Tag Archives: NCAA

Teaching the NCAA Sportsmanship

Innocently enough, the NCAA agreed to partner with the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) for a national sportsmanship initiative called “RESPECT Weekend” to kickoff the college football season. The premise for RESPECT Weekend is for all of the players on each team to meet prior to the game and shake hands to demonstrate sportsmanship. While it is a requirement that head coaches do this before each game, participation in Respect Weekend was strongly encouraged, but not mandatory.

Presumably, the NCAA and the AFCA felt this could help prevent players from fighting similar to the infamous South Carolina vs Clemson brawl in 2004

In some meeting during the summer, RESPECT Weekend probably seemed like an excellent idea. Who would be against promoting sportsmanship and is shaking hands not an great way to display this? Two problems however: What exactly is sportsmanship and how is it properly demonstrated?

Sportsmanship is the actions taken by coaches and athletes that are the unwritten rules behind the rules of a sport. Its not showing up your opponent, but allowing for a graceful defeat. Sportsmanship is choosing to not run up the score when the game has been won despite what the game clock says. Sportsmanship is not shooting a three point shot in basketball with less than 10 seconds left and up by double digits or only calling running plays in football once the game has become out of reach for the opponent. Sportsmanship is not shaking hands before a game.

Looking at this idea from a pure football perspective, it is doubtful RESPECT Weekend was conjured up by someone who once played the sport. Its acceptance by all parties is assuredly the result of no one finding a strong defensible reason not to do it. There is a mental preparation that nearly all athletes go through leading up the game or event. Unlike golf, baseball or even basketball to a degree, football players are preparing themselves to do battle. To physically outmatch their opponent, to knock them to the ground if possible every play. It is irresponsible to have more than 100 men in this mental state all meet at mid field and come eye to eye with their opponent. You cannot predict the mental strength of all involved and should not bet on the emotional control of these young men.

An obvious counter to this argument is the sport of boxing. While it is true boxers “touch gloves” before the beginning of each bout, like football coaches, it is purely ceremonial. Boxers are well past thinking about sportsmanship at this point. The boxer has already personally decided whether he will allow himself to commit the acts of a low blow or punching after the bell well before the touching of gloves and you will not know what their decision was until after the match is underway. On June 28, 1997, Mike Tyson touched gloves with Evander Holyfield to start the fight and in the third round Tyson bit a piece of Holyfield’s right ear off. This is all to prove sportsmanship is developed during an individuals lifetime and demonstrated by testing of their will through the fire of conflict and opportunity, not through a ceremony.

LeGarrette Blount was the University of Oregon 2009 starting tailback. The Senior’s stats for the year will remain eight carries for -5 yards. Frustration following defeat at the hand of Boise State and the vebal taunting by Byron Hout lead Blount to drop Hout with one swift punch to the chin. It was shocking, indefensible and the act that will be forever linked to the first day of RESPECT Weekend. Both players disgraced themselves and their teams, but for Blount, he will never play college football again. Sportsmanship matters. Oklahoma State’s coach Mike Gundy has already declared his team will not shake hands with Georgia today stating:

“Our first concern was [we’ll] have 115 guys out there and they’ll have 70, it just takes one guy to pop off,” Gundy said Monday at his weekly media luncheon. “Then I don’t know how you’re going to break it up. How do you control something like that?”

There will always be a Tyson or a Blount that can send an event into disarray. The AFCA and the NCAA should focus on strongly encouraging its coaches to be the torchbearers of sportsmanship. Eliminate dirty play and penalize teams for running up scores. The latter though will always remain when a championship is decided through sportswriter and coach voting or the BCS system. If the NCAA really cared about sportsmanship in football it would create a playoff system to decide its champion. Otherwise you will always have coaches pushing the limits of acceptability like Oklahoma’s embarrassment of Texas A&M in 2003. That day the Sooners won 77-0 and all that was proved was that Bob Stoops will never have the discipline to be Joe Paterno. Paterno has twice had an undefeated team in a major conference that did not win the National Championship. Many argue it was due to the fact that Paterno refuses to run up a score when a game is officially out of reach. Paterno proves true sportsmanship and his legacy as a man trumps everything else. The NCAA does not need to invent acts of sportsmanship to improve the game. It merely needs to take a look at how the winningest coach in Division I football has defined his career. Winners do not happen by accident.

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March Mayhem

This post is not necessarily about the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament or sports in general. It is about how the internet and webtv is impacting sports and the U.S. culture. March Madness has been a major event for a while now, but the internet has taken it to a completely new level of intrigue and accessibility. It is officially a mid March national  institution.

A few years ago, options at the office for following the start of the tournament were limited. You could check score updates online, listen to games on the radio (broadcast or streaming) or take a long lunch. Last year CBSSports.com and NCAASports.com changed everything by providing good quality live streaming video for free. A quote this past week from the USA Today article helps highlight the magnitude:

Last March, 92% of the viewers that watched games at NCAASports.com did so through work computers, according to Nielsen Online. It’s tough to tell how “March Madness” affects workplace productivity. Employment consulting firm Challenger Gray & Christmas has made varying estimates since 2002. Last year, it said that NCAA-watching could cost employers as much as $1.7 billion in wasted time. – USA Today

Through the first three days of the tournament CBSSports.com received 4.8 million unique visitors, which represents a 65 percent increase compared to 2008. Another interesting statistic is the nearly half of the video streams are through the high-quality HD option provided through Microsoft’s Silverlight player. Silverlight was also used by NBC for the 2008 Summer Olympics, a relationship that has been extended to the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Putting aside network congestion, it is of little consequence how many individuals watched HD video on their office computer this past week. The significance is that there is scalable, reliable technology that allows for HD live streaming of sports games. By connecting a computer with internet access to a HD TV, March Madness fans can watch any live game in its entirety instead of being limited to the feed from their local CBS station. CBS does a fantastic job staggering games and ensuring viewers see the most exciting action, however giving viewers the ability to choose the game they want to watch or more importantly to flip between games showed exactly what is possible with webtv. The picture quality through Silverlight was impressive and the experience was well beyond my expectations. The only limiting factor is the ISPs. I unfortunately experienced buffering issues near the end of the day today that I can only assume I have Time Warner Cable’s throttling policies to thank.

How huge would it be if this could be done for the NFL or NCAA football? I know there are On Demand options through cable and satellite providers, but what if the middle man was cut out and consumers could buy HD On Demand packages that stream over the web directly from leagues? This is where it could all get very interesting because live sports is the final frontier for webtv. Once reliable options become available, there truly will not be a need for cable.