Friday, December 16, 2005

I-AA: No Argument Here

A national champion will be crowned Friday night when Northern Iowa and Appalachian State meet at Max Finley Stadium, which is plopped in a warehouse district in Chattanooga. One sportswriter couldn't tell if he was supposed to cover the game or load trucks. Each team will be playing their 15th game, but the players have balanced academics and athletics (story in comments), which apparently can't be done on the I-A level. This championship, unlike I-A, will be won on the field (registration).


dawizofodds said...

Panthers' week crammed with tests

Mike Hlas
Cedar Rapids Gazette

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — University presidents have fought off a playoff system for NCAA Division I-A football.

They say the strain caused by a playoff would be too great a strain on the student athlete. Too much time spent on the game, too much travel, not enough time to key in on final exams in December.

Interestingly, those school presidents never seem to speak up when NCAA Division I-AA, II and III football playoff finalists stretch the season another four weeks, and bump into final semester exams in doing so.
Take Northern Iowa. Its plane landed back in Waterloo at 3:30 a.m. Saturday after the Panthers defeated Texas State in a I-AA semifinal.

Oh, UNI’s finals week began two days later.

‘‘Our university has been very good to us,’’ Panthers Coach Mark Farley said here Wednesday. ‘‘But, yeah, we just took four days worth of finals in two days, yet we had to prepare for this football game.’’

And Farley’s a proponent of the playoff system. Why not? If I-AA simply had its two top-ranked teams meet for the title like I-A does via the BCS, his Panthers would never have gotten the chance to beat top-ranked New Hampshire in the quarterfinals.

The price? Because it was a lower seed with its 8-3 record, UNI had to fly to New Hampshire and back the weekend before it flew to Texas and back. That was a few days before it flew to Tennessee to play Appalachian State in the I-AA title game, here in Chattanooga Friday night.

The Panthers jetted to Chattanooga Tuesday night. The NCAA wants its teams in the I-AA game to be here by Wednesday to pound the publicity drums. Since UNI’s finals week extends through today, Panther coaches and players went helmet-in-hand to school educators.

‘‘Our professors did an awesome job to try to accommodate (us) time-wise and move some finals up and move some around so we could get it accomplished and so we could be in Chattanooga on Wednesday,’’ Farley said.

Appalachian State was in a similar situation, though its finals began last Thursday and wrapped up Wednesday. A handful of Mountaineers players had tests to take Wednesday, in fact, though most of the team was in Chattanooga and practiced Wednesday afternoon.

‘‘I’m a physics major,’’ ASU second-team I-AA All-America defensive back Corey Lynch said. ‘‘I had a biophysics exam and a geophysics exam. When you add those two into the mix, it’s a little difficult staying on film and getting on the field at the same time you’re studying.’’

But there probably isn’t a player on either ASU or UNI who would have traded the chance to play for a nationalchampionship for a saner week of test-preparations.

‘‘You just concentrate on one and ignore the other one,’’ Lynch said, ‘‘then you concentrate on the other one. You’ve just got to manage your time. Forget that you’re playing football for a couple hours and study for your tests, then get back to it.’’

‘‘It’s rough,’’ said UNI senior linebacker Darin Heideman, a criminology major. ‘‘You’re gone for three days at the end of the week playing a football game. You get back and you have to do loads of schoolwork. It’s rough on everybody. You go from some (team) meetings to the computer lab to work on your papers to the library to study. So you just have to really use your time wisely.’’

UNI quarterback Eric Sanders, a business/finance major, took three finals between Monday morning and Tuesday afternoon.

‘‘It was kind of difficult,’’ he said. ‘‘I was up till 3 or 4 in the morning, then waking up at 7:30 or 8. It was all worth it, I guess. Part of being a student-athlete.’’

Heideman said the I-AA playoffs were like the NCAA basketball tourney. ‘‘You get Cinderella stories that are able to bust through the brackets and make some damage.’’

NCAA postseason tournaments in all sports determine champions and chew up class time. It’s a sacrifice everyone involved including the university presidents seem willing to make. Except when it’s I-A football, with the lucrative Bowl Championship Series and persuasive heads of commerce in bowl-cities.

Still, there are reasons most college athletic programs are free of games during the week of finals.

‘‘It was kind of a stressful week for us,’’ Sanders said. ‘‘Once we got (finals) out of the way and got on the plane ride here, everybody seemed to calm down a little bit. We’ve got school behind us. Now it’s all about football.’’

Anonymous said...

Because games for the players from Div 1-A colleges during the final exams would be a wonderful idea. Nobody considers the academic implications. What if an administration isn't willing to make all kinds of special exceptions for its players?

What do you do if a key player is say, an Electrical Engineering Major, in the semester system. On top of that, he has to take all his finals in one or two days, while his classmates spent their study week presumably studying, he was preparing for/playing the previous playoff game. On top of this, he must remain academically eligible. So, he stays up several nights in a row, spits out a passing grade.

Would an upset win be as grand because a particular team did not have time to game plan, the athletes are too exhausted from studying the night before, or because their athletes are students first? What then do you do other than regulate college athletes to become second-class students. A change forcing Division 1 players to carry an even mightier load, where many come from highly competitive schools, Notre Dame, Boston College, Michigan, and USC to name a few, would be drastically unfair. What, should they all take interpretive art? To hell with student athletes, satiate our football lust! The world doesn’t need any more doctors or scientists from you.

To install a playoff system that interferes even more with the academics of players who are already struggling to make grades is just wrong. To draw a comparison between the week to week competition, fine tuning and expectations of a I-AA to I-A is night and day. I know this from experience having gone from one to the other, a 3.9 to 3.0ish GPA. It’s tough.

With the NCAA expecting an even better turnout in grad rates, this will never be an option. It would be an ideal system if athletes actually had 100% of their time to contribute to the game. Otherwise, you throw in too many variables. The other factor nobody considers is this. Many athletes, of all walks of life, are afforded an opportunity by the school to achieve an education that would otherwise be unavailable to them, whether it be from academics, tutoring resources or money. At a time when the NCAA is pressuring schools to graduate more of their players instead of leaving them by the wayside, a move like this would be… at the very least, appalling.

That’s my view.

Anonymous said...

An awesome post. We will have more on one man's view of a playoff system on Sunday.