $93.4 million a year.  With Kershaw’s new deal the Dodgers will be paying their starters $89.4 million in 2014.

After 2014 the Dodgers’ contracts will expire for the underperforming Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsly who just underwent Tommy John’s surgery, so they will have $28 million more to work with and still stay under the league’s average.  The pitchers that will still be on the books, Kershaw, Zack Grinke, and Hyun-jin Ryu, were top 16 in the National League in Wins Above Replacement in 2013.  With 15 teams in the National League, a case could be made that the Dodgers already have three starters who could be a NL team’s number one starter.  Adding two pitchers for $14 million a year each would give Los Angeles five of the top fifteen highest paid pitchers in the NL.  The Dodgers could be looking at a five man rotation of number one starters in 2015 without breaking the budget.

Kershaw’s salary may seem gaudy but he is well within the Dodgers’ budget.   Overpaying for a Lamborghini may sound stupid for the common man but is not a big deal for a billionaire.

Go For Two

Tom Brady signals for the two point conversion.

Tom Brady signals for the two point conversion.

When a team is down by 7 and scores a touchdown late in a game, coaches will almost always kick the extra point instead of “rolling the dice” and going for two.  Going for two is considered risky but it is actually statistically more favorable to go for two when the clock shows two minutes or less left in the game.  When a team attempts a two -point conversion, their odds of winning are 36.9% compared to 32.5% after making an extra point.

There is a 48% chance of success on a two-point conversion in the NFL.  Conventional wisdom says that because the odds are below 50% it’s smarter to go for one than to go for two because the expected amount of points from kicking  (1 point) is more than the expected amount of points when going for two (.96.)  However, more information needs to be factored in late during games.

The assumptions made before calculating the probabilities are:

A)    Both teams are of equal skill level

B)    The possession after the TD is potentially the final point scoring possession of regulation.

C)     There is approximately two minutes left in the game.

D)    If the kickoff following the score is not an onside kick the team will start at the 27-yard line (NFL average.)[1]

E)     Onside kicks are recovered at the 50

F)     All extra points are successful

The two-point conversion has only been in the NFL since 1994.

The two-point conversion has only been in the NFL since 1994.

The decision tree below shows the probabilities associated with going for two:

DTREE1

Tree Explained:  There are two possible outcomes after going for two, it either  fails (52% chance) or it is successful (48%.)[2]

In the case the two point conversion is successful there is a 65% chance the game will end without the opponent scoring resulting in a win.[3]

In the scenario where the two-point conversion is not successful, the team may attempt an onside kick.  If the onside kick is not successful (80%) a loss is resulted; if it is successful (20%) there are two possible outcomes:  the team scores (65%) resulting in a win, or the team does not score (35%) resulting in a loss.

 

Win probability =  (.52*.20*.55)+(.48*.65) = .369

Here is the decision tree for the extra point:

dtree2

The opposing team can score on the next drive which would result in a loss (35%) or they will not score and the game will go into overtime which would give the team a 50/50 chance of winning.

 

Win Probability= .65*=.5= .325

 

Going for two late in games is not risky; it is actually statistically safer.  While the difference may only be 4.4%, it would be foolish to not take the best odds no matter how small the difference is.

 

Sark is the Right Hire for USC

Steve Sarkisian will return to USC as the Head Coach.

Steve Sarkisian will return to USC as the Head Coach.

Steve Sarkisian will be USC’s football coach next season.  His name flew relatively under the radar while names such as Ed Oregeron, Chris Peterson,  and James Franklin  were filling the rumor mills.  Even though other names drew excitement, Pat Haden picked the right guy.

It may seem a little sudden for Pat Haden to have picked a new head coach but he had a year to think about it.  In a perfect world Haden would have fired Kiffin a year ago but because of scholarship sanctions and question marks throughout the depth chart the team was going to be a disappointment to USC standards no matter who the coach was.  By letting Kiffin stay he saved whoever he was going to hire from having a bad first season.  He hasn’t been looking for a new coach for half a season; he has been looking since last year.

Sark is the right guy for a lot of reasons, he’s a Southern California guy, a smart football mind, young, and most importantly he knows how to turn around a program.  Sark was at USC during Pete Carroll’s reign so he knows what takes to win at USC.  Washington was 8th in the nation in yards this season and 17th in points.  The year before Sark arrived they were 117 and 118 in those categories respectively.   The Washington roster is comprised of 50 players from California so he’s well tapped into the recruiting pipelines in the area. Most impressively he took a Huskies team that was winless to what will be four straight winning seasons after a 5-7 first year.

Interm head coach Ed Oregeron was not hired despite being interviewed.

Interm head coach Ed Oregeron was not hired despite being interviewed.

The most obvious proof of good coaching is when a new coach is brought in and the players don’t change and the results do; which is why some Trojan fans wanted to keep Coach O. In reality he was just a short term fix who was mainly successful because the players were so excited to play for anyone except Kiffin.  Oregeron’s best asset is his ability to recruit but his Xs and Os knowledge is less than desirable.    Oregeron is an exceptional recruiter but he  wouldn’t be able to do much better then Sark.  Sark can recruit well and the best recruiting tool for USC is the program itself which can’t exactly walk out the door.

Chris Peterson was an attractive name but a smart pass.  The last coach to leave Boise was Dan Hawkins who was a failure at Colorado.  Peterson took over a Boise State program that already had some momentum and recruits a different kind of kid then USC.  USC is going to get the 5-star prima donnas and Boise State takes the second tier players with something to prove.    It would be a major adjustment for him to make the transition from being a big fish in a little pond to being thrown into the ocean at USC.

James Franklin has been impressive at Vanderbilt taking the SEC’s doormat and turning them into a competitive group.  However he’s never coached on the west coast so recruiting would be an issue and like Peterson he goes after a different type of kid.  While USC is a very good academic institution it’s reputation for sports prevents it from being lumped in with schools like Stanford and Vanderbilt.  Franklin takes smart athletic kids and creates a fundamentally sound intelligent team.  What has worked in the past at USC can best be described as controlled chaos.  Under Pete Carroll there were a lot of bone headed plays but the team had the best athletes, had fun and played loose so they were able to make up for those mistakes.

USC made the right choice.  They picked a guy who is a proven winner and most importantly someone who has seen first –hand how to win at USC.

 

More Passing Brings More Danger

There have been 40 more season ending injuries this season than last year.

There have been 40 more season ending injuries this season than last year.

The NFL has dramatically changed the rules of football over the past decade in an attempt to improve the safety of the players.  The NFL has also changed the rules to make it easier for teams to pass.  Unfortunately the rules to protect the players’ safety do not outweigh the damage done by the rule changes that affect the way offenses strategize.  Through seven weeks of the 2013 season there have been 124 season ending injuries; through seven weeks in 2012 there were 84. If the NFL does not go back to making passing more difficult it will have a major injury problem to contend with.

The NFL is an entertainment empire.  Just like any other entertainment company the NFL builds a product to fit their audience’s preferences.  Passing plays are more exciting than run plays.  There is no statistical evidence to prove it but listen to how much louder a crowd reacts after a 6 yard gain on a pass play than a 6 yard run play.  The NFL realized this and adjusted its product to increase its entertainment value.  It worked; the NFL continues to grow in popularity.

Don't expect to see any feature backs again anytime soon.

Don’t expect to see any feature backs again anytime soon.

The NFL adjusted by making the officials call pass interference, defensive holding, and personal fouls more frequently.  This made it tougher for defenders to break up passes, hit the quarterback and to hit receivers after the catch without drawing a flag.

These rule changes made passing easier and created an offensive paradigm shift.   In 2013 rushing attempts per game are at an all time low (53).  Per game numbers for receptions (44.6) passing yards (491.8) attempts (72.4) completion percentage (61.7) and touchdown passes (3.2) are all at all time highs.  The increase in passing plays is great for the audience but horrible for player safety.

Passing plays are more dangerous because they are more unpredictable.  During a run play players have time to anticipate contact and position their bodies to absorb the contact.  Additionally, most players cannot get up to full speed because most of the contact occurs in a confined area between the tackle box and five yards on either side of the line of scrimmage.  During a passing play players are running full speed all over the field focused on the quarterback or the ball instead of their surroundings.

Because of this generally when a receiver gets hit on a passing play he is leaving himself vulnerable to a world class athlete running full speed with the intention of transferring all of his force and momentum into the receiver.  It doesn’t matter if players cannot target the head anymore, there are plenty of places on the body where a blind side full force hit can do damage.

The additional targeting penalties could actually result in more injuries.  Decades ago when there were not as many rules, receivers did not go over the middle as much because they knew the consequences attached to doing so.  The new rules have created a false sense of security for receivers.  Sure, they may not get pushed around as much while running routes or have to worry about a head hunter but a safety running full speed and torpedoing at a receiver’s knees can do a lot of damage.  While the concussion number might drop, the injuries and length of recovery time for those injuries will increase.

Passing plays are also more dangerous for lineman.  On a run play offensive linemen have their assignments and can for the most part anticipate where contact will come from before he play.  On passing plays they have to read and react.  Also on passing plays offensive lineman are moving backwards which leaves them oblivious to any players who may be rolling up under them and taking out their knees.  For defensive lineman the problem is similar.  Run plays they can prepare for contact, on passing plays they may have to deal with smaller backs taking out their knees.

Rugby tackles are safer than football tackles.

Rugby tackles are safer than football tackles.

No other sport in the world allows all players to get hit from almost all angles.  In hockey players cannot get hit from behind and can only get hit when they have the puck, rugby is the same.  Even boxers and UFC fighters have a chance to react to a strike before it takes place.  The sports’ legal contact structure of other violent sports makes football seem barbaric.

Football has always been and will continue to be dangerous.  Even though it seems the NFL is doing all it can to protect the players the best thing they can do is go in the time machine a couple of decades backwards to decrease the amount of unpredicted hits that players endure.

How to Build an NFL Team

Peyton Manning is the most valuable player in football according to the research.

Peyton Manning is the most valuable player in football according to the research.

WARNING: Stats heavy, lots of numbers and math:

How do you build the perfect football team?  It’s a complicated, but by using what I have learned in a few statistics classes and Madden ratings I think I might be onto something…

Madden ratings are not perfect but they are the only numerical value assigned to player talent.  I created a spread sheet of every NFL teams’ wins alongside their ratings at each position.  I then took each position and found its correlation to the amount of total wins a team has over the course of a season. Here’s what I found:

Position correlation to wins:

  1. QB (.53)
  2. C (.36)
  3. WR (.29)
  4. CB (.27)
  5. TE (.26)
  6. DE (.24)
  7. LB (.11)
  8. DT (.03)
  9. RB (-.09)
  10. 10.  S (-.17)
  11. 11.  T (-.23)
Madden ratings may not be perfect but they are the only quantifiable statistic for talent.

Madden ratings may not be perfect but they are the only quantifiable statistic for talent.

It’s not a surprise that quarterback is the most closely tied to a team’s success but the numbers do bring up some questions.  Why are the top 3 most important positions on offense if defense wins championships, and how is tackle the least important position even to the point where it hurts a team to have a good one?

After some further thought it starts to make sense.  With all the new safety rules in the NFL defense has become less important because all the penalties effect good defenses more then bad ones.  The added safety rules take away some of the intimidation factor that good defenses had in the past. More importantly, often times the only way an offense can move the ball on a good defense are through penalties. A bad defense is going to give up yards weather they are penalized or not.

The negative correlation for tackles is a little more difficult to understand.  The NFL has a salary cap, so teams have to distribute their money throughout their roster.  Tackles, especially left tackles, are some of the highest paid players on the field.  Good left tackles make the most money so the amount of money the team has left for the rest of the roster is lower resulting in a weaker roster.   Unlike other highly paid positions like quarterback, the value that a left tackle provides is not enough to offset the cost.

Max Unger is one of the top 5 centers in the NFL.

Max Unger is one of the top 5 centers in the NFL.

After getting the correlations I created an optimal rating for each position for each team.  I then added up all the instances that a team was below the optimal rating to create “distance from optimal” (DFO) score. If a team was above the optimal level, no extra points were rewarded.

Now you’re probably thinking,” why not just add up the Madden Rankings?”  The correlation from total madden rankings to wins was .41 which means there is a 97.5% certainty level that the total rankings affect wins.  DFO score had a -.59 correlation to wins, which means with 99.5% certainty the lower the DFO, the better the team.

The reason why DFO works better is because of the old adage “you’re only as good as your weakest player.”  By using DFO teams are penalized for having weak spots on rosters and the weight of the penalty is determined by the importance of each position.  By simply adding all the rankings up a team with a perfect WR corps and a garbage quarterback will receive the same amount of points as a team with both optimal levels, which should not be the case.

Here are the optimal ratings for each position:

QB: 92  HB: 84  WR:89  TE:87 T:85 G:83 C:90

DT:85 DE: 89 LB:87 CB:90 S:83

The Patriots have the NFL's best DFO in 2013.

The Patriots have the NFL’s best DFO in 2013.

I then took what I learned from last year and applied it to this year’s Madden ratings to find which teams are the most likely to win games.

Predictions for this year (DFO)(project. W-L):

AFC:

  1. Patriots (40) (14-2)
  2. Broncos (47) (12-4)
  3. Bengals (49) (12-4)
  4. Texans (63) (9-7)
  5. Chiefs (65) (9-7)
  6. Dolphins (65) (9-7)
  7. Colts (83) (7-9)
  8. Ravens (85) (7-9)
  9. Titans (85) (7-9)
  10.  Steelers (87) (6-10)
  11.  Chargers (104) (5-11)
  12.  Bills (106) (5-11)
  13.  Browns (107) (4-12)
  14.  Jets (107) (4-12)
  15.  Jaguars (111) (3-13)
  16.  Raiders (124) (2-14)

NFC:

  1. Seahawks (41) (13-3)
  2. 49ers (49) (12-4)
  3. Vikings (50) (11-5)
  4. Saints (53) (11-5)
  5. Bears (53) (10-6)
  6. Packers (58) (10-6)
  7. Cowboys (58) (9-7)
  8. Giants (58) (9-7)
  9. Falcons (70) (8-8)
  10.  Redskins (73) (8-8)
  11.  Lions (74) (8-8)
  12.  Buccaneers (74) (8-8)
  13.  Panthers (77) (7-9)
  14.  Eagles (79) (7-9)
  15.  Rams (98) (6-10)
  16.  Cardinals (107) (4-12)

There are other major variables not accounted for like coaches and injuries but as far as projecting wins off players’ talent, this is as good as it gets.

FOR FULL SPREADSHEET AND STATS TWEET:

“@RealTommyMorris show me the numbers https://tommymorrismedia.com/2013/10/03/how-to-build-an-nfl-team/”

NCAA Football: A Junior Pro League Instead of College

Alabama got the national championship trophy, but the NCAA got $150 million.

Alabama players got the national championship trophy, but the NCAA got $150 million.

“Student-athletes” are paid in diplomas while the institutions and NCAA collect the dollars.   The value of a college degree is not negligible, but the problem is in order to get one a student has to complete the course work.  With the 6-year graduation rate of BCS conference football players at 55.5%, only about half of the players are getting compensated for their services.  Athletes ages 18-22 need another way to be reimbursed for their efforts.  A junior pro league would be the right path for some of these kids to go down instead of college and would make perfect business sense for any potential owners.

Florida International had the nation's worst graduation rate, 40%.

Florida International had the nation’s worst graduation rate, 40%.

The diploma is the only “paycheck” a college football player receives.  This comes after four or five years of hard work.  Scholarships don’t last the length of an academic career; they are year-to-year contracts.  If a player loses his spot on the team or his eligibility before graduating he walks away with nothing.  What other line of work pays people every four years with the right to release its employees whenever it wants without having to pay them for the work already done?

Here are some complicated math numbers that show how broken the system is:

  • 10,625 FBS (division 1-A) players with a scholarship.
  • 2656 players fighting for an NFL job if ¼ of college players leave every year.
  • 264 rookies made the final roster cut in 2013, or roughly 10% of all of the players leaving college.
  • 3 years = The median NFL career[i]
  • $555,000 = The median NFL salary[ii]
  • $1,665,000 = Expected career income for NFL Player[iii]
  • $166,500 = Expected football career income for high school graduate playing college football for four years and three in the NFL[iv]
  • $109,782 = Expected minimum wage earnings for seven years
  • $25mil = Average FBS conference school’s annual profit on football in 2012
  • $35,000 = Average annual cost for college
  • $294,118 = Approximate annual Profit per football player in 2012
  • $140,000 = Average four year cost of college
  • $1,176,470= Approximate four year career profit for school per player
There is only a $56,718 difference between expected salary working minimum wage and playing football.  That's only about $1000 more per year over the course of a lifetime.

There is only a $56,718 difference between expected salary working minimum wage and playing football. That’s only about $1000 more per year over the course of a lifetime.

As the numbers show a person who graduates high school and takes a minimum wage job is not that much worse off than the average FBS football player.  If the cost of education counts as salary then student athletes are only making around 12% of what they are worth.  When presented with these statistics, what promising young athlete would chose to go to college?

A junior pro league would be able to get the best talent around the country because college football is such a fraud.  The league for 18-22 year olds would serve as the players’ three to five years after high school and before the NFL.  They would be able to make a constant stream of cash instead of having to wait for a four-year payoff that may or may not come.  They would also be able to sign with agents and make endorsement money right away in addition to their playing salaries.

Rough structure of how this league could work financially:

16 Teams in major sports media markets:

East West
Atlanta Dallas
Baltimore Denver
Boston Houston
Chicago Los Angeles
Detroit Phoenix
New York Seattle
Philadelphia San Diego
Washington San Francisco

Annual Costs per team:

$20 mil = Player Salary for 60-man roster

$2mil = Room and Board for players

$10 mil = Cost of top of the line coaching staff and front office

$15 mil = Other Expenses

$47 mil = Total cost

Annual Revenue per team:

$24.5mil = Ticket sales[v]

$20mil = TV contract[vi]

$10mil = Merchandise[vii]

$15mil = Advertisements

$1.5mil = Gameday concessions[viii]

$61mil = Total Revenue

Total Profit per team = $14 million

This arrangement makes sense for the players and the owners.  On a 60-man team, the players would average $333,333 in annual salary and the owners would make back around 30% of the money that they put in.

It would take a handful of billionaires sitting around a table to get the league started.  If it ever happens, watch out NCAA.


[i] Median used rather than average because there are too many outliers greater than the average.

[ii] Median used rather than average because there are too many outliers greater than the average.

[iii] Median annual salary times Median career length

[iv] Expected career salary times percentage of scholarship athletes that make NFL

[v] Projecting 50,000 attendance and $49 average ticket price

[vi] Pac-12 equivalent

[vii] 1% of the NFL mark used for Merch., Ads.

[viii] Determined by assuming half NFL attendance with half the spending power

Saving Baseball

Will anyone be around to watch Mike Trout at the end of his career?

Will anyone be around to watch Mike Trout at the end of his career?

Only half of the top 10 companies in the year 2000’s Fortune 500 list are still in the top 10 today.  The businesses that were able maintain their rankings were the ones who adapted to our constantly changing society.  Like businesses, sports leagues need to constantly tweak their product to sustain or increase popularity.  Major League Baseball has resisted change.  MLB’s refusal to evolve is causing a decline in popularity amongst youths.  A recent Harris Poll found that only 8% of 25-29 year olds site baseball as their favorite sport compared to 19% of 50-64 year olds.  More alarming is according to the National Sporting Goods Association from 2000-2009 the number of 7-17 year olds in Little League dropped 24%. MLB needs to make changes to appeal to youths before the new generation gets old enough to be the financial decision makers of their households.

MLB ignores the new generation of sports fans and keeps the game the same to appease traditionalist fans.  There were a lot of reluctant consumers when smart phones came out who “just wanted a cell phone,” but imagine trying to run a phone company today that makes just traditional phones.

MLB needs to cater to sports fans that don’t watch baseball to save baseball, not the life long baseball fan.  The consumer who “just wanted a phone,” eventually had to get a smart phone because he or she needed to have a phone and had no choice.  Life long fans will still watch even if rule changes discourage them because they love baseball too much to stop watching and will have no choice. Kids and the mercurial casual sports fans won’t start to watch baseball unless things are changed.  By making changes baseball will only add to its fan base, not lose it.

1973 World Series Champion A's

1973 World Series Champion A’s

MLB has not made any major rule changes since the designated hitter was introduced in 1973.  Since that time the NBA has added the three-point line, changed the way teams are allowed to play defense, and made other adjustments to encourage highlight reel plays.  The NFL went to a 16 game schedule, made it easier for teams to pass, added the two point conversion, brought in full instant replay, and implemented more rules to protect star players.  Both the NBA and NFL made adjustments based off of what the current landscape of sports fans want to see and are thriving while baseball dwindles.

Here are some ways MLB make baseball more fan friendly:

WARNING: Some are a bit radicle and may not be safe for baseball fans over the age of 50.

1.  No More Time Outs

Derek Jeter taking his time.

Derek Jeter taking his time.

Once the pitcher has taken the sign and the batter is in the box neither player can call time.  There must be a pitch or a pick off attempt.  If the pitcher does anything else it is a balk. If a batter steps out the box, the play is still live and the pitcher will still make a pitch.

Little breaks in the action make baseball too slow.  This will help eliminate some down time and keep fans entertained.

2. Three Tennis Style Challenges for Balls and Strikes

Each manager gets three computer challenges for balls and strikes a game.  On a challenge the pitch will be displayed on the Jumbotron immediately and there will be a resolution within seconds; just like tennis.  Also like tennis only incorrect challenges result in a loss of challenge opportunities.  Example: If a manager with two challenges left correctly challenges a call, he still has two challenges remaining.

Horrible calls discourage fans.  By eliminating some mistakes by umpires baseball can help keep fans happy.

3. Three DHs in All Leagues

Power hitting DHs like David Ortiz make the game more exciting.

Power hitting DHs like David Ortiz make the game more exciting.

Teams in both leagues can sub out not only the pitcher, but two of their weakest hitting fielders as well.

While there is something to be said about the increased levels of strategy non-DH leagues have, no one is paying top dollar to watch a pitcher stand in the batters box or a scrappy shortstop struggle to break the Mendoza Line.  Adding DHs gives acrobatic defenders who struggle offensively a chance to exhibit their talents and allows sluggers who are limited defensively a chance to excite fans at the plate.

4. Eight Team Playoffs

All three division winners in each league make the playoffs along with five wild card teams. The bottom four wild card teams will play a best-of-three game play-in series.  After the play-in round, the structure follows the current model.

Baseball has the lowest ratio of playoff teams to total teams in major sports.  With such a low ratio only six or seven teams in each league are still relevant in the latter parts of the season. The added teams make more markets relevant throughout the year.  The play-in round creates a major incentive to win the division or get the top wild card spot, which discourages teams from coasting in the last couple weeks of the season.

These are just a few changes that can be made to help baseball make it through the 21st century.  These don’t need to be the exact changes MLB makes, but if MLB continues to stay the same it will continue to move closer to irrelevancy.

NCAA Football: Best College Football Players You’ve Never Heard Of

Best College Football Players You’ve Never Heard Of

Everyone knows the best players in the country on the major programs, but every year guys from smaller schools turn heads.  Here are some guys you have never heard of that could be amongst the best in the country:

Taylor Heinicke, QB, Jr., Old Dominion:


As a sophomore last year Heinicke won the Walter Payton Award, the FCS’s version of the Heisman.  He completed 69% of his passes for 5,076 passing yards including a 730-yard performance against New Hampshire. Heinicke also tallied 44 TDs and only 14 INTs with 470 rushing yards.  Joe Flacco played in the same conference and only had 4,263 yards and 23 TDs with a 64% completion rate his senior year.

ODU will make the transition to FBS football over the next couple of seasons giving the Monarch’s star a chance to prove himself against a higher level of talent.  As a 6’1″ 195 lb FCS quarterback,(extra space was deleted here) Heinicke is looked at as an under sized system stat compiler playing against lowly competition. This season ODU has East Carolina, Maryland, Pittsburgh, and North Carolina on the schedule.  If he proves himself against the FBS schools he will see his name towards the top of the 2015 QB draft boards.

Chuckie Keeton, QB, Jr., Utah State:

The dual threat quarterback set school records in TD passes (27), passing yards (3,373) completions (275), and completion percentage (67.6%).  He also ran for 619 yards and 8 TDs and was a first team all WAC selection last year as a sophomore.  Keeton will get a chance to make a name for himself right away this season, playing Utah on opening Thursday featured on Fox Sports 1.

Kenneth Dixon, HB, So., Louisiana Tech:

Dixon only received 4 FBS scholarship offers coming out of high school, which means 121 teams made a mistake.  Dixon’s 1,194 rushing yards and his NCAA freshman rushing TD record (27) was good enough to make him a freshman All-American last season.   Dixon is impossible to bring down with one defender.  His hard running style is reminiscent of Alabama’s Mark Ingram.

Tim Flanders, HB, Sr., Sam Houston State:


Flanders is the definition of a “scat back.”  In SHSU’s wide-open offense he amassed 1642 rushing yards with 17 TDs and a 5.7 yards/carry average.  He will get a chance to prove( himself week two against Texas A&M.

Tommy Shuler, WR, Jr.  Marshall:

Shuler is small at 5’8″, 185 lbs. but his numbers are massive.  The speedy and shifty wide out led the NCAA in receptions per game (9.2) and totaled 1,138 yards in his sophomore season.   Against Purdue he caught 19 passes for 200 yards.

Noel Grigsby, WR, Sr. San Jose State:

A lot of people are talking about the Spartan’s quarterback, David Fales, but not a lot of attention is being paid to his favorite target.  Grigsby started off last season with an impressive stat line against Stanford (7 catches, 93 yard, 1 TD.)  Against BYU, who ranked 9th in the nation in passing yards allowed, Grigsby caught 8 balls for 132 yards and 2 TDs.

Khalil Mack, LB, Sr., Buffalo:

In a MAC dominated by offense, Mack is one of the few players on defense to excite NFL scouts.  He holds the school record in tackles for loss with 56, and needs 19 this season to set the NCAA mark.  He is fast and athletic and can move down and play DE if the situation calls for it.

Andrew Jackson, LB, Sr., Western Kentucky:

Jackson was 12th in the nation with 78 solo tackles last season.  He went to the same high school as future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, and while it is unfair to compare Jackson’s talent to his predecessor, it is fair to say that Jackson plays with the same passion for the game.

Larry Webster, DE, Bloomsburg:

Larry Webster

Larry Webster

 

Webster started his collegiate career on the basketball court but decided to hang up the sneakers and pick up the spikes.  He was a division 2 All-American last year and should improve exponentially in his second season of college football.