CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- SO I GUESS the "power five" conferences are rigging the reshuffled bowl lineup so they can play among themselves from 2014 onward. Figures.It's about the money, yes, and it's about widening the chasm between the five conferences and the rest of the riffraff. But it's also about the big boys avoiding inconveniences such as:2000 - Nevada-Las Vegas 31, Arkansas 14; East Carolina 40, Texas Tech 272001 - Utah 10, Southern California 6
2002 - Boise State 34, Iowa State 16; Fresno State 30, Georgia Tech 212003 - Fresno State 17, UCLA 92004 - Utah 35, Pittsburgh 7; Wyoming 24, UCLA 21; Fresno State 37, Virginia 34, OT;2005 - Utah 38, Georgia Tech 10; Texas Christian 27, Iowa State 242006 - Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42, OT2007 - Fresno State 40, Georgia Tech 282008 - Utah 31, Alabama 172009 - Utah 37, California 27; Navy 35, Missouri 132010 - Air Force 14, Georgia Tech 7; Central Florida 10, Georgia 6; TCU 21, Wisconsin 192011 - Boise State 56, Arizona State 24; Houston 30, Penn State 14; Southern Methodist 28, Pittsburgh 62012 - Tulsa 31, Iowa State 17
Looking at this list, I come to one conclusion: Georgia Tech and Iowa State should be forced to play each other if both are bowl-eligible. A ratings bonanza that would be.nn
It has been interesting to watch the debate develop over the NCAA's new ejection rule on (a) targeting with the crown of the helmet and/or (b) targeting to the head/neck area of a defenseless player. And when a few players get tossed (or not) at key points in games, that debate will get really heated.Certainly, such hits cannot be tolerated, but decades of bad practice are still proving tough to reverse. I remember the first warnings not to "spear" players way back in my short midget-league football career, in the (ugh) 1970s.Progress has been plodding at best, as players continue to forsake proper form tackling in favor of landing the highlight-reel knockout. And the emphasis on hitting defenseless receivers is way, way overdue.The tough part is separating the illegal hits from the incidental head-to-head contact, and allowing for, say, a defender who gets blocked into another player and hits the head that way. It will be good to have backup from the replay booth, one hopes.
Basketball-wise, the tweaking of the block-charge rule seems reasonable. If a defender is not set when the offensive player starts his upward motion to pass or shoot, it's a blocking foul.Alas, I must point out how this change would not have affected the 2012-13 Marshall team, which was incapable of drawing a charge under any interpretation.nn
I must give very belated props to the PROP - the NCAA's Player Rules Oversight Panel, which scotched two ditzy football rule changes some time back.One would have mandated that "Either the color of the uniform pants or the color of the body of the jersey must clearly contrast with the color of the surface of the field of play."That could have been called the "Boise State Rule," and would have forbidden Marshall's "peapod" green-on-green duds. I don't recall the Herd's all-greens being tough to pick out of the Edwards Stadium turf, but that's just me.I must confess I missed the proposed lunacy about the down box and yardage chains. That called for the chains to be operated on the press-box side in the first half and opposite the press box in the second half.Say WHAT?Proper game administration and basic television angles demand that the chains run on the side opposite the press box, period. What silliness.nn
With all those new Conference USA schools settled into their new homes, it's time for their freshman hazing.The fine folks at the league office - that's not sarcastic, they are really good people - have put out the schools' "preferred reference," begging grumpy sportswriters to adhere to them.Of course, I'm older than old-school, and I'm not going to get any better. Until further notice, here's the way it's going to go:Florida Atlantic - God bless this school, for they are content with "Florida Atlantic." Proud institution, proud name, I love it. See y'all in October.Florida International - When the 2011 bowl in St. Pete was set, Marshall media dude Jason Corriher relayed to us that school's request to be "FIU" on first reference. To which I replied: "Is that University of FIU or FIU University?"
Much like Central Florida's desire to be called "UCF" on first reference, I hit the buzzer and hit it hard.North Carolina-Charlotte - Wishing to shed the weight of an entire state, the athletic department has resorted to the "Charlotte" branding. Savvy move, actually.
But when I call up the school's main web site, I have to go to uncc.edu. The school tries to ditch the noble hyphen, like everybody else. Blecch.I will buy into "Charlotte" on second reference. Getting generous in my advanced youth.Louisiana Tech - The folks in Ruston prefer "LA Tech" on first reference. You have GOT to be kidding me.
That's even worse than media capitulating on "LSU." What, you people can't spell "Louisiana"? I bet the cast of "Duck Dynasty" can!Willie's smokin' hot wife, at least. Anyway, "Tech" on second reference is fine.Middle Tennessee State - I'm happy to invoke the "Bowling Green Rule" on this one and refer to the Blue Raiders as "Middle Tennessee" on first reference. "MT" on following references? Uh, no.
The Daily News Journal of Murfreesboro uses "MTSU," and so shall I. "Middle," if I'm in a good mood.Texas-San Antonio - You're not the University of UTSA, just like there is no University of UTEP. Equal treatment here.North Texas - These folks are proud of their school name, but they're not much on "UNT" on second reference.
Can't blame 'em. I need counseling on this one.Don't feel bad, newbies. I've done the same thing with Marshall's previous and current rivals. Southern Mississippi. Southern Methodist. The aforementioned Texas-El Paso. And then there's the University of Alabama at Birmingham.There's the most contentious case of designation, and I have the most sympathy for the folks there. But I'm not going "UAB" on first reference, so I clutter my copy with "Alabama-Birmingham."With the ground rules set, welcome all to Conference USA.Contact Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.