Dream 2010 matchup, more mail (cont.)
Stewart -- I saw your list of preseason Heisman candidates and I am perplexed at how you could have left Andy Dalton of TCU off your list. I understand you have a lot of people to cover but he is coming off of one of the most successful campaigns that TCU has seen. He is a couple of games away from beating the school's all-time wins record. He may not be flashy, but he is a proven winner. Come on Stewart, get with the program.
-- Chuck, Dallas
That Heisman list must have been pretty all-encompassing, because I didn't get a whole lot of complaints about excluded players -- just a whole bunch from Dallas/Fort Worth. Dalton's omission was not intentional. Perhaps subconsciously my lingering memory of his three picks in the Fiesta Bowl affected my thinking, but that's not entirely fair, considering Kellen Moore -- who did make my cut -- didn't exactly tear it up that night in Glendale, either.
While Dalton is far from a favorite, I could see him entering the discussion early, especially if he has a big game in TCU's nationally televised opener against Oregon State. Beyond that, however, the Horned Frogs aren't going to play in a lot of must-see-TV games, and Dalton would have to put together much gaudier stats than he did last season (2,756 yards, 23 touchdowns, eight interceptions) and lead his team to another undefeated season to remain a factor.
In light of the recent expansion excitement, with television contracts being a critical variable, what are your thoughts on the new 12-year, $1.86 million television contract for the ACC?
-- Erik Olson, Los Gatos, Calif.
It was huge for the ACC, and yet another example of just how rapidly the value of college television contracts has skyrocketed in recent years. When the ACC expanded in 2004, industry observers lauded the league for garnering a new football contract with ABC/ESPN worth $37 million a year, up from $20 million. Six fairly undistinguished football seasons later, that same conference is suddenly worth $155 million -- not quite SEC or Big Ten territory, but still very impressive. Mind you, that figure is for a combined football/basketball deal, and ACC basketball is a valuable property, but even so, the league is reportedly doubling its prior football/basketball take of roughly $65 to $75 million, and football is the driving force.
As I've written before, this all started when the Big Ten started its own network in 2006. At the time, commissioner Jim Delany assessed that college sports properties in general were "undervalued." Clearly he was right. I don't know why it took so long, but Madison Avenue types have finally figured out that college football is no longer contained to a cute, regional following, but is in fact massively popular on a national scale. ESPN (which reportedly got into a bidding war with Fox) would not be paying the ACC all that money if it believed only people in Clemson, S.C., and Blacksburg, Va., were watching. (Not to mention that Miami and Florida State, even in their reduced stature, still garner huge ratings.)
All of which is extremely good news for the Pac-10, the one BCS conference that has yet to reap the windfalls of this new spending spree. Commissioner Larry Scott will go to the negotiating table next year with a new 12-team lineup, a likely championship game and the knowledge that ESPN is throwing around money right now and that other networks like Fox are itching to get in the business. I'd expect that league to garner close to the same numbers the ACC did (the time-zone issue will always hurt it somewhat), with the added wild-card that Scott is openly looking to start his own network with an established partner.
Stewart, now that Tennessee has landed both the top kicker (Michael Palardy) and the top punter (Matt Darr) for 2010, according to Scout.com, do you think special teams play will improve at UT?
-- Neyland Robert, Murfreesboro, Tenn.
I certainly hope so. With a new quarterback playing behind five new offensive linemen, a long-range field-goal kicker may be the Vols' best hope of scoring points, and with a freshman and two sophomores expected to start in the secondary, a punter who can pin an opponent deep might force opposing receivers to have to run farther to reach the end zone.
The WAC has never been all that great, but with Boise State soon heading to the Mountain West, where does the conference go from here? I know there has been talk of bringing in a few teams like Montana and Cal-Poly, but are these potential additions at all helpful? Will the WAC ever be relevant again?
-- Ryan, Connecticut
That depends on your definition of "relevant."
In the 10 years since the Mountain West-WAC split, the two leagues have obviously gone in opposite directions. The MWC continues to gain respect, while the WAC teeters closer to oblivion. Whereas Utah's move to the Pac-10 marks the first time the MWC has lost a team, the WAC already went through one raid in 2005 when it lost Tulsa, UTEP, Rice and SMU to Conference USA and had to replace them with bottom-feeders Idaho, Utah State and New Mexico State. Commissioner Karl Benson recently announced that the league will not replace Boise and will stand pat at eight teams for now, and I presume the main reason is there's no one left to add. The teams Ryan mentions are currently FCS programs. First they would have to seek FBS membership, and that transition process takes several years.
But that does not mean the WAC will disappear without Boise. Lest we forget, another WAC team, Hawaii, earned a BCS bid just three years ago. Fresno State's beaten quite a few of the big boys under Pat Hill (though admittedly not as often in recent years). Nevada has gained attention for its prolific rushing attack with quarterback Colin Kapernick. Don't get me wrong: The quality of teams in this league beyond Boise is not good right now. But 10 years ago, Boise was barely a I-A program. With the right coach and the right resources, a new Boise could always come along, and I'm sure the WAC will maintain its relevance (relatively speaking) if one of its teams can garner a BCS berth at least once every few years.
Just a clarification regarding the email you received about Georgia Tech winning its first national title in the '90s -- it's incorrect. That was the school's fourth national championship.
-- Rubin, Atlanta
Fair enough, but here's a little clarification on my part. The Mailbag fully concedes the right of any school to recognize whichever national championship selectors it deems legitimate from the pre-modern era, and the inherent ambiguity that comes with it. Alabama, for instance, proudly claims 13 national championships, while other sources recognize it for 12. Georgia Tech, for its part, is certainly entitled to claim the four that it does: 1917, 1928, 1952 and '90.
For uniformity's sake, however, the Mailbag does not recognize so-called "national championships" prior to the advent of the AP poll in 1936 and coaches poll in 1950, seeing as most "polls" prior to then were conducted by obscure individuals or organizations and oftentimes were rewarded retroactively. Therefore, while Yellow Jackets fans are perfectly entitled to brag of the 1917 and '28 teams that wowed the Helms Athletic Foundation, or the '52 team that claims as one of its selectors the INS -- International News Service -- the Mailbag officially recognize the 1990 UPI coaches poll trophy as that school's "first" national championship.
Any further disputes may be taken up with Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who will "personally guarantee" any championship your favorite team dreams possible.
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