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December 4, 2017 / busmasterjones

How Texas A&M Built a Top-Tier Athletic Program

College football observers, media, and fans were whipping themselves into a frenzy in late November as Texas A&M pursued the hiring of Florida State’s head football coach Jimbo Fisher.  For many, A&M’s pursuit of a coach who had claimed the 2013 national title for FSU was a pipe dream.  Media tweets from the state of Florida declared the notion “ridiculous” while others termed it “irresponsible” and “insane.”  Comments like “TAMU believes it is a top 10 job and often raises expectations before settling” and “NOT going to happen” reflected a pervasive theme that A&M should accept its place in the college football pecking order and that place does not include hiring a coach with a pedigree like Jimbo Fisher.

Bucking the trend, Bob Sturm from 1310 The Ticket in Dallas said last week that he didn’t understand the argument that “Aggies need to just accept their place in college football”.  Why not have ambition and try to better your circumstances if you can afford it?  He is the rare neutral party in Texas media who likes the passion of A&M but still looks at Aggies funny when we do things that are funny to an outsider.  Let me build on Bob’s argument of why the Jimbo Fisher move from Florida State to Texas A&M should not have people scratching their heads.

150px-Bill_Byrne_headshotIn the past, the A&M athletic program was an easy target for ridicule.  A&M wanted to be big time, but was truly always a half a step or more behind tu.  Just saying that will invoke ire in die hard Aggies, but to the casual observer it was certainly the case.  The athletic department was run as a good old boy network and ticket prices were well below market proving that the administration didn’t realize the value of what it had as an entertainment product.  Love him or hate him, Bill Byrne’s hire at A&M in 2002 issued in an era of professionalism at the Athletic Director (AD) position.  He seriously raised the bar on expectations.

Bill Byrne had a three-pronged approach.

  1. Hire the best coaches
  2. Build the best facilities
  3. Expect great coaches with great facilities to perform at a high level on the field.

To support the three pillars of his sports stool he had to fund the coaches and the facility improvements.  Ticket prices rose which earned him the nickname “Dollar Bill” in some circles.  People grumbled and gave up their football tickets in protest, but his plan started to work.  Byrne wasn’t just about football, the national sport of Texas.  He wanted to see A&M excel in all sports where Aggies took the field, court, pool, or arena.  Many people dismiss national championships in sports outside of football and men’s basketball, but Byrne proved his model as a winning formula in several sports.

Take track as an extreme example of success for the Byrne method.  Byrne hired Pat Henry from LSU before the 2005 season and the Aggie results improved dramatically.  In his baseline year of 2005, neither the men nor women qualified the NCAA championship in indoor and placed 29th and 47th nationally in outdoor track and field respectively.  The following year the men’s and women’s teams qualified for the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships and placed 20th and 10th in the outdoors.  Along with the steady climb in final placement over the coming years came the construction and opening of Gilliam Indoor Stadium in 2009.  This premiere indoor track and field facility was successful in helping the Aggies attract some of the best athletes nationally.  The results reflected this as the men and women both won NCAA outdoor national track and field titles in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

TrackNationalChmaps-MenAndWomen

Money brought a top coach and leading facilities.  The top coach and facilities attracted top athletes.  The top athletes performed like you would expect well-coached top athletes would given the outstanding resources around them.

The formula worked and worked well.  Texas A&M won 45 Big XII Conference Titles in eleven different sports during Byrne’s reign at A&M.  It was unprecedented success for a program that had spent much of its athletic life in the shadow of a school in the state’s capital city.

Winning national titles in track set a tone for the program and created an atmosphere of winning, and that winning was contagious.  His campaign of “Building Champions” yielded a harvest of national championship trophies.  Equestrian won 9 times, men’s outdoor track and field 3, women’s outdoor track and field 3, women’s basketball 1, and men’s golf 1.

Byrne oversaw around $100 million in facility upgrades and additions for virtually every sport in Aggieland.  All of that building and success was prior to A&M joining the SEC.  That move in 2012 just turbo charged both the athletic program and the financials for the Aggies.  With the expansion of Kyle Field which was a half billion dollar endeavor, Texas A&M had one of the top football stadiums in the world of college football.

Bill Byrne’s time as AD from 2002 – 20012 set the stage for what transpired today.  Bringing in the likes of Rob Childress, Billy Gillespie, and Pat Henry set A&M up to be a national power in several sports.  Byrne missed on some hires, most notably head football coaches, but the athletic program is built on the foundation that he laid.  The improved stature and facilities have attracted coaches and athletes that are among the best in the college ranks.  Facilities, money, and success were certainly all components of bringing Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M.  That snowball started in 2002 and continues rolling today.

Perception always lags behind reality, and with the insane passion of college football, a measured opinion is hard to find.  People in the media will poke at Aggies because it is fun and it gets people talking.  The good news is that A&M is as relevant now as it has ever been in its history because of some great moves over the past 20 years.  Upgraded facilities, a bold conference change, and a string of great coaches have paved the path for a financially successful athletic program in College Station.  We’ll see over the coming years if the newest addition to the Aggie coaching ranks will translate into on field success.

JimboFisherPressIntroThere is a lot more to the story than can be told here.  Great facilities means the Aggies host a lot more regional and national championships giving their athletes home field advantage when playing at the highest level.  The huge athletic department revenue numbers from 2015 and 2016 reflect and perpetuate the success of the program.  No objective observer would deny that Texas A&M has built a top-tier athletic program.

It took some hard work playing catch up after the turn of the century, but Texas A&M has proven its commitment to winning and providing a first-class environment for student athletes to pursue their dreams of competing at the highest level.  The foundation is firmly in place and with the hiring of Jimbo Fisher, the Aggies are pushing all chips to the center of the table.

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September 11, 2015 / busmasterjones

2015 Dallas Cowboys Prediction

Coming off a 2014 season that saw the Cowboys outperform everyone’s predictions for them, the Cowboys have high expectations heading into 2015.  However, the Cowboys will win only 10 games in 2015 thanks to a harder schedule, two key injuries on offense, and a battered offensive line.  The Eagles will win the division before getting blown out in the playoffs while the Cowboys fight to fend off the Giants for a wildcard spot.

The Lions edge the Packers to win their division and the 49ers improve quite a bit as does Tampa Bay.

September 6, 2015 / busmasterjones

Aggie Obserations – 2015 Week 1

Sep 5, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Christian Kirk (3) salutes after returning a punt for a touchdown during the second quarter against the Arizona State Sun Devils at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 5, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Christian Kirk (3) salutes after returning a punt for a touchdown during the second quarter against the Arizona State Sun Devils at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Obvious

The defense.  Of course this was the game when we found out that the Chavis hire would have immediate results.  We may look back later and laugh that we ever doubted it.  Nine sacks!  But there were other great signs from the Aggies’ season-opening 38-17.

Freshmen matter.  Look at the 2 TDs from Christian Kirk.  Look at Kyler Murray who showed flashes of his incredible football skills in between a few freshman moments of skipping a pass to a WR and throwing a telegraphed pick.  Look at the 6 tackles by Daylon Mack.

Special teams play was outstanding.  With 41.0 yds per punt return including a TD, with 52.8 yds per punt for 6 punts, 1 for 1 on FGs, 5 for 5 n PATs, and several ASU kickoff returns that didn’t make it to the 20 yd line, the special teams were truly in top form.

The Not So Obvious

The offense, despite some sputtering in the middle quarters in particular, produced 31 points.  The three straight runs up the middle starting from first and goal were a mystery, especially with mobile Kyler Murray at the helm at that point in the game, but despite some trying drives early, the Aggies ended the game with a respectable 8 of 18 (44.4%) on 3rd down conversions and they scored on 4 of 5 red zone trips.  Not spectacular, but solid.

Tackling was spot on tonight.  There were many open field tackles that limited potential big plays to pedestrian gains.

Great start to the 2015 season.  Let’s see if form continues to hold once the Ags hit their SEC schedule.

September 4, 2015 / busmasterjones

Fearsome Predictions for the 2015 College Football Season

SEC

LSU beats Auburn, then loses to Alabama.  LSU vies for the SEC West title.

Auburn loses 2 or 3 conference games this season.

Alabama stubs it’s toe mid-season against either Texas A&M on the road or Tennessee at home, but then goes on to win the SEC West.

After a miserable October, Florida finishes strong.

Georgia pulls a Georgia and doesn’t quite measure up to expectations.

This year’s SEC East darling Tennessee, takes two of four October games before a showdown with Missouri to decide the SEC East.

Everyone Else

Michigan upsets a top 25 team but struggles throughout the year, showing promise by the end of the season at key positions like QB.

News flash – Ohio State wins the Big 10.

Oklahoma can’t quite run the gauntlet, but they still tie Baylor for the Big XII title.

TCU stumbles in multiple games and learns that it is tough to run from the front.

December 7, 2014 / busmasterjones

The Case for Baylor…falls short

Let me state my loyalties upfront so there is no confusion.  I am not a fan of the Baylor Bears.  They were decent in the 1979-1980 where they had platooning QBs, but after that they were a punching bag for the Southwest Conference.  When the Big XII was formed, politics — not performance — landed Baylor a spot at the table.  They dragged down the prestige of the conference.  It took a full decade before Baylor could muster 2 conference wins in the Big XII.  Baylor graduated two groups of recruits that only won a single conference game.  They wanted at the big boy table and then they wet themselves.  Repeatedly.

Meanwhile, in Fort Worth, the TCU program which was left in the cold after sporting a resume very similar to Baylor in the SWC, was left to lick their wounds.  After spirling for a couple of years in the WAC, they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.  What Dennis Franchoine ignited, Gary Patterson poured gasoline on and fanned the flames.  From a non-power conference, TCU built a program block by block, adding one bowl win to the next until they broke through with a Fiesta Bowl appearance and a Rose Bowl victory.

To their credit and after years of choking on their silver spoon, Baylor hired Art Briles and things started to change.  They took full advantage of their weakened conference and started to fill the power void left by teams like Nebraska, Texas A&M, and Missouri jumping ship.  With a Texas program that was tripping over its own feet, Baylor was on the rise.  And good for them.  They had every advantage and they finally put things together while TCU did it much sooner with less in their toolbox.  So when push comes to shove, I’m biased towards TCU as the historical underdog in the fight against TCU.  Mojo favors the Frogs.

Fast forward to this season, which objectively, is all that matters.  The argument for Baylor is that they played the same conference schedule as TCU and in beating TCU, they have settled everything on the field that they should go instead of TCU to the top 4 promised land.  Not a bad argument!  Settle it on the field is what we have yelled for years.  Ah, but wait!  There is a small fly in the ointment of that reasoning.  If we look purely at wins and losses we will see that Baylor is not superior to TCU. In fact, they have the same record.  Hmm.  That means Baylor suffered a loss at some point.  It was to currently unranked West Virginia on the road.  TCU beat West Virginia by the tiny claw of their horned frog feet which means by a last second field goal.  Should we dismiss that game?  Baylor lost by 14 to West Virginia.

What’s an person to do to objectively evaluate the results of these two teams?

Fortunately, I have a method.  I have taken the time to break down the TCU and Baylor games with common opponents into groups.  These weigh a few factors, but in essence each game is placed on the following scale:

  • Win: Route – generally a win of 28 points or more
  • Win: Solid – 14-24 point win
  • Win: Good – 8-13 point win
  • Win: Close – <7 point win
  • Loss:  Close – <7 point loss
  • Loss:  Good – 8-13 point loss
  • Loss:  Solid – 14-24 point loss
  • Loss: Route – a loss by more than 28 points

The edge cases will all be examined to see if they should be upgraded or downgraded.  For example, Baylor lost to West Virginia by 14 points.  By definition that is a Solid Loss, but the score was tied going into the 4th quarter, so I downgraded the loss to a Good Loss which will help the Impression Points as you will see.

In looking at the TCU and Baylor schedules for common opponents you’ll see there are 10 of them which is a large sample size.

Opponent  

@/vs

TCU Score TCU Impression TCU/Baylor BU @/vs Baylor Score Baylor Impression
SMU @ 56-0 Win Route = @ 45-0 Win Route
OU 37-33 Win Close B @ 48-14 Win Route
Baylor/TCU @ 58-61 Loss Close B 61-58 Win Close
OSU 42-19 Win Route T 49-28 Win Solid
TT 82-27 Win Route T @ 48-46 Win Close
WV @ 31-30 Win Close T @ 27-41 Loss Solid*
KSU 41-20 Win Solid T 38-27 Win Good
KU @ 34-30 Win Close B 60-14 Win Route
tu @ 48-10 Win Route T @ 28-7 Win Solid
ISU 55-3 Win Route T @ 49-28 Win Solid

Note a * by Baylor/WV, Although this is technically a Solid Loss by the books, the game was tied heading into the final quarter, so I downgraded the loss to a Good Loss.

I then added a scoring system to this classification method. Each Route win is worth 4 points, a solid win is 3, good is 2, and close is 1. Each loss has the same point totals, but with a negative sign, so a close win is +1 and a close loss is -1.

TCU

W Route 5 x 4 pts = 20
W Solid 1 x 3 pts = 3
W Good 0 x 2 pts = 0
W Close 3 x 1 pts = 3
L Close 1 x -1 pts = -1
TOTAL 25

Baylor

W Route 3 x 4 pts = 12
W Solid 3 x 3 pts = 9
W Good 1 x 2 pts = 2
W Close 2 x 1 pts = 2
L Good 1 x -2 pts = -2
TOTAL 23

By summing the points we find that TCU has 25 Impression Points and Baylor has 23 Impression Points. Comparing game to game, TCU had 6 games with a better impression, Baylor had 3 (OU, TCU, KU), and one was a push (SMU). When you start to pull in other factors, you see that TCU has the edge in things like the ranking of the teams when TCU/Baylor played them. While it was the same team, TCU faced a #4 ranked opponent and won a close game and Baylor faced a #15 ranked OU and routed them. At the time of each game, the relative rankings matter. A #25 TCU playing a #4 OU is expected to lose, but they won by 4 points. Impressive! A #12 Baylor team might be a push or slightly favored over a #15 OU team. While Baylor routes OU (surprise!) they were expected to win.

Let’s take a more pronounced example. OCt 18 #4 Baylor plays unranked WV on the road. It is a tough road game, but you expect a Baylor win. Oops, they lose by 14. Wow! Bad impression. Nov 1 #7 TCU makes the same road trip but they face a surging #20 WV. While TCU is the higher ranked team, a close game is expected. The result holds to that expectation and TCU escapes with the win. That is a +1 for TCU and a -2 for Baylor. When you factor in the relative rankings, you would widen that a bit in favor of TCU.

Fact is that TCU played 5 teams that were ranked going into the game and in 2 cases those teams were ranked higher than TCU. They were 4-1 in those games which is impressive. Baylor faced three ranked teams and none of them were higher ranked than Baylor when they met. Baylor was 3-0, but that was to be expected. They lost to an unranked team whereas TCU lost to a team ranked higher than themselves on the road. A road game is worth three points to the home team. It is like starting the game down 3-0. If you factor that in you have TCU playing Baylor dead even on the road because they lost by 3 points. All of those factors — the entire “body of work” — could override the head-to-head Baylor victory over TCU.

Take all of that one step further. If TCU grades out better than Baylor, what about TCU vs Ohio State. Ohio St ended up with 21 Impression Points with routes over MD, Rutgers, IL, and WI, close wins over Penn St and MN, and a solid loss to Va Tech. Michigan St was a good win and I downgraded 2 other wins (IN and Mich) from solid to good because those games were tied after 3 quarters or were within a TD at that point. That gives OSU 21 Impression points. Factor in the intangibles – OSU played 3 ranked teams and went 3-0 with only one of those being higher ranked than OSU at game time (Mich St). They destroyed Wisconsin, but that was accounted for with he 4 route points. They might get 1-2 bonus points for killing WI and beating higher ranked Mich St, but that would still leave them short of the 25 base Impression points for TCU. Add in that Sagarin in the WIN50% conference rating lists Big 12 as 4th best (behind SEC West, Pac 12 South, and SEC East) and the Big 10 East (OSU’s division) is 6th and Big 10 West is 9th, we see that the TCU road was tougher than the Ohio St road, or at least that is the impression.

All told, I have it as TCU #4, Baylor #5, and Ohio St #6. Because of the recency effect, I could see Ohio St and Baylor swapping places, but TCU should be ahead of both. That would give us a final four of Alabama, Oregon, Florida St, and TCU.

May 14, 2013 / busmasterjones

Scattershooting

Here are a few thoughts from Facebook posts of friends:

∏  I assumed Duck Dynasty was a show about hockey. I just looked it up. I’m not sure I could have been more wrong.

——–

Friend: Just getting in from Les Mis auditions. It’s like Phantom all over again

Me:  I misread the original post and wondered why you were auditioning for the part of the LSU head football coach Les Miles.

——–

May 14, 2013 / busmasterjones

More than Post Election Blues

Written 11/7/2012

Here is my 2 cents – if anyone is still up and reading. 🙂  What I have seen nationally in 2008/2012 mirrors 2000/2004.  Obama is a lightning rod for conservatives the way Bush was for liberals.  Just as the Bush first election was close, tonight was close.

The lesson is we have a country divided with very divergent and deeply held views that is largely either unable or unwilling to engage in a meaninful way to find truly American solutions.  Without a common unifying force or theme, the divide will grow and will be our country’s undoing.  I don’t say that because of tonight’s result; I say it because darkness and light cannot coexist, and I think each “side” views itself as the light.  As such, it seeks to irradicate the darkness.

The push for homosexual marriages and a biblical view of marriage are opposites.  There is not room for compromise.  Abortion and banning abortion.  There is not really a middle ground.  Many of the social issues have been polarizing.  One group sees something as a sin while another group sees it as a beautiful expression of love.  What one group sees as holiness another group sees as intolerance.  There is a biblical Christian world view and there is the world’s view.  They are oil and water.  Once, the United States gathered under a watered down Christian ethic to guide public life.  Now, that is being cast off an intolerant and old-fashioned and the exact opposite of that ethic is being flaunted in public, thumbing it’s nose at “outdated” Christian ideals.

If ever Jesus was the answer it is now.  For a nation that refuses to bow to Christ and instead chooses to flaunt its freedom in a godless existance, the decline will be swift.  No one thumbs their nose at God so brashly and continues to receive His protection and blessings.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a godless future of America.  There are millions of praying people who will be mocked and driven underground.  It is time for the American church to endure some added persecution, so prepare for it.  The assault will only pick up steam now that those who revel in freedom without the relational love towards its giver have held sway.

Woe be the America of my youth.