Do We Need Conference Tournaments? Will Fans Return? CFP Hype; Too Much Walton; Untuckered

Like many current and former college head coaches, I’m not a huge fan of conference basketball tournaments.


They’re basically made for TV, made for Las Vegas events.


They invite injury to young athletes whose main mission is supposed to be getting an education by adding an extra week to a long season. They confuse the fans as to who's the league champ—the regular season winner or the winner of a three-day tournament?


They muddy the waters for the tournament that really counts, the NCAA, because fluke winners of conference tourneys are guaranteed an NCAA berth, while the regular season winners—the teams that were best over the course of three months—have to hope they’ll still get in.


In some cases, the undeserving winner of a conference tourney steals the spot of a competitive third or fourth place finisher from a strong league.



Witness this year’s Pac-12 fiasco. The sixth-place Oregon State Beavers, boasting a regular season mark of 10-10, beat third place Colorado to win the “championship.” (The Beavers were seeded fifth because scandal-plagued Arizona was ineligible).


Or consider the Big East, where eighth-seeded Georgetown, which finished the regular season with a 7-9 record in league and 9-12 overall, won the conference tourney.


If that can happen, why even play the season? It’s ridiculous.


This year, in particular, with all the risks of COVID, cooler heads should've prevailed and the conference tourneys should've all been cancelled.


But as always, when it comes to college football and basketball, only one thing matters.


Money.


Will Fans Return? Everyone is talking very optimistically about the fall 2021 college football season. Stadiums will re-open. Fans will be allowed to attend. Some schools—72% in a recent survey—believe they’ll be able to sell tickets to full capacity.


But hold on a minute.


Will fans be eager to return? There’s going to be a psychological factor at play here. Will fans be comfortable entering a stadium and sitting bumper to bumper with people they don’t know? Will they wonder whether the guy next to them has been vaccinated? Will they be wearing masks?


Perhaps most importantly, after a full year spent watching games in the comfort of their own homes on their 60 inch HDTV, with endless replays, the ability to switch channels to watch other games, the beer in the fridge, the bathroom right down the hall and the parking space in the garage, will they want to go back to a crowded stadium and pay for tickets, refreshments, and parking when their health may still be at risk?


My own feeling is that there will be significant attrition, with the individual levels depending on the quality of teams and schedule, weather, and local COVID case rates.


CFP Over-Hyped? ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit was talking the other day about players skipping bowl games and he blamed it—correctly—on the media’s obsession with the College Football Playoff at the expense of other post-season games. (Alabama coach Nick Saban has also spoken about this, as has your humble blogger).


“We’ve gotten away from, like Iowa might be playing Michigan in a really interesting game…They’re not close to the playoff, maybe, but man, it’s Iowa and it’s Michigan, and it’s a night game, and it’s going to be hyped up. We need to celebrate that kind of game. I feel like we’ve gotten away from just celebrating the sport and just competitive games. And it’s, ‘Oh, it’s not about the playoff, so don’t worry about it.'”


Herbstreit’s analysis is spot on (although I wouldn’t have used a game between two Big Ten teams as an example), but there’s one problem. Herbie and his pals at ESPN have been more responsible than anyone for promoting the Playoff as the only thing that matters in college football. From day one, all you hear on ESPN is “Who’s In?” There are specials, weekly countdowns, and blah, blah, blah from August to January.


So let’s look in the mirror, ESPN, and let’s promote all of college football, not just the CFP.


Walton Woes: Bill Walton has become a shill. We’ve previously discussed how unlistenable Walton is on a basketball broadcast, talking incessantly about unrelated topics. Everything from the Grateful Dead to his favorite restaurants. Rarely about the game.


But equally annoying is his shilling for the Pac-12. Walton never, ever, refers to the Pac-12. It’s always “the conference of champions.” Over and over, dozens of times during the course of a game. Ad nauseum.


It’s true the Pac-12 has won more NCAA championships than any other conference. But Walton is broadcasting basketball.


Someone should remind him that the Pac-12 hasn’t won the NCAA men’s basketball title since 1997.


Quick Political Question: How out of touch are the Republicans in Congress? Not one GOP Congressman or Senator—not one—voted for one of the most important pieces of legislation in memory, the $1.9 trillion rescue bill that will provide stimulus payments, expanded unemployment insurance, pandemic-related aid to schools, vaccine distribution and child care subsidies to millions of Americans in need.


Instead, they were fulminating about Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head.


Perhaps the folks in Congress should remember that it's called the House of "Representatives" for a reason and that three-quarters of all Americans—including a majority of Republicans—supported the bill.


Fact of the matter is that Joe Biden is quietly kicking ass, and it's driving all the Fox News, conspiracy theorists, white supremacists, and COVID deniers crazy.


UnTuckered: Thursday night President Biden (man it feels good to type that) announced the bill signing and gave a terrific speech (without a teleprompter) full of humility and compassion about the pandemic, suggesting that if enough Americans get vaccinated, "your families and friends will be able to get together in your backyard or your neighborhood and have a cookout and a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day.”


But Fox News clown Tucker Carlson, the same idiot who a day earlier had insulted everyone who wears a uniform by saying female service members are "making a mockery" of the military—quickly drawing well-deserved condemnation and ridicule from the Pentagon—took issue with Biden's July 4 reference.


"This is a free country," Carlson huffed. "How dare you tell us who we can spend the Fourth of July with?"


That’s right, Tucker. Only a flaming radical socialist would suggest spending July 4 with friends and family.


Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//gacavalli49@gmail.com