I read recently that ESPN had offered Skip Bayless a 4-year contract at $8M per year to return to ESPN when his contract with FOX Sports runs out in July – – and that Bayless turned that down and will stay with FOX. Supposedly, ESPN’s plan was to reunite Bayless with Stephen A. Smith on the First Take concocted-debate program. Ever since Bayless left ESPN for FOX in 2016, Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman have been the faux antagonists on First Take.
In staying with FOX, Bayless will continue to argue with Shannon Sharpe every weekday morning on a show that is strangely named Undisputed given that the two hosts argue about everything. Sharpe’s contract with FOX also expires in July but there has been no announcement regarding his status.
However, there is a report that Skip Bayless may expand his presence on FS-1 beyond the mid-morning Undisputed wrangling. Supposedly, Bayless would be cast in the role of a “debate judge”. He would listen to the argumentation presented by other sports yakkers on FS-1 and declare a winner in the concocted debate. If such a program were to come into existence, FS-1 would be inundated with debate format programming; there could not possibly be enough controversial sports topics worthy of discussion to fill four to six hours per day five days a week. The lineup would include:
- Undisputed with Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe for 3 hours in the morning.
- Speak For Yourself with Marcellus Wiley and Emmanuel Acho for 2 hours in the late afternoon.
- Whatever They Call This New Skip Bayless as a Debate Judge Show for some period of time 5 days a week.
- The only place to find enough controversy to fill that amount of time with blather that is only sometimes relevant would be in the two houses of the US Congress…
[Aside: I mentioned Emmanuel Acho above. He delivers his arguments with the force and verve of an evangelical preacher even if the content of his remarks is no more controversial than a weather report. Sometimes I begin to laugh when he is “making his points” because of his delivery and I miss out on the content.]
The ACC basketball tournament has been contaminated by the coronavirus twice in the past couple of days. Duke had to withdraw from the tournament earlier this week when there was a positive COVID-19 test within the Duke basketball program; early this morning, UVA had to withdraw from the tournament and forfeit its semi-final game to Georgia Tech because there was a positive test for a player on the UVA team.
Duke is an unlikely at-large entry into this year’s March Madness. If they do get an invitation, it will be a basketball equivalent of a “Lifetime Achievement Award”; this year’s Duke squad is not nearly as powerful as the ones that fans have come to expect for most of the Mike Krzyzewski Era in Durham. Virginia is another story…
Virginia is going to get an at-large invitation and should wind up with a solid seeding in the national tournament. However, reports say that the positive COVID-19 test in the UVA case was a player who participated in the Cavaliers’ last game on Thursday against Syracuse, so the team could be down an important player for the NCAA tournament games. The NCAA protocol for COVID-19 and the teams arriving in Indianapolis for the games requires all players, coaches and staff traveling with the team to have seven consecutive negative COVID-19 tests before they arrive in Indianapolis. Tournament games begin next Friday, and UVA has at least 1 player who may not be able to meet that criterion to go with the team to Indianapolis for the first-round games.
For the record, Virginia is the reigning NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion going back to 2019 given the fact that the coronavirus shut down the 2020 tournament completely. That gap in crowning a champion is the first one since the NCAA basketball tournament came into existence in 1939. The tournament began with 8 teams and stayed at that number from 1939 until 1950. The field went through continuous expansion and reached 64 teams in 1985 and has been set at 68 teams ever since 2011. Here are a couple of “fun facts” about the basketball tournament:
- UNC has had a #1 seed more often than any other school.
- Play-in games began way back in 1984 when there were 52 teams in the tournament and the top 16 teams were given Byes. That left 36 remining teams requiring 4 play-in games to cut that “remaining field” to 32 teams. The 32 teams would then cut to 16 teams and meet the teams on a Bye.
- The lowest seeded team to win the National Championship was Villanova in 1985. That is the year the Wildcats beat Georgetown with Patrick Ewing in a major upset; Villanova had been an 8-seed in that tournament; Georgetown was a 1-seed. Georgetown was a 9-point favorite in that game and lost by 2 points.
- Only once has the Final Four been made up of all the #1 seeded teams – since the expansion to 64 teams in the field. That was in 2008 and the schools were Kansas, Memphis, UCLA and UNC.
- The Final Four has taken place 7 times in Madison Square Garden in NYC but the last time it was there was in 1950.
- Naturally, here in Curmudgeon Central we look for frustration factors whenever possible. There are schools that have never participated in the NCAA tournament but for teams that have been there, Dartmouth has the longest stretch between appearances. Dartmouth was in the tournament in 1959; they have not been there since then; they will not be there again this year because the Ivy League canceled its entire basketball season.
Finally, with the basketball tournament virtually upon us, consider this observation by Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“Think there might be a future Baskin & Robbins endorsement for Oklahoma State basketballer Ferron Flavors Jr.?
“Looks like he’s banking on it: Flavors wears jersey No. 31.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………