The Weekend Groove Tube News Update: 01.06.04

This is the space where I would introduce this column with a witty opening diatribe like an introduction, or my thoughts of Christmas television, or the “drama” that was the A-ROD saga. Since the week of television hasn’t really provided much for me to submit anything droll to introduce the column, I’ll just head right into the week in the television industry and my solution to the current BCS system.

Yes, it involves a tournament and yes I think it can work.

Too bad it probably never will happen though

Sigh .

Opening Credits: Jacko, the Croc Hunter, “Scrubs” and “Wilson”

King of Pop in the ratings too

Michael Jackson created quite a stir with his interview with Ed Bradley of “60 Minutes” on the last Sunday of 2003. Not only did he make some startling comments about it being OK to sleep with (and we assume he just meant “sleep with”) children despite these child abuse charges facing him, but he also made some questionable allegations against the police department that held him declaring that he was mishandled.

In case there was any doubt that there is interest in this story, the Nielsen ratings can be proof of that as well. The Jackson interview hit a 12.0 and for first place in the ratings last week, pretty good considering that the interview aired between 7:00 PM and 8:00 PM EST, not necessarily the standard prime time hours (even though it falls in that category).

Also, it appears CBS is aware of the popularity of Jackson as well since there is speculation that the network paid Jackson an extra seven-figure fee to talk to Bradley. The network, of course, is denying the extra fee being paid, instead explaining that past agreements allowed Jackson to collect a higher fee. Wouldn’t you deny you paid extra money for Michael Jackson too?

Example # 318 proving the Croc Hunter is CRAZY!

In a public appearance in late December 2003, the Animal Planet’s resident psycho I mean, reptile trainer Steve Irwin made a potentially risky move involving his four-week old son.

Footage shows that the trainer feeding chicken to a 13-foot crocodile with one hand while holding his young son in the other while his wife and the baby’s mother looked on.

Australian authorities were considering pressing charges against Mr. Irwin for this potentially stupid stunt citing that the child was potentially endangered while in the custody of the trainer.

However, Zap2it reported that an Australian official met with Irwin and decided not to press charges.

In a January 2nd press conference, Irwin expressed “regret” about what happened, but insisted that it was only about the “perceived threat” rather than the actual threat. In addition, he felt it would be important that the child become accustomed with crocodiles since they are prominent in the area in which they live.

Irwin is an interesting character. To a certain degree, he’s become an international celebrity with his crazy stunts, but the charisma, care, and crazed passion he has makes him honest and endearing towards those that follow him and his exploits on the Animal Planet network. I firmly believe that he would be the exact same way whether he was on television and had international following or not. Seeing as that’s the case, I don’t think this was a “publicity stunt” so much as it was an honest demonstration of something that was important to him and thought should be important to his young son as well. I think he’s guilty of being a little over zealous with the potential of being reckless. However, he wasn’t doing this to get attention, he was doing it because he thought it mattered.

There aren’t many television personalities that we might be able to conclude that about.

(credit: Zap2it)

World Idol: Important or Insignificant?

Several news outlets reported the victory of Norwegian 25 year old, former plumber Kurt Nielsen in the “World Idol” competition over perceived favorites Kelly Clarkson (United States) and Will Young (Great Britain).

Clarkson finished second, Peter Everard (Belgium) finished third, Heinz Winckler (South Africa) came in fourth while Young rounded out the top 5 with his fifth place finish.
Considering Nielsen didn’t receive much more than compliments on his voice and insults on his looks, I am not sure why the television writers paid so much attention to this particular show. Is it because we’re all so desperate for non-sports original programming that this will do? Is it because we all love “American Idol” so much that even if a show is aired with a bunch of singers we don’t care about that follows a similar format, we’ll flock to it like our life depends on it?

I just think people are getting jazzed up for the new season of “American Idol” which is about two weeks ago Fox was trying to get people excited. The media certainly followed suit

Big, Bad “Bachelor” Bob can go on with his life blissfully

Last week, I talked about the fact that ABC producers were in the process of suing former “Bachelor” Bob Guiney because he was promoting his new music album without appropriate permission.

Turns out the judge overseeing the case vehemently disagrees with the producers as the case has been dismissed.

Bob’s lawyer Charles J. Harder was quoted as saying “This is a case that never should have been brought. Bob Guiney has the right to continue his 12-year career as a recording artist.”

Is there any way the law can be changed? Can some entertainment lawyers/political experts come up with the “Bachelor Bob Bill” or something? I don’t want him to continue his “12-year career ” because I don’t want to read about it. Please spare me.

(credit: Zap2it and People)

Quick Hits:

— Earl Hindman, 61, passed away on December 29th in Stamford, CT due to complications from lung cancer. Mr. Hindman’s various credits extend through film and television, but he’s probably best known for his portrayal of “Wilson W. Wilson, Jr.” the wise sage living next door to the Taylors in ABC’s “Home Improvement.” For eight seasons, Wilson played the intelligent neighbor who dispensed advice to the family without ever showing his face. It wasn’t until the end of the series when the audience showed his face for the first time. We’ll certainly remember “Wilson” as he lives on in syndication.

— According to the New York Post‘s Starr Report, ABC is planning a sitcom revival of the old movie, The Parent Trap, the story of two twins who are separated as infants by their divorced parents and meet up by chance as teenagers. The network is attempting to cast twin girls between the ages of 11 and 15 for the Hayley Mills part. I have two problems with this: 1) It was a nice movie, but will probably be a bad television show. 2) Hasn’t this already been done to a certain degree with “Sister, Sister” the ABC/WB show starring Tia and Tamera Mowry?

— NBC’s “Scrubs” has been able to secure some solid guest appearances from such stars as Kelli Williams (“The Practice”) and Heather Locklear (she’s an attractive television star you might be familiar with ). Well, the show has scored again securing second guest appearances by Brendan Fraser as Perry Cox’s (John C. McGinley) brother and Tara Reid as Dr. Cox’s sister-in-law and J.D.’s (Zach Braff) kinda-sorta love interest for February sweeps. Even more notably, they’ve been secured for the same run since it will be part of a celebration of Dr. Cox’s one-year old son.

With “Friends” leaving the air in May, I would definitely say that “Scrubs” is more than apt to pick up the slack in the “Must See TV” Thursday night lineup

Closing Credits — The BCS: The 154,881st suggestion that’s better than what’s in place

Well, here we are. As I finish this column, the University of Oklahoma (at Norman) and Louisiana State University (LSU) are about do battle at the New Orleans Superdome for what is supposed to be the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) 1-A football championship. In an ideal world, this game would feature the two best college football teams in the nation as computed by the ridiculously nebulous Bowl Championship Series (BCS) computer rankings.

This new system was supposed to eliminate the idea of two teams “sharing” a national championship since the sportswriters vote in one recognized poll and the football coaches vote in the other. It happened in 1990 when the University of Colorado (Boulder) and Georgia Tech were #1 in different pools. This was repeated again a year later with Miami (FL) and the University of Washington. Amazingly, it happened again in 1997 when the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and the University of Nebraska (Lincoln) shared the championship. This happened because the championship was not decided on the field, it was decided by people who voted for the team they thought was best (a ludicrous notion considering every other sport creates their champion on the field). In 1990, 1991, and 1997 different polls voted for different winners, so it was considered a “split” national championship.

The NCAA realized this was inappropriate so they made the change to the new BCS format where these magical, mysterious, and, quite frankly, murky and muddy computer ratings were devised. Just about everything in regards to a college football team and their performance was considered when devising this ranking and “score” as determined by the BCS. Well, problems with the BCS came up almost immediately as the various computer rankings used placed the many undeserving teams high in various polls while others were ranked lower. If you think this paragraph makes little sense, then you understand how the average college football observer feels about the whole thing

Anyway, this system has already screwed up a couple of times, most notably in 2002, putting an overmatched University of Nebraska (Lincoln) team that didn’t win its own conference championship and lost its most recent game six weeks before in the final championship game against the University of Miami (Florida). Predictably, Miami slaughtered Nebraska and won the national title.

This year, it’s even worse. There are three outstanding teams in college football and should have a chance to play for the national championship: the University of Southern California (USC), Louisiana State University (LSU) and the University of Oklahoma (Norman). In an ideal world, these three teams and a wild card fourth (maybe the University of Michigan, maybe Ohio State University, maybe Kansas State University) would take part in some sort of mini-tournament with the winner being the champion and the Earth would spin on its axis again.

Unfortunately, the insanity that is the BCS has stopped that from happening with its crazy ranking system. Despite USC being in the consensus Top Two in the polls, they finished #3 because the University of Notre Dame (a sub .500 team and a team USC defeated earlier this season) lost to Syracuse University (another sub .500 team) affecting their schedule strength rating in the rankings.

HUH???

Yeah, I know .good stuff

So, ABC is now left with Oklahoma and LSU in a “National Championship” game that will only determine who “shares” the national championship with USC since the sportswriters will vote for the latter instead the winner of the “big game” being played in New Orleans. See, the coaches signed a contract saying that the winner of the championship game as determined by the BCS rankings would be considered consensus number one team. The sportswriters didn’t sign that same contract, so they can vote for whomever they want as the number one team, which will likely be USC.

ABC is left with a game that doesn’t mean as much and the fans are left with the fourth “split” national champion in 15 years. This can only be solved with implementing a tournament that is played out on the field where one team survives. This exists in college basketball, hockey, and baseball. It also exists in professional football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. Hell, while the Division 1-A schools are determining their football championship in the polls, Division 1-AA, 2, and 3, schools take part in their own16-team tournaments to crown a champion. If everyone else can do this, the Division 1-A football schools need to take note and do so as well.

Many people argue that it could never be done. They ask about the “student athletes,” the status of the current “bowl system” (a series of meaningless games between teams that would never play each other normally), and what the regular season would actually mean.

Well, I have a long-winded, yet perfectly sensible, way for a 1-A college tournament would work for just about everyone involved: student-athletes, coaches, administrators, fans, the media, and critics who fall into all of those categories. However, if this were to ever reach anything beyond the discussion stages, three important conclusions would immediately need to be agreed upon:

1. There are rarely more than two “postseason” bowl games that are significant to the final crowning of a championship. – In 2003-04, it was the Rose Bowl (where USC played against Michigan) and the Sugar Bowl featuring Oklahoma and LSU. While there were some potentially interesting games and others fun to watch, none of them meant anything. There is a place for them and I don’t think these games should be abolished completely. However, to bestow them with an honor anything more than “exhibition” is giving these games too much credit.

2. The players taking part in a college football season ARE student athletes. – These isn’t necessarily a tough concession to make, especially from the perspective of the university administrators not in favor of playing their players, but it is one that should be considered. The students need to be in class since that IS the reason they are there.

3. Money is just as important in college football as it is in professional sports. – This will be a very hard compromise to come to since many university presidents and administrators still have the “high and mighty” view of collegiate athletics as being about the students and the love of the game, but we all need to be serious here. College football is a BIG BUSINESS and brings in A LOT OF MONEY to the universities that are most successful. Those that play the best will get sent to the higher paying bowl game and much of that money goes right back into the university in some way, shape or fashion. This makes recruiting the best players hiring the best coaches a cut-throat competition that requires as much success as possible. If university administrators finally accept this openly, then my plan could work.

Now, without further delay, here is the “Coogan Plan” for the NCAA Division 1-A football tournament

Season layout

First, the same way the National Football League (NFL) has a definitive, set, “Week 1-17,” college football needs something similar. I suggest that the season always start Labor Day weekend (whether it’s early or late) with a full weekend of games (since the NFL usually starts their season the week after the holiday anyway). It doesn’t make much sense to me that various “kickoff classics” take place one to two weeks before most of the college football season begins.

Since this is a television column, I’ll throw this out there for consideration as well. Why not have a Labor Day night football game between two of the best teams in college football? I’ll admit that isn’t an original thought (Thank you ESPN Radio ). However, it is a valuable point to consider. I like official, grand introductions to new seasons (though Britney Spears performances aren’t really necessary…) and debuting college football Labor Day weekend would be a good way to do so.

Second, all college football teams need to play the same number of games. It also doesn’t make much sense to me that some teams play as little as 11 games while some play as many as 14. Everyone should be on the same “playing field.” There are 13 weeks between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Each team can play 12 games and can allow for a week off. This will allow various ranking systems to evaluate the teams the same way instead of considering 14 games versus 11.

Further Commentary on the Season Layout: The same way the NFL works preseason games into their schedule, Division 1-A college football should do the same thing. That is why I suggest Labor Day weekend be the “official” starting point of the season. This way, if LSU feels the need to load up cakewalk opponents like Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana Tech, they can do that in the “preseason” (in August, before Labor Day) instead of wasting one of their 12 games against 1-AA opponents, teams won’t help the 1-A schools when the final rankings are released before my proposed tournament takes place.

That’s why I say 12 games in 13 weeks Labor Day to Thanksgiving weekend. Play your best ball against the best possible teams that can be scheduled in those 12 games.

Tournament Details

I propose that the NCAA initiate a 16-team tournament starting the second week in December. I suggest that weekend because the regular season will run through Thanksgiving and the first week in December will have to be devoted to the Big 12, ACC, SEC, and (potentially) Mid-American conference championship games that will determine the automatic bids to the tournament. In addition, many people enjoy the Army-Navy game and that game could take place without being placed on the backburner of the first round of a championship tournament.

In terms of the participants, this is a bit harder to determine. Should it be required that every conference have a representative in this field? Or, would it be better to have a larger group of great teams that didn’t win their conference (in the case of this season, that would include teams like the University of Texas (Austin), Ohio State University, the University of Oklahoma (Norman), and the University of Geogria (Athens) enter this tournament?

That’s a much tougher decision. If I were in charge, I’d probably award the following conferences automatic bids:

— Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)
— Big East (even the new Big East which isn’t as strong)
— Big 10
— Big 12
— Southeastern Conference (SEC)
— Pac-10 (Pacific 10)
— Mid-American
— Play-in winner between the winner of the Mountain West/Western Athletic Conference (WAC) conferences
— Play-in winner between the winner of the Conference USA/Sun Belt conferences

(both of these games to be played in the first week of December, the same weekend as the larger conference championship games)

I lay it out this way because I feel a team in Division 1-A who wins their conference deserves to be at least in the mix for the national title even if it’s likely they will not beat one of the winner of bigger conferences or other invitees. These teams should not necessarily be excluded because they aren’t as large and prestigious as the other schools, but they will have to work a little harder to prove they can hang with the big boys

So, at this point, the tournament has nine automatic bids and seven that will be given out to deserving teams that didn’t quite win their conference title, but are obviously in the Top 16 in the country. The question that needs to be answered next is: How do we determine how those other 7 teams will be? Well, I suggest three alternatives:

1. Keep some form of a MODIFIED BCS computer ranking system in effect, take out all the conference winners and the seven teams with the highest rankings and scores will be invited and everyone else isn’t allowed to participate.

2. My buddy Mark U. has an interesting, fairly easy to follow, system posted on Matthew Michaels’smoodspins.com. It makes a hell of a lot more sense than the BCS system and punishes teams who load up on easy games at the beginning of the season. According to Mark’s system, the conference winners would be eliminated and the top seven teams in the rankings remaining would be invited to the tournament.

3. See the NCAA basketball tournament This means that a group of Division 1-A football administrators would coup themselves up in a hotel room for days at a time determining who should be invited and who shouldn’t. Of course, there will always be controversy about the “wrong” decisions being made, but I think most would agree it’s much more “forgivable” to overlook the 17th or 18th best team in the country as opposed to 3rd best which is the case in this season. They are going to have to determine rankings of these teams, so it makes sense to allow “man” (administrators) decide the participants in the tournament instead of “machine” (the computer systems).

Once the 16 schools taking part in the tournament is determined, it needs to be decided where these games will take place. I believe it’s perfectly acceptable to rank the 16 teams 1-16 and then follow the traditional tournament format where #1 takes on #16, #2 takes on #15 and etc. all the way to #8 vs. #9. The top 8 teams would get home games and in each round, the higher ranked team would get the home game until it comes down to the final two teams. Once it comes to the final two, they would play each other in one of the “Bowl Championship” bowls, already determined to be the Orange (played in Miami, FL), Sugar (New Orleans, LA), Fiesta (Phoenix, AZ) and Rose Bowls (Pasadena, CA). It would rotate every four years as the championship game. Once the final two teams play in one of the four bowls, the winner of the game would (obviously) be crowned the Division 1-A football champion.

In terms of the time layout, according to my schedule, the tournament would begin the second week in December. Most schools have finals during the third week in December leading up to holiday season and January 2004. So, I find it perfectly acceptable that there would be a break in football action during that third week so the student athletes could worry about going to class, studying, and passing their finals. If it is determined that more schools have finals during the second week of December (as is the case at Syracuse University, where I am now), then the tournament can run from the third week of December until the second week of January instead. That is only 5-10 days after the date of the championship game now.

Since the players involved in this championship ARE student athletes, it is very valuable to give the players some time off to focus on their studies and not football. The participants in the BCS final game have not played football in a month. That’s too long. However, two weeks (in some cases three depending on the format) would be more acceptable.

The one slightly disconcerting element to this new plan is the fact that the importance of New Year’s Day football will be reduced significantly and that’s it’s fun and exciting to have all the important bowl games on New Year’s Day and on television. Well, two responses to that: 1) the importance of New Year’s Day has already been reduced with several games taking place after January 1st. 2) If it means that much to hardcore traditionalists, then the tournament games of that week can take place on New Year’s Day instead of the following Saturday.

The only thing I am worried about is convincing the Tournament of Roses and Rose Bowl people that having the Pasadena played after New Year’s Day would be a good idea Could be a real tough sell

Another vital question that needs to be considered is: What happens to the current bowl system with the new tournament?

That’s pretty simple for the most part, it stays the same .

Outside of the four BCS bowls (Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, and Rose), there are still 24 other bowls featuring 48 other teams playing in meaningless “postseason” games. Many of the games could be filled right after “regular season” ends Thanksgiving weekend since there will be a series of good teams that won’t be invited the tournament but would be asked to play in another “postseason” bowl (these teams include the Oklahoma State’s and Boston College’s of the world).

In addition, due to corporate sponsorships or projected payouts to the teams involved, the BCS bowl system could be expanded to a Tier 1 and Tier 2 system involving the teams involved in the tournament. The Tier 1 bowls would be the current BCS bowls (Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, and Rose) and as teams get eliminated, they would have first right of refusal to invite the losers to their bowls or wait for other teams to lose later on. If the Tier 1 bowls aren’t interested, then the Tier 2 bowls (like the Cotton, Gator, Outback, and Peach) would have the second right of refusal to those teams eliminated. If those bowls are not interested, then at that point, any bowl will have the right to invite the losers in the tournament to their bowl and it would be played without a hitch.

If that gets confusing because more than one bowl might invite a particular team, then the obvious solution would be that the team in question would be able to accept whatever invitation is offered to them instead of worrying about conference rankings and the 5th place SEC team playing a 4th place Big 10 team like the setup is now.

Admittedly, this emphasizes many of the bowls being merely “consolation” games more than any other system. In addition, there is a good chance that the series of bowls that exist now will carry over into January and there won’t be much preparation involved with the bowls since several will be at the mercy of the teams in the tournament. However, this system that I am suggesting still allows for the tournament to take place while keeping the bowl system in tact in still guarantees some great match-ups the teams that get eliminated from the tournament.

Thankfully, since the student athletes are on semester break until the middle of January (at least), it won’t matter if the season extends as late as January 10th or 12th.

Why this is relevant to a weekly television column

There are several reasons why the television industry would benefit from the plan that I’ve outlined

1. The Labor Day weekend would be a great introduction to the season and the Monday evening game will be a nice prime time broadcast either for ABC or ESPN. Another possibility is starting a new tradition where NBC would air a University of Notre Dame game (hopefully against a quality opponent like the University of Michigan) that night since the network will likely be in summer reruns at that point.

2. Thanksgiving weekend should be a prime weekend for football and while the NFL is still going on, by that point, college football has pretty much faded away into not much of anything with the exception of a few random games here and there. I am sure fans and the television networks wouldn’t complain if they had a full slate of games that Friday and Saturday as opposed to a patchwork schedule with just a few rivalry games and random leftover games.

3. With my perceived plan, in addition to the countless bowls already available, the networks would have a series of meaningful college football games to air between Christmas and the first week in January, traditionally a barren time when looking at television programming. Original programs aren’t airing new episodes. Instead, they will often show movies, various program “marathons,” and, when possible, sporting events, especially football. It would mean more for the television networks (ratings = big time advertisers) and therefore, more for the universities and the NCAA if they had an additional 15 games to air during that time of year until the new episodes of our favorite shows are pumped out again. It really makes perfect sense

Is the system perfect? I would suggest that it may cause some problems, especially to those hardcore traditionalists and those people attempting to plan many of the current bowls and recruit fans and boosters who would come to those games.

However, the system does allow for a 16 team playoff while keeping the existing bowl system in tact as much as possible, something that many people affiliated with college football are adamant about.

Either way, I’ve kept this inside for so long, I think it’s caused chest hair to sprout So, I’m glad I could finally let it out and share it with the readers of this site.

I know that I have never been much of a fan of college football, partially because of my upbringing in the Celtics/Red Sox/Patriots/Bruins town, partially because of the system being so foolishly set up. If a tournament is set up, maybe I could appreciate college football as much people from places like Michigan, Georgia, Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma.

What do YOU think?

I’d love to hear from all of you Make sure you click on the link at the bottom of the page and

Enjoy the show!

— Coogan