Thank you, Coach Friedli.

It is a challenge to accurately capture a tribute fitting for someone who meant so much to so many people. A legend in high school football, Coach Vern Friedli held the title of the winningest coach in Arizona high school football until last season. But Coach Friedli’s impact extends far beyond the 331 wins, including 288 in 36 years of coaching at Amphitheater High School.

Yesterday, a flood of memories came back as I attended his “Celebration of Life” at the Amphi basketball arena in Tucson, Arizona. Just a glimpse of his impact was present in the crowd of more than 500 former players, friends, family members, and administrators. I remembered the first time I met Coach Friedli in the summer of 1997. Walking into the football weight room under the stadium, I took a left and saw Coach sitting at his desk. I walked up to him and introduced myself as he stood to shake hands. He was all of 5’8” 165-ish lbs, fit, confident, with kind eyes. He was smaller than I expected but you wouldn’t know it when you talked to him. His fiery personality and impact would soon extend further and higher than his physical stature ever could.

During that first meeting, we sat down and discussed why I transferred to Amphi and wanted to play for the Panthers. Having attended Palo Verde Christian (PVC) for two years, I felt led to take the leap to public school to reach the lost. I wanted my life and my words to lead people to Christ. I also wanted to play football for the best. Coach Friedli and his Panthers were the best in Tucson and everyone knew it. Surprised yet un-phased by my words, Coach welcomed me to the team and gave me a blank 3×5 card. He told me to take it home and write down my personal and team goals for the upcoming year and bring it back to him. Coach Friedli ensured goals were a foundation of the culture of his program and his players.

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I would go on to play and start for Coach Friedli for two seasons. As huge underdogs my first year, we’d fall just short of the 1997 5A Arizona State Championship to Mesa Mountain View 28-24. Their team was led by future NFL hall of fame tight end, Todd Heap. Our scrappy, hard-nosed, wishbone-running team had the game locked up until an erroneous game-changing fumble by Mountain View, inaccurately ruled down after the whistle, and a later failed 4th and 1. We gave relentless effort and fought to the end-as his teams always did.

He’s the coach that got through to me-as only a coach could. One day I wanted to be rebellious and dye my hair with hydrogen peroxide, without my parent’s approval. I’ll never forget showing up for football practice that day with an orange-ish/yellow hair color and hearing Coach yell before I even set foot on the field to stretch, “Wingate, it looks like a horse pissed on your head.” He was right. He never hesitated to be direct, yet honest in his approach to get through to his players.

Towards the end of my senior year, after my parents, coach was the first to encourage and support my goal of attending Texas Christian University (TCU) as a walk-on for the Horned Frogs.  As a contributor to my high school team, hardly a star, this seemed like a lofty goal. Yet, Coach Friedli did not hesitate to extend his support. I watched the Frogs upset the Carson Palmer-led Trojans in the Sun Bowl, and felt like the Frogs had grit, ran the ball and fought just like a Friedli team.  Vern would coach me in the off-season prior to my departure to Fort Worth in preparation for my redshirt freshman season at TCU. When I left and told him thank you, he simply said, “Make your mother proud.”

That day in the weight room he told me about a coach he ran into from PVC at the airport shortly after I’d transferred to Amphi. That coach told him, “You know, Wingate will never play for you. He’s not that good.” Coach laughed with pride and a tone of confidence as only Coach could as he said, “Well, you showed him!” Again, Coach saw something in me I didn’t even see in myself. He believed in all of us, each one of his players.

He believed in hard work. He valued discipline. He modeled integrity. He demanded relentless effort. He cared for his players and wanted them to “make their mother proud.” He fought for those who couldn’t fight for themselves. He valued the team more than the individual yet somehow let each individual know he cared.  He gave his all to develop young men of character. He called out the best in each of us.

Coach taught me to never be satisfied with the status quo. He taught me to fight until I hit a brick wall then go around it, over it or through it. Coach taught me to scrap and fight for what’s right, that’s what his teams did. Ask Todd Heap and the 1997 Mesa Mountain View Toros. I’m sure they remember.

Leaving Coach Friedli’s Celebration of Life yesterday reminded me of the value of leaving a legacy. It reminded me of the fragility of life and making the most of our time here on earth and the greatest impact possible. Coach’s legacy extended far beyond the win column; his legacy was in that basketball arena on the Amphi campus. His legacy is leaders in business, the military, teaching, family, and life. Just as we held up four fingers signifying the last quarter of the game and the importance of finishing strong, his legacy is leaders that do not know how to quit.

At the end of the ceremony, his youngest son, Ted, called all the former players to the arena floor. Hundreds took a knee to say one final prayer with a video recording of Coach praying in the background as he did with us before every football game. That day he planted a seed in the hearts of all the men and women present one more time:

Let’s pray. Pray in your own way. Pray not to win, God willing we shall. We pray that you give a great effort tonight. Thank God He allowed you to play football for Amphi High School. And we thank God that he allowed us to coach you. Good luck, God bless, and we love you. Amen.

Pray

That prayer had much more depth than I ever realized as a high school kid. That prayer spoke to the importance of unity of purpose and discipline. It spoke to his vision. It spoke to the value of diversity. It spoke to sportsmanship. It spoke to discipline. It spoke to relentless effort.

It spoke to gratitude for opportunities and the value of seasons. It spoke to Coach’s humble heart and his stewardship of the awesome responsibility of shaping young men in unity, purpose, discipline, vision, diversity, sportsmanship, effort, and respect to the Creator.

Coach called out the leader in me. I take his lessons with me today as a professional Soldier. Coach is greatly responsible for my drive and relentless effort as an Army Officer. After my third deployment, this time to Afghanistan, I visited Coach and his wife, Sharon, to present them with a certificate of appreciation and a flag we flew on a mission during Operation Enduring Freedom as a thank you for his tremendous impact on my life.Coach Friedli Flag

A flag cannot adequately thank a man whose impact goes on long after he is gone. Words cannot adequately express gratitude to a man who put just as much, if not more, effort into building men than he did earning the 331 Wins in his coaching career. You don’t reach that mark without reaching hearts. 

Yesterday’s celebration reminded me of how grateful I was to know and play for a legend. It reminded me how honored I was to see the values instilled by my parents magnified and reinforced as only Coach could. Yesterday, I was reminded of the value of a season and the impact of one man and his teammate, Sharon. Spouses in the coaching profession and military do not necessarily get enough credit for their sacrifice in the shadows.

In Sharon’s case, she was out front standing beside him, supporting and investing in those young student-athletes just the same. However, the sacrifice she made to support and lift him up throughout his stellar career behind the scenes can hardly be quantified by anyone other than his family. The pictures playing on the screen at yesterday’s celebration of life showed Coach valued and invested in his family just as much if not more than his players. The love, respect, and admiration by his children in their speeches about their father were clearly evident.

Thank you, Coach. Thank you for your relentless effort and commitment to the players. Thank you for building men. Thank you for instilling the importance of fight no matter what your size. You may have been one of the shortest men in the room, but you were a giant. Although you are no longer here with us, your investment will continue yielding returns for years to come.

If you missed his Celebration of Life, check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/kvoa4/videos/1642400062459331/?hc_ref=ARSwWDssZcW_BEwvrquFy6BzMkBk3JdKoubcdVdJQg9yB25qm5EkuLBEsimKZ6VWhuY&pnref=story

To anyone reading this, what memories do you have of Coach that others might not know or might not remember? Leave a comment below as we honor his legacy.Coach Friedli

-MCW/@mcwingate

The views presented above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its components.

© Copyright 2017 M.C.Wingate. All Rights Reserved.

 

Be present. 

Bruce Arians, head coach of the Arizona Cardinals was recently quoted as saying to Alex Marvez and Geoff Schwartz on the SiriusXM Blitz, “For our coaches, I tell them, if you miss a recital or a football game or a basketball game, I’ll fire you. You can always come back and work. Those kids are not going to be there forever. They’re going to grow up and be gone.”

As a former intercollegiate athlete at TCU and current Army Officer, I’ve always seen the parallels between the work ethic of coaching and the military. As a relatively new father with an 18 month old daughter and son due in September, my responsibility as a husband and father has never been more evident and it is the greatest responsibility with which I’ve been entrusted. This responsibility is something some fathers in both professions miss. 

There are seasons and events we never want to miss. In the Army, in coaching sports, sometimes mission or the season dictates otherwise. That means we have a responsibility to make the most of the time we do have with our family while being present for what we can be present for, controlling what we can control with an adequate work-life balance. Quality time does not necessarily mean quantity time. 

Adequate work-life balance is essential to a healthy home and our role as husbands and fathers. In the Army, when our nation calls, we answer. However, above all else our God-given job is to lead our family first whether at home or abroad. If we do it right, the family will be there long after the Army is gone or the coaching career ends. 

Readiness is the #1 priority of our Army’s senior leaders. Too often we give lip-service to the concept of supporting the family while not truly walking it out. I truly believe support from your significant other through those challenging seasons we can’t control is essential to building readiness. If a Soldier knows they have the support of their spouse back home when deployed or at training, it helps foster a healthy culture where the Soldier knows they can focus on the mission we have been called to do. 

It is my responsibility to be present when home, to turn off my phone when able, and not check email when I could be playing with my daughter or talking to my wife about her day. Investing in my daughter and pursuing her heart is essential to her development and her perception of what a Godly man looks like. That image is also directly related to how well I pursue the heart of my wife.  That requires me to give her my undivided attention when I’m able. There are seasons it is not always possible in person. But when it is, fathers, leaders, coaches, we must be present. 

Kaepenick’s message lost due to ill-timed protest

Colin Kaepernick made a bold statement by sitting during the national anthem in protest to ongoing social and racial issues in our country. His actions enraged and continue to enrage many people in this country. In his post-game interview, Kaepernick said he is “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” He later adjusted his protest from sitting to kneeling during the national anthem to donating $1 million to charities that help communities in need due partially to a candid conversation and dialogue with Nate Boyer, a former Green Beret and Seattle Seahawk. kaepernick1He vowed to not stand during the anthem until he is “proud of his nation once more.” As a result a few other athletes have joined in the non-violent protest while simultaneously enraging patriotic people in our country. Nate Boyer did his part to ensure Kaepernick’s message wasn’t completely lost due to an inflammatory action that represents our nation. Yet the fact that Kaepernick donated $1 million this year to charities that help communities is partially clouded by the fact that he takes a knee during the national anthem, a symbol with deep passion for many.

At the end of the day, does his protest help affect positive change? Do his actions help heal race relations in our country or further damage them by feeding into an already existing racial prejudice and in our country? What are these 17+ athletes providing as a potential fix to the problem affecting our nation?

Although I understand the intent of Kaepernick’s message, his actions do very little to highlight the oppression of black people in our country. However, his and the other protesters’ actions distract from the message they are trying to relay by timing it during the national anthem. We have a saying while making decisions when analyzing missions and planning for future events: What is the second and third-order effect of a decision? How will this decision affect what we are trying to accomplish? In part, it appears Kaepernick’s actions are furthering the gap of division in our country rather than healing the racial and social injustice he’s hoping to highlight.

No one can or should deny Kaepernick’s constitutional right to protest the way he is. That’s part of what makes our country great. However, if exercising your constitutional right has the consequence of furthering the divide you are attempting to bridge, I offer the actions are short sighted and distract us from the true problem. screen-shot-2016-09-01-at-9-15-46-amIf you want to change the way rogue police officers treat a segment of our society, wearing socks with cartoon police officer pigs is probably not the best way. These actions continue to fuel hate and disrespects police officers, the majority of whom protect and serve with distinct honor and selflessness. There are rogue and ill-intended people in every profession. However there are many, many more who are doing the right thing to support and defend us all.
Take Officer Joshua Scaglione, a Detroit, Michigan police officer who after pulling over LaVonte Dell for his windows being too dark in April this year, noticed Mr. Dell’s three year old daughter without a car seat. After asking why his daughter was not in a car seat, Mr. Dell explained his financial challenges and personal struggles. Rather than igniting a disrespectful interchange and making matters worse, Dell was honest, open, and genuine. As a result, instead of giving him a ticket and making Officer Scaglione asked Mr. Dell to follow him to Wal-Mart. When they arrived, the Officer took him inside and purchased him a pink car seat, Dell’s daughter’s favorite color. Scaglione asked for nothing in return. He related to and empathized with Mr. Dell’s challenges. As a result of his random act of kindness, he earned the respect of Mr. Dell by providing a solution to his fellow man’s problem.

This had nothing to do with race. Rather, this had everything to do with loving others. I wonder how Officer Scaglione, an honorable man feels when seeing a professional athlete like Kaepernick wearing socks that disrespect and detract from the good things some police officers do. The media and people in our nation have responded talked for weeks about the protest rather than the message they are trying to relay.

If we do want to change social and racial injustice, what is the best way to accomplish the end goal? When counseling my junior officers, I often tell them, “Don’t bring a problem without a potential solution.” If they do that, it shows me they have thought about the problem, analyzed the problem, and came up with possible solutions. It’s part of their essential development as an officer. I don’t want to always give them the answers to the question without knowing they have exhausted their own resources or experience to come up with an answer. Otherwise, the junior leader will expect the easy way out or a handout every time. That does not build critical-thinking, creative, and determined officers. We want officers that relentlessly pursue solutions to complex problems. When they hit a brick wall with their solution, I want them to find a way around, over, or through that wall to accomplish the mission. If the goals of the protests are to change social and racial injustice, are they identifying the symptom or the disease?

When medics and doctors treat diseases, they identify the symptoms one by one and provide a potential treatment. If we truly want to change racial injustice, oppression, corruption in politics, we must do our own individual part to first be the change we are looking for, rather than just making a controversial, inflammatory action. 1916100_1284618481385_449511_nAs a white, middle class male, I will never know what it is like to deal with the challenges of some blacks in our country. However in order to truly treat the disease, each one of us has to do our individual part to be part of the change we are hoping to accomplish. Often times when we say, “it’s them,” that’s the problem, we fail to realize, we are not doing our own part to be part of the positive change we are trying to achieve. This change begins with each and every one of us.

Part of the problem in our nation is not solely oppression of black people or racism. Those are simply the symptoms of a greater disease. The disease of oppression, racism, social injustice, and ultimately sin is in the heart of man. Actions like Kaepernick’s only further the symptoms rather than heal the underlying disease. The ignorant San Francisco 49ers fan that burned Kaepernick’s jersey and called him a dumb n-word did nothing but show his own ignorance and racial prejudice rather than positively addressing the underlying issue as Nate Boyer did with his open letter to Kaepernick. That 49er fan made the symptom worse. Nate Boyer helped bridge the gap and did his part to treat the disease.

Kaepernick and other protesters think they are doing their part take a stance for  a real issue in our country. If nothing else, Kaepernick’s actions have ignited a conversation. But has he or any of the other protesters stopped to think about whether or not their message is getting lost in their method protest rather than actually affecting positive social change? I do believe he has the best intentions. He should be using his platform as an athlete to be the change. However, his method for doing it could be better approached by not spotlighting himself while simultaneously taking focus away from his team and distracting from an event that is about much more than the individual.

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The Denver Broncos players and anyone else that take a knee, sit or stand daydreaming into the distance during the national anthem are just as wrong as Kaepernick. I have not seen anyone burn Jared Crick (93), Billy Winn (97), and Adam Gotsis (99) for their disrespect. I see three different races equally disrespecting a solemn symbol for our nation at a time that is sacred and stirs many feelings, memories, and emotions for me and many others that have fought in our nation’s wars. Yet, the media doesn’t call them to the carpet for their slightly less-blatant disrespect.

The national anthem is a moment of unity and remembrance for me no matter what our beliefs. It is a moment to celebrate how far we’ve come. It is a moment to think of all the brothers in arms I’ve gone to war with, some of which were lost defending our country. It doesn’t say we’ve made it. It doesn’t deny there are dark moments in our history. Yet, we are where we are as a nation partially due to the adversity we have worked so hard together to never do again.

Protesting in the middle of something that means so much to so many people points the spotlight directly on the individual what we haven’t done, rather than celebrating what we have done and what we as a nation have fought through for over 238 years. We have fought to be by the people and for the people. We have fought to be unified under a symbol, a flag that represents all colors, creeds, and nationalities. The flag represents those who are here and live in those very freedoms. It also represents those who have fought and died for our freedom. It is a symbol not just for all of us, but of all of us.

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The flag and the national anthem do not represent perfection. Our nation’s history is anything but perfect. Even now, years after civil rights and now the first Black President in our history, our nation is not perfect and never will be. However, our ideals, our fight, our never quit, never-say-never grit is what made us leave tyranny to start our own nation in the first place. The flag doesn’t deny racism still exists in the heart of some.  It doesn’t deny there are issues. Rather, it represents what we should be and still can be. But it begins with me. It begins with you. It begins with we the people.  For we the people have to be the change before the radicals, the bigots, the dissenters, the racists, the haters, the homophobes, xenophobes, baskets of deplorables, and hate-filled Americans will change their actions and return to part of what makes this nation great: our diversity and unity of purpose.

Change begins with each of us. It begins with us not just pointing out the problem, rather coming together to come up with viable, achievable solutions to problems that affect our nation. Maybe then and only then will the true message we are trying to achieve not be drowned out be ill-timed protests.  Kaepernick ignited a conversation but the conversation is not even about the message he and the other protesters are trying to convey. I remember my football coaches saying, “You play on Saturdays like you practice during the week.” I wonder if we start practicing pointing out the good things people do rather than the negative, could we ignite a fire of change we really hope to accomplish in our society?

-MCW

@mcwingate

The views presented above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its components.

© Copyright 2016 M.C.Wingate. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

Never Give Up.

If you’re a college football fan, by now, you either saw or heard about TCU’s dramatic come from behind victory over the Oregon Ducks in this year’s Valero Alamo Bowl. Most have considered the Alamo Bowl to be the highlight of an otherwise disappointing bowl season. TCU’s victory over Oregon finished with a crescendo, ultimately providing encouragement for anyone that has ever wanted to overcome the odds to finish strong in football or in life.

This season began on a high note for a TCU team that fell just short of lofty expectations and a Big 12 title due to multiple key injuries. Many of us fans would say this season did not go as planned. But the victory for the Frogs is a storybook finish for a resilient team who put the weight of their season on the shoulders of a backup QB in his first start. A QB who was thrust into the spotlight two days before his final game in a Horned Frog uniform due to one bad choice made worse by a star QB. The outcome of the game is not a surprise to those of those of us who love and follow TCU. This season ends as one of the finest of Head Coach Gary Patterson’s coaching career so far.

Despite the injuries and disappointments in Stillwater and Norman in November and on the River Walk a few nights before the Alamo Bowl, this season ends as one none of the players, coaches or fans will soon forget. The storyline of TCU’s 2015 season and come back finish in the final game of the year is ripe with depth and pregnant with encouragement for anyone who has ever had a season that didn’t go exactly as planned. The storyline of TCU’s final game and come-from-behind victory provides many points of encouragement to anyone that has had disappointments and setbacks in their life.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the odds; overcome them. Down 31-0 at half TCU’s win-probability bottomed out at 0.9% (courtesy ESPN Stats & Info). Adjusting their plan, and committing to the cause, TCU overcame the odds rather than be overwhelmed by them.

ProbabilityWho has faced overwhelming odds? Who has ever been overcome with depression, sadness, and disappointment? Who has ever felt at the end of his or her rope? Who has been counted out by everyone only to ultimately overcome the odds to victory?

Our thinking can change our outcome. What went on in the locker room at halftime of the Alamo Bowl in the purple locker room? The coaches made adjustments (to the game and the clothing), and coached up the players. Things don’t always go as we plan. Sometimes adjustments are required. That begins with our thinking. The coaches and players prepared their minds to take it one play at a time, one series at a time. They could’ve focused on the score at half; rather they focused on the goal. Eventually, they achieved what they believed: we can win this game. Who needs a coach to help you through? Who needs to make adjustments at the intermission of their life in order to finish strong and change your outcome? It begins with our thinking.

Never give up. Down by 31 points and all but considered out, the Horned Frogs could have quit. When TCU lost over 20 starters throughout the course of the season, TCU could have quit. When TCU’s All-American receiver was ruled out for the game against Oregon, TCU could have quit. When TCU’s Heisman candidate QB snuck out past curfew resulting in his eventual arrest and suspension from the game, TCU could have quit. Down 31-0 at the half, TCU could have quit. But the Frogs were not finished yet. As most now know, TCU would eventually come back to match the largest comeback in bowl history. Outscoring the Ducks 47-10 in the second half and OTs, TCU went on to defeat the Oregon Ducks 47-41 in 3 OTs behind the arm and legs of a 5th year backup QB and a team that committed to overcome the odds, change their outcome through their thinking, and never quit. Will you?

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-MCW

 The views presented above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its components.

© Copyright 2016 MCWingate. All Rights Reserved.

 

ESPN, SEC, and the Propaganda machine

In the military, Army leaders plan, prepare, execute, and assess operations by analyzing the operational environment in terms of mission variables. There are many variables we analyze but no two operational environments are identical and every environment changes over time. Variables evolve frequently and affect many things that contribute to the overall strategic purpose of our Army and our nation. Translation? We do whatever it takes to drive policy and protect our nation’s interests. ESPN is not too different. ESPN consistently uses strategic marketing to protect its financial investment, support its agenda for the Heisman trophy, the NCAA College Football Playoff, and ultimately the National Championship.

Anyone that understands marketing with product placement in television and film production understands if you place the product in front of the audience long enough, eventually the consumer will buy whatever it is you’re selling. This method serves as the most successful means of marketing in the industry. This is exactly what catapulted the SEC conference to the forefront of the national championship towards the end of the BCS era.

ESPN, its producers, and the CFB Playoff committee leadership have made a substantial investment and will do and say whatever it takes during its programming to protect that investment. ESPN has a $6 Billion investment through its media rights deal with the SEC over the next 20 years, which amounts to $300 million per year for the conference, more than any other conference. The Big 12 receives approximately $1.6 billion over 13 years which amounts to $100 million per year with its media rights deal with ESPN.

With the invention of the digital video recorder (DVR), advertising and marketing saw consumers skipping through commercials like never before. Viewers were no longer seeing advertisements that were once a bedrock of the marketing business. As a result, product placement in television shows went up. In large, sports are the only DVR-proof event on television today. This is partially why advertising rates during live sporting events are at an all time high. The viewer is physically in front of their TV, which increases the odds the product will be viewed by the consumer rather than skipped over.

ESPN’s use of product placement as well as marionette-style puppetry through its most effective mouthpieces on its most popular college football program, College Gameday, helped vault the SEC to the forefront as “the strongest conference.” This method also vaulted Ohio State past TCU at the end of last season. Yet in most cases, when those SEC teams are put on the field with major contenders from the Big 12, Big 10, ACC, or Pac 12, the SEC has crumbled, (see Ohio State vs. Alabama and Ole Miss vs. TCU, and nearly every other post-season SEC game last season).

ESPN’s propaganda-machine and strategic marketing is attempting to vault an SEC player to the forefront of the Heisman race and has all year. Don’t get me wrong, Leonard Fournette is a talented running back as are Derrick Henry and Ezekiel Elliot. But they are not the best college football players in America. When Fournette was stunted during the past two games against better opponents, ESPN started pushing Derek Henry, another SEC running back. Now, it appears they favor Ezekiel Elliot, another good running back, but not the best college football player in America.

What about the Heisman frontrunner going into the season? Through ten games, Trevone Boykin has his team sitting at 9-1, while throwing for 3,427 passing yards, 29 pass TDs, 596 yards rushing and 8 rushing TDs, (4,023 yards and 37 TDs). Despite an injury versus Kansas last week and missing the entire second half, Boykin is second in the nation in QBR and 5th in total passing yards. He leads the nation in total yards through 10 games. The Heisman Trophy used to be an award to recognize the best college football player in America. With the injuries this TCU team has faced this year, no player has meant more to his team than Trevone Boykin. Despite the injury, no player has taken control of and dominated the game like Trevone Boykin. How about what Luke Falk is doing at Washington State? Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech? Paxton Lynch at Memphis? Yet ESPN rarely highlights these athletes because it does not fit its agenda.

With a $7.3 billion dollar investment in the CFB playoff, ESPN will do whatever it takes to protect its interests and garner the largest advertising revenue possible during the season and the playoff. As I wrote above, live sports are the last DVR-proof television event. This is why College Gameday and the other shows on ESPN consistently pimp the SEC, B1G, and ACC conferences.

We were sold that the CFB playoff would find the best college football team. We were lied to. If ESPN truly cared about finding the best team in college football, and truly cared about giving the Heisman to the best college football player in America, the CFB playoff would be an 8-team playoff with automatic bids for the Power 5 conference championship teams and 3 at-large bids. But this would not guarantee ESPN’s desired outcome.

ESPN is the CNN of college football. They provide biased reporting and pander to the teams with the largest fan base. Its propaganda-driven broadcasting is damaging the sport of college football and once again successfully turning this amazing sport into a greater gap of the haves and have-nots. The haves are any team with a national presence and fan base large enough to pay for the sizeable investment ESPN has made in the CFP playoff. The have-nots are any team or player that does not fit that description (see OSU, TCU, Baylor, Memphis, Houston)

ESPN consistently devalues the strength of the Big 12 and anyone that opposes the SEC, Big 10, or occasionally the ACC and Pac12. Their treatment of TCU this season is a perfect example. Last year, Ohio State’s resiliency was celebrated after their key injuries despite a weak schedule. This year, with 23+ injuries to this talented squad, ESPN and the CFB playoff committee vilifies Trevone Boykin and throws them to the side of the curb like a mid-major program. Every conference has a few really good teams. Unfortunately, we only get to see these teams prove ESPN’s propaganda-based, agenda-biased theories wrong during bowl season. Hey, maybe one year we will finally find out who the best team truly is in college football.

The views presented above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its components.

© Copyright 2015 MCWingate. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power Five, the media, and the former BCS: An analysis of the gap between the haves and the have nots

Through written publication and TV, the media favored the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), now referred to as “The Power Five” automatic qualifying conferences (AQ), over the non-automatic qualifying (non-AQ) conferences. From Sports Illustrated to ESPN, there was a media slant targeted at the voters, effectively creating an unequal distribution of bowl revenue between the AQ and non-AQ conferences. Through smoke and mirrors, proponents of the former BCS used the media to lead the charge in creating a false perception of inequality of non-AQ conferences vs. AQ conferences. The reason for this slant and media bias was simple: money. With over $1 billion in TV revenue invested in the AQ conferences by ESPN/ABC, Fox, and CBS Sports, the media conglomerates were simultaneously protecting their investment and shaping the opinions of the voters and the uneducated indirect spectator.  

The paper below was written in 2012 for an assignment for my Master’s Degree at Liberty University. Although some of the data is now slightly dated, the results of today’s NCAA vote for the “Power Five,” my analysis of the media bias is now firmly established as the soon-to-be autonomous “Power Five” will create a gap of haves and have-nots greater than ever before.  For the first time, the likelihood a David will ever rise again to defeat the Giants fades just like the former BCS. 

-MCW

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         The media’s affect on Football Subdivision (FBS) college football is undeniable. Yet, FBS college football benefits the media as well. Since the inception of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) in 1998, it’s no secret that no other system has created more hype, more frustration, more controversy, or most importantly, more money.

          Although the central focus of the controversy shifts from season to season, in general it is fueled by two common trends: Well-deserving, undefeated teams not getting a chance to vie for the BCS National Championship game and the perceived inequalities of non-automatic qualifying conferences (non-AQ) vs. automatic qualifying (AQ) conferences.  This perceived inequality is due to the media protecting its financial interests in the AQ conferences through media saturation and slanted broadcasts while highlighting the AQ conference schools and minimizing the significance and validity of non-AQ school wins.

           When you look at the top sports magazine subscription in the United States (U.S.), Sports Illustrated (Magazine, 2011), there has been a distinct difference in cover stories of the AQs vs. the non-AQs. Out of 88 different Sports Illustrated magazine covers from January 01, 2010 to January 01, 2011, FBS college football was featured a total of eleven times. Of those eleven cover stories, only three covers featured non-AQ football teams (Boise State on August 16, 2010 and October 4, 2010). One of those three cover stories was TCU, who shared the cover with Auburn and Oregon, two AQ teams, on November 15, 2010. As the most popular sports subscription in America, it’s just a small reflection of the overall big picture when it comes to big time college football: The rich get richer, and the so-called mid-major conferences have to go undefeated to even have a chance at the major bowl games. Is this simply coincidence or an un-ethical media slant? One thing drives this tendency and one thing alone: money.

            To understand why the media is slanted towards the AQ conferences over the non-AQ conferences, we must first define each. The AQ conference champions have automatic inclusion into the big money BCS games, while the non-AQ conference champions may be included in a BCS game if they meet certain pre-determined criteria.

            During the inception of the BCS in 1998, six “power conferences” in Football Subdivision (FBS) were deemed automatic qualifiers to the big-money bowl games: Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pacific-10 (Pac-10), and the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The champions of these conferences receive automatic bids to the four big-money bowl games: Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl, and Sugar Bowl. The remaining conferences have no automatic BCS bowl affiliation for their conference champion and are considered “non-AQs,” but can earn an at-large bid if they meet certain predetermined criteria. The BCS selection procedures state: The champion of Conference USA (C-USA), the Mid-American Conference (MAC), the Mountain West Conference (MWC), the Sun Belt Conference, or the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) will earn an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game if either:

  1. Such team is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings, or, 
  
  2. Such team is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings and its ranking in the final BCS Standings is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls (BCS, 2010).

            While the AQ conferences can contribute no more than two teams per conference, the non-AQs are only guaranteed one team if they meet the criteria listed above. The BCS selection rules go on to say, “No more than one such team from Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, and the Western Athletic Conference shall earn an automatic berth in any year. (Note: a second team may be eligible for at-large eligibility as noted below). If two or more teams from those conferences satisfy the provisions for an automatic berth, then the team with the highest finish in the final BCS standings will receive the automatic berth, and the remaining team or teams will be considered for at-large selection if it meets the criteria” (BCS, 2010).

          The only time two non-AQ teams were selected as at-large bids under both criteria was in 2009. TCU and Boise State both completed the regular season undefeated, finishing ranked #4 and #6 respectively. As the bowl selection special aired on ESPN, showing the nation who the non-AQs would face, the expectation was palpable. Most fans and analysts expected a highly anticipated show down between the, Champion of the MWC and non-AQ powerhouse, #4 TCU, and automatic qualifying Big East Champion, #3 Cincinnati. In addition, we expected the defending BCS National Champion, #5 Florida of the SEC to be paired against the other non-AQ darling, #6 Boise State, possibly in the Sugar Bowl. The “Davids” would finally get their chance to prove themselves against the “Goliaths.” However, in an effort to protect the image and false-perception of the superiority of the AQ conferences, as a consolation prize, the two undefeated, top ranked non-AQ teams were paired against each other in the Fiesta Bowl to ensure they did not shatter the image of the AQ conferences. Boise State went on to defeat TCU 17-10 in a virtual deadlock.

          In the 2010 season, TCU completed the regular season undefeated, receiving a bid to the Rose Bowl. Despite a late season loss to Nevada, Boise State still finished the regular season ranked #10 in the final BCS rankings. Having met all the at-large BCS selection criteria, Boise State was passed over by the BCS bowl-selection committee for AQ conference member, Ohio State, securing a second BCS bid for a Big Ten member.

          TCU’s at-large bid to the Rose Bowl in 2010 created the largest revenue for non-AQ conferences in the history of the BCS. However, there is still a huge split and disproportionate distribution of the revenue between the AQ and non-AQ conferences. Matthew Sanderson, founder of Playoff PAC, a political action committee aimed at prodding change to a playoff system, said the financial imbalance remains (Frommer, 2011). “That imbalance is unconscionable, given that it has no basis in post-season performance on the field and in the marketplace,” he said. “Only the BCS would try to pitch anti-competitive behavior as benevolence.”

          For the 2010 post-season, the four BCS Bowl games and the BCS National Championship game rotates on a yearly basis between the four different BCS bowl sites, paying participating teams $17 million dollars per bowl game, per team. The maximum of two teams per conference are allowed to participate in a BCS Bowl, bringing an additional $34 million in revenue to the conference teams (Duffy, 2011).

          College football conferences profited a record $170 million from this past year’s BCS bowl games, including a new high of $24.7 million for the five non-AQ conferences due to TCU’s at-large berth to the Rose Bowl (Frommer, 2011).   Although it seems like a hefty sum, the $24.7 million is a deceptive amount and are “tears in a pool” compared to the roughly $145 million the AQ conference netted (Duffy, 2011). While the BCS AQ schools split the proceeds with the other teams in their respective conferences, non-AQ BCS participants must share the proceeds with the four other non-AQ conferences in addition to their own conference (Frommer, 2011).

          Under the BCS system, six conferences get automatic bids to participate in top-tier bowl games while the other five conferences do not get an automatic bid. Those six conferences, which sent nine of the 10 teams to the BCS bowl games this year, received approximately $145 million. The Big Ten, SEC and Pac-10, which each had two teams in BCS bowls, received about $27.2 million each, while the ACC, Big East and Big 12 received roughly $21.2 million (Frommer, 2011).

         After the record profit margin, the AQ BCS-participating schools kept their profits within their respective conferences, and the non-AQ conference participant, TCU, shared their bowl payout with their own conference, the MWC, and the remaining four non-AQ conferences. The AQ schools received 85.2 percent of the available profits while the non-AQ schools received 14.5 percent. Had TCU lost during the regular season and been left out of the Rose Bowl, the non-AQ profit would have been reduced to 7 percent of the available bowl profits (Duffy, 2011).

          At $17 million per team, the BCS bowl games are very lucrative and beneficial to the participating teams and their respective conferences. The highest non-AQ, non-BCS bowl payout is the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, TN, featuring the C-USA champion against the #7 SEC team at $1.7 million per team. Although there are a few bowl payouts closer to $2 and $3 million, the majority of lower tier bowl payouts are $750,000 to $1 million per team (Poll, 2010).

        With all of its frustrations, the BCS has provided more access to the major bowls for all eleven conferences, more television exposure, and more postseason revenue than ever before (BCS, 2011). Although the statement, “more access” is debatable, the key word in that sentence from the BCS official website is revenue. Money is the most significant link between the media and professional sport (Woods, 2007). I would argue, thanks to the BCS and ESPN, money is the most significant link to media and FBS college football than ever before. The BCS Bowl games are all broadcast on ESPN, highlighting the AQ conferences and protecting their investment even more.  

            On the front page of the May 09, 2011 issue of the Sports Business Journal, there was a feature on sports media giants, ESPN and Fox establishing “one of the most unlikely unions in U.S. sports media history with the Pac-10’s media rights” (Durand and Smith, 2011). A few weeks prior to the agreement, Comcast was almost a lock to win the Pac-10 media rights with their bid of $225 million per year. Neither ESPN nor Fox had the ability to bid that much individually. Over a seven-hour meeting on April 28, both networks ‘pooled’ their assets and came up with a joint bid that would split the rights to the Pac-10 games at 22 football games each and pay the west coast conference $250 million dollars a year, equaling $3 billion over 12 years (Durand & Smith, 2011). Comcast’s best bid of $235 million fell well short of this huge financial windfall for Pac-10, an AQ conference.

            This media deal is by far the largest annual value of any media deal for an FBS conference. The next closest conference TV media deal is the Big Ten conference at $232 million annually with the Big Ten Network, followed by the ACC $155 million with ESPN/ABC and the SEC and ESPN/ABC at $150 million a year. All three of those conferences are AQ conferences. Media revenue deals between ESPN/ABC, Fox, and CBS College Sports networks and the AQ conferences total upwards of $1.05 billion annually (Durand & Smith, 2011). When you look at the money invested in these conference TV deals, why wouldn’t they protect their investment and promote the AQ conference teams? C-USA and the MWC are the only two non-AQ conferences with TV deals. Yet, their deal with CBS College Sports pales in comparison to the AQ conferences, totaling $27.8 million in annual revenue.

            ESPN analysts continually sell the argument that every week is a playoff. If you win, you move forward. If you lose, your chances of being in the championship game are slim-to-none. In essence, the BCS has made it so every week matters. For the AQ schools, they can still lose and win their conference, and get a bid to the big money bowl games. As for the non-AQ schools, due to the perceived false-perception of non-equality to the AQ schools, they cannot afford to lose if they want a chance at the big money BCS bowl games.

         However win or lose, ESPN and the media shape the opinions of the uneducated. The media slant favoring the AQ conference schools is further enhanced every Saturday morning as ESPN hosts its popular weekly live college football program, College GameDay. Since 1993, College GameDay has broadcast live from various college campuses across America, normally featuring the game they deemed the biggest of the week while previewing other key Top-25 games. Since the inception of the show seventeen years ago, of the 225 live broadcasts, only fourteen have featured non-AQ schools (Wikipedia, 2011). Non-AQ teams have been featured six times in the past two seasons. Arguably the most popular college football show in America, College GameDay has featured these schools only 6% of the time. Prior to the November 3, 2001 broadcast in Colorado Springs Air Force Academy campus for their game against Army, no non-AQ schools had been featured (Wikipedia, 2011).

            From Sports Illustrated to ESPN, the media favors the AQ conferences more than the non-AQ conferences. With over $1 billion in annual television revenue, any business-savvy individual can understand the sports networks’ need to protect its investment with creative reporting and a media slant. This continual trend brings into question the ethics of the media and ESPN in particular, and the fair and balanced nature of the leading sports networks and publications.

            The media creates the false perception of a huge gap of capability between the AQ and non-AQ conferences. Although financially, this is true, there are three non-AQ teams that have consistently performed well against schools in AQ conferences: Boise State, TCU and Utah. These three teams have two BCS bowl appearances each since the inception of the BCS and have won all of their matchups against BCS automatic qualifiers. Again, in 2010, in an effort to protect the image of the AQ conferences, the only time two non-AQ teams finished the season ranked high enough in the BCS rankings to earn an automatic bid (2009), they were not given a chance to prove the dissenters wrong and play an AQ school in a major BCS bowl. Still, these three teams have the highest winning percentage of all non-AQs against AQ opponents (Wikipedia, 2011).

            The BCS has provided something for the media to talk about every week. The BCS creates controversy, which fuels increased TV ratings. Interest in college football is at an all time high, producing revenue second only to the NFL (Woods, 2007). Even though 1/3 of the BCS rankings are a computer formula based on strength of schedule, it is still created by humans. The Coaches’ Poll which accounts for 1/3 and the Harris Interactive Poll accounting for the remaining 1/3 of the BCS rankings formula are both human polls (Poll, 2010). This means it is the responsibility of the voters to actually do their research and pay attention to the games and teams for whom they cast their vote. If the voters and uneducated indirect spectators continue to listen blindly to the media and the agenda they push, the controversy will never go away and there will never again truly be a fair consensus BCS National Champion in college football.

          Instead of fighting the powers that be, two of the constant headaches to the AQ vs. non-AQ perception have now been eliminated. Later this year, Utah joins the newly formed Pac-12 conference and TCU joins the Big XII Conference in 2012. With the third headache to the BCS, Boise State, being the only remaining non-AQ powerhouse, the media bias towards the AQ conferences and TV revenue at the top tier of college football will not change any time soon, although there is a viable solution out there. In Death to the BCS, the authors lay out a fair and balanced playoff system that equalizes and increases the revenue to all FBS conference schools, while finally providing equal access and credibility to the National Championship game, once and for all (Wetzel & Peter & Passan, 2010).  

         Although not yet official, with the results of today’s NCAA vote for autonomy for the “Power Five,” the five biggest revenue-producing conferences are one step closer to establishing self-rule. With this move, they will create a gap of haves and have-nots greater than ever before. Part of the appeal that simultaneously made the BCS the most intriguing and hated national championship producing system ever, was the Utah’s, TCU’s, and Boise State’s earning the opportunity to take out the Alabama’s, Wisconsin’s and Oklahoma’s, respectively. Unfortunately, the likelihood a David will ever rise to defeat the Giant again may have faded just like the former BCS.

References

BCS. (2010, April 26). Bowl Championship Series. Retrieved June 3, 2011, from BCS football.org: http://www.bcsfootball.org/news/story?id=4819597

College Football Poll (2010, July 30). CollegeFootballPoll. Retrieved June 3, 2011, from CollegeFootballPoll.com: http://www.collegefootballpoll.com/bcs_explained.html

Durand & Smith. (2011). For rivals, it was unite or lose. Sports Business Journal, 14 (4), 1,8,9.

Duffy, T. (2011, January 26). The Big Lead. Retrieved June 3, 2011, from big lead sports: http://thebiglead.com/index.php/2011/01/26/misleading-headlines-non-aq-schools-receive-record-payout-from-bcs/

Frommer, F. (2011, January 25). AP Sports. Retrieved June 03, 2011, from AP College Football: http://sports.ap.org/college-football/story?id=p2e6c481ce69641e58e66d87a4c8500fb

Magazine. (2011, June 23). MagazineCost.com. Retrieved June 3, 2011, from Magazine Cost: http://www.magazinecost.com/popular-sports-magazines/

Wetzel & Peter & Passan (2010). Death to the BCS. New York, New York: Gotham Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Wikipedia. (2011, June 3). Wikipedia. Retrieved June 3, 2011, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/College_GameDay_(football)

Woods, R. B. (2007). Social Issues in Sport. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

-MCW

@MCWingate

mcwingate@me.com

©2012 Matthew C. Wingate

 

Domestic Violence and the NFL

Recently the NFL was criticized for its handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence against his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer. Rice punched Ms. Palmer and then appeared to drag her limp body from an elevator at an Atlantic City hotel in February. For his actions he was suspended two games and fined. In mid-July, Greg Hardy was charged with two counts of domestic assault. The accuser testified that she was assaulted by Hardy at his apartment after a night of drinking. In addition, she said Hardy threatened to kill her while putting his hands around her neck. Of the 16 player suspensions handed out by the NFL this year alone, only one player’s suspension was officially related to a domestic violence charge: Ray Rice.

The other fifteen suspensions amount to an average of 5.1 games per player, with two-time or more offenders suspended the full 16-game season. Justin Blackmon of the Jacksonville Jaguars was suspended indefinitely in November after repeated substance abuse violations and was just arrested for possession of marijuana July 23rd in Edmond, Oklahoma. Wesley Saunders. Von Miller, Kellen Winslow, Walter Thurmond are all included in the list of 35 suspensions related to substance abuse or performance–enhancing drugs (PEDs) in 2013, with violators receiving on average of a 4.6 game suspension.

I know as well as anyone, there are times disagreements occur in relationships. There are times shouting matches made me want to pull out what little hair I do have left. Yet with any argument in any relationship in the past, at no point did I ever raise a fist or threaten a female. At no point was it even a thought or conscious action to restrain myself. It just was not and is not in me. If I learned anything from past failed relationships it is this: patience and everything happens for a reason.

The problem with the NFL’s slap on the wrist and the handling of Ray Rice has been addressed in numerous articles. The imbalance between the NFL’s reaction toward domestic violence versus marijuana, a substance that is rapidly going the way of the prohibition era, has also been addressed. The greater problem is not Stephen A. Smith’s comments, although this is an issue, nor is the multitude of sports commentators exercising their First Amendment rights. Rather, the root problem lies with the individuals assaulting these women in the first place and ever thinking those actions are even remotely normal or acceptable. 

My father taught me how to treat women with more than the words he said. His actions in the 47 years he has been married to my mother and the many years he raised my sisters reflected love, not violence. Remember the after school public service announcement from the late 80’s with the dad finding his son’s stash of pot and he confronts him yelling, “Who taught you how to do this stuff?” The son dramatically replies with, “You! I learned it from watching you!” Meanwhile, the music plays and the narrator provides insight on the impact of parents’ actions on their kids. Well, we do learn a lot from watching our parents and I learned a lot from watching mine. My dad was a career Army officer. He is a father, a husband, and a gentleman. He is a dad and a friend, a disciplinarian and a confidant. I learned from my father how to be a man and from him, my mom and my sisters, I learned how to treat women.

In all the articles I have read about the NFL’s domestic violence issues, one question remains: Where is the father figure in these NFL and college players’ lives? Coaches often have to step in and fill that role, I get it. In most cases, they do an amazing job. The problem is, training a young man how to treat a woman with dignity and respect begins much earlier than the college years.

I found out the story of Ray Rice’s birth father and adopted father by reading on the Raven’s now ironically titled, “Baltimore Beatdown” website. His life growing up was no joke and my heart goes out to him for what he overcame to get to this point. However, it is no excuse for what he did to his girlfriend, now wife. An individual’s upbringing can only account for so much of our story moving forward. There comes a certain point where we choose our own path and must take accountability of our own actions as adults. Ray Rice and the NFL’s domestic abuse problem is a chronic issue with the heart and adults acting out what they have seen growing up. The fault lies partially with the players and partially with their absent or negligent fathers. Single mothers do a phenomenal job playing both roles and in many cases, provide amazing success stories. However, that is not always the case.

This is also a problem with ongoing education at the NCAA and NFL levels and grown men taking accountability of their actions and learning the difference between right and wrong. The NCAA and NFL can do more to combat violence against women and it begins freshman year of college. Jane McManus of ESPN provides some excellent insight on the NFL’s domestic violence problem and some possible solutions. The NFL would do well to listen to her recommendations.

The Army requires quarterly training for its members to ensure we are well aware of what is right and what is wrong, what is accepted and what is not in the realm of domestic violence and domestic assault. As a Soldier, if you are charged with domestic assault and found guilty, your career is over. Sure, we have a few of our own bad cases as anyone does. But this zero tolerance policy is good enough to produce the finest military fighting force in the world. And as military members representing a greater cause, there is no room for error in matters of domestic assault and violence. The NFL had the opportunity to make a huge statement with the Ray Rice case with a similar zero tolerance policy for his documented case of domestic violence and failed miserably.

Players and coaches at all levels frequently refer to the game of football as a battle or a war. The NFL and its players need to take another page from the real war-fighters and learn how to treat women with dignity and respect.

-MCWingate

@mcwingate / mcwingate@me.com

The views presented are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD or its Components.