Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Marquee college football programs

During an email exchange with Will, Jim, and Schwib, Will raised the following discussion topic: My former boss and I would have this discussion all the time: what are the true marquee football programs? We came up with a list and I think most of the time, these programs are going to compete/have the best chance for a national championship. Think Stewart Mandel did something this on earlier this season as well.

Ohio State
Notre Dame

Just outside
West Virginia
Florida State

I would add Florida State and Oklahoma to the first list, drop West Virginia from the second list (Will objected, and I still don't buy it), and add Penn State to the second list. Five years ago Nebraska is on that first list, now they’re not on either; we might be wrong about that if we're including Alabama and Notre Dame. Tennessee might be on the second list, but they've struggled lately. Before last year I wouldn’t have had Florida on the first list.

In my mind you have to have won a national title in the last 20 years to qualify for the first list.

Discussion question: Does Wisconsin have a chance of ever reaching the top list? If so, when is the earliest it can happen, and what events must precede it? Or is that second list where we max out?

The common thread for those schools is 50+ years of tradition - except for the Florida schools, but they play in the most talent-rich state in the country. I would argue that if Oklahoma, Nebraska, and West Virginia can reach elite or near-elite status, then in time, so can we. But we have to win 8-9 games or more every year for the next 25 years and play in at least five BCS games (we've played in two already), including one title game. This would give us 40 years of sustained excellence. But we still need a home run or two, not just singles and doubles.

That's what makes this season's shortfalls so disappointing: we aren't perennially on the short list of BCS contenders, which makes it harder to climb in. This year we were, but unless something unforeseeable happens, we blew it.

It's obviously crazy to think that far ahead, but fun at the same time.


will said...

The reason I had both Notre Dame and Alabama on the list is that I feel that there is a certain national image associated with the programs (whether it's hype or media-created is another discusion) that is matched by very few programs.

Notre Dame is one of the few schools that can be on TV every week and still pull decent ratings. They also are building some great recruiting classes and should be good (always be careful with should be's) next year. Throw in the tradition, the gipper, etc. and I feel they earn marquee status.

Alabama drew 80,000+ for its Spring game.

mjschwal said...

I would agree that Florida State and Oklahoma belong on the first list, especially if you're talking marquee and you put Notre Dame on the first list.

Sure, the Seminoles have lost their luster the past few years, but then, so haven't the Irish? A lot more recent success for the Noles than the Irish. BTW, I think it's time for Bobby Bowwwwwwwwden to pass the reins. That program has the potential to be dynamite when he leaves.

I would not put Auburn or West Virginia on either and I would say Georgia is just hanging on.

The tough part is the recency effect. It's so much easier to think of programs that have had a lot of success in the past decade or so, rather than a whole body of work. West Virginia being an example (although there were some good years with Major Harris - I loved that name).

Will said...

Went to Wikipedia, ready to arm myself with history and facts about the West Virginia football team to defend my pick to the death.

But I was humbled. WVU has had two undefeated regular seasons in the past 20 years, but both came as independents (including the Major Harris year) with weak schedules. They lost both bowl games those years. They did have that nice BCS win against Georgia, though, a couple of years ago. I still think under Rodriguez that they are creeping into the list universe. We'll revist in three years.

Not giving up Notre Dame, though. Unless they put together a string of poor years, I don't think you can talk about marquee programs and not include the Irish.

mjschwal said...

I'm not sold on West Virgina long-term. A lot of their recent success has been because of Slaton and White. What happens when those two guys leave?

Will they be able to reload quickly? If not, I would say they're closer to Wisconsin in that they will have good teams every 3-4 years.

I really don't think Wisconsin will ever be on the first list and I thought that before this year's collapse. I don't see it being a program that can compete year-in, year-out for a national title. I hope I'm wrong.

Craig Pintens said...

Alright, enough of this anonymous stuff as I have posted under that for too long.

Oklahoma is on the first list without a question. They have the tradition and recent history. Not having them on either list makes no sense. They are in the national title mix every year and always will be.

West Virginia? They shouldn't be on either list. Virginia Tech would be a better choice and they don't deserve it. Wisconsin is much higher on this list than West Virginia. As most of you are huge UW fans (after all this is the Badgercentric blog) I think you are underestimating Bucky slightly. They would be ahead of West Virginia, Auburn, and Georgia if you are looking at the past fifteen years. If you add in the Tony Spaeth as leading receiver years it is a stretch.

Auburn might be a stretch as they always play second fiddle in their own state to the machine that is Alabama, but their recent success might put them on the outside list. However, if you threw this out to die-hard SEC fans they would probably take Tennessee over Auburn.

The biggest omission? NO NEBRASKA!!! C'mon fellas. This is one of the biggest programs out there. Have they been down? Yes, but you also have Notre Dame, Miami, and Alabama on the list. Going to Tappa's point about national championships in the last twenty years, they were the dominant program in the 1990s and are not far enough removed to have faded away. Without relying on any stats, they have to be in the top ten all-time in wins, which I am sure will be proven wrong by somebody with the time to look it up.

Penn State has lost some luster and arguably Wisconsin has passed them. However, when Joe Pa moves on they will restore the roar and be right back in the conversation.

This is a great question. I always like to look at this one in terms of coaching jobs. What are the best college coaching jobs in America?

Here's my top five college football coaching jobs in no particular order:
Ohio State-They have the tradition and are a money machine.

Michigan-Tradition is there and so is the revenue. The largest alumni base in the country is not to be underestimated and neither is the lure of the Big House.

Notre Dame-Still one of the best jobs in the country because of the TV contract and status as the team everyone loves or hates.

Texas-$$$$$. Until Mack Brown got there this was maybe the third best job in the Big 12 and they weren't even sold out. With their success and the revenue generated its a whole different job. Football is king in Texas and the talent pool is deep.

Florida-I had a hard time finding a fifth. I was pretty confident of my first four. I chose Florida because it is the state school in talent-laden Florida. Since Spurrier they have been in the discussion every year. Plus a list would not be complete without an SEC team. No USC? Sure they have the Heismans and the recent success, but they don't have the die-hard support one would imagine. They have a lot of bandwagon fans right now.

Alright, way more than I thought I would write.

will said...

The Oklahoma thing was a brain fart from trying to list all the teams. No arguments on the Sooners.

Auburn is on the second list for sure. Two undefeated regular seasons in the last 15 years - and unlike WVU, it had to beat some good teams to do that . Screwed out of a national championship opportunity for the latter one. The Tigers also have the best SEC record since 2000 (entering this season).

Still think WVU will be a very strong program for the next 10 years. It helps that they play in a weaker conference. But I think the offense they run will help them even in the lean years.

And no, I'm not getting an online master's degree from there. This is an always fun discussion, though.

Jim Polzin said...

My answer to Tappa's poll question is that I don't see UW ever being a ``marquee'' team, at least not in our lifetime.

It all comes down to recruiting, and what handicaps UW is it only gets a handful of scholarship players out of its own state each year. They'll get some decent guys out of Illinois and Minnesota, unless the Gophers ever hire someone who can shut down the borders. They'll continue to get the leftovers from Ohio, Texas and Florida, which will help add some playmakers.

But it's not like Johnny Blue-Chip from Florida or Texas will ever pick UW over the homestate boys.

Bielema refers to this program as a ``development program'' and he's right. What that means is once in a while everything will fall right -- schedule, health, experienced players -- and UW will be a very good team. Maybe it will result in a Rose Bowl, or if the Badgers get lucky, a trip to a BCS title game.

But I don't see them being a consistent national power.

Scott Tappa said...

Good discussion. A couple thoughts:

-I hear Johnny Blue-Chip is visiting during the week of the Michigan game, hope his parents don't get turned off by the ES-Fu chant. He may have a silent verbal to South Florida.

-If Will shows up in Minneapolis wearing a coonskin hat, I'll be worried. Their performance post-Slaton/White will be key to their inclusion in this discussion. Getting players like Devine obviously helps. To me, no Big East team should qualify for these lists.

-Can't argue with Jim's points, but I keep coming back to this: if Nebraska can over time become a consistent marquee program, why not Wisconsin (sorry for stealing Panos' line). Their state produces similar athletes, and while they've gotten players from Texas and California, we can get guys from Illinois, Ohio, or New Jersey. Yes, it's basing hope on one program's blueprint,but there are a lot of similarities there.

-When Bowden and Paterno step down, does a Rodriguez become a candidate for those jobs? Michigan when Carr leaves? Does Leavitt leave South Florida? That'll be really interesting. Of these marquee programs, almost all of them have coaches that have been at their schools for less than 10 years,many for less than 5.

-Can't put Bucky ahead of Georgia, they've dominated us twice in bowl games. we've split with Auburn, but over the whole 2005 season they were the better team.

Will said...

"Almost Heaven, West Virginia. Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenadoah River."

I'm with you Tappa, Why not Wisconsin? It seemed like when we were there, they landed some recruits from the Big Three (Texas, California and Florida) but any of them really pan out?

That's one of the things that gives me hope with BB: I like what I'm seeing from Brown and Henry so far, so hopefully Bucky will still get talent from Florida (by the way, SI has a really interesting story on the rise of South Florida and Florida recruiting in general). And the Badgers have had a nice run in Ohio. We're Wide Receiver U!

I could see Schiano going to Penn State (I don't know Paterno's coaching tree very well, so I'm not sure who else is a no-brainer at the moment). There was always the thought that Carr would go to Michigan, but that seems kind of silly now.

Do you think Harbaugh has any chance to go to Michigan or did he basically burn all bridges with that program?

will said...

Meant Urban Meyer....

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