Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bruce Weber is Staying At Illinois, and That's Probably OK

Rejoice, Illinois fans; Bruce Weber is still yours!

OK, the reaction to this news amongst Illinois fans, at least from what I can tell, is something less than the reaction Purdue fans had to the Matt Painter news yesterday. That's what a few disappointing seasons will do to a fanbase, and understandably so. 

But with Athletic Director Ron Guenther likely serving his last few months in office and with a young team perhaps particularly susceptible to transfer risks, this was not an opportune time for a coaching change (not to mention: many Illini fans are still furious that Bill Self spurned them for Kansas, because of what it said about the relative status of their program. What would it say about the status of Illinois if Bruce Weber left for Oklahoma?)

There are lots of costs that come with a coaching change. Recruiting relationships must be reestablished. Buyouts must be proffered, both for the old and the new coach (though if Weber left of his own accord, of course, this wouldn't be a problem for Illinois). There's no guarantee the old players will respond to the new coach, or that they will even stick around to find out.

And then there's the problem that we still have no clue what makes a coaching relationship a success. Michigan can sign the most successful coach in West Virginia history and the architect of spread football, and suffer their worst three year stretch since the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping. Auburn grabs a 5-19 coach from Ames and wins a national championship and wins a national championship two years later. USC signs an NFL washout and constructs one of the most frightening college football dynasties of all time. These things are more art than science. About the best thing athletic directors can do is make a sufficiently safe selection that they aren't blamed too much if things don't work out. The AD that hires Brad Stevens away from Butler will have instant failure insurance. That's worth almost as much as success itself.

Linkfest! 3-31-2011

Is it Illinois's turn to play coach chicken? The campus rally for Bruce Weber might draw fewer students than the one for Matt Painter in West Lafayette.

Corn Nation breaks down the Nebraska basketball season that was.

Speaking of the Cornhuskers, Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune talks to Nebraska AD Tom Osborne.

Brian Cook says Michigan's freshmen might not take as big a step forward in their sophomore year as the average freshmen. Still, "our freshmen were too good" is a nice problem to have.

Dr. Saturday takes a brief look at soon-to-be Ohio State gameday head coach Luke Fickell.

The Daily Gopher skips all the way forward to the 2013 football season. That might not be a bad idea for Gophers fans.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Matt Painter Story Would Have Grossed $200 Million in 1997

If this were a movie, Mizzou would be Julia Roberts, Purdue would be some objectively more-attractive but less charismatic woman who has a habit of getting under people's skin, and Matt Painter would be ... actually, Matt Painter might just play himself (he is rather dreamy). How we know it's not a movie: Julia Roberts always gets the guy. Instead, it was Mizzou left crying at the alter, while Painter and Purdue are left professing that their love is stronger than ever, an absence makes the heart grow fonder moment if there ever was one.

So Purdue fans are permitted a sign of relief, for a coaching change is always a little traumatic whatever the circumstances; it's even harder when your childhood sweetheart decides you're just not putting in the necessary attention. But these little spats have a way of festering over time. Painter is no longer one of the lowest paid coaches in the conference. The bar has been raised for him just as two All-Americans graduate, and with a few years of lackluster recruiting. Loyalty is nice, but fans have been known to be just as fickle as coaches when things get tough. The next two seasons of Purdue basketball may put their relationship to the test again, and don't be surprised if next time, it's the fans saying "it's not you, it's me.

Linkfest! 3-30-2011

Robert at A Lion Eye makes the trek to Champaign for the first spring practice and posts some thoughts.

Lake the Posts breaks down the Northwestern basketball season that was. I'll have my own thoughts(?) on the subject in a few weeks.

Ramzy at Eleven Warriors goes through the second stage of grief after a disappointing end to the Ohio State basketball season.

Meanwhile, Travis at Hammer and Rails has skipped straight through to state three over the Matt Painter Saga.

Penn State loses defensive end Pete Massaro for the season. Tough break for a unit destroyed by injuries last season.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mark Emmert Makes a Lot of Money and I Don't Care

Other, smarter people (Big Ten grads, no less) have waxed more eloquently on the problems with the NCAA’s eccentric definition of amateurism. The current system—scholarships are OK, training tables are fine, outside money not so much—is more an historical curiosity than a principled philosophy. I have my problems with the current system; I also think it works in several ways and that wholesale revolution is not necessary. Others disagree. These spats are what make life worth living, along with guitars tuned good and firm-feeling women.

What aggravates me, however, is the looseness in definitions (this is an ongoing jihad of mine, as readers will learn). So when PBS rallies against the inherent contradictions of a non-profit organization paying its officers too much money because “nonprofit” means wholesome, I look a wee bit more like Cal Ripken, Jr.

Nonprofit is not non-revenue. Every competently run organization seeks to increase its revenue--even non-profit organizations. Of course they do; there would be no reason to create the organization if it didn’t take in more money than it spent. A cancer research charity spends some money, hopes to solicit more, and we wish them the best, even though they are a non-profit getting “profits.” It is even OK for the charity to sell stuff, rather than just passing around a collection plate.

There are two disadvantages, and one huge advantage, to being a nonprofit organization. First, all the money raised has to be plowed into the purpose of your organization. Shareholders do not earn dividends (also, there are no shareholders). Second, state and federal governments impose many registration and audit requirements. In return for these restrictions, non-profit organizations are not taxed.

Very simple, no? Nonprofit does not mean that employees cannot be paid, or that officers’ salaries are limited. To be sure, non-profits are often rated on how much money goes towards the stated purpose; nobody wants a charity where three-quarters of the money goes towards the salaries of its officers. But when a museum director makes a cool $2.5 million, the status of the organization as a nonprofit is not put in danger. Of course, the donors might not be pleased, but that is a separate problem. And the donors might not be all that unhappy. If a nonprofit is worth doing, it’s worth doing well, with sound management. Sound management often costs money (though, of course, paying lots of money is not a guarantee of sound management).

With that out of the way: yes, NCAA President Mark Emmert probably makes a lot of money. Emmert may not deserve that much money. But if the NCAA’s purpose is worth doing, it’s worth paying a very successful manager a lot of money to do it well, if that is what it takes. That the purpose of the NCAA is amateurism makes that much money does not render the salary ironic. Good nonprofits often pay their officers well. Whether the NCAA is a good nonprofit is a different argument, but Emmert's salary is not a data point that points in either direction.

Early Plans

This isn't set in stone, but the early days of the site will probably look something like this:

Daily: Links, small comments, etc.

Weekly: Spring football previews, starting with Illinois (probably Sunday) and moving through the conference alphabetically.

Weekly: Basketball debriefings from the recently-ended season, starting with Wisconsin (probably next Wednesday) and moving through the conference alphabetically in reverse.

This isn't my job, and you're not reading yet anyway, so changes can and will happen.

Another Crappy Sports Blog?

Yes! And how!

I don't imagine anyone will read this, since by the time anyone starts visiting it will have been buried deep within the bowels of the site.