California needs better admins and more fat guys

Inside the Pac-12's anti-SB 206 talking points and beef deficiency

Good morning friends,

Man. I know it’s only Tuesday and all, but boy am I dragging. My wife has been out of town for the last week again, and while I feel like I handled the first trip at least competently, my oldest has smelled weakness. Never let the children outnumber you in your home, in my opinion.

Anyway, I recorded a podcast segment with Vox’s Today Explained on SB 206 that I believe will publish on Wednesday. It isn’t often I get to work with my fellow Vox Media colleagues outside of SB Nation, and I thought the conversation was pretty cool…I got a chance to look at the history of amateurism a little bit.

Speaking of which, I did a little researching for my pals at Banner Society that dug really deep into how we’ve been fighting about this same stupid stuff since, well, about the start of college football season.

We can talk a little more about that in a second, since it’s still the off-the-field issue that impacts what happens on the field, but there’s another story I wanted to talk about first.

California needs more fat people

We know that college football talent isn’t distributed in a uniform geographic fashion. Some places, like South Florida, Atlanta, and Houston, simply produce more great football players than other high population areas, like New York City or Philadelphia. There are other cities that produce way more football player than you’d expect for their size, like Cincinnati, Virginia Beach and Washington D.C, and other larger metros that don’t.

But not only is talent, generally, not distributed equally, but positional talent also follows unequal distributions.

That’s important. If you want to win a national title in college football, you need elite talent all over the field. But if you can only get elite talent in a few positions…you want it at quarterback (a great quarterback can give an average offense a puncher’s chance in every game), and at defensive tackle.

California produces a lot of great quarterbacks. Three of the top four pocket passers in the 2020 recruiting class, for example, are from California, along with the top dual-threat prospect. But it doesn’t produce a lot of great defensive tackles. Or at least, it doesn’t produce as many really big ones.

My dude Bud Elliott, at Banner Society, digs into this more.

Over the last decade, California has produced an average of two four- and five-star interior defensive line types (275+ pounds). But looking at a four-year rolling average does show a downward progression.

  • 2011-14: 2.75

  • 2012-15: 3.25

  • 2013-16: 2.75

  • 2014-17: 2.25

  • 2015-18: 1.75

  • 2016-19: 1.00

  • 2017-20: 0.75

Bud spoke to a lot of coaches to figure out exactly why this might be happening, and it’s interesting that this is probably a mix of football-specific reasons (more high schools are running spread systems, where a really big kid may be more successful playing offensive line), demographics (high taxes and cost of living chase many families out of state, or at least, out of high school athletics) and diet (California just isn’t as fat).

I suspect Bud is correct that this is a confluence of several factors, rather than just one specifically, but it’s a good reminder that all sorts of things that have nothing to do with football can impact where the distribution of certain football players ends up.

I think this trend, more than CA high schools producing more football players, generally, is more problematic for the Pac-12. If you need elite big dudes on defense to compete for a playoff spot, and if that talent is disproportionately concentrated in the southeast, the Pac-12 has a problem….USC, Oregon, etc don’t pull kids from Alabama and Georgia all that often. That’s a much harder task than trying to convince a kid from San Diego to stay in the footprint.

I’m not sure what a solution to that is. Either you make a massive new schematic innovation that allows you beat Big Ten and SEC schools without that kind of interior pressure, or you find a way to get kids fatter.

Which one would be easier? Well,,,,that’s hard to say.

Hey, speaking of problems with the Pac-12

Here are the anti-SB 206 talking points the Pac-12 wants to use

I think Andy Wittry at Stadium made a really clever use of FOIA here, and got back the exact talking points the league plans to use against popular likeness legislation.

Anybody following this news story is probably familiar with at least a few of these talking points:

The Bill Would Abandon Amateurism and What is Right About College Athletics

  • Signing SB 206 will change the entire amateur nature of college athletics and likely result in courts concluding our student-athletes are professionals.

  • The controlling court decision in California (O’Bannon) held that even small ($5000) NIL payments to student-athletes violated amateurism and made them “poorly-paid professionals.” The Court said, “Once that line is crossed, we see no basis for returning to a rule of amateurism and no defined stopping point….”

  • Once allowed, there may be no way to adequately regulate NIL consistent with antitrust law.

  • Abandoning amateurism would be contrary to our universities’ charters and missions and have major unintended consequences on our athletic programs and broader operations.

This is similar to the line that NCAA President Mark Emmert, and a few other hardline administrators, have used, one that virtual no reporter is buying here in 2019.

We also have:

Strong Concern for Women’s Sports Under NIL Model

  • There is a current fallacy about the benefits of an NIL world to female student-athletes.

  • Our experience, and recent disputes in USA Soccer, USA Hockey, and other sports indicate that once we move to a professional model, women’s sports will suffer.

    • NIL, donations and university resources will increasingly go to football and men’s basketball, threatening the existence an support of Olympic sports generally, including women’s sports.

  • We believe more women student-athletes will be hurt by this bill than helped, which is very concerning for our universities who have been the biggest and best supporters of women’s athletics.

I have a little more on this particular topic later this week, as I interviewed an NYU professor and asked if this threat was legitimate. SPOILER: I have some doubts, but it’s certainly one that many admins, in the Pac-12 footprint and beyond, have made.

Better for California to Work with Pac-12 and Our Universities on Reform

  • We understand the Governor is disappointed in the pace of reforms by NCAA.

  • The Pac-12 and our universities have been the most progressive in pushing real reform for student-athletes in the NCAA, and is prepared to work with the Governor on developing additional reforms together.

  • This bill is not the answer, but we have a track record at advocating for and passing national legislations through the NCAA Autonomy Process on behalf of SAs

Okay, again, nothing groundbreaking here. Even many proponents of SB 206, or similar legislation, want a national policy. That’s why federal lawmakers are getting involved too. Having 50 different rules probably would be a logistical pain in the ass.

But it’s the fourth talking point that I think is so interesting!

California Universities Won’t Be Able To Compete

  • Enacting SB 206 would further disadvantage California universities from a competitive and recruiting standpoint.

  • Other parts of the country have more resources and parties interested in paying student-athletes, and we would be severely disadvantaged in an open market for student-athletes.

  • Whether or not the NCAA liberalizes the rules, California loses.

    • If NCAA maintains its current rules and the California law places our universities in violation of those rules, no student-athlete would want to come to our universities.

    • If NCAA liberalizes the rules, other regions with more interest and resources will beat our universities out for the best student-athletes.

lol I don’t think you’re supposed to admit to this!

I mean, part of this is true. Interest in Pac-12 football among most markets in that footprint pales substantially in comparison to the midwest or south. College football is just more important, culturally, in Columbus than it is in Palo Alto. There are almost certainly more active bagmen east of the Mississippi right now, and if that economy went above board, it’s probable there will be more profitable markets, generally, outside the Pac-12 footprint.

But putting that into print as a reason to oppose this legislation…i.e, admitting other schools can give a better deal and experience than your own…feels pretty….well, chickenshit, to be honest. Depressing market value because your boosters don’t care enough to make athletes properly Instagram Famous or whatever is really selfish.

The whole story is worth a read, in my opinion, but I’m not shocked to see school officials not trot out that talking point the same way they’re relying on the others.

Look. Just get some more fat people. That’ll make everything else much easier.

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