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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Are Blogs, Boards and ESPN Hurting College Football?

Thank goodness the Internet wasn't around in the 70s. If it was, Bo Schembechler might not have survived to become a coaching legend.

The coach whose name adorns the University of Michigan football building never won the last game of the season the first 12 years he was at the helm of the Wolverines. The man who is the winningest coach in Michigan history went 0-7 in bowl games during those first 12 years. Worst of all, the man who is in the College Football Hall of Fame had the audacity to go 0-3-1 in one four year stretch against Michigan's arch enemy, Ohio State.

Such shortcomings would not have gone unnoticed if the Information Age had been come to be a couple decades earlier. And no matter what the rest of the record, this lack of perfection would have had many Wolverine fans calling for Schembechler's head long before he voluntarily walked away from the game at the end of the '89 season. Variations of BanishBo.com websites would have been sprouting up for years.

While blogs and message boards, fan sites and sports-only cable channels have fueled fan participation and involvement unthinkable during Bo's first decade as U-M's head coach, such unending and fingertip focus has also led to an insatiable need for more. More comment, rumor and tidbits to fill the blogs, boards and pundit shows.

And that might not always be good.

The 24 hour news cycle has has, to a large extent, destroyed rational political discourse in America. From the likes of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly on the right to Al Franken, Michael Moore and MoveOn.org on the left, political discussions, if they can be called that anymore, have devolved into a state of shout first, ask questions later...in a rude condescending way if the person disagrees with you.

Such shows, sites and political pundits are no longer about finding common ground and solutions, but seemingly about finding eyeballs and viewers. And the way to do that is to be more brash than the next guy. To say it louder. Angrier. More emotionally.

But not more accurately. Not fairer. Not more reasoned.

Is the 24 hour sports cycle doing a similar disservice to college football?

Today, a coach can go from playing for a spot in the BCS title game to the worst coach in the country in a span of three games. Just ask Lloyd Carr. From a three point loss, on the road, to the #1 team in America, less than 24 hours after Bo's death...to a complete coaching boob who should be fired post haste following the Appalachian State loss, the new hyper-sports world in which we reside seems to almost like a shark - it must be constantly moving, from hyperbole to breathless indignation, or it dies. Take a point of view, drive it home, don't stop no matter what actually happens on the field.

Last weekend, UCLA upset highly-ranked Cal. The victory propelled the Bruins into a first place tie in the rugged Pac-10, one of only two teams with undefeated records in conference play and controlling their own Rose Bowl destiny.

But you'd never know it from BruinsNation.com, the dominant UCLA website (and, full disclosure, a friend of the MZone). The site, which has made no secret of their desire to see UCLA coach Karl Dorrell fired asap, seemed to take no pleasure in their team's big victory, but instead only saw more reasons Dorrell should be fired. The post-game focus to this outside observer appeared focused on the negative because Dorrell was at the helm, instead of basking in the joy of a major upset.

And it actually bummed me out. Because if you can't enjoy the unexpected home upset, one of the great thrills of college football, what's the point of following the team and sport in the first place?

And I'm sure we're just as guilty of such things here at the MZone. While we never called for Lloyd to be fired after the miserable start to the season, we weren't exactly rational either. Many years ago, that would have just been bitching amongst frustrated friends. Today it goes out across them there Inter-Tubes for all the world to see. Hopefully adding something of value to sport and those who love it, not getting all Sean Hannity/Michael Moore on it.

13 comments:

R said...

I'm a fan of USC but I root for UCLA (whenever they're not playing the Trojans). I used to read bruinsnation.com but they're delusional and it's just turned into witchhunt against Dorrell.

I wrote on the message board that Dorrell did a good job by beating USC, and the moderator wrote back that UCLA should beat USC otherwise Dorrell should be fired.

From that perspective, every other coach in the Pac-10 should be fired as well.

Dorrell has his faults, and his contract shouldn't be renewed, but there's worse coaches in the Pac-10 such as Stoops, Riley, Doba, Willingham. And before they were fired, Walt Harris and Dirk Koetter were also worse. (It's too early to tell if Harbaugh's better; Erickson @ Arizona State is a great coach and perhaps UCLA should have made a run for him).

If UCLA had a Michigan-like football budget then terminating KD and trying to attract coaches like Chris Peterson might be possible. Otherwise, they can't raise $$ to buyout his contract and even if they did, they could be stuck with an even worse coach.

I thought Toledo did a decent job w/ the program. He was one bad fumble call away from playing in the BCS championship

drakeep said...

I think it's the polls more than anything else. The trashing doesn't happen so quickly in College Basketball or in Pro sports. But just like politics (which I thought was a brilliant comparison) College Football supremacy is left up to opinion. If in fact it was decided on the field in something crazy like a "playoff" a coach of a two-loss team that has rattled off 6 straight wins and put his team in position to win its conference could be easily forgiven because the chance at the ultimate prize is still viable.

But why innovate let tradition (read money) reign.

Out of Conference said...

But without college football blogs, I'd have to buy pictures of scantily clad coeds off the back row of the magazine shelf at Quicky Mart.

WingRG said...

Hey, Mr. OOC,
feel free to finger through my Play-dudes and tell me to go back to some country, I'm not actually from (written in a heavy Apu accent)

CrimeNotes said...

Amen, brother.

Matt said...

No matter what UCLA does this year, Dorrell should be fired because he's an awful coach. And it kind of sucks for UCLA if they do well. They are just so inconsistent it's not funny. I think Willingham sucks but he's not as bad as everyone says he is. He's a good recruiter, but a pretty bad game coach.

I don't get how Callahan might have any chance of staying on at Nebraska. It was so stupid to fire Solich (who we should consider, IMO). AD Peterson deserved to be fired for what has transpired all these years. Charles Woodson knew that something was wrong with Callahan from the start.

And somehow Sporting News ranked him as the 22nd best BCS coach. (If you want to see a real joke, see SN's "Ranking the BCS Coaches.")

Matt said...

No matter what UCLA does this year, Dorrell should be fired because he's an awful coach. And it kind of sucks for UCLA if they do well. They are just so inconsistent it's not funny. I think Willingham sucks but he's not as bad as everyone says he is. He's a good recruiter, but a pretty bad game coach.

I don't get how Callahan might have any chance of staying on at Nebraska. It was so stupid to fire Solich (who we should consider, IMO). AD Peterson deserved to be fired for what has transpired all these years. Charles Woodson knew that something was wrong with Callahan from the start.

And somehow Sporting News ranked him as the 22nd best BCS coach. (If you want to see a real joke, see SN's "Ranking the BCS Coaches.")

Dylan said...

This was a great article. Thanks you

Daniel said...

If you asked me last year, I would have leaned towards the "yah, maybe it has. . . " but with the BTN in full swing, Blogs, Boards and ESPN is all Michigan fans have anymore!

Joel said...

I'd hate to go through life as a bitter college football fan. You're at the top of the Pac-10 right now, UCLA. Enjoy it!
(but remember that Dec. 1 is coming...)

LudaChristian said...

A good point. The world's gotten smaller, and as such it's not as easy to tune out the yelling coming from either end of the spectrum, world & sports politics alike. Personally, I think the media holds too much power... people tend to listen to and give too much merit to whatever comes out of the skwawkbox, whether they like it or not.

Todd said...

Excellent post--lot's to think about.

Personally, my problem with the staff is not the difficulty with tOSU or the bowl games. Michigan is like most tradition-rich programs in that it often receives a ranking that does not reflect its actual prospects. This, and the high profile status of the Wolverines makes them a great choice for things like at large BCS bowl games against superior USC teams--which leads to mismatches in bowl games.

As for tOSU, I really believe that it's cyclic. Michigan beat some Buckeye teams that were much more talented and successful over the first portion of Carr's tenure (not that I wouldn't take Cooper back in a heartbeat).

To me, Michigan's problem is instead with our bad losses and repeated struggles with less talented teams. Our current staff doesn't "put teams away" like the current Buckeye teams typically do (I know what happened last week). It was obvious that something akin to the loss to App State would happen--I expected a loss to a better MAC school, but the level of teams are relatively similar. We can't crush EMU or Northwestern--but I'll bet we move the ball all day on November 17th.

That is the weakness of our program; we don't win all the easy ones or beat up on bad teams. That is why Michigan fans are frustrated--at least that's why I am.

Brian said...

Don't forget about money! That has helped turn college football into a real life "what if" game that gives blogs, boards and ESPN a lot of ammo. The MNC is the ultimate "what if" game.