College Football vs College Basketball
As you are well aware, college basketball has had a Final Four for decades since 1939. College football finally followed and started a final four (Semifinals) format in 2014.
Here are just some of the basketball Final Four participants over the past decade: Butler (2), VCU, Wichita State, Gonzaga, South Carolina, Oregon, Loyola-Chicago, Texas Tech.
Here are all of the football Final Four participants since 2014: Alabama (6), Clemson (6), Ohio State (4), Oklahoma (4), Notre Dame (2), Georgia, LSU, Florida State, Oregon, Michigan State
I believe you know where I am going with this article. The interesting part of this is that the basketball Final four participants qualified for the Semifinals after winning four NCAA tourney games. On the other hand, football teams like Notre Dame (2018), Michigan St (2016), Florida St (2014) and even Oklahoma (2019) and Ohio St (2016) looked like they didn’t even belong in the football Semifinals based on the way they performed.
There is no question that college football has become an elitist enterprise. Note that of the names listed above of recent participants, Florida State and Michigan State no longer are considered a threat to crack the final four playoff teams. On the other hand, Gonzaga and Baylor are currently ranked #1 and #2 in college basketball while blue bloods Kentucky, Duke, UNC, Michigan State and Kansas are unranked. This would never happen in football.
I believe the reason for this is that college players cannot be drafted into the NFL until three years after leaving high school whereas they can be drafted into the NBA after just one year. Thus, most of the basketball blue bloods have to restock year after year.
Football programs like Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson continue to amass the best football talent around year after year. And since these players are around for a minimum of three years, the rich are only getting richer exponentially… so the chasm between the Haves and the Have Nots just continues to widen. Yes, the transfer portal has become popular in college sports, but it seems that best talent available are just traded among the elites. Ohio St QB Justin Fields began at Georgia, QB Jalen Hurts moved from Alabama to Oklahoma, and Joe Burrows went from Ohio St to LSU. In fact, three of the last four Heisman winners are QB transfers …. and the fourth (this year’s winner) is a three-year WR at Alabama.
And what is even more puzzling is how schools like Michigan, Miami, USC and Texas can continue to recruit so well but seems to be on the outside looking in. Michigan just had two more four-star QBs transfer out of its program, the 7th and 8th in the Harbaugh era. And in this era where offensive football rules the day, Michigan continues to struggle against the really good offenses despite being loaded with great defensive talent. Its offense just cannot keep pace despite its talent.
I am sure the previous two sentences resonated with you POVers. Pitt indeed looked bad against the two elite (Final 4) teams it played this past season, no doubt! But despite these two blowouts, it finished 2nd in the ACC in total defense this year … cfbstats.com – 2020 Atlantic Coast Conference Team Leaders … and third in scoring defense … cfbstats.com – 2020 Atlantic Coast Conference Team Leaders . When Clemson and Notre Dame are not playing each other, they rarely lose to ACC teams. In fact, neither teamlost to another ACC team in 2020.
When Clemson and Notre Dame are not playing each other, they rarely lose to ACC teams. In fact, neither have not lost to another ACC team since 2017 – four years ago. (note that Notre Dame plays five ACC games per season, 2020 notwithstanding). Just more evidence of the elite football teams separating themselves from the pack.
Otherwise, Pitt continues to be competitive in the ACC. The issue is that it continues to lose close games as it has for quite a long time. This can be improved upon whether it be by the current staff or another, but the chance Pitt football can ever become a national player is extremely unlikely.
That is not the case for Pitt basketball
Gonzaga has been a basketball power for some time. And while it recruits well these days, it still doesn’t get the top players like Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, etc. does. But their players are getting to mature, becoming better players and better teammates over a 3 to 4 year process. And when the seniors (or juniors) leave, you have people who have already been part of the program just step right in.
I believe this is how Pitt prospered for much of the Dixon era. Yes, they never made the Final Four but being an annual Top 20 program, and having two No. 1 seeds in a three-year period is certainly nothing to scoff at. This doesn’t happen overnight and you need to bring in the players that fits your style of play …. At least that is how I believe Pitt did it 10-15 years ago. Maybe part of the current problem is that Pitt has yet to develop any type of identity or style. The current coach still may be swayed by the way his recent employer (and alma mater) does it.
Nonetheless, there is a decent chance that Pitt will once again become a well-respected basketball program whether it be with the current staff or another one. It plays in one of the most respected basketball conferences, it has great student involvement and support, and the NYC/NJ area is arguably the best recruiting area, a place where Pitt has proven to be successful.
I guess I am just trying to reinforce something that many of you all know. Pitt can become what it once was just 10 years ago in basketball, but in football … it has a chance to be right there with the top teams in the ACC …. not named Clemson.
This is not meant to be an endorsement or criticism of the current Pitt coaches. Whether the current staffs should be retained is another issue that will always be debated.