Tuesday, September 4, 2012

When A Game Is Not A Game

Oklahoma State 84, Savannah State 0. Take all the cliches, "one down at a time," "play to the final gun," "give it the old college try," and they all add up to -- what's the point?

Some may point the finger at Mike Gundy and the Oklahoma State Cowboys for hanging such a loaded score on their poor opposition. That's preposterous. At what margin do you stop playing? 63-0? 70-0? Do you start taking knees in the middle of the 3rd quarter?

Oklahoma State played all 95 players who dressed, and 9 of their 12 touchdowns were runs. In fact two of their 2nd half TDs were 1-yard passes, theoretically less probable for a score than bucking it into the line.

The oddsmakers had installed Oklahoma State as a 67 1/2 point favorite so the outcome wasn't that far off from the hypothesis.

Do you blame Oklahoma State for scheduling a patsy? Maybe, but most major-conference schools schedule a lower division opponent to fill up their home calendar. Maybe they didn't realize, despite SSU's status as an FCS (1-AA) school, how downtrodden they've been - or maybe they did.

The result has also caught the attention of national college sportswriters like the New York Daily News' Dick "Hoops" Weiss. He knows exactly where to place the blame:

...if Savannah State administrators had any concern for the safety, welfare and psyche of their overmatched players, they should have taken a pass. We understand smaller schools that support football have bills to pay, but the idea of using players to balance an athletic budget is sad.

The payday for Savannah State to endure certain humiliation in Stillwater was $385,000. 

This is standard practice at underfunded HBCU institutions, but it is more practical in basketball when your traveling party is fewer than 20 and there's no equipment to haul, thus fewer expenses to manage or mismanage. And fewer souls to console.

Ron "Fang" Mitchell perennially takes his Coppin State Eagles basketball squad on the road to every national power you can think of, and those appearances fund the entire athletic department. And it's not without benefit. Coppin State scored one of the great upsets in NCAA tournament history as a #15 against #2 South Carolina. Of course that was 15 years ago.

Savannah State's men's basketball under Horace Broadnax has mirrored Mitchell's plan, and it's been somewhat successful. The Tigers play top-notch competition, and it helped shape them into 2012 MEAC regular season champions, gaining an NIT berth and a national TV game at Tennessee.

But to apply that business model to the football program only lends itself to making your school name a national punchline: 84-0. It couldn't possibly get any worse than that, could it? 

Savannah State at Florida State - Saturday. The Seminoles can name their score, but the game on the field is irrelevant. Chalk up another $475K.

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