Foley's Friday Mailbag: June 1, 2012
T.R. Foley, InterMat Senior Writer
email@example.com, Twitter: @trfoley
InterMat senior writer T.R. Foley answers reader questions about NCAA wrestling, international wrestling, recruiting, or anything loosely related to wrestling. You have until Thursday night every week to send questions to Foley's Twitter or email account.
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Q: When the seeding for this past NCAA tournament came out, a lot of people were critical of the seeding committee. I recall reading an article on InterMat questioning the 174-pound weight class with Ed Ruth as the No. 1 seed instead of Nick Amuchastegui. Looking back it appears that the seeding committee did a pretty good job as seven No. 1 seeds were crowned as national champs. Who is on the NCAA seeding committee? Overall, how do you think they did? What can be improved in the seeding for the NCAA tournament?
-- Tom K.
Ed Ruth (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)Foley: The seeding committee did do a good job in 2012, though seven No. 1 seeds winning the tournament doesn't outperform the historical average. My absolute DISGUST with the NCAA actually lies somewhere else in the process.
It's interesting you mention the seeding at 174 pounds. I was one of the loudest opponents to placing Amuchastegui down in the No. 3 seed. He'd beaten the hell out of Ruth in 2011 and was undefeated, making the case, at least to me, that he should have been the No. 1 seed. However, the seeding committee NO LONGER looks at historical data, so they weren't going to be compelled by the 2011 NCAA quarterfinal matchup. Instead the committee only had quality and quantity of wins in the season before the 2012 championship to go by, making it difficult to argue against granting Ruth the top seed.
Overall, I thought the seeding was average. It's always easy to look back and point out the weight classes where the committee obviously failed to fill out a meaningful bracket outside of a top seed. For example, 149 pounds and 165 pounds. But their methodology isn't publicized so it's difficult to know which weight classes were argues illogically. We could go back and try to reconstruct which matchups were utilized to make decisions but that's a fool's errand. The system was supposed to use the parameters of coaches rank, RPI, winning percentage, head-to-head results, common opponent wins, and quality wins (wins over guys in the tournament). When they eliminated last year's results the selections were, from what I've been told, pretty easy.
The part that pissed me off was that the NCAA took five hours to release the brackets. The half-hour delay was to ensure that the NCAA's Facebook account could receive more "Likes." I have two major problems with this type of fan manipulation.
First the NCAA isn't dealing with a team sport, which means that they are evaluating the in-season accomplishments of INDIVIDUAL student-athletes. The wrestlers are already forced to wait three days for the announcement, so why make it worse for them by teasing out their dreams so you can pump up your online numbers? Obviously the lady who does the online work for the NCAA has no empathy for what these guys are going through and probably thought herself a delightful marketing whiz by profiting from the emotional turmoil of several hundred dedicated college athletes and their families. But she really just proved that the NCAA WILL ALWAYS PUT PROFIT FIRST. In this case it was Facebook adoration they sought on the backs of individual, hard-working wrestlers. Tomorrow it will be something more conniving, more deceptive and likely just as harmful to the student-athletes.
The second of my druthers is that it was unfair that the committee knew Tuesday night but because of the almost 24-hour delay cost the at-large bids an extra day of distraction-free workouts.
If you have the information then release it. Stop trying to be so cute. You're not. It's annoying, cruel, and counter-productive.
Q: I am an avid wrestling fan and will watch anything and everything being broadcast on TV or Internet but I find myself wondering what would make a casual or non-wrestling fan stop on that channel to watch? The answer I usually come up with is not much. A lot of that, in my opinion, is due to a lack of charisma from the broadcast team. Now, I can't knock the wrestling credentials of a Dan Gable or whatever multiple-time AA or national champion they use. But I do question their ability to carry the broadcast. I believe that bringing in some younger more exuberant personalities during TV broadcasts would potentially bring in more fans and hold their interest. Anyone who has ever watched the Big Ten Network knows what I'm talking about. To a non-wrestler the broadcast comes off as being very dry, and somewhat biased and confusing depending on who Iowa is wrestling while Gable tries to articulate, coach, and cheer simultaneously. I think some young blood with wrestling savvy and a little more emphasis on production would do a great service to any TV broadcast.
-- Donald C.
Foley: I was at the NCAAs this year so I didn't catch it, but I think ESPN hired Anthony Robles for the color commentary. Some people on Twitter thought it was so-so, others enjoyed it, but most everyone agreed he just needed more time to learn the format.
You're right ... Stations do need an on-air balance and I don't think that sticking with the crews from the 1980s is going to cut it much longer. The rub this season was with the production value of the student-produced matches for the Big Ten Network were comically, woefully bad (I'd link their worst performance, but the BTN had it scrubbed!). The network sent out one of those half-apologies for the production, but stopped short of guaranteeing it would never happen again, leaving many fans wanting them not to just come out with a full apology, but with a statement saying they want us to know that they WANT to do a better job.
The argument for Gable and those with NCAA titles is that management doesn't know better and accolades are thought to impress common viewers. Gable might be dull to some people, or fumble some stuff, but on the opposite side, you certainly can't hire the guys from Flowrestling to do a broadcast. Television audiences need someone willing to describe the action not shout into the camera. They also need someone to deliver larger storylines for dual meets and tournaments.
Jason BryantWere I to take control of a hiring at the Big Ten Network I'd grab Jason Bryant. He has a clear voice, can speak to the expert and the newcomers, and displays genuine excitement. He has history with some of the wrestlers but not the long-winded asides we're used to hearing describing wresting room matches from 1978. Those personal interactions are interesting but rarely to the broader audience.
My guess is that we will see an improvement in the on-air talent and that with Robles we're already making our way.
Q: How competitive do you think the South would be if there were more programs?
Foley: What do we mean by "The South?" I think the schools of the ACC and SoCon count in terms of Confederacy South, but what I think you meant was in the Deep South. Good question!
There used to be some Deep South schools with NCAA champions. In fact, current Iowa State head wrestling coach and Olympic gold medalist Kevin Jackson actually wrestled at LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Alabama had a program until the 1980s where major wrestling supporter Steve Fisher competed. (Interesting side note: Silver's friend Jeff Levitetz sold what was for the majority of 2011 the most expensive piece of real estate in Chicago. The Internet says he kept his other place in Florida worth $12.5 million. Levitetz sells food and beauty supplies. I now want to sell food and beauty supplies. He's also a MAJOR supporter of wrestling as well creating scholarships, clubs and foundations.)
There are several mores schools and wrestlers to list, but they all competed in a different age. Let's create a world in which Silver and Levitetz get a wild hair and decide to start a men's wrestling program (with a women's program for Title IX balance) at the University of Alabama. Could they recruit? Would wrestlers leave Pennsylvania to compete in the Deep South?
Yes. The only proof you need comes from women's college lacrosse.
The University of Florida started their women's lacrosse team in 2010. This season they were undefeated and top-ranked headed into the NCAA tournament. (They lost in the semifinals to Syracuse.) THREE SEASONS and they went from ZERO players to one of the best in the country. Forgiving that female athletes tend to be better when they first get to college and that women's lacrosse is a relatively new sport, what factors allowed them to catapult over so many other schools that had new or developing programs?
LOCATION. Who in their right mind wouldn't want to go to school in Gainesville? Same goes for Tuscaloosa. Every red-blooded American male drops his jaw 11 times each commercial break when CBS pans the sidelines for a delightful scan of the SEC cheerleaders. Recruits make decisions for lots of reasons, but trust me one of the major factors that creeps into their minds is quality of life. One of the major contributing factors to "quality" can be as simple as how many cute coeds they spot on their stroll to the library. Were I to take the head coaching job at Gainesville I'd just offer my recruits a lawn chair, some Diet Coke and a brand new shar pei puppy and let them have at it. I'd have No. 1 classes until the NCAA made it illegal for me to own a puppy (and they would do it), or until Tom Ryan caught wind of my tricks and did the same on campus in Columbus.
Given a budget and a coach these schools could be extraordinary, it's really just a matter of the right people making bold decisions. Given that Alabama made $75 million from their football team last year you'd almost have to assume that the time is approaching where they'll begin to offer everything from wrestling to badminton just to prove their regional sporting dominance. I've written this before but it bears repeating, the SEC (and Ivy League) are essentially governed by a very complicated trouser-pulling contest. If Alabama decides that they need to have the country's best wrestling program don't be surprised if Auburn, LSU, and Florida are right there to challenge that assertion.
Q: Sean McMurray (Michigan State) is rumored to be looking at transferring to a different school for this upcoming season. As a Gopher fan it would be great to add him to our middleweights as a potential starter but I am sure he has some options. What, if anything, can you shed on Mr. McMurray and his intentions for the future?
-- Kevin W.
Foley: I can tell you that McMurray has been granted his full release by Michigan State and has started taking recruiting trips. There are plenty of colleges interested in his services and I'm sure he'll be a welcomed addition to any program, possibly even the Gophers.
Q: Tom or Terry Brands in college and now?
Foley: Nice question! I'm going to tread lightly here, rather than be maimed by the Flannel Shirt Mafia (they exist).
Tom and Terry are two of the more inspirational, if not talented, wrestlers to ever strap on the boots. In college Tom was a three-time champ and Terry a two-timer. Tom won a gold at the 1996 Olympics and Terry took the bronze at the 2000 games. Terry has two World titles, while Tom has one.
Terry Brands was a two-time World championWere it not for one of the most dramatic matches in Olympic Team Trials history, Terry might very well have been a gold medalist in 1996. As it was Kendall Cross, the man who bested him in the Trials, did go on to win the gold. To me, that's compelling.
I think there is a definitive answer to who got the better of who in the Iowa wrestling room, but I don't have that answer so I'll just take a guess. I'd imagine all things being equal except for size, which favored Tom, that Terry would probably have taken a few lumps. However, TODAY I'd almost guarantee Terry gets the better of Tom. Here's why.
Tom is the head coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes and while I'm sure he mixes it up, it's more of Terry's responsibility to hit the mats with the guys. Tom raises cash, visits recruits, and rips off his shirt. Terry beats the hell out of everyone from Montell Marion to Derek St. John. I'd imagine that he's crisper, in better shape, and having never won that Olympic gold probably the type of competitor that's a bitch to take down. Tom might have that Big Brother Syndrome from all the years he was larger and better, but today, RIGHT THIS SECOND, I'll take Terry Brands, 3-2. No need for overtime.
What about when it's time to cut a rug? Tom is definitely the better dancer.