Thursday, October 27, 2011

Numbers on Helmets Flying Off

So last week I mentioned the incredible number of instances that BYU players were losing helmets.  The coaches made it a point of emphasis in team meetings last week and asked all of the players to tighten their chin straps.  The results were dramatic.  I only remember seeing 1-2 helmets come off in the Idaho State game, as opposed to the 15-25 per game previously (often multiple on the same play).

Well, it turns out that the NCAA has asked the referees to count instances of helmets coming off this season, and the number per this USA Today Article is 407 in the FBS through week 6.   That seems incredibly low--120 teams, 6 weeks--that means each team would only average losing one helmet every other game or so.  BYU alone was losing by my estimate 15-25 per game.  At an average of 20 per game, 120 instances  would be just from BYU... more than a quarter of them all.  So, either the number is severely underreported, or BYU really has a unique and significant problem on its hands.  Perhaps the answer is both... given the improvement in the last game after making changes, it would appear that much of it was on BYU; though the number 407 cannot possibly be an accurate count for all 120 teams through 6 weeks... more likely 3-4x that.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Reflections on Visit to Corvallis and Oregon State

I had a wonderful visit in Corvallis last weekend... it was a great day for a football game--nice stadium, crisp fall weather, and a beautiful drive through northern California (Around the Trinity Alps, under the shadow of Mt Shasta, over the many rivers of Southern Oregon, and through its hamlet-like mill-dotted valleys).

I won't really comment much on the game itself as it has been well-covered elsewhere, but in no particular order, here are a few other observations and miscellaneous thoughts:
  • The OSU fans were friendly, but rather indifferent. I don't have many data points, and others may have had other experiences, but I didn't sense the hospitality and gracious welcome that I felt in Oxford from Mississippi fans, or in Dallas from Oklahoma fans, for example.  Those around me (before, during, and after the game) didn't actually say much of anything.
  • The stadium was nice, but rather small.  On TV they made it look like a massive, NFL-like structure... And it was--on one side.  One side of the stadium had been renovated with an upper deck and dozens of new luxury suites--the fruits of BCS money and major conference TV revenue, not on field success or fan base.  The other sideline most closely resembled a Texas high school stadium and the end zones were along the lines of Utah high school stadiums.
  • I was able to sit next to two of Cody Hoffman's neighbors (a couple, perhaps in their late 50's).  They said that he used to come over and jump on the trampoline in their backyard growning up.  They had driven up from Crescent City spontaneously to see him and then to take in the Oregon game later that evening.  I am sure that this was the first BYU game they had ever attended, but yet they still both had put on whatever blue they could scrounge up on their closets, and we enjoyed high-fiving over Cody's many acrobatic catches and impressive plays.
  • I estimate that were about 4K BYU fans there.  We filled half of the larger endzone shoulder to shoulder (much of the OSU sections were only sporadically filled), and an edge of the smaller sideline about 10-15 seats wide all the way to the top.   Then there were a number of other Cougar fans sporadically spaced in the sea of orange and black.  It was probably 25-35% fewer than were at the Ole Miss game.
  • It seemed that we were losing players left and right--and knees primarily.  There were not many replays available, and I know that the injury reports are all out now (and if you are reading this, then I imagine you have read them too, just like I have), but I had to wonder if there was something about the field that was causing so many guys to go down that way.
  • Helmets... If I had a nickel...  I think we lost a helmet on just about every play.  That has been going on for a couple of years now ever since 2009 when we "upgraded" to the "improved" helmets now in use (Remember how Dennis Pitta used to lose his helmet on nearly every play?).  However, this year it has seemed worse than usual.  And, watching a game live showed even more than is caught on camera.  I have been saying this all season, that someone is going to get hurt this way... and sure enough it finally happened.  It wasn't serious, but the next one might be.  Other teams' helmets don't come off at even a fraction of the rate that ours do, so either A) the helmets are not well designed to stay on and we should switch to a different helmet style, or B) our equipment managers are not sizing/fitting them properly and need to reassess their practices... This should be done now.  Given the history and awareness of the problem, there are most likely legal/liability reasons to do so, if the safety of the players is not enough.