Tramel's ScissorTales: Why College Football Playoff expansion won't stop at 12 teams
In 1978, the NCAA made the bold move to split Division I. The NCAA created I-A, with the major conferences and those wanting to hang with the big spenders, and I-AA, the schools with a little more financial sanity.
Division I-A stuck with the bowl system and no playoff. Division I-AA instituted a playoff.
That first year, I-AA consisted of six conferences and four playoff berths.
By 1982, I-AA conferences numbered nine, and the playoff had grown to 12.
In 1986, I-AA conferences numbered 10, and the playoff was at 16.
You know where this is going. By 2019, I-AA sported 13 conferences – and a 24-team football playoff.
The Thursday ScissorTales takes a look at the value of the Thunder's first-round picks at six, 16 and 18; the Big Ten's non-conference scheduling; and the best NBA playoff performances from Oklahoma high school alums. But we start with the College Football Playoff.
Tramel's ScissorTales:OU football's non-conference schedule ranks near bottom of Big 12
We’re apparently headed for a 12-team College Football Playoff in Division I-A (which the NCAA horrendously renamed Football Bowl Subdivision). And anyone who believes we’ll stop at 12 has not mastered history.
“Eight sounded good, but 12’s even better,” OSU athletic director Mike Holder told me last week. “More is better.
“The only thing better than 12 might be 16. Who knows how many it could be?”
Who indeed? The NCAA basketball tournament started out at eight in 1939. The increase was incremental and constant: 16 by 1951, 22 by 1953, 25 by 1969, 32 by 1975, 40 by 1979, 48 by 1980, 52 by 1983, 53 by 1984, 64 by 1985, 65 by 2001, 68 by 2011.
We’ve seen the same professionally.
Baseball once sported a two-team playoff for 16 franchises. Now baseball deploys a 10-team playoff for 30 teams, with hot talk about expanding the postseason.
The NFL is up to a 14-team playoff for its 32 franchises. The NBA is up to a 20-team playoff for its 30 franchises. The Stanley Cup Playoffs include 16 of the National Hockey League’s 32 franchises.
The history is steadfast. Playoffs expand. College football has held onto the past much more than other sports, but it’s about to burst, tripling its postseason access.
“I want to caution observers of this process to not rush to conclusions about what our board may decide,” Mississippi State president Mark Keenum said this week after the College Football Playoff’s board of managers met at DFW airport in Grapevine, Texas. “We still have a lot more information, more facts that we need to bring to the table for the board members to make any decisions going forward.”
College football moves like a sloth. Slowly. Deliberately.
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That’s what makes the 12-team proposal so startling. You half expected any expansion to go to just six teams total.
And admittedly, there are massive issues to consider. Bowl and television contracts. Length of season. Anti-trust issues, which college sports must consider more than ever, considering the NCAA is taking a legal beating every time the courtroom opens these days.
Which means the expanded playoff might not come until closer to 2026 than to 2023, the first season a 12-team format would be possible.
“We’re going to be just very deliberate,” Penn State president Eric Barron said, “and we’re not going to talk timing until we get the answers to all the feasibility issues and until we have a chance to listen and talk to athletes, presidents, coaches, partners. So it’ll take time.”
But the ship has sailed. The course is set. The same market and cultural forces that brought us wild-card baseball and the NBA’s play-in tournament and the NCAA Tournament’s First Four, will bring us a 12-team College Football Playoff. And soon enough, a 16-teamer.
Truth is, the questions have been answered. The four-man committee that formulated the 12-team proposal – conference commissioners Bob Bowlsby of the Big 12, Greg Sankey of the Southeastern and Craig Thompson of the Mountain West, plus Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick – were quite thorough in their two-year process.
“This has been vetted pretty carefully,” said West Virginia president Gordon Gee, the Big 12’s representative on the board of managers (presidents). “So almost every question you could possibly anticipate, they had an answer for.”
Gee said the 12-team proposal “makes absolute sense” and said the presidents were unified in moving forward to gathering more information.
“Now we need to marinate this,” Gee said, referring to the three months between now and the next scheduled meeting of presidents on the playoff board.
Here’s what the soaking will reveal: 12 now, 16 soon enough.
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Thunder picks vs. top-five picks: Which is more valuable?
The NBA Draft lottery was a bummer for Oklahoma City. The Thunder had a 25 percent chance of having two top-five picks. Instead, the Thunder got none – it has the sixth and 18th picks, to go with the 16th pick that the Thunder received from Boston in the Kemba Walker/Al Horford trade.
But it made me wonder. How good is the draft position of a team picking sixth, 16th and 18th? Would you trade all three for the No. 1 pick? Sure. For the No. 2 pick? Yes. The No. 3 pick? I assume so. The No. 4 pick? Probably. The No. 5 pick? Maybe.
But would that be wise? I decided to find out.
I looked at all 10 drafts in the 2010s. I didn’t use the 2020 draft; it’s a little early to know what the heck is going on. But I marked the top five picks each year from 2010-19, then marked the sixth, 16th and 18th picks.
Not comparing No. 6 to No. 5, for example. Comparing No. 6, No. 16 and No. 18 to No. 5. And No. 4. And No. 3, etc.
Here’s what I found.
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6-Jarret Culver, Texas Tech; 16-Chuma Okeke, Auburn; 18-Goga Bitadze, Republic of Georgia.
1-Zion Williamson, Duke; 2-Ja Morant, Murray State; 3-R.J. Barrett, Duke; 4-DeAndre Hunter, Virginia; 5-Darius Garland, Vanderbilt.
Culver took a major step back in his second NBA season, in both minutes and production. He could be headed for bustdom. Okeke sat out all of the 2019-20 season but played reasonably well this season as a 6-foot-6 forward for the Magic. Bitadze, a 6-11 center, has been a bit player for the Pacers. You wouldn’t trade the three of them for any of Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, R.J. Barrett, DeAndre Hunter or Darius Garland. Hunter has been the least effective of that quintet but has averaged 13.0 points a game for the Hawks while showing signs of being a defensive stopper.
6-Mo Bomba, Texas; 16-Zhaire Smith, Texas Tech; 18-Lonnie Walker, Miami.
1-Deandre Ayton, Arizona; 2-Marvin Bagley III, Duke; 3-Luka Doncic, Slovenia; 4-Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State; 5-Trae Young, Oklahoma.
Bomba, Orlando’s 7-foot center, has been injured some and wholly ineffective. He’s nearing bust status. Smith was out of the NBA this season. But Walker is blossoming in San Antonio, where this season he made 38 starts and averaged 11.2 points a game. Doncic and Young are superstars. Ayton and Jackson are Phoenix and Memphis cornerstones, respectively. Bagley has been a big disappointment in Sacramento, but you’d still take him over Walker. So no dice here.
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6-Jonathan Isaac, Florida State; 16-Justin Patton, Creighton; 18-T.J. Leaf, UCLA.
1-Markelle Fultz, Washington; 2-Lonzo Ball, UCLA; 3-Jayson Tatum, Duke; 4-Josh Jackson, Kansas; 5-De'Aaron Fox, Kentucky.
Interesting draft. Tatum is a superstar, Fox is a star and Ball is a solid NBA point guard. But Fultz was a bust in Philadelphia, made some progress last season with Orlando and then was injured most of this season. Patton and Leaf aren’t NBA players, but Isaac is solid in Orlando. You’d take Isaac a 6-foot-11 power forward, over Jackson and maybe Fultz.
6-Buddy Hield, Oklahoma; 16-Guerschon Yabusele, France; 18-Henry Ellenson, Marquette.
1-Ben Simmons, LSU; 2-Brandon Ingram, Duke; 3-Jaylen Brown, California; 4-Dragan Bender, Bosnia and Herzegovina; 5-Kris Dunn, Providence.
Hield is one of the best 3-point shooters in NBA history, though his fit in Sacramento has been questioned. Yabusele is out of the league and Ellenson was by season’s end. Simmons, despite his playoff troubles, is a star, as is Ingram and Brown. But Bender has bounced around the league and might be nearing his end. Dunn rides the Hawks’ bench. Hield is the more valuable player.
6-Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky; 16-Terry Rozier, Louisville; 18-Sam Dekker, Wisconsin.
1-Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky; 2-D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State; 3-Jahlil Okafor, Duke; 4-Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia; 5-Mario Hezonja, Croatia.
Towns is a star. Russell is not; he’s become a big-numbers journeyman, with stops with the Lakers, Netropolitans, Warriors and now Timberwolves. Okafor was a bust. Porzingis has been productive at times but remains a source of frustration with the Mavericks. Hezonja is out of the league. Dekker, too, is out of the NBA. But Rozier has been a solid point guard for both Boston and Charlotte, and Cauley-Stein is a valuable backup center. Every team would rather have Rozier and Cauley-Stein over Okafor and Hezonja, some would take the duo over Russell and a few might prefer the pair over Porzingis.
6-Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State; 16-Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia and Herzegovina; 18-Tyler Ennis, Syracuse.
1-Andrew Wiggins, Kansas; 2-Jabari Parker, Duke; 3-Joel Embiid, Kansas; 4-Aaron Gordon, Arizona; 5-Dante Exum, Australia.
Smart is a better player than any of the top five except Embiid. Nurkic is a good NBA center who is at least as valuable as Wiggins or Gordon (Parker and Exum are busts). Put Smart and Nurkic together, and you’ve got quite a draft.
6-Nerlens Noel, Kentucky; 16-Lucas Nogueira, Brazil; 18-Shane Larkin, Miami.
1-Anthony Bennett, Nevada-Las Vegas; 2-Victor Oladipo, Indiana; 3-Otto Porter, Georgetown; 4-Cody Zeller, Indiana; 5-Alex Len, Maryland.
Bennett is one of the all-time busts in NBA history. Oladipo has been a borderline star, and Porter has been a good player. Zeller is a serviceable center. But Len is a journeyman center. So is Noel. Both Nogueira and Larkin lasted four seasons in the NBA. Still, you’d take the 6-16-18 trio over Bennett and Len.
6-Damian Lillard, Weber State; 16-Royce White, Iowa State; 18-Terrence Jones, Kentucky.
1-Anthony Davis, Kentucky; 2-Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky; 3-Bradley Beal, Florida; 4-Dion Waiters, Syracuse; 5-Thomas Robinson, Kansas.
Davis is all-world. Beal is the NBA scoring champion and a perennial all-star. But Kidd-Gilchrist never developed much, became a role player and now is out of the league. Waiters was a journeyman. Robinson was a bust. Lillard is a superstar. You wouldn’t take Lillard over Davis, but you’d take him over Beal, much less the rest of the top five.
6-Jan Vesely, Czech Republic; 16-Nikola Vucevic, Southern Cal; 18-Chris Singleton, Southern cal.
1-Kyrie Irving, Duke; 2-Derrick Williams, Arizona; 3-Enes Kanter, Turkey; 4-Tristan Thompson, Texas; 5-Jonas Valanciunas, Lithuania.
Irving is a superstar. Valanciunas has been a good NBA center for a long time. But Williams is long gone from the league, and Kanter and Thompson are journeyman role players. Vesely was a bust, and Singleton never did much, but Vucevic has been a good player for a long time and made the 2021 all-star team. You’d take Vucevic over Williams, Kanter and Thompson, and maybe even Valanciunas.
6-Ekpe Udoh, Baylor; 16-Luke Babbitt, Nevada; 18-Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky.
1-John Wall, Kentucky; 2-Evan Turner, Ohio State; 3-Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech 4-Wesley Johnson, Syracuse; 5-DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky.
Udoh and Babbitt were journeymen, but Bledsoe has been a good player on good teams for a long time. Not a star, but an impact player. Meanwhile, Wall and Cousins were stars, but Turner was a role player, Favors has been a solid center and Johnson mostly was a bust. You’d take Bledsoe over all but Wall and Cousins.
This is wild. You’d much rather have the No. 1 pick than the 6-16-18 picks. But No. 2 through No. 5? It’s basically a wash.
No. 1: Twice in the 10 years, teams would have been better off with 6-16-18 than the overall No. 1 pick. That’s amazing. From 2014, either Smart or Nurkic trumps Wiggins, much less both. In 2013, Bennett was a disastrous No. 1 pick. And in 2017, current Magic teammates Fultz (No. 1) and Isaac (No. 6) are a wash. That’s a .750 batting average for No. 1.
No. 2: The No. 2 picks beat the 6-16-18 trio only five times, with one tossup. Parker in ‘14, Kidd-Gilchrist in ‘12, Williams in ‘11 and Turner in ‘10 were not impact picks. And in 2016, some teams might prefer having Rozier and Cauley-Stein to the mercurial Russell.
No. 3: The 6-16-18 wins four of these 10 derbies, and only once because No. 3 was a bust (Okafor in 2015). Lillard in 2012 (sixth), Vucevic in 2011 (16th) and Bledsoe in 2018 (18th) were top-five worthy.
No. 4: Amazingly, the 6-16-18 wins 6-3-1 against the fourth pick. Jackson (2017), Bender (2016) and Johnson (2010) were busts, Smart and Nurkic combined (2014) would have been a great haul, Lillard was an instant success in 2012 and Vucevic was a steal at 16 in 2011. Even in 2015, some teams might prefer Rozier and Cauley-Stein to Porzingis.
No. 5: The 6-16-18 block is preferable five times in 10 years, with one wash. Lots of busts at 5 – Dunn in ‘16, Hezonja in ‘15, Exum in ‘14, Robinson in ‘12.
Of course, the lottery Tuesday night was not a top-five pick (or two) vs. 6-16-18. It was a top-five pick plus and 18, or two top-five picks plus 16.
That’s the disappointment. But Thunderville can console itself knowing that a 6-16-18 draft would work out well quite often.
Ranking the Big Ten non-conference football schedules
Big Ten non-conference schedules generally are different from much of the rest of the Power 5 schools.
More games against traditional powers. OU, Notre Dame twice, Oregon and Auburn show up on Big Ten schedules in 2021.
Fewer games against lower-division opponents. Only seven of the Big Ten’s 14 teams play I-AA opponents; that’s the fewest, by total and percentage, among the Power 5.
But also fewer games against potent mid-majors that can stand toe-to-toe with the big boys. That’s what happens in schedules littered with Mid-American Conference opponents.
But all in all, the Big Ten schedules solidly. No complaints from this precinct.
As we continue our series on non-conference scheduling, here’s how I rank the Big Ten, based on difficulty and attractiveness.
1. Purdue: Oregon State, at Connecticut, at Notre Dame. Oregon State is no power, but the Beavers are getting better, so that’s one easy game on the Boilermakers’ non-conference slate.
2. Wisconsin: Eastern Michigan, Notre Dame in Chicago, Army. As OU can testify, you can’t sleep on Army.
3. Ohio State: Oregon, Tulsa, Akron. The Buckeyes generally disdain I-AA foes. Oregon won the Pac-12 last season, and TU rose up to be a mid-major force.
4. Nebraska: Fordham, Buffalo, at Oklahoma. The Cornhuskers had a schedule of Fordham, Buffalo and OU, and tried to get rid of OU?
5. Iowa: at Iowa State, Kent State, Colorado State. Good schedule by the Hawkeyes. Colorado State is a decent mid-major.
6. Penn State: Ball State, Auburn, Villanova. Fun game, Penn State-Auburn.
7. Indiana: Idaho, Cincinnati, at Western Kentucky. No Power 5 opponent, but that’s OK. Cincinnati is plenty enough to challenge the Hoosiers.
8. Michigan: Western Michigan, Washington, Northern Illinois. Some like Washington a lot.
9. Michigan State: Youngstown State, at Miami, Western Kentucky. There was a time when I-AA Youngstown State was no pushover. This is not that time.
10. Illinois: Texas-San Antonio, at Virginia, Charlotte. The Illini avoid a I-AA opponent. Not a bad schedule.
11. Minnesota: Miami-Ohio, at Colorado, Bowling Green. You never know when one of these MAC teams will rise and pull the upset. So give the Gophers (and Michigan) credit for playing two MAC squads.
12. Maryland: West Virginia, Howard, Kent State. This schedule doesn’t raise the Terrapins’ profile.
13. Northwestern: Indiana State, at Duke, Ohio. The Wildcats often schedule better than this.
14. Rutgers: Tempe, at Syracuse, Delaware. The Scarlet Knights are just trying to build.
Power 5 opponents: 14 of 42 games (.333; Pac-12 .305, Big 12 .267, ACC .411).
Power 5/quality mid-majors: 15 of 42 (.357; Pac-12 .500; Big 12 .467, ACC .464).
Road games: 9 of 42 (.214; Pac-12 .250, Big 12 .300, ACC .232).
I-AA opponents: 7 of 42 (.167; Pac-12 .250, Big 12 .300, ACC .250).
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Mailbag: Football-game drink vendors
Sometimes, the mailbag is used as a time tunnel, as readers reminisce about times gone by. Like today, when an old staple of college football – vendors walking through the stands, selling drinks or snacks – is remembered.
Edward: “When I was a student at OU, I got a job with the athletic department selling trays of Cokes in the stands at football games. I had to fill my tray with cups of iced Cokes, then walk up and down the steps selling them.
“When I sold an entire tray, I rushed inside the stadium and waited in line and bought another tray. I remember I got 25 cents for each cup sold. I saw a chubby teenage boy resting in the shade. He looked very tired. I said ‘How you doing?’” He said, ‘I am selling these last two cups and quitting!’ So this was a lot of work for a few dollars, and who would buy iced Cokes when the weather became chilly?
“So next year, before the first home football game, I went to the athletic department and asked for another job. I was told I could have a small stand like a cart on wheels to sell souvenirs. Great thought! I went about an hour before kickoff, got my souvenirs and found a good spot. I watched the game until just before halftime, then returned to my cart just after the game.
“The last home game, the weather suddenly turned cold. It was just above freezing that morning as I went to the stadium to get my cart and souvenirs and went early. I spotted a large stack of red and white OU stocking caps. ‘Give me all of those you can!’ I said. I remember a man with two little boys passing me, and I told him to get stocking caps for himself and his boys, and he did. By game time, I had sold all of the large bundle of stocking caps and other souvenirs. At the end of the afternoon, I returned to the athletic office in the stadium and paid the wholesale price and kept the markup for myself.
“I carefully counted my money and discovered I had made $52.30, a small fortune to me at that time! Since then, it has been Go Big Red; Edward needs the money!”
Tramel: Great story. Do we even have vendors walking the aisles of stadiums anymore? I haven’t seen them in years in Norman or Stillwater. It indeed was a tough way to make a buck. And with all the varied options – it's not just Cokes, hot dogs and popcorn anymore – the clientele is fractured. But I remember well those trays and those hawkers – some adults, some kids – working hard while the game was on.
The List: Greatest NBA playoff performers among Oklahoma high school alums
Trae Young’s performance in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Wednesday night was dazzling: 48 points on 17-of-34 shooting, 11 assists, seven rebounds, albeit with six turnovers. Young’s Hawks beat the Bucks 116-113, and Atlanta established itself as a real threat not just to reach the NBA Finals, but win the championship.
Young’s performance got me to thinking. What are the greatest playoff games by an Oklahoma high school alum? Not every great Okie had a memorable playoff experience. Wayman Tisdale played in danged few playoff games; 22 total. Young has played 13 this postseason alone and could get into the mid-20s.
Here is a list of 10 notable Oklahomans and their greatest playoff games, ranked:
1. Mark Price:The Enid High School flash was a great player in the ‘80s and ‘90s. He was born too early; the new emphasis on the 3-point shot would have made Price a Young-type phenom. Price had a bunch of epic games for the Cavaliers. His best was Game 3 of the 1988 first round against the Michael Jordan Bulls. Cleveland won 110-102, with Price scoring 31 points on 10-of-14 shooting, with six rebounds, six assists and no turnovers.
2. Trae Young: The Norman North and OU star was sensational in Game 1 against the Bucks, but he’s been sensational all playoffs. Young has averaged 30.5 points and 10.5 assists in these playoffs.
3. Alvan Adams:The Putnam City and OU star had a bevy of big-time performances over his 13-year Phoenix Suns career. But Adams’ best game probably was in his rookie year, in Game 3 of the 1976 NBA Finals. Phoenix beat Boston 105-98, and Adams had 33 points, on 14 of 25 shooting, with 14 rebounds. Adams was a heck of a ballplayer; he averaged 23.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in those Finals.
4. Blake Griffin:The Oklahoma Christian School and OU star was brilliant in a batch of Clipper playoff games in the ‘10s. But his best was Game 2 of the 2014 first round against Golden State. The Clippers won 138-98, with Griffin totaling 35 points on 13-of-17 shooting, with six rebounds.
5. John Starks:The nomadic hoopster from Tulsa Central and OSU found a home in Madison Square Garden, as a running buddy with Patrick Ewing on the Knickerbockers. Starks was a playoff phenom, with a bunch of big games. The best of which came in Game 6 of the 1992 Eastern Conference semifinals, against the Bulls and all of Jordan’s glory. The Knicks forced a Game 7 with a 100-86 victory, during which Starks had 27 points on 9-of-14 shooting, with five steals, four assists and three rebounds, in only 27 minutes.
6. Richard Dumas: The Tulsa Washington and OSU star might have been an all-time great, had personal demons not wrecked his career. Dumas played just three NBA seasons and 102 regular-season games, but he was superb in the 1993 playoffs, when the Suns reached the NBA Finals. In Game 5 against the Bulls, a 108-98 Phoenix victory, Dumas had 25 points on 12-of-14 shooting, with five rebounds.
7. Jim Barnes: The Stillwater High School and Texas-El Paso star, the overall No. 1 pick in the 1964 NBA Draft, had a mediocre pro career. Barnes played in just 11 playoff games, only once scoring more than 10 points. But that once was something. In Game 2 of the 1966 West semifinals, Barnes scored 27 points on 12-of-22 shooting, with 16 rebounds, as his Baltimore Bullets lost 105-100 to the St. Louis Hawks.
8. Willie Murrell: The wing from Taft and Kansas State played in the American Basketball Association, and his ABA playoff performance in 1968 was stunning. After averaging 16.8 and 9.0 rebounds a game as a rookie for the Denver Rockets, Murrell averaged 22.4 points a game in Denver’s first-round, five-game loss to the New Orleans Buccaneers. Murrell’s best game likely was a 28-point showing in Game 4, a 108-100 Denver victory. By the way, among Murrell’s competitors on the Buccaneer roster were Doug Moe and Larry Brown.
9. Wayman Tisdale: The OU and Tulsa Washington star’s best playoff showing came in Game 1 of the 1995 first round. His Suns beat Portland 129-102; Tisdale had 21 points and six rebounds on 10-of-14 shooting.
10. Josh Richardson: The Edmond Santa Fe and Tennessee star is known for his defense – and it showed up in Game 4 of the 2018 first round. Richardson’s Heat lost 106-102 to the 76ers, but Richardson had seven steals, seven assists, five rebounds, a blocked shots and no turnovers, to go with 10 points.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.