The Misfits of College Football

These four are actually in a better situation than most of the Sun Belt.

These four are actually in better situations than most of the Sun Belt.

With teams changing conferences for better TV contracts at the expense of geography, there has become a high number of teams that are on Exile Island. These are schools that are in a conference that may not be a suitable fit for them.

10. Vanderbilt: SEC

The Commodores have revitalized their football program in the last decade winning three bowl games but are still far from winning a SEC title. Vanderbilt is the only school in the conference with an academic focus while the other 13 programs have boosters making deals with recruits off the books.

But the real issue is not that the SEC is wrong for Vandy as much as the ACC might be better. Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Duke and Boston College share Vanderbilt’s academic interests and could form some nice rivalries. Heck, the Demon Deacons and the Commodores have met the past four seasons so might as well play in the same league. Duke even won their division last year; something Vanderbilt has no chance of doing in the SEC East. That’s partly why James Franklin bolted for Penn State. Vandy should do the same with the SEC.

9. West Virginia: Big 12

The Big 12 was in need of reinforcements after being raided by practically everyone three years ago. West Virginia was in desperate need of a home as the Big East was imploding. The result was the strange union of a program in the Appalachian Mountains joining a conference with a Great Plains identity.

The Mountaineers have gone 6-12 in Big 12 play since joining in 2012. Pittsburgh and the “Backyard Brawl” was an exciting rivalry but now the closest thing to a rivalry WVU has left is … Iowa State. You can’t blame West Virginia though as it is making the best out of a tough situation. WVU’s men’s soccer team has joined the Mid-American Conference if that tells you how unusual things are. Note the MAC logos in the bottom right.

8. East Carolina: AAC

East Carolina is joining the American Athletic Conference this year. Too bad no one from the American Athletic Conference is near them. Conference USA was a melting pot of schools too but the Pirates could point to a history of rivalries in that conference. I liked Marshall, Southern Mississippi, and UAB for them. Plus, the American is a lateral move for the Pirates.

That’s a great looking court but will there be any rivalry games there?

7. San Diego: Pioneer

The only FCS school on the list is in a league that does not offer athletic scholarships for football. The Pioneer Football League is great for schools that are doing to the minimum of having a team on the FCS level so the other sports can remain Division I. San Diego though is the only conference member out West. The closest rival is all the way over in Iowa in Drake.

It’s not a disaster for the Toreros as they have won five PFL titles. Last year, however, San Diego disqualified themselves because they awarded improper financial aid to players.

Might be time to switch to a conference where that’s legal USD.

6. Rutgers: Big Ten

Getting use to seeing Rutgers in the Big Ten seems impossible. The Scarlet Knights better understand that folks in Big Ten country don’t want to see their team.

At all.

The Midwest has to hear New Yorkers hurl “Fly-Over Country” insults at them all the time and now you have a program from the New York area entering their conference? Good luck to any Big 10 team selling tickets when Rutgers comes to town.

5. Maryland: Big Ten

That's not going to match Penn State's helmet very well is it.

That’s not going to match Penn State’s helmet very well is it.

If Rutgers is a bad fit, than Maryland is even worse. The Terrapins with their rotation of crazy uniforms clashes with the traditional mindset the Big Ten has. Maryland has thrown away all the rivalries it made in the ACC to play… Rutgers?

What remains to be seen is how will this move impact recruiting. Maryland had access to the high school football strongholds of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina through its ACC rivals. Will those recruits want to play for a Big Ten school now? Will recruits in Michigan and Ohio want to play in Maryland? The Terrapins better pray the answer is yes to both questions or this move will backfire badly.

The Terps are happy today, we’ll see how long that holds up.

4. Connecticut: American

While Maryland left the ACC, Connecticut would probably trade anything to be in it. The American is mostly made up of former Conference USA programs in the South. Only Temple, a program that’s been passed between conferences like a hobo between train stations, is nearby. The Huskies will have to cultivate new rivalries and find a way to tap into the Texas and Florida recruiting markets to make this work. Or UConn can just bite the bullet in football every year and focus on its basketball teams. That will work too.

3. Massachusetts: Mid-American

UMass turned down an invitation from the MAC to become a member in all sports earlier this year. The move makes sense for the Minutemen as the Atlantic-10 is better for basketball but the football program is stranded. UMass will have to find a home in the next two years and the American is not buying for right now.

And nor should they. The Minutemen have been cannon fodder since joining FBS in 2012 going 1-11 both seasons. UMass must audition well or it will be Sun Belt or Independent for the Minutemen. Neither are good options.

2. New Mexico State: Sun-Belt

Speaking of Sun Belt, that leads us to New Mexico State, who will joined the conference this year after spending time as an independent. The Aggies were a loser in the dissolving of the WAC as the Mountain West didn’t want them. Problem is that is the only league that makes since for NMSU.

In the Sun Belt, New Mexico State will be spending most of its time playing against teams in Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana. That will be tough recruiting players from that far away but to be fair, New Mexico State has never been able to recruit anyway. The Aggies have not played in a bowl game since, gulp… 1960.

Well look at the bright side NMSU, you have a live cam of them installing the new field at your stadium. If that cheers you up I don’t see how.

1. Idaho: Sun Belt

Come get your summer tan at Moscow, Idaho.

Come get your summer tan at Moscow, Idaho.

That’s right folks, because when you think Sun Belt you should think … Idaho? It was the only choice the Vandals had in terms of staying in the FBS. Idaho will blow their travel budget flying out to the opposite, diagonal corner of the country for away games. The school has returned to the Big Sky Conference in the other sports.

Like New Mexico State, Idaho is doing the best it can do by playing in the Sun Belt. Unlike New Mexico State, Idaho has had some recent success, going 8-5 and winning a bowl game in 2009. Just don’t mention the 4-32 record the past three seasons.

Both the Aggies and the Vandals need to have some success in their new league soon, as justifying the costs of FBS football in a conference you clearly don’t belong in is difficult.

2013-2014 College Sports Social Media Awards

And the award for best profile banner goes to...

And the award for best profile banner goes to…

Making fun of how schools, conferences, and media personalities operate on social media is what sports bloggers that are not credentialed do best. Now that we have hit the doldrums of the college sports calendar it’s time unveil best and the worst from the past year. Note there is no way anyone can see every tweet and Facebook video that made it online. Well, unless you’re Lt. Commander Data. This is about the stuff I actually saw and that you may have missed.

Best School to Follow on Twitter: Morehead State

When it comes to Twitter I want a school that gives me the stats and updates from a game yet still have passion and humor. Morehead State does that during every basketball game. Take a look at their “Blackout.”

They are not afraid to be subjective in the right moments. Might be the only time a school used “clobbered” in a tweet all year.

Helping the Eagles out though is men’s basketball coach Sean Woods. He is an emotional guy and props to Morehead for posting his postgame comments on You Tube. Just looking at his eyes you can tell he wants to tell the world how he truly feels but is holding himself back.

Worst School to Follow on Twitter: Grambling State

This was too easy. Just one Tweet in five years.

Most Romantic School in Social Media: Kansas State

The Wildcats have tried many ways to get their purple hue out on the internet. Including #WildcatWeddings

That not enough for you? They do Valentine’s Day too.

Manhattan, Kansas: where romance and college sports social media collide.

Most Impatient School in Social Media: Western Kentucky

It only snows in Bowling Green, Kentucky a few times a year so I you have to make the most of it when you can. The Hilltoppers though took it a little far and went full football countdown in January. Instead of witty joke it came across as a depressing reminder that the season is far, far away.

Worst Promotion in Social Media: Texas Christian University

The Horn Frogs have been cannon fodder out on the basketball court since joining the Big-12. So how does TCU fill seats in its gym? FRIED PICKLES! Yuck.

Most Confusing School in Social Media: Texas Tech

TCU’s conference brother Texas Tech didn’t do much better as it dropped some tweets that befuddled the brain more than a Michael Bay movie.

A wallet? Just any type of wallet will do. Well shoot let me empty out mine… Here you go. Now where’s my free books?

Best Way to Promote a Publication: Vanderbilt

Students at Vanderbilt are so smart, they can study underwater!

School with the Most Swagger on Social Media: North Dakota State

The Bison won the FCS title and won a game in the NCAA Tournament this past year. Throw in this jab at the SEC schools during a blizzard in the South and you have one school ready to flaunt itself all over the web.

Dumbest Tweet of the Year: Georgia State

The only time I think I’ve seen an athletic department engage in a Twitter war with a fan. Thought it was impossible but I was proven wrong. Please tell the Georgia State athletic department to never use the phrase “Boo You” again.

Best Conference to Follow in Social Media: Big West Conference

The Big West is great at having large photo galleries of their events and athletes of the week. They are also the most patriotic placing their All-Americans in front of a computer generated American flag.

The Big West Conference is more American than the American (AAC).

The Big West Conference is more American than the American (AAC).

The Big West is also one of the few leagues that celebrate holidays and special events.
Big West Easter

Big West ground hog

That’s right, the Big West celebrated Easter and Groundhog Day by changing their profile pictures. You would think some league in the nation’s heartland would do that but nope. A league based in Hawaii and California did instead.

Best Campaign in Social Media: Atlantic-10

The A-10 is tired of being treated as a Cinderella and did a pretty good job of shedding that perception in their Who Wants Next Campaign. You can read my previous post about it here.

Would still be a great episode on "Once Upon a Time" though.

Would still be a great episode on “Once Upon a Time” though.

Best Video Made by a Conference: Missouri Valley

The MVC made a video hosted by Teryn Schaefer to meet all of the fan bases as they came to St. Louis for the Conference Tournament. While I’m tired of “Happy” the song worked well here and it captured the awesomeness of “Arch Madness.”

 

Most Creative Conference in Social Media: Conference USA

Conference USA is a league that is constantly changing. Members of the league joined the Big East to play BCS ball only to see that league split off into the American. Whoops. Now, Conference USA is filled with teams that were once in the Sun Belt, so educating people on who is a member is a challenge. Conference USA tackled that with this awesome graphic on their Facebook banner that showed who was playing where in the bowl season. Conference USA, the more you know.

To non football fans it looks like Captain Jack Sparrow and a green "T" are going deep.

To non football fans it looks like Captain Jack Sparrow and a green “T” are going deep.

Best Interview on Social Media: Marist Red Fox Mascot “Shooter”

Elizabeth Sim had the honor of showcasing the excitement around the women’s basketball team at Marist and did that and then some with her interview of the school’s mascot. If you can watch her interview starting at 1:35 mark just once then you’re since of humor needs checking.

 

Best Selfie in College Sports Social Media: Nicole Auerbach @NicoleAuerbach

As a writer for USA Today, Auerbach enjoys the pleasure of sitting courtside to some of the biggest games in college basketball. That is great in every venue except at Cameron Indoor as she snapped this selfie at a Duke game.

Shows the passion of college basketball for Duke fans and some of the pitfalls of being a college basketball writer for a national publication.

Best Female Sports Personality to Follow on Twitter: Samantha Ponder @sam_ponder

Auerbach was close but I had to give it to Ponder. Ponder replaced Erin Andrews on College Gameday a few years back and has been an internet darling ever since but that’s not why I find her to be the best follow on Twitter.

While listening to a Christian radio station in my car I almost had to pull over once the disc jockey started quoting Samantha Ponder’s blog post on being happy with yourself.

Name another female sports media personality that was quoted on Christian radio? She’s like the Tim Tebow of female sideline reporters at this point.

Ponder is also great at poking fun of herself or her husband, NFL quarterback Christian Ponder, on Twitter. She was able to tie M.A.S.H with marital counseling for this funny.

Best Male Sports Personality to Follow on Twitter: Pat Forde @YahooForde

Pat Forde is the only guy that’s covering college football and college basketball equally. Most others focus on one. This makes him a must follow for anyone that loves both sports. Plus, he is amazing at making fun of life in the press box. Take a look at this tweet during the BCS National Championship Game.

Best Celebration Photo: Duke Women’s Golf

The Duke women’s golf team took to the air to celebrate their national championship.
While most celebration photos are basic team huddles behind a banner and the trophy, this photo of the Duke women is hard to forget. Who cares if they took 10 shots to get it right?

Wait, are the Blue Devils are reaching out to heaven?

Wait, are the Blue Devils are reaching out to heaven?

Tweet of the Year: Stanford Press Conference

Anytime a college sports team tries to act like a nerd after a big win it is awesome in my book. Congratulations to the Stanford football team for making nerds everywhere proud and for David Lombardi for his tweet.

Worst Tweet of the Year: South Florida

South Florida should be praised for retweeting a lot of its fans during games but I’m afraid USF should have checked the user name before retweeting this one. I blocked out the third letter myself for the kids out there.

Never retweet without thinking, unless it's my account.

Never retweet without thinking, unless it’s my account.

The retweet was deleted but not before I got the screen shot. Go Bulls! I guess?

July is for Redesign

Atlantic 10 logoJuly is the quietest time of the year for the NCAA making it the best time for conferences and schools to rebrand themselves. Websites are given new looks, slogans and posters are printed, and logos are updated. One example is the Atlantic-10, which has gone with a sleeker and more masculine design.

From the branding agency 160 over 90, the firm that redesigned the logo.

“The new logo system honors the league’s historically strong performance record and national rankings, while lending a contemporary feel. Custom-made letterforms convey the conference’s level of athleticism and fast-paced play. Angled serifs act as speed lines, while the exaggerated slope of the ‘A’ connotes advancement, almost pushing off of the page.…”

While that is a lot of connotative meanings from a logo it is an upgrade over the 90’s looking block design the A-10 had before.

This looked great when the SEGA Genesis came out.

This looked great when the SEGA Genesis came out.

Not every team in the league has “fast-paced play” but it is a good perception to present. For example, Dayton’s win over Syracuse in the NCAA tournament, the league’s most prominent win of the season, was a 55-53 defensive battle. Virginia Commonwealth, on the other hand, might be the most athletic team in the nation with their full-court press.
Overall it is a nice redesign that could help out the A-10’s efforts to gain respect after Dayton’s run into the Elite Eight.

Bowling Green Turns to the Chocolate Factory

One league that also had a redesign was the MAC with their new website. The real story here though was Bowling Green State University going Willy Wonka on their season tickets.

Because when people think golden tickets, they think MAC football.

Volleyball in the Mountains

Wyoming, our favorite Division 1 school out in the middle of nowhere, reinforces that fact with its new volleyball poster. How many other schools would try something like this?

“The Queens of the Ghost Town” would be a great slogan here, or “The Defenders of the Cattle Pen.”Either way I’m actually intrigued about the Wyoming volleyball season now. If they actually played their games in a cattle pen of course.

The NCAA Continues to Stick to its Guns

Or on and off the lake.

Or on and off the lake.


On Sunday the NCAA had the national championship in women’s rowing just minutes away from me in Indianapolis. When I asked a friend if we should get tickets to a women’s rowing event I was met with some strange looks. I might as well have proposed watching the “Twilight” trilogy in one sitting. So I sat this one out.

Ohio State repeated as the Division I champ and congratulations to the Buckeyes. The Ohio State women’s rowing team is also the banner photo for the NCAA’s Facebook page. Here the phrase “Champions on and off the court” is displayed symbolizing academic success.

The NCAA is once again fighting to the bitter end that all of its athletes are students first. Highlighting a women’s rowing team is not going to go very far to persuade the masses that only see the football and basketball players skipping class. At this point, the campaign is comical.

Perhaps a better campaign would be “Providing Opportunities for the Youth of America.” That’s cheesier than a superhero movie but it allows the NCAA to claim credit for those who graduate while still being illiterate. Looking at you SEC football.

Here are some other things I noticed this past week…

CBS Makes Some Changes

Speaking of the SEC, CBS is trying to solidify their alpha dog position on the conference. CBS sports announced that Adam Zucker will be replacing Tim Brando on their College Football Today. A show that serves as a pregame for their SEC game of the week. Allie LaForce is taking the place of Tracy Wolfson as the lead sideline reporter in that game. Could this be a preemptive move to go younger to combat ESPN’s launch of the new SEC Network? The timing can’t be a coincidence.

Flooding on the Field

McNeese State had a wonderful 2013 college football season. It made the FCS playoffs and crushed FBS South Florida 53-21. Lets hope a little water doesn’t stop their momentum.

Only a marketing guy could turn a flooded football field into a chance to sell season tickets. Not sure if it will work but at least they’re trying hard. Just good luck kicking a field goal in that lake.

L.A. is the Tennis Mecca

Now they just need to fight the USC men's team to the death.

Now they just need to fight the USC men’s team to the death.

Congratulations Los Angeles. You are the epicenter of collegiate tennis.

On Tuesday the No. 5 ranked UCLA women claimed the title defeating No. 7 North Carolina 4-3 in an all sky blue battle. The women’s bracket was all chalk for most of the tournament until the quarterfinals. At the end of it was UCLA claiming their 2nd title in women’s tennis and 111th championship in school history.

USC men won their fifth title in six years defeating Oklahoma 4-2. The bracket held to form as the top seeded Trojans tangled with the No. 2 Sooners. USC won their 21st title in men’s tennis and yes that’s more than anyone else. More importantly it was the school’s 100th national championship overall. USC won despite losing the double’s point. Something that rarely happens.

So congratulations UCLA and USC, you are better at a typically outdoor sport than the Big Ten. What a shock.

College tennis tries to steal the show

Spring championship season for the NCAA is here and the sport on deck this weekend is tennis. The men’s and women’s titles will be on Tuesday in Athens, Georgia. Why does the NCAA have all their championships on Mondays (football, men’s basketball) or a Tuesday (women’s basketball)? For an organization that values academics, they sure do put a lot of big events during class time.Obscurity Report new It’s also interesting that out of the top 16 seeds in the field of 64 for the men only two failed to make it to the round of 16. So if you’re looking for upsets in “May Madness” you might need to find a different spring sport. The fact that upsets are rare makes the failures of No. 8 Texas A&M and No. 11 Duke that much more embarrassing though.

The phrase “hard-fought” is PR speak for “we screwed up.” The good news though is that the elite eight of the field will truly be elite. Get your Cinderellas out of here because the big guys need room for the next three days in Athens. USC is the No. 1 seed but it did lose to Ohio State and twice to UCLA. Both are still in the field. On the women’s side parity is even harder to see as 15 of the top 16 seeds made it to the round of 16. Only No. 15 Northwestern faltered as it was edged out 4-3 by Notre Dame.

The attitude on the Northwestern side was just a little bit down in comparison.

There has been some drama though as No. 1 seed Georgia barely survived No. 16 USC 4-3 on Thursday. That would have been a disaster for the Bulldogs to blow their title hopes so quickly on their home court.

Georgia will play 2012 champion Florida on Saturday. The SEC will be going for Georgia vs. No. 2 Alabama championship match. I’m sure Big 10 fans will accuse Alabama of giving cars to their women’s tennis players too.

So check out a sport other than basketball and football for a change this weekend. You might even become a die-hard college tennis fan. Just don’t count on it.

Epic D-2 Softball Photos

I just finished a story for the Southsider Voice newspaper on the University of Indianapolis softball team. My feature on the Greyhounds will come out Wednesday but I also wanted to showcase some of the photos I took from their games with Bellarmine.  UIndy and Bellarmine are both in the NCAA tournament starting Friday as the two programs have strong softball traditions. Good luck to both teams.

Bellarmine UIndy UIndy 2At batPitcherKnights 2