All That and a Bag of Mail

Sep 5, 2015; Hattiesburg, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen on the sidelines in the second half of their game against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at M.M. Roberts Stadium. Mississippi State won, 34-16. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports Chuck Cook

I’m sitting in the Hilton Sandestin working on the mailbag as the end of the SEC Spring Meetings near and, clearly the story of the day is Mississippi State’s decision to admit a five star player who beat up a woman on video. 

But before we get to that, here’s Baylor’s Ken Starr bungling a direct question about whether he’d seen a student email accusing a football player of rape. 

Goodness. 

I’ve already gotten a ton of emails on Mississippi State and Baylor so let’s just dive into this issue and analyze both. 

“What are your thoughts on Mississippi State’s decision to admit Jeffery Simmons?”

I’m not even going to begin with the morality angle here because everyone reading this knows that I hate men punching women and cancer and death more than everyone else. 

I HATE BAD THINGS MORE THAN YOU!

So instead of the morality angle let’s go straight to the decision from a business perspective, would you take this risk yourself?

My answer is no way.

That’s primarily because no recruit, especially not a quarterback, is worth the risk that Mississippi State is undertaking here. If Jeffery Simmons ever attacks a woman on Mississippi State’s campus, there’s a very real chance that the school president, AD and head coach might all end up losing their jobs. I don’t think this is hyperbole. Maybe all three men survive and keep their jobs, but the risk they are undertaking by bringing in a guy with the public profile of woman beater is stratospheric.

So what’s the payoff for them? 

Typically when you take on a great deal of risk in a business context, you are expecting a commensurate reward. That is, think of this from an investment perspective, you wouldn’t buy a risky stock if it didn’t offer the potential to make you a ton of money. You’d just invest conservatively and protect your assets. But Jeffery Simmons isn’t Tesla or Twitter or Netflix, a young company that has great risk but also offers great potential, his payoff isn’t worth the risk.

Not even close to it. 

Let me explain why: J.J. Watt is the best defensive lineman in football. According to my buddy Todd Fuhrman, Watt is worth between 1 and 1.5 points to most Las Vegas oddsmakers. That means if he doesn’t play, at the absolute high end, the Texan game line would move 1.5 points in the direction of the Texan opponent. The simple truth is this — even the best defensive lineman in the game isn’t worth that much in individual games. So if Watt, who is among the best defensive lineman to ever play the game, is worth at most 1.5 points, what is Simmons, an unproven five star, worth in Mississippi State games?

His freshman season he won’t even register when it comes to odds for Mississippi State games. By his sophomore, junior or senior season, if he’s an All American, at the very, very most he might swing the line a point. And that’s probably way too much. Because a single defensive lineman, even a really good one in college, isn’t that important when it comes to wins and losses.

You’re risking the safety of students, millions in lawsuits, and potentially your own jobs for a guy who doesn’t offer much in the way of payoff. 

So why take this risk when the reward isn’t commensurate with what you’re risking?

The only answer I can come up with is two-fold: 1. coaches and administrators are consistently overvaluing the importance of individual players or, and I’m too cynical to believe this, 2. coaches and administrators genuinely believe they can save players and are willing to take risks to lead to the players having better lives. I’m too cynical to believe number two because does anyone believe that Simmons would be admitted if he was a two star recruit instead of a five star?

No way, right?

So I’m left with this conclusion: coaches and administrators believe that top players are more valuable when it comes to wins and losses for their program than they actually are. (An exception clearly applies here for quarterback. If you have a top quarterback he’s worth a touchdown or more in a game. So if you’re going to err on the side of risk and reward, this can explain how Florida State ends up allowing the entire Jameis Winston mess to happen. FSU knew that number one overall draft picks at quarterback are rare. Instead of winning a national title with Winston, FSU may well have lost five or more games in those two seasons without him.)

Leaving aside all morality here, the reward is not worth the risk. 

So what would I do?

I wouldn’t admit him. Not because I’m climbing on my moral high horse, but just because his problems have exceeded his talents. (One of Outkick’s number one rules is that if your talent exceeds your problems you’ll always be employed. Here Simmons’s problems, to me, vastly exceed his talent).

But if you absolutely insist on admitting him, I’d sit him for a year as a redshirt and then, if he stays out of trouble, I’d allow him to play after that. You can’t just suspend him for one game.  

On to Baylor, which I also received a ton of emails on, but I’ll use thsi one because it hits on several levels:

Elizabeth writes:

“Let’s talk about Art Briles. I am sure you will have 287,051 similar emails but I just can’t stop reading about this nightmare in Waco. My sister went to Baylor from 2006-2010, right before things started to shift in a positive direction for the football program. I was two years behind her and seriously considered following her but ultimately chose a school in the SEC (because, duh!). A good handful of my friends went to Baylor and are pretty quiet on social media right now, probably because of second hand embarrassment.

In my opinion, Art Briles got so drunk on winning at a school that wasn’t used to it that he would have murdered someone for a national championship if he thought he could get away with it. Unfortunately, an inexcusable amount of women had to deal with the repercussions of his decisions to get his football program ahead.

My questions for you are:
1. Is this the end for Art Briles?
2. Will he coach again? As a head coach or start as an assistant?
3. If so, where? Who would take that kind of risk? I would be absolutely livid if my alma matter gave him a chance.”

If Art Briles wants to coach again, I think he can be an offensive coordinator somewhere. After a couple of years of that, I think he’d get another job provided the Baylor report doesn’t paint his actions as particularly egregious. (Remember, we don’t know which Baylor coaches were directly involved in stifling sexual assault complaints. At least not yet.)

This all, by the way, assumes that no criminal charges are ever filed against coaches and administrators in the Baylor case. If charges are ever filed then his career is over. 

At this point I honestly think Briles would probably be better off in the NFL, where nothing matters but football.

Briles is a great example of a coach overvaluing players. He could have kicked all these guys off campus and not won a single less game. Not only was he blinded by his success, again, leaving morality aside, none of the risky players he kept were difference makers. Even if he was only obsessed with wins and losses, he wasn’t increasing his chances of winning that much.  

Here are the two big questions that I’ve been asking for a long time that are brought into stark relief with the Baylor situation: when will we reach the tipping point on admitting violent football players who have no business being on campus? Because I think we’re close to this. And, second, who deserves a second (or third or fourth) chance and who gets to make the decision on who deserves them?

Let’s begin with the first question: how much danger is it appropriate to put college kids in to make winning football games more likely? That’s a ridiculously absurd question, but I believe that football players at major colleges and universities put regular college students at a greater danger than exists on campuses without major football programs existed. That’s because most football players are being admitted to college campuses that they would have no ability to attend without football talent. So in order for a college to compete in football you’re automatically making an economic trade off, some degree of increased off-field risk is worth beating a rival in a football game. Without football, most football player crime on campus wouldn’t exist because the players wouldn’t be there. 

Put it this way, every major university could only play football games between kids with perfect SAT scores, right? That’s theoretically possible. Then you’d be competing to give full scholarships to kids who 100% could be admitted to your university and they’d just happen to play football too. In order to win, schools take risks, academic and otherwise, to admit players that otherwise wouldn’t be on campus. 

Now the real challenge is in deciding who will thrive on college and take advantage of the opportunities you provide and who will not. 

That’s why I always try to distinguish between “dumb college kid decisions” and “violent predator decisions” when it comes to athletes in trouble. I apply a rough test in my mind — is this something that your average college kid could get in trouble for doing — smoking pot, minor in possession of alcohol, fake i.d., dumb bar or campus party fight with another guy or a group of guys, cheating on a test, or not?

I think most people can apply this test, the easiest way to apply it is to think — would I be surprised if someone in my dorm got arrested for this? If not, that’s a common, dumb college mistake. That’s not to excuse the decision or the actions, but I’d be inclined to say it wouldn’t make sense to kick somebody out of school for these arrests.

Then there are the violent predator decisions — these are dangerous acts that make you say, “Holy shit, really?” Armed robbery, beating up a defenseless woman or man — would Jeffery Simmons’s act have been better if he’d been beating up a man collapsed on the ground? We tend to focus on violence against defenseless women when it comes to social media outrage, but what about violence against defenseless men? Because, let’s be honest, the vast majority of men are just as defenseless when a 300 pound dude decides to beat your ass for no reason — firing hand guns in anger, stuff that you read and you immediately think — that person doesn’t belong on a college campus.

Well, there are lots of those guys on campus when it comes to athletics. Guys that, but for their talent in sports, would have no business on campus. (These are almost all guys, rarely do women act out violently on college campuses.) I don’t know what the rate would be, but my guess is that a huge percentage of football players have violent acts on their juvenile records, infinitely higher than the student body at large. We don’t know this information because juvenile records are sealed, but if you have a violent act in your background you’re more likely to act out in a violent manner than someone who has never acted violently before.

But what coaches would sell you on is this idea: “Get them in my program and I can save them.” That is, a kid who otherwise would end up in trouble can be saved by sports. This is the back bone of American sporting liberalism, right? Regardless of your political beliefs, just about everyone reading this right now believes that an athlete with the right coach, support structure, and environment can succeed in life, no matter how troubling his prior life experience might have been. So when a coach convinces a school to admit a player with a questionable background, whether it’s Art Briles or Dan Mullen or Urban Meyer or any coach out there, there’s a delicate dance between helping the player and winning games. The coach claims that he’s helping a player because that player needs help, but he really wants the player to help the coach win football games.

This is self-interested altruism.  

After all, there are millions of kids who aren’t good at football that a football coach isn’t trying to save, right?

It’s amazing how helpful a coach, administration, or school can become when a player with a troubled background makes it more likely that a school beats its hated rival. (The same is true of fans as well. Fans will justify any player or coach wrong doing if the player or coach wins enough. Most fans are amoral assholes when it comes to wins and losses.)

But, plainly, sometimes these mutual self interest situations work out — kids who had no business at a college but for their athletic talent, show up on campus and become academic success stories.

So how do you decide who these kids are and how many of them are appropriate to admit? And how far are we from parents throwing up their hands and saying we won’t stand for this? I want my sons and daughters safe on campus and I don’t care enough about football to allow violent predators to be in the dorms and classrooms?

Okay, let’s have some lighter questions now.  

Preston writes:

“Read today that the ACC network was going to be “cut the cord” friendly. I assume that means it might work like HBO Now. Wondering what that might look like and how that might effect the bottom line numbers vs say the current SEC model. ESPN should offer its own viable cord-cutting service allowing viewers the option of cutting the cable/satellite subscriptions loose. Access to the games are really the only thing keeping the house of cards standing as it is.”

I don’t believe that enough sports fans will sign up for over-the-top networks to make substantial money for the ACC. 

Right now here are two data points that help to explain why: there are only two million NFL Sunday Ticket subscribers. And there are only 1.4 million subscribers for the WWE. What’s more, the WWE subscription includes all the expensive pay-per-view events — Wrestlemania, et al — and the NFL Sunday Ticket includes hundreds of top NFL games that are otherwise unavailable to watch. 

So if the NFL and the WWE, two sports and entertainment entities that I think all of you could agree are very popular, only have 3.4 million subscribers combined for top games, how many people would pay for an ACC Network featuring third tier games?

I just think it’s a really small number that isn’t going to materially impact revenue. Especially once ESPN takes its share. The reason why the Big Ten Network and the SEC Network work is because they each have tens of millions of subscribers nationwide who don’t pay much for the network. The SEC Network has around 70 million subscribers and if you live in one of the 39 states outside the SEC footprint you pay only $3 a year.

$3!

And even if you live in the SEC you’re only paying $16.80 a year, less than two movie tickets for an entire year.

But you’re getting tens of millions of dollars from people who are paying as part of a cable or satellite bundle. If you’re an SEC fan this is a steal, but it’s a killer business too. Because you make a little bit of money from a ton of people. 

I just don’t think an over-the-top network will be a material impact. There aren’t enough diehards demanding these third tier games and spending hundreds of dollars a year on them. Plus, the problem is now is not the time — given the roll back of subscribers — to be trying to launch a new channel. 

Matt writes:

“Which appendage would you rather have a gorilla rip/bite off? Arm, leg or dick? My argument is that there are only two things you can’t normally do without a dick: Sex and pee.”

If you can pick your non-dominant arm, there’s no doubt I’d go left arm. 

Yes, being a one-armed dude would suck — can you imagine all “The Fugitive” jokes? — but you can still walk and have sex. Given my profession, I’d be screwed when it comes to typing, but I’d just hire someone to type what I say like a court reporter.

Plus, can you imagine all the empathy the PC Bromanis would have to give me if I didn’t have an arm? Every controversial opinion I have, I could start off, “As I man with one arm, I believe…. (insert controversial opinion.)”

So much empathy and tolerance would be rolling my way online. Goodbye white privlege, hello one armed man tolerance.  

The tough call here is, would you rather give up a leg and spend your life in a wheelchair or give up your dick? Especially if you’re a married guy with kids and you’ve already kind of given up your dick.

On the flow chart of body parts I still think I’d go arm, leg, then dick in order.

The ultimate indignity would be if the gorilla ripped off your dick and threw it in the bushes and it was such a bad dick day for you no one could find it. You’re laying there on the ground bleeding out without a dick and someone is yelling, “I know this dick is supposed to be in the bushes, but I can’t find it anywhere. Anybody see the dick? How can we not find the dick? It has to be here, I saw him throw it right here.”

Worst dick day ever.  

Matt writes:

“Love Outkick…and love following your take on cord cutting.

I am sure someone has brought this to you before, but figured I would kick you an email.

I looked into cord cutting for my wife and I, we are Miss St alums living in Austin, TX. So you can imagine that in a young progressive city…lots of neighbors have cut the cord.

This will get exponentially worse once there is a solve for Bravo TV, I shit you not. I did about an hour of research and SlingTV is a good solve, plus you can get HBO, Showtime on the side, but Sling Offers ESPN in their package of live channels for $20. Add on the SEC Network for $5 plus the ESPN App, and now I got all of ESPN and probably the highest watched cable channels for $25. Get an antenna for local HD and I am in business.

The kicker…my wife loves the awful shows on Bravo. I get it, she doesn’t want to lose that one guilty pleasure. Anyway, I spent like an hour alone on this one channel…there is no solve out there that I could find. We start asking around to our neighbors that have cut, still no solve.

Then we start talking at cookouts, etc to folks that haven’t cut the cord…and I would say that 50% say they couldn’t cut because of Bravo. This channel might be the one thing that is holding it together for cable companies. I know that sounds crazy, but it is worth putting out there for you that if Bravo offers a solution….I probably know 10 families that will cut within a week. You project that number Nationally, it starts to get really big, really fast. Hell even 10% of that number is massive.

It’s wild to think about a channel like Bravo could be keeping the pockets full at a place like ESPN. It’s not all of what is driving, but it is defiantly playing a role.

I just wanted to give you one data point on that topic, because it is the only thing holding me back.” 

The more people that live in your household the more sense the cable bundle makes. 

No way I’m ever giving it up. I’ve got my kids and my wife and me and we all watch different programs. The minute I tried to cut channels that would be the channel that my kids need or my wife needs. 

Or worst of all it would be the one sports channel that I don’t get. 

No way I’m risking this. 

The cable bundle is a great deal. The average cable bundle is $100 a month. That’s $3 a day for unlimited entertainment. 

Plus, if I suddenly saved money on cable my wife would just spend it on a fitness class somewhere. At least this way I get TV. 

Have great weekends. I’m about to Periscope live from the SEC spring meetings. 

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.