(1) North Carolina appears to have the same problem it did last season: awful 1st half defense.
In 2012, against 9 opponents from BCS-AQ conferences, UNC surrendered a whopping 22.8 points per first half. That’s awful. If you extrapolated that to a full game, it would put UNC at approximately 123rd in the country scoring defense – out of 124 teams. In 2012, against the same 9 BCS-AQ opponents, UNC allowed 11.6 points per 2nd half – and that includes a meltdown against Georgia Tech in which they gave up 40 second half points. If that was extrapolated to a whole game, UNC would have been around 34th in the country in scoring defense – not great, but not staggeringly awful. UNC went 5-4 in those 9 games (and lost three of those games by 5 points or less; their worst second half performance was their biggest loss), so it wasn’t about opponents taking their feet off the gas.
Against South Carolina last night, UNC gave up 20 first half points (17 in the first quarter) and 7 second half points. Same old, same old for the Tar Heels. Frankly, in the first quarter UNC’s defense looked completely outmatched. South Carolina in the first quarter averaged 9.2 yards per play on offense. After the first quarter, South Carolina averaged 4.9 yard per offensive play (yes, some in garbage time, but still).
Larry Fedora has to get this problem buttoned up or this is going to be another shaky season for the Tar Heels. Laying eggs in the first half puts the team in too many holes, some of which they’ll never be able to crawl out of (especially if their offense can’t finish drives like they couldn’t last night).
(2) Paul Pasqualoni seems finished.
The embarrassment of Thursday night belongs to Connecticut, which lost to FCS team Towson 33-18. UConn’s offensive problems are familiar by now, but at least last year their defense was able to keep things moderately respectable. Well, Don Brown is now coaching in Chestnut Hill and UConn’s defense couldn’t hold Towson back. They gave up 393 yards to Towson, or 5.6 yards per play. Even in a shaky American Athletic Conference, this could be a dark year for the Huskies unless Pasqualoni can manage a miraculous turnaround. The fact that they need to turn things around on both sides of the ball now does not bode well for any miracles. It couldn’t come at a worse time for Pasqualoni, as the folks at UConn have made no secret at just how desperate they are to better their lot. Last night’s debacle was the beginning of the end.
(3) Coaches’ Personnel Game-Playing Is Getting Out of Hand
Late in the evening Thursday night it was reported that Washington would be without its star tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins as a result of…a suspension that had been meted out for conduct over the summer. In other words, it took investigative journalism to inform fans that they wouldn’t be able to see one of their favorite players against Boise State. Shame on Steve Sarkisian for not being honest with his fans in an effort to gain an illusory advantage (I doubt Boise State’s coaches regret any of their preparation).
I’m seeing more and more of these games being played by coaches that are trying to hide injuries, suspensions, and other roster issues. It is annoying as all hell and ends up distracting from the games. If you think this stuff sticks it to gamblers, think again: professional gamblers love this stuff. The more that is hidden from the public, the more secret information that gamblers can obtain to give them an advantage. Personally, I’d love to see leagues put this stuff to a stop. And I’d love to reverse the trend of coaches being less honest and less open with their fans (without them, coaches would not be making millions of dollars per year).
Federalist No. 26 (Hamilton):
It has been said that the provision which limits the appropriation of money for the support of an army to the period of two years would be unavailing, because the Executive, when once possessed of a force large enough to awe the people into submission, would find resources in that very force sufficient to enable him to dispense with supplies from the acts of the legislature. But the question again recurs, upon what pretense could he be put in possession of a force of that magnitude in time of peace? If we suppose it to have been created in consequence of some domestic insurrection or foreign war, then it becomes a case not within the principles of the objection; for this is levelled against the power of keeping up troops in time of peace.
Hamilton set up the argument and effectively knocked it down, but of course his understanding of why and how forces would be used was fairly narrow, which makes sense since his perception of the issue was to protect against European invasion via the Atlantic and to protect from attacks from American Indians on the frontier – in other words, he really was seeing the armies in terms of domestic security. The world has shrunk and now the concept of “domestic security” has come to mean “whatever the hell the President wants it to mean,” which now apparently includes starting war as “punishment” for alleged war crimes without seeking Congressional approval.
Federalist No. 69 (Hamilton):
The President is to be commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States. In this respect his authority would be nominally the same with that of the king of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first General and admiral of the Confederacy; while that of the British king extends to the DECLARING of war and to the RAISING and REGULATING of fleets and armies, all which, by the Constitution under consideration, would appertain to the legislature.
Federalist No. 4 (Jay):
It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.
Is this Syrian War toward which President Obama is sending us one where the United States will “get nothing by it,” or is this “sanctified by justice”? A question we must confront, albeit one President Obama does not apparently wish to have debated and voted on in advance by Congress, the only body with the power to declare war on behalf of the United States. Or so Barack Obama used to think.
Am I the only one that finds this stuff a little gross:
Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton are renting a virtual Shangri-La in this lush, beachside paradise in the Hamptons. The $11 million mansion sprawls over 3.5 acres of prime real estate, with four fireplaces, six bedrooms, a heated pool and private path to the beach.
But Clinton vacations are not about kicking back.
This Friday, there will be a Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation fund-raising gala at Topping Rose House — a new hotel-restaurant operated by the celebrity chef Tom Colicchio. Attendees will include the Revlon chairman Ronald O. Perelman, an event “chairman,” requiring a $50,000 donation; and Mr. Zuckerman and the real-estate executive Peter S. Kalikow, event “co-chairs” at the $25,000-donation level.
This summer’s rental — which is costing them about the same, according to people with knowledge of their arrangement — is owned by Michael Saperstein, an investment banker who happens to be a donor for their opponents, the Republicans.
That sort of thing, of course, is unavoidable in a place so rife with political contributors. In fact, the day after the Clinton foundation gala, on Saturday, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani — who was competing with Mrs. Clinton for a Senate seat in 2000 before he dropped out of the race — will be a host of a fund-raising event in nearby Southampton for a prospective opponent in the 2016 presidential race, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey.
But let’s not leave out the current President:
President Obama worked on his golf game, had quiet dinners with his wife and went cycling with his kids. But amid the tourist delights of ice cream parlors and fried clam shacks dotted around Martha’s Vineyard, the hard business of politics was never too far away.
Obama also used his eight-day vacation, which ends Sunday, as an opportunity to spend time with Democratic donors and influential business figures, dropping in on two private social events at the homes of political supporters and inviting important allies to hit the links with him.
The president’s personal political connection to the island goes back several years. As a fresh-faced potential senator, Obama spoke at a race-relations forum in Edgartown in 2004, and three years later, he returned for a fundraiser in the early stages of his presidential campaign. Several friends – including senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and Charles Ogletree, one of Obama’s former law professors – have summered on the island for many years.
American politics is now about things such “summering” with the rich, taking personal advice from CEOs at dinners and golf outings (I’m sure it’s never self-interested advice!), and raising a few bucks at fundraisers only the rich could afford to attend because, you know, politics and money…politics and money.
I wonder if President Obama came out of his golf outings with millionaires and billionaires more committed than ever to cutting poor people’s Social Security? It would be purely a coincidence, I’m sure.
James Kwak looks upon the odd attempt to re-characterize what really happened in the Larry Summers-Brooksley Born OTC derivatives regulatory showdown. I think Kwak gets it very much right and dismantles the attempt to revise history and paint Summers as a pro-regulatory moderate that was just trying to stop regulatory extremism. Frankly, that argument is so preposterous that it should be laughed off on its face, but Kwak nonetheless does a great job offering a number of reasons why it doesn’t square with reality.
I agree with Kwak that Summers would have been better off 4 or 5 years ago had he admitted his errors and paid his penance, but asking for forgiveness just doesn’t seem to be in Summers’ plans. Which is why he and his defenders have a hard time trying to rid themselves of skeptics. After all, if Summers really isn’t what he has been made out to be, why won’t he come out publicly and take a stand on these issues and, most importantly, repudiate some of the things he has done in the past (or has been “credited” with in the past)? When a man doesn’t ask for forgiveness, it is hard to believe he thinks he’s done anything wrong. And if he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong in the past, then Summers is not the right man for the job.
One other note caught my eye. Kwak says:
Second, that isn’t how the law works. It was recognized at the time that OTC derivatives were in a legal gray area—hence the desire for “certainty” that was finally satisfied by the CFMA. If some activity is in a legal gray area, and you do it anyway, you can’t simply assert that now the activity must be allowed by law because you are doing it. If the contracts you wrote, knowing they might not be enforceable, now become definitively unenforceable—well, tough luck. You can’t dictate what the law is simply through your own actions.
Kwak is right in theory, but I wouldn’t agree that he is right in practice, at least not always. I recall a lunch conversation I had years ago – several years before the 2008 meltdown but in the aftermath of the Enron scandal. I dined with a partner at a very large and prestigious law firm whose practice was finance and, in particular, securitization. I remarked that the legal justification for certain aspects of securitization practice seemed fine in theory but seemed to have very little clear legal support – i.e., it was a big gray area. I asked him if it was worrisome that courts might look at these things and ultimately decide things differently. He shrugged and replied, as I recall: “Nah, this is the way it has been for too long and now there’s way too much money wrapped up in it. It is just too big for the courts to go any other way.”
Sometimes when things operate in a gray area, and the stakes just get too big, and the people with all the power and money have so much invested, it is, alas, sometimes just too big for the law to go any other way.
It isn’t just that the U.S. government is going after “minnows” instead of going after the big fish of banking and financial fraud. Most of the targets that the government selects are people that the banks want the government to go after. When the banks commit massive amounts of document fraud and fraudulently boot people out of their homes, the government lets it slide with weak settlements out of supposed fear that it could unravel the foreclosure system. When individuals commit minor document fraud against banks, however, the government takes out the big hammers. Banks manipulating the prices of commodities? The government lets it happen. People manipulating the prices banks pay to banks for foreclosed banks? Prison time. Even the handful of moves against hedge fund insider trading are recognized as something of which banks would approve – because their interests are affected by the conduct and because they aren’t harmed by the prosecution.
There is nothing that Eric Holder and Barack Obama have done to suggest anything other than that the banks run the show. Any time the government goes after banks and walks away with a meaningless fine or penalties against a middle manager, it only suggests theater designed to keep this little managed democracy all sewn up.
Paul Krugman does a good job responding to Brad DeLong on Larry Summers’ candidacy for Federal Reserve Chairman.
I have been somewhat surprised at the response from the pro-Summers camp in this public debate. It appears that some of them seem to genuinely think this isn’t about Summers at all – and certainly many try to reconfigure the arguments made against Summers as about something other than him entirely. So they don’t realize that the political left – the true left – really is not a great fanbase for Summers? They don’t realize the extent of the damage to Summers’ own reputation from the last financial crisis (and from how certain folks sounding warning signs were treated by him and his crew) and its aftermath?
But by pretending that the argument isn’t about Summers, his defenders fail to provide an adequate case for him because they do not address the matters at issue. Saying little more than “trust us, he’s not as bad as you think,” or, worse, accusing his critics of having other agendas, isn’t doing well by him and it will convince no one. The argument against Summers for the job still stands. His friends should think about more fully addressing the merits, and not doing so by treating it as somehow self-evident (it isn’t) that Larry Summers is just awesome.
As we enter the final stretch of the college basketball season, a lot is going to be written about the dissolution of the Big East as we currently know it. A lot of basketball guys are going to blame football. And a lot of folks are going to blame money and greed. And some will blame selfishness of this group or that group. Some will lob bombs at the ACC. While there may something to each argument, most of the blame will be attached to things that happened in the last ten years. People will argue that there has been a sudden wave of conference shifting (false; conference-shifting has been going on for decades). People will try to trace this back to only things that took place since 2004. But the truth is that the seeds of the break-up of the Big East began almost at the Big East’s founding.
The Big East was started as a basketball-first league. There was no football league at the outset. It was all about basketball. That’s why the league had no interest in a program like Penn State. The Nittany Lions were one of the premier brands in college football when the Big East was founded, but they’ve never been much for basketball. Football just wasn’t part of the plan. Which was just fine in 1979, when the Big East was founded. And it seemed fine in 1981, when Joe Paterno pitched an eastern football conference, but the plan failed in large part because the Big East schools were too happy with what they already had. There was nevertheless an opportunity at the same time for the Big East to build a bridge with Penn State by inviting Penn State for basketball. But the league voted down Penn State’s application (Joe Paterno insisted that Penn State turned the Big East down, but the rejection by the Big East seems more credible). A possibly apocryphal story has it that Dave Gavitt, the original mastermind behind the Big East, acknowledged that rejecting Penn State would be a move the Big East would come to regret.
A few years after the Big East was founded, the nature of college athletics was changed dramatically when some teams sued the NCAA for the right to sell their football product without limitation. Those teams won the lawsuit. A new age dawned in college sports – an age where football, without any doubt, would be the premier revenue product in the NCAA (but without any of that revenue being pooled and shared by the NCAA).
There was some doubt at first about whether the court ruling would really provide much value down the road, but it didn’t take all that long for the visionaries around the country to see where things were headed. It was right then, right at that moment, right around 1986-1988 or so, when the members of the Big East likely still had the power to control their own destiny. But seizing the moment would not have allowed for the conference to remain intact. Instead, what needed to happen was for the schools that prioritized FBS (then I-A) football to split into one group (Boston College, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh), and for the schools that de-emphasized football and made basketball their centerpiece needed to split into another group (everyone else). In other words, they needed to come to terms with what was happening and go their separate ways right then and there.
It was really about seeing where things were going and making the tough choice about where each group was headed. The football-focused programs needed to give up the dream that they could live without a football conference. They needed to split and get aggressive. The basketball schools could go their way and add pretty much any other eastern or midwestern basketball school they wanted to ensure they would remain a basketball powerhouse.
Football schools Boston College, Syracuse, and Pitt could have gone to Penn State (who allegedly tried to join the Big East again in the late 1980s) and maybe even have gone after Florida State and Miami. Then fill out the conference with the likes of South Carolina, West Virginia, and Virginia Tech. That would have been a formidable 9 team league, and it probably could have been done if the three football schools teamed up with Penn State and got aggressive. All they had to do was beat leagues such as the Big 10 and the SEC and the ACC to the punch. Instead, the Big East sat and waited.
In 1989, the Big 10 announced the addition of Penn State. The Big East had lost their football prize. At that very moment, the Big East was effectively doomed. They had spent 10 years pushing Penn State away, and only when someone else embraced the Nittany Lions did the Big East start to figure out what they were missing. The Big East started a football league, but, aside from being a day late and dollar short, it was simply appended to the basketball league that remained at the core. Rather than dividing up into two separate groups so that each could excel at either football or basketball, the league tried to have it both ways – have a league that was basketball-first, but that would also provide some security for the football schools as well. All that did was put the league on the clock.
FSU would be snatched up by the ACC and South Carolina by the SEC (when FSU spurned the SEC). By not catching Penn State, Florida State, and South Carolina – the three biggest independent state schools available to it – when they likely had the chance, the Big East forever forfeited the opportunity to become a major player in college football. Throw in Miami and Virginia Tech, and the Big East could have been the premier football conference during the 1990s. Instead, they were mostly an afterthought, barely kept afloat by Miami and a surging Virginia Tech program.
As for the basketball schools, they simply could have gone off and put together the same type of conference the Catholic 7 is now assembling. Instead they, like the football schools, simply delayed the inevitable because they had grown so attached to what they had started a decade earlier.
Most know the story from there. The ACC made their move. The ACC was a league that was the basketball match for the Big East but offered a better football product anchored at the time by mega-brand Florida State (a particularly attractive match for Miami, which had no real connection to the Big East’s basketball roots). While the ACC originally wanted Syracuse instead of Virginia Tech, being forced to take the Hokies accidentially served to help further diminish the Big East’s football and prop up the ACC’s football product when FSU sagged in the 2000s. As television contracts for football soared and the importance of TV money skyrocketed to schools that wanted to be part of the highest level of football, further expansion moves were made, triggering the ACC’s further poaching, and even the Big 10 taking Rutgers.
The Big East as we’ve known it is dead.
But imagine that alternate reality where, circa 1987, Boston College, Syracuse, and Pitt awoke to the tectonic shifts happening underneath them and were able to recruit Penn State to start building a football-first conference away from the basketball-centric schools. Where the addition of Penn State led to the dominoes of Florida State, South Carolina, and Miami falling in this new conference’s favor. And then Virginia Tech and West Virginia. In this alternate reality, when the early 2000s roll around, it isn’t these guys that are being poached; they are doing the poaching. They go out and steal a Maryland and a Clemson. Or Virginia and Georgia Tech. When the recent round of expansion rumbles come, perhaps it is Tobacco Road schools that come calling, hoping to be the teams that take this fantasy conference to 16, enough to own much of the east coast as they start their very own cable network.
This fictional conference likely would not have stopped the football ascendance of the SEC, a league with a focus on football that few teams in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic will ever hope to match. And indeed, this conference would not have been a perfect list of football powers – there’s little reason to believe that the schools on the list that have struggled for times in the last decade or so wouldn’t have had the same struggles. But would they have had the upper hand over the ACC? I think so. More than anything else, this scenario would likely have meant that the core Big East football teams would have been controlling their own conference destinies, rather than hoping and praying some other conference would rescue them from the shambles of their present conference. All they had to do was see what was happening before their eyes in the mid-to-late 1980s and not have clung to that dream of 1979 longer than that dream was viable.
Why did the Big East fail? Well, I think it was doomed at inception – at least in the form it took then. But by failing to see what was happening and failing to take the difficult, proactive, and necessary choices that would have allowed its members to control their own destiny, the Big East goes down as, ultimately, a failure of a league, rather than as the start of something big.