Skull Session: CFP Qualification the "Core Tenet" of Future Big Ten Schedules, Ohio State Football Has Lavish Facilities and The Schott Offers a Great Home-Court Advantage

By Chase Brown on March 1, 2023 at 5:00 am

Ohio State men's basketball plays Maryland tonight.

Time to build upon Sunday's win. Two straight victories would be quite the treat.

Let's have a good Wednesday, shall we?

 "FAR FROM A WASTED TRIP." Big Ten administrators, school officials and football coaches left their meeting at the conference's headquarters in Chicago last week without finalizing a scheduling model for 2024 and the years after that. However, it was "far from a wasted trip," according to The Athletic's Scott Dochterman.

In his most recent article, Dochterman wrote that each administrator, official and coach left the meeting with the idea that future schedules would be determined by what I would call three fundamental pillars:

  1.  College Football Playoff qualification as the "core tenet."
  2.  Fair and equitable scheduling for all 16 member schools.
  3.  Every four-year player should compete at least once on every Big Ten campus.

All of those plans lead to divisional elimination, Iowa athletic director Gary Barta has said repeatedly as of late. Although the East-West structure has served the Big Ten well over the years, Barta told Dochterman an undivided league "might be where we end up."

From The Athletic's article:

Although keeping divisions has generated conversation, there’s little appetite for it. A geographic alignment with USC and UCLA joining the West Division and pushing Purdue to the East might limit some competitive inequality — especially if USC re-emerges as a national power — but it would limit regular-season games featuring USC against Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. Big Ten media partners Fox, CBS and NBC will want as many highly rated matchups as possible, and that includes more frequent games among the Big Ten’s biggest brands, which currently reside in the East Division.

Of the 36 Big Ten-only games with 3.5 million viewers during the past two years, only four did not involve Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State. The conference cannot ignore that. But four of the 10 non-conference regular-season games hitting 3.5 million viewers also involved West Division teams. So, it’s not so one-sided that current West Division schools don’t bring value. But USC competing regularly against the East Division’s big three will produce titanic ratings. That cannot be guaranteed against West Division foes.

The only logical outcome is for the conference to adopt the 3-6-6 model. Three permanent opponents, six opponents scheduled annually, such that each team would play every other team at least twice every four years immediately after USC and UCLA arrive. It would please the fans and – let's remember this as the most important factor – please the administrators, officials and coaches as it allows them to line their pockets as the TV and media partners back up the Brinks trucks to their front doors.

Still, Barta said Big Ten leaders, despite the TV and media partners metaphorically stacking millions of freshly-printed dollar bills for them to choose the 3-6-6 model, will be patient and look for the best possible option for the conference moving forward.

“On the one hand, there’s really no deadline [to create schedules],” Barta said. “We don’t have to have it done imminently by a certain date right now because it’s two years out. That’s on the side that says there’s not a huge pressure point. On the flip side, just from a planning standpoint, I’d love to have it done sooner than later. There’s not, like, a moment in time that if we don’t decide by this day, we’re in trouble. So, there’s not that kind of pressure.

“If it goes the best it can go, we’ll announce everything at once. I think that makes more sense. I’m not going to predict it, but I think that’s the desire is to have it all come out at once so everybody can plan ahead.”

 REMEMBER THE FACILITIES ARMS RACE? The No. 1 arms race in college football used to be about facilities. Everyone wanted to build state-of-the-art facilities to help their program recruit the best high school prospects and retain its most talented players.

Now, the No. 1 arms race in college football is NIL. It's less, "What kind of facilities do you have?" and more, "What kind of money can the NIL collectives dish out?" Even though that's true – that NIL is more of a priority than facilities in today's college football – programs would be wise to remember the importance of having top-notch facilities and resources available for recruits to see and athletes to use.

Fortunately for Ohio State fans, the Buckeyes have remembered the Woody Hayes Athletic Center's importance and made it one of the sport's best facilities over the years. And even now, the Woody ranks as the seventh-most "lavish facility" in college football, according to Brad Crawford of 247Sports. Here is what he said about it:

The Woody Hayes Athletic Center, which houses the Buckeyes' championship wall in the lobby, features state-of-the-art locker rooms and a strength training area. Its $7.8 million upgrade — the third extensive renovation since it opened in 1987 — was completed recently [in 2019]. There's an improved 42,000-square-foot players lounge, a kitchen and nutrition area, a barber shop, a basketball court, a golf simulator, an arcade, a cryotherapy chamber, sleep pods and an illuminated waterfall in a locker room filled with lots of steel and lots of scarlet. Ohio State opened its renovated dining facility inside the WHAC in 2019, highlighted by pool tables, Pop-A-Shot basketball games and film rooms where position groups break down footage from games or practices. Last spring, recruits at the Army All-American Bowl voted Ohio State inside the top-five nationally for facilities.

Ohio State ranks behind only Oregon, Texas A&M, Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and LSU on the list and is ahead of Big Ten schools counterparts Northwestern (No. 11), Maryland (No. 15), Michigan (No. 16) and Illinois (No. 22).

The Buckeyes' spot on the list could improve in the coming years, as Ryan Day told Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch that Ohio State plans to build a new football-only facility next to the WHAC as soon as possible.

"A lot of that conversation and fundraising is still going on," Day said. "We have a plan, and the plans have been worked through to build a new facility over on (practice) Field 1. There's not been a date set on it. But we’re working toward that."

 THAT'S JUST, LIKE, YOUR OPINION, MAN. Soooooooooo, how do I write this in a way that doesn't sound ridiculous? According to Grant Hughes of CBS Sports, Ohio State ranks among the top 10 college basketball programs in home-court advantage since 2005... *inhales*

...per the team's win percentage. *exhales*

Come on. Did you really think the Schottenstein Center and Value City Arena, which frequently feels more empty than full and creates a lifeless environment for fans and the men's basketball team, provides any home-court advantage for Ohio State? The answer is conclusive, convincing, decisive, definite (et al.), no.

Still, it's hard to debate that, at least since 2005, the Basketbucks haven't made their home court one of the hardest places to play over the past 18 years. Of course, that can be (and should be) attributed to the strength of Ohio State men's basketball over the last two decades more than the venue.

1 KANSAS JAYHAWKS 282-17 94.3%
2 DUKE BLUE DEVILS 267-28 90.5%
3 KENTUCKY WILDCATS 274-37 88.1%
4 BYU COUGARS 255-37 87.3%
6 ARIZONA WILDCATS 256-44 85.3%
8 UCLA BRUINS 257-45 85.1%
9 NORTH CAROLINA 242-43 84.9%
10 OHIO STATE 274-51 84.3%

Ohio State's rank is impressive, especially considering the blue-blood programs ahead of them. I wonder, however, would the Buckeyes' home record over the past 18 years have been better or worse if they still played in the legendary St. John Arena? Unfortunately, we will never know the answer (but, for some reason, I know the answer is yes).

 JSN'S JOURNEY. On Monday, Jaxon Smith-Njigba tweeted that he is Panini America's "Rated Rookie" in 2023, an honor that marks JSN as a player with incredible potential that card collectors should keep tabs on in the future.

Along with that announcement, the Ohio State receiver released an almost six-minute video in partnership with Panini America. The footage titled "Episode One" revealed what he has been up to since announcing he would not play for the Buckeyes in the CFP so that he could recover in time to prepare for the NFL draft.

"The hardest thing I had to go through in my football career was last season. Being out (after) the first game and trying to get back. I had never really been injured or missed games, so it was new on me. It hit me mentally and physically – just something I had to get through that I had never been through before. I left the team early and decided to start my rehab to get ready before the NFL draft."

It stinks that Ohio State couldn't have a fully-healthy Smith-Njigba on its roster this past season. It also stinks that his attempts to return to the field were unsuccessful. A Buckeye receiver room with JSN, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka as a three-headed monster is enough to give any defensive coordinator nightmares. But it wasn't in the cards.

Hopefully, JSN can prove his doubters wrong at the NFL Combine this week. After spending so much time away from football with the hamstring injury, he will have much to prove regarding his health and athleticism. But if we know anything to be true about the Buckeyes, they have a thing for performing well when their backs are against the wall.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "Human" by Rag'n'Bone Man.

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