Mailbag: JJ's backup, Dallas title game, bias and the Pac-10

Welcome to the mailbag. I got a couple questions about what I meant by this line in my overview about the conference’s balance Thursday: “... Nebraska famously came within a second (and a few somehow-overlooked feet on Hunter Lawrence's 46-yard game-winning kick) of ending the Red River Rivalry's streak of Big 12 titles, now at six.”

Go back and watch the kick. Lawrence just barely slipped it inside the left upright. Not saying it was even close to a questionable call, but Nebraska was incredibly close to keeping the Horns out of the title game, and people really only talk about the Colt McCoy pass and not the Lawrence kick.

Moving on. Let’s get to the questions.

Ben in San Antonio writes: What do you think is the best solution for the Big 12 Championship location: rotation or one sight?

Tim in Nebraska writes: My biggest concern is the obvious display of southern favoritism displayed by Big 12 commissioner Beebe. A permanent sight in the South? How is that fair? I'm completely against it, but I have a feeling they are seeing dollar signs with that deal, and that's the bottom line. What are the biggest pros and cons I am not seeing?

David Ubben: This isn’t an issue of South bias, it’s a simple issue of venue. If Cowboys Stadium were “Chiefs Stadium” in Kansas City and Dallas played in “Tumbleweed Stadium” in Arlington, the Big 12 would be talking about holding the championship game permanently in Kansas City. Perhaps I’ve missed something, but I don’t see the NBA All-Star Game, the Super Bowl or Manny Pacquiao doing their thing in Arrowhead Stadium anytime soon. Cowboys Stadium has a novelty to it that won’t go away for at least a few more years, and the Big 12 wants to capitalize on that. Fans feel the same thing, to a lesser extent now, about University of Phoenix Stadium. People want to go to events just to be inside that stadium. Arrowhead doesn’t have that, and never will again.

Cowboys Stadium might hold a BCS game in the near future, and playing a championship game there holds a certain prestige. I was at the Oklahoma-BYU game there last year, and the stadium is exactly as advertised.

Secondary to this issue is the weather. It’s not a huge factor, but its something to consider. I was at the 2008 Big 12 championship at Arrowhead, and it might have been one of the coldest games I’ve ever covered. The week before, Missouri and Kansas played in Arrowhead in the snow. Even if the weather is bad in Dallas like it was for NBA All-Star Weekend this year, the game can move inside -- another luxury Cowboys Stadium has that Arrowhead doesn’t.

The location is most definitely unfair to North fans if the game moves to Dallas permanently, but don’t expect the stadiums to suddenly turn into a road atmosphere for North teams, even if the location favors the South.

Rodolfo in College Station, Texas, asks:

I've been to many Aggie games and I've had the chance to see Ryan Tanehill a lot. He had a great freshman year at reciever, but Sherman held him back from playing the position last year because he's also the backup qb. He's too good of a player to be sitting on the bench, backing up Jerrod. The Aggies did recuit some good qb's but; do you think he should sit the bench again and backup Jerrod, or should Sherman cut him loose and let him play and develop more at the reciever position?

DU: I think part of it is Texas A&M’s depth at receiver and Tannehill’s status as the best backup QB the Aggies have. They're pretty thin at quarterback; when I was in College Station, I'm pretty sure they had early-enrollee Jameill Showers working with the second team when Johnson was sitting. That’s not exactly depth under center.

So, it’s an issue of need. They don't need another receiver, even if Tannehill is one of their better ones. The Aggies have a ton of talent there. But they do need someone who's ready in case Jerrod Johnson goes down.

Steve in Olathe, Kan., writes:

In your opinion, who are the most objective journalists covering Big XII football? Are there any local writers you look to first? How hard is it to cover a particular team yet maintain objectivity?

DU:There are a couple writers among Big 12 circles, and writers everywhere, really who are notorious for being homers, but for the most part, everyone (in their work, anyway) is pretty objective. When that’s your job, it’s not that difficult. People are professionals, and when writers can’t separate their personal feelings from their work, it’s obvious. That rarely happens, but even when it does, it’s not like it entirely discounts their work, especially if they’re beat writers and not columnists. News is news. Features are features. Bias doesn’t really come into play that often with either. Reporters don't really talk about bias very often because it's such a non-issue; it's mostly a angry fan/reader issue.

The writers I enjoy reading the most are the ones who are the best "writers," who don’t necessarily cover sports, but write about sports. But with this gig, it’s more important to really pore into the work of those who know their teams the best.

As for how hard it is to maintain objectivity, let me stress that this is only my experience.

When you see a team every game and every day, you often remember the best of players and tend to have a very natural exposure bias, believing the team you cover is better than it actually is. But as for rooting, that’s really a non-factor, especially if you don’t have a prior connection to that team. I covered Missouri and Oklahoma. Before I did, I had no connection to Oklahoma and not much of one to Missouri. Even though I spent my college years in Columbia, I was an out-of-stater, and never really got into the success of the teams in any sport. Once I started covering them, it became a job, and you care more about the individuals you interact with often within the game than you do the teams themselves. It’s always good to see well-meaning, insightful or entertaining players who you enjoy covering succeed, but you become kind of de-sensitized to caring about team results, positive or negative.

Matt in Stafford, Va., asks: with a potential PAC-10 - Big XII alliance could we see the Hardwood Series move to the turf? That would make the normally boring first few weeks of CFB a little more exciting and provide a SOS boost for both conferences. It would also boost TV ratings for any new deal signed.

DU: That seems to be one of the ideas that came out of the meeting yesterday. I think establishing a series would be great for both sides, particularly with the TV ratings you mentioned. There’s already a lot of crossover, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a formatted competition. UCLA is playing two teams from the Big 12 this year, Nebraska is playing at Washington, and Oklahoma has played a ton of Pac-10 teams. To expand that though, would require the consent of likely all the athletic directors, which could be difficult.