We're into the dog days of the sports calendar, which means that feuding cyclists and the words of football coaches who haven't held a practice yet pass for news.
Along those lines, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference honchos are discussing football's future postseason direction.
Specifically, the league is considering opting out of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs in favor of a bowl game between historically black schools.
Dennis Thomas, the MEAC's genial commissioner and the former athletic director at Hampton University, said that no conclusion has been reached, that the principals are in the midst of due diligence.
He said that a decision would come this fall, and if everybody chose the bowl route, the game would take place beginning in 2011.
Thomas wouldn't bite on arguments for and against a bowl versus playoff participation, politely repeating that the topic remains in the discussion phase.
Apparently, those discussions are to remain private, since North Carolina A&T athletic director Wheeler Brown said through his executive assistant that Thomas issued a gag order to league ADs about the subject.
Brown is about to begin a stint on the FCS playoff selection committee.
Pre-gag order, Norfolk State athletic director Marty Miller told the Virginian-Pilot that a bowl game on a big stage would be attractive for players, but that he understands the lure of competing for a national championship, as well.
The MEAC can do what it wants with football — Good luck and Godspeed and all that — but here's what choosing a bowl game would look like: surrender disguised as opportunity.
The MEAC hasn't won an FCS — formerly Division I-AA — playoff game since 1999. The conference's lone national title came in 1978, the first year of I-AA football, in a four-team playoff.
Since the playoff field expanded to 16 teams in 1986, the league has won just four games, two by Florida A&M in '99.
Should the MEAC take the bowl route, the implied message is: We can't compete, so we're going off to do our own thing.
This, of course, is untrue. MEAC teams have been a play or two away from playoff wins several times in the past decade, but were unable to close the deal. They have upgraded their non-conference schedules and expanded their reach.
As recently as three years ago, Thomas himself said that a league is judged by how it does in the playoffs, and that the MEAC needed to break its winless streak in order to command the respect he believed it was due.
What's changed between then and now? For one, three more playoff losses.
For another, the field will expand again, to 20 teams beginning this season.
So the MEAC is considering opting out of the playoffs at a time when its chances of landing multiple teams in the field and of earning more favorable posteason matchups have improved.
What message does that send about the league's willingness and ability to compete? Again, perception.
And what of recruiting? Which pitch has greater appeal: Come compete for a national championship; or, come compete for a spot in the Legacy Bowl?
Proponents of a MEAC- Southwestern Athletic Conference bowl game argue that a bowl game, with all of the attendant runup, is a greater reward for players and a program than even a two- or three-week playoff run.
They posit that few people outside the competing interests know or care about the FCS playoffs. A point worthy of debate, but how would a MEAC-SWAC bowl game be any different?
Some bowl proponents even forsee making money, through TV broadcasts, ticket sales and corporate swag. Good luck for a new game featuring non-rival FCS programs even approaching the cachet of, say, the Bayou Classic (Southern-Grambling) or the Florida Classic (Florida A&M- Bethune-Cookman), both of which routinely draw in excess of 60,000 fans.
One more point: At a time when the BCS and bowl system is widely reviled as exclusive and bloated and out-of-touch with the desires of everyday fans, a league that competes in Division I football's only national championship tournament might choose not to do so and to venture down the bowl path instead.
Maybe it's just talking points to take their minds off of the July heat. Maybe not.We'll see.
Dave Fairbank can be reached at 247-4637 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Fairbank, check out his blog at dailypress.com/fromthetarpit.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times