April 17, 2014 by Charlie Eisenhood in Opinion with 41 comments
Welcome to the second edition of the Thursday Mailbag! With the College Series and the Pro Seasons underway, there’s a lot of good questions this week. We’re gonna kick things off with the question of the week (mostly because I enjoyed answering it the most) from Tom Cavanagh. Tom, you win a free pair of video downloads from our store.
Q: Do you think there should be an MLU-AUDL Championship? Where, you guessed it, both the MLU and AUDL champs battle it out.
– Tom C.
A: Let me ask you this: is there anyone who doesn’t want to see that? That is so obviously a good thing — it’s almost like how in baseball, the American League champs play the National League champs in the World Series. Or, in football, the AFC champs play the NFC champs in the Super Bowl. Wait a minute…
Before I get to how ridiculous it is that there are two semi-professional ultimate frisbee leagues competing against each other, let’s just consider this scenario.
Take the AUDL champions, the MLU champions, the USA Ultimate Club Champions, and the World Club Champions. Seed them 1 to 4. Clone any players that play for multiple rosters, obviously, so they can be on both teams. (Who doesn’t want to watch a Beau v. Beau matchup??) Then have a sweet tournament over a weekend in a populous northern city (New York, Boston, Seattle) with the two semis games on Saturday and the finals on Sunday. Make sure you have beer and concessions. People would legitimately fly across the country to see that event: the final battle for supremacy between the world’s best teams.
I need help thinking of a name for this uber-tournament. Someone will come up with something in the comments.
OK, back to this pro league thing. First of all, think of all the revenue these teams are leaving on the table. I’ll bet you that if the New York Rumble (MLU) played the New York Empire (AUDL) in a “Battle of the Boroughs,” it would be the highest-attended game of the season in NYC. The same could be said of Washington, D.C.’s teams. Maybe Vancouver’s teams?
Isn’t this is what business is about? Setting aside egos in order to make more money? MLU and AUDL. Let me tell you something. MERGE. Two pro ultimate frisbee leagues is crazy. You are both going to keep losing money until you recognize what everyone else already gets — there can only be one. You’re both doing some cool stuff: you really could do it better working together. Are you going to wait to merge until both of you have bled out money for five years and then everyone just wants to throw in the towel?
The attendance numbers from week one in both leagues are not particularly encouraging. Only one game (San Jose v. San Francisco – AUDL) had 1000+ fans. Many had just a couple hundred. It’s hard to gather fans when you’re splitting the base down the middle.
Q: I’d love to see USAU reach out to DIII teams about the timing of DIII Nationals. I know it’s important to offset DIII Nationals with DI Nationals for media purposes, but it seems like every year they place DIII Nationals on the same weekend as graduation for at least half of the teams that would be attending. This forces teams to pick from three bad choices: 1) Go to DIII Nationals with a depleted roster, likely missing many of the top contributors that got you there, thus making the event not actually a tournament of the top DIII teams in the country, 2) Go to DI regionals instead or 3) Go to DIII Nationals and miss college graduation. For many of us with family that must travel long distances to attend graduation and for whom graduation is a big deal, the third option is simply not an option at all.
Thoughts on holding College Championships during the week in May? Most schools are done with classes, and it would avoid graduation conflicts.
– Ryan T.
A: I’ve sat and thought about why this wouldn’t work, but I can’t come up with anything. It sucks that Puget Sound — the country’s top-ranked DIII team — is passing on DIII Nationals because they have graduation that weekend. That has to be the wake-up call to USAU.
Look, here’s the problem DIII folks. USA Ultimate does not care about you. Not in a malicious way, just in a way that nobody has heard of your schools and they’re never going to be able to sell advertising dollars or ESPN deals around your games. So you’ve got to make legitimate noise, and make it public if you want things to change.
Somebody should send in a well-conceived op-ed to Ultiworld about fixing this issue. A mid-week tournament makes a whole lot of sense.
Q: With some time to digest it, how do you now feel about the change in format for Club Nationals?
– Patrick S.
A: Huge fan. Big, big fan. It’s the classic issue playing out across ultimate right now — great move for fans, crappy move for players.
Players prepared all season knowing they had a certain task ahead of them at Nationals: grinding pool play, power pools, and eventually brackets. Suddenly, USA Ultimate says, “Hey, forget all that. Now we’re doing single elim brackets after a relatively meaningless pool play.” Obviously, players freaked out.
But if you were watching from home, don’t say you weren’t entertained. GOAT v. Doublewide in the prequarters. High pressure games starting much earlier in the tournament. Great stuff.
Should USA Ultimate have done a better job announcing it earlier? Obviously. But that’s USAU’s thing at this point, right? They always seem to be two months late on everything. They break big news on Friday nights. It’s frustrating, but also somewhat endearing.
Sure made for a fun lead up to Nationals.
Q: Is UNCW the real deal after a 15-13 loss to UNC at Conferences? Or is a loss of key player(s) the cause of close score?
– Jayson L.
A: So let me say first that I wasn’t at the game nor have I spoken to anybody about the game. But like a true pundit I will give you my uninformed take.
It’s a bit of both. UNC is getting healthy for Nationals; they are not concerned about getting a bid. They have absolutely dominated UNC-Wilmington all season (15-8 at Queen City, 15-9 at Easterns). They are just on cruise control right now with eyes on a National Championship.
Now, that said, I think Wilmington is a sleeper pick for a deep run again this year at Nationals. They mashed on Florida and beat Minnesota at Easterns. They also showed some inexperience and youth with their inconsistency. But the talent is there and they have been improving all season. The question will be: can coach Greg Vassar corral that talent into big performances in big moments?
Last year, they sniped Colorado in the prequarters with one of the best games any team played at the tournament. They also took half on Pittsburgh in pool play, but Alan Gruntz — the guy literally everyone (except his teammates?) hated — started a scuffle at the end of the first half that energized Pitt who went on to CRUSH them in the second half.
They may not be quite as polished as they were last year, but they are just as athletic. Robert Goode is going to ruin some team’s weekend single handedly. Very dangerous team in a one-off situation.
Q: With Central Florida winning the Florida Conference, are we seeing things return to the preseason expectations in the Southeast?
– Jon A.
A: Man, oh, man. Imagine if UCF’s roster issues had cost the Southeast a bid. And then they went into Regionals and swooped a spot at Nationals. The rage would be palpable.
Good thing that didn’t happen. Either way, UCF is coming into form right when they want to be. It’s hard to imagine that this team — returning the talent that they have — would never figure it out. Maybe it’s finally starting to click? They finally figured out their rotations?
Andrew Roca, the team’s coach, has really had to throw some things at the wall this season to see what sticks. He entirely abandoned his “business-like” approach that made them so successful last year. He started letting the team manage itself, removing some of the team hierarchy. At Conferences, he wasn’t even there on Saturday, and, on Sunday, he made the “line leaders” make personnel decisions for the first time all year.
“We gained a sense of responsibility and, more importantly, accountability,” he told me. “I give all the credit to this weekend to John Best, Mike Ogren, Alex Bullock, and Jeremy Langdon for exceptional leadership and even more valuable play.”
Hey, Southeast. If Best, Ogren, Bullock, and Langdon are balling out, you better bring your A game.
I’m gonna go ahead and pick UCF to win the Southeast. Those other two spots are sure going to be interesting. Both Florida State and Florida have scuffled a bit towards the end of the season after red-hot starts. Could one of them get stunned by a Georgia, or an Alabama, or an LSU? It would not shock me.