There’s a great scene in “Walk the Line,” the Johnny Cash movie. Young John is in a Memphis recording studio, trying to get a contract, and the song he and his group plays is “I Was There When It Happened (and I guess I, oughta know).” Actually a cool old Gospel sing. I heard it in church when I was a kid.
But in the movie, the music executive looks boringly at Cash and says, “You guys got something else?” Cash appears confused. “What’s wrong with the way I sing it?”
The exec leveled with Cash. “I don’t believe you,” the exec says.
I thought the same thing Thursday when I read about ESPN’s survey of all 65 power-conference football coaches (including Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly). The coaches were asked if they favor a schedule that includes games exclusively against each other. The biggest response was yes, 46.2 percent. No garnered 35.4 percent. Undecided drew 18.5 percent.
Big talk. But in the fine tradition of “Walk the Line,” I don’t believe them. If they wanted to play more representative opponents, they could play more representative opponents.
The standard scheduling method for the 64 power conference teams is one non-conference opponent from a fellow major conference. Some teams man up and play two such foes. Some teams wuss out and play none.
Some of the scheduling decisions are made above the coaches’ heads, although frankly, it’s hard to think that anything is made above a coach’s head in college football. Economic factors require a surplus of home games to pad the coffers.
But coaches’ preference is at play, too. We know that in Oklahoma, where Mike Gundy and OSU athletic director Mike Holder have had a famous disagreement over scheduling, with Gundy preferring three easy games to prepare for the Big 12 season, while Holder has scheduled non-conference, neutral-site games this season (Florida State) and last (Mississippi State).
Gundy and Bob Stoops were among the coaches who voted yes for the idea. So did Baylor’s Art Briles, who program is playing virtually no one of any stoutness in the upcoming seasons.
Other Big 12 yes voters were Kansas’ Charlie Weis, Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads and West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen.
Voting no were Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, Texas’ Charlie Strong, TCU’s Gary Patterson and Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury.
We know how Gundy really feels. We know the actions of Briles and Baylor. Sometimes coaches just say what they think people want to hear.
Since the announcement of the new College Football Playoff, many schools have upgraded their non-conference schedules. Which is good. Every little bit helps.
And the new burgeoning television agreements are causing some upgrade of schedules. TV needs quality inventory to justify those huge payouts. And there are more networks competing for the games than ever before. For example, the SEC has established the SEC Network, which will televise 45 games this season, including some marquee matchups, like Texas A&M-South Carolina in an Aug. 28 season opener. That’s one fewer good game for ESPN and CBS, so more quality non-conference games would supplement the options.
And ticket-buying fans would prefer to see real competition rather than lopsided matchups whose outcomes are determined before the games begin.
“We need to be more concerned about the people who support the programs and the university and come and see the games,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Those are the most important. But we never think about that.”
Of course, a schedule comprised solely of games against fellow power-conference schools would have its downside. That would prohibit OU-Tulsa and OSU-Tulsa games, plus other interesting games like Notre Dame-Navy, BYU-Utah (exceptions could be made for Brigham Young), West Virginia-Marshall, Colorado-Colorado State, Ohio State-Cincinnati, TCU-SMU and others.
Maybe a good first step would be a minimum of two non-conference games a year against fellow power-conference schools, with a ban on games against lower-division opponents. No more games against I-AA schools that offer just 65 scholarships.
Here was the other voting among conferences.
Yes: Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Miami’s Al Golden, Pitt’s Paul Chryst, Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer.
No: Duke’s David Cutcliffe, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson, North Carolina’s Larry Fedora, North Carolina State’s Dave Doeren, Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson.
Undecided: Boston College’s Steve Addazio, Louisville’s Bobby Petrino, Syracuse’s Scott Shafer, Virginia’s Mike London.
Yes: Maryland’s Randy Edsall, Michigan’s Brady Hoke, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, Nebraska’s Bo Pelini, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, Purdue’s Darrell Hazell.
No: Illinois’ Tim Beckman, Indiana’s Kevin Wilson, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Rutgers’ Kyle Flood, Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen.
Undecided: Minnesota’s Jerry Kill, Penn State’s James Franklin.
No: Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly.
Yes: Arizona State’s Todd Graham, Oregon’s Mark Helfrich, Oregon State’s Mike Riley, Southern Cal’s Steve Sarkisian Stanford’s David Shaw, UCLA’s Jim Mora, Washington’s Chris Petersen.
No: Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez.
Undecided: Cal’s Sonny Dykes, Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre, Utah’s Kyle Whittingham, Washington State’s Mike Leach.
Yes:Alabama’s Nick Saban, Florida’s Will Muschamp, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, LSU’s Les Miles, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze, Tennessee’s Butch Jones.
No: Arkansas’ Bret Bielema, Georgia’s Mark Richt, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier, Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason.
Undecided: Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin.