Rest In Peace, Jerry West

Jerry West died yesterday at the age of 86.  He was a basketball lifer starring at West Virginia in the 1950s and then becoming the silhouette for the NBA logo.  I never saw him play in college, but I saw him play many times as part of the Lakers; he and Elgin Baylor were great fun to watch even though they never were able to break through the Bill Russell-led Celtics in the 1960s.  Praise for Jerry West rightfully dominated sports radio and studio sports shows on TV yesterday.  By all accounts, he was as great a person as he was a player and here are some of his achievements as a player; his NBA career spanned 14 seasons with the Lakers from 1960 to 1974:

  • He won an Olympic Gold Medal in 1960 at the Rome Games.
  • He made the All-Star team in each of his 14 NBA seasons.
  • He made the All-NBA team 12 times.
  • He made the All-Defensive team 5 times.

Rest in peace, Jerry West.

Staying with basketball, interest in the WNBA is soaring; media coverage is far greater now than it ever was; players are getting endorsement deals unheard of in previous times; attendance is way up as people are now setting their sights on seeing specific players and teams as they come to town.  And the WNBA is about to be the recipient of a huge bump in league revenues from a new media rights deal.  All of this is surely connected – – but perhaps not as linearly as it might appear.

Ben Strauss covers sports media for the Washington Post; he is a solid reporter whose facts check out with reality almost all the time.  He has a report in this morning’s Post detailing the “WNBA’s windfall” that is about to arrive.  There is too much info in it for me to try to summarize it’ so, let me provide this link to the article online.  I suggest you take a couple of minutes to read it.

A couple of interesting tidbits in the report:

  • The NBA still owns almost 60% of the WNBA
  • The NBA media rights deal – – expected to jump from $2.7B to $7B – – includes the WNBA media rights deal.  AND it is the NBA not the media rights winner who will decide how much of that new deal goes to the WNBA.

The NBA Finals are all but in the books after the Celtics won Game 3 last night and lead the series 3-0.  The Mavs two stars, Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving did their part combining for 62 points last night.  The rest of the Mavs’ team contributed only 37 points.  No team in NBA history has ever trailed a playoff series 3-0 and come back to win that series.

Moving on …  I always glace at the MLB standings, but this morning I looked more closely than usual.  The National League is a mess right now; of the 15 teams in that league, only 5 have winning records and one of those 5 winning records is 37-35 which is just barely a winning record.  Moreover, none of the three division races in the NL are even modestly “compelling” as of this morning.

  • The Phillies lead the East by 10 games
  • The Brewers lead the Central by 7 games
  • The Dodgers lead the West by 6.5 games

Back before the season started, I made 10 predictions regarding the 2024 MLB season.  I decided to review those predictions to see how they were playing out:

  1. Prediction: Dodgers Under 105 wins.  Projection: 99 wins
  2. Prediction: Cubs Over 84.5 wins.  Projection: 79 wins
  3. Prediction: Braves Under 102 wins.  Projection: 87 wins
  4. Prediction: Astros Over 92 wins.  Projection: 73 wins
  5. Prediction: Nats Over 66.5 wins.  Projection: 77 wins
  6. Prediction: Rays Over 85 wins.  Projection: 76 wins
  7. Prediction: Pirates Over 75 wins.  Projection; 77 wins
  8. Prediction: Tigers Over 80.5 wins.  Projection: 77 wins
  9. Prediction: Yankees Under 93.5 wins.  Projection:113 wins
  10. Prediction: O’s to win AL East. Status: O’s trail Yankees by 2.5 games.

As of today, 4 of the predictions look good and 6 are looking like losers.  If you take a closer look:

  • Three predictions look solidly correct
  • Three predictions look wildly off the mark
  • Four predictions are still in doubt.

Finally, some words from George Bernard Shaw:

“If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports ………



Gluttony …

Reports from yesterday said that Joey Chestnut will be barred from competing in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest this July 4th because Chestnut accepted a “seven figure offer” from the company that makes “Impossible Burgers” – – fake meat – – to endorse that brand.  It turns out that Chestnut only got a $200K appearance fee last year to gorge himself on Nathan’s dogs on Coney Island.  An entity known as Major League Eating puts on the July 4th extravaganza and was obviously saddened by the loss of the perennial champion hot dog eater; here is what Major League Eating had to say about the matter:

“We are devastated to learn that Joey Chestnut has chosen to represent a rival brand that sells plant-based hot dogs rather than competing in the 2024 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest.”

I see this as an evolutionary process and not some grand strategic shift of loyalties or anything of the sort.  Here is the path that comes to my mind:

  • Gluttony as one of the Seven Deadly Sins morphed into a “sport” which has now retro-evolved into Greed as one of the other Seven Deadly Sins.

So, which of the Deadly Sins might be next – – Wrath or Lust?

Moving on …  The NFL Training camps are still a month off in the future; teams have recently conducted OTAs – – Official Team Activities – – and are into the shindigs known as mandatory minicamps.  Notwithstanding the early status of the upcoming season, it would appear as if the NY Jets were in mid-season form.  It never seems to matter if the Jets field a good team, a mediocre team or a bad team; in any circumstance the Jets provide NFL fans with bountiful drama.  And so, it begins in 2024:

  • Aaron Rodgers – – the best QB in franchise history who has played all of one series for the team – – is absent without permission from mandatory minicamp.  Coach Robert Saleh explained that Rodgers was AWOL because he needed to attend an event that is “very important to him.”  Players can be fined for missing mandatory minicamp according to the CBA – – after all, there must be some deference given to the word “mandatory” – – but no one believes the Jets are going to fine Rodgers for his absence.  I will not be surprised if Rodgers does not make it known obliquely or directly that he considers it a breach of faith that the Jets did not excuse his absence – – the equivalent of giving him a Hall Pass for the minicamp.

And …

  • Haasan Reddick is also nowhere to be found in the Jets’ mandatory minicamp.  Likewise, his absence is unexcused, and Coach Saleh said that Reddick is subject to fines for his absence.  The Jets acquired Reddick from the Eagles this offseason and inherited his $14M contract for this season.  Reddick wants more and he wants it for longer than the two years remaining on this deal, so that is the stare-down underway for the moment.  Assuming that Reddick misses the entirety of minicamp, the next time Reddick is required to report to the Jets would be at training camp, and that is a month into the future with all sorts of opportunities for leaks to the “Insiders”.

Ladies and gentlemen, the NY Jets appear to be in mid-season form and it’s only mid-June…

Saying with NFL maters but switching gears …  I ran across this data recently regarding the standings of the AFC West Division for the last 21 years.  In that time span:

  • The Division Champs have been the KC Chiefs 10 times – – including the last 8 seasons in a row.
  • The Division Champs have been the Denver Broncos 6 times.
  • The Division Champs have been the San Diego Chargers – – prior to relocation – – 5 times.

Note that the Oakland/Los Angeles/Las Vegas Raiders are absent from that compendium.  Their absence here is all the more stark than is their dominance of their division – – under various names – – in the 1960s and 1970s when the Raiders were division champions 9 times in the 10 seasons from 1967 to 1976.

Next up …  The Canadian Football League regular season began last weekend.  The Grey Cup Champion Montreal Alouettes opened the season against Western Division favorite Winnipeg Blue Bombers and won that opening game handily by a score of 27-12.  The Blue Bombers were at home and were a healthy 7.5-point favorite in the game, but the Alouettes clearly dominated.

The Grey Cup will be hosted by the BC Lions in Vancouver in mid-November this year.  If the Lions want to be in that game on their home field, they will need to up their game; the Lions lost on the road to the Toronto Argonauts in Week 1 by a score of 35-27.

My “favorite” CFL player – – based entirely on his name – – is Bo Levi Mitchell.  [Aside:  I am a “Bo-Liever”…]  Bo Levi is a QB and is with the Hamilton Tiger Cats this season; so, I guess I am all-in on the Ti-Cats for 2024 …

Finally, since today began with a comment on gluttony, let me close with some observations about gluttony:

“Our fear of hypocrisy is forcing us to live in a world where gluttons are fine, so long as they champion gluttony.”  [Jonah Goldberg]

And …

“Gluttony is not a secret vice.”  [Orson Welles]

            But don’t get me wrong, I love sports ………



Danny Hurley Stays At UConn

Word came yesterday afternoon that Danny Hurley did not want to leave UConn to coach the LA Lakers and he rejected a contract offer that would have more than doubled the $32M he will be getting from UConn in his present deal.  I am not nearly qualified to say why he made the decision that he did but I will take note of the fact that nothing in Danny Hurley’s background screams LOS ANGELES or HOLLYWOOD.

  • He was born and raised in Jersey City, NJ which is about as like LA as day is to night.
  • He played college basketball at Seton Hall – – in South Orange, NJ.
  • He coached at Wagner College – – in Staten Island, NY
  • He coached at the University of Rhode Island – – in Kingston, RI
  • He coaches at UConn – – in Storrs, CT.

Danny Hurley is 51 years old; his life experiences have centered on the East Coast in areas lacking in glitz and glamor.  I am not shocked that he chose to stay in his comfort zone for $32M instead of striking out of that comfort zone to collect $70M.  It’s not as if his current $32M deal is going to see him and his family wondering where their next meal is coming from.

And it is not as if he is the first college coach of a national championship team to be courted by an NBA team.  I can recall Mike Krzyzewski turning down at least one such offer and there is a story – – perhaps apocryphal – – that says Red Auerbach approached Bob Knight after Knight’s Hoosiers won the NCAA Championship going undefeated in 1976.  Supposedly, Auerbach asked Knight if he would be interested in coaching the Celtics; Knight’s response:

  • Only if you guarantee that I will make more than the highest paid player on the team.

If the exchange really went along with that script, I suspect the conversation ended abruptly right about there…

As you might imagine the AD at UConn was happy to hear about Hurley’s decision; here is part of his reaction to the news:

“We are thrilled that Dan Hurley has made the decision to stay at UConn and continue building upon our championship tradition.  He has helped return our men’s basketball program back to the pinnacle of the sport, including back-to-back NCAA Championships, and we’re grateful for his loyalty to UConn … He will continue to bring great pride to Husky fans everywhere as we work toward a three-peat.”

So, fans and administrators at UConn got good news yesterday …  However, elsewhere in the basketball world, things are not going in a euphoric dimension for a former NBA player whose life has tumbled into a condition as bad as a dumpster fire.  Back in 2004, Delonte West and Jameer Nelson led the St. Joseph’s Hawks to the NCAA Regional Finals ending the season with a record of 30-2.  Both Nelson and West were drafted into the NBA; Nelson had a successful career; West’s life spun out of control.  West bounced around the NBA playing for 4 teams – – twice with the Celtics.  He also played for a time in the G League and in China.  He has been arrested on myriad drug charges and on a “weapons violation” about 15 years ago.  Last week, he was arrested in Fairfax County, Virginia for violating parole regulations stemming from prior run-ins with the law and for resisting arrest.  He has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder – – which in concert with drug abuse incidents has turned him into a caricature of his former athletic self.  In that recent arrest activity, police officers administered Narcan at the arrest site as an “antidote” for an opioid overdose and when that did not relieve the drug situation, the officers took West to a hospital for a subsequent Narcan dosage that kept him alive.

Lots of athletes have succumbed to drug addictions but many others are not tragic figures that evoke caring emotions in people close to them.  West does.  His former teammates and coaches have repeatedly rallied to try to help him stabilize his life – – to little avail unless you consider that West is still alive, not having been found face down in a ditch somewhere with no vital signs.

  • Sic transit gloria mundi …

Switching gears – – or at least sports …  Another athlete has had an unusual run-in with the law recently.  Xavian Howard had been a quality CB for the Dolphins but was still unsigned as teams began their OTAs last week.  Howard is now being sued by two different people for “circulating photos and videos of himself and other women having sex to humiliate them and cause emotional distress.”  I know, you are thinking that is gauche and low-rent to be sure, but the kicker that takes this one over the top is that the lawsuits allege that he sent those “films” to a minor.  I believe that is the point where the slot machine shouts “JACKPOT!

Here is a link to the story at about this whole matter.  Obviously, there are still tons of details to be fleshed out here, but I feel confident in making this assessment at this moment in time:

  • If Xavian Howard had been having difficulty finding a team in the NFL who wanted him at a price that he was willing to accept before this became public, his quest for a new NFL home just got orders of magnitude more difficult.

Finally, let me close today with some pertinent words from Will Rogers:

“If America ever passes out as a great nation, we ought to put on our tombstone: America died from a delusion she had Moral Leadership.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Mostly Basketball Today …

The kerfuffle du jour centers on the fact that Caitlin Clark will not be part of the US Women’s Olympic Basketball Team this summer.  Some have called it a snub and others have used that fact as “further evidence” that other female basketball players and unnamed various basketball officials are “out to get” Ms. Clark.  I do not consider this a snub; here is my take:

  • There are people whose responsibility is to populate the US Women’s National Basketball Team.  Those people made a decision; unless anyone outside that group can furnish documentary evidence that those folks purposefully denied Caitlin Clark a spot on the team, calling this a snub is irresponsible.
  • The people who made that decision made a mistake in not having her on the team.  I do not say that because I think she is the best women’s basketball player in the country; I say that because she is unquestionably the face of women’s basketball in the country.  It would have been smart to have such a figure on the team.  Remember:
      • Never ascribe to malice that which can equally be explained by stupidity.
  • In the end, I think this is a small benefit to Caitlin Clark; it will give her an enforced break from basketball.  Clark played for Iowa in the NCAA Tournament until mid-April; she started training camp for the Indiana Fever about 10 days later and has played in 12 WNBA games between May 14th and today.  The WNBA schedule has a one-month hiatus during the Olympics; Caitlin Clark can probably use the time off.

Since I mentioned Caitlin Clark as the “face of women’s basketball in the country”, that provides a segue into the next topic.  I saw one of the speculative articles projecting NBA Draft picks and it said that Alex Sarr was the presumed overall #1 pick.  That name rang no bells, so Google was my friend and explained to me that Alex Sarr was playing basketball in Perth, Australia last season.  I felt relieved to some extent that someone who could possibly be the first pick in the NBA Draft was unknown to me because he played about as far away from my quarters in the DC area as is possible on the planet.

I said here about a month ago that the NBA needed a new player to emerge as the “face of the NBA”.  LeBron James is 40 years old; Steph Curry is 36 years old; they can still play well enough to attract attention to the league, but their days are numbered.  I argued then that the NBA should consider paying a few young players to go to college and to stay there for 3 years to develop those players as brands who could enter the league with some background of recognition.

The article about Alex Sarr made me continue searching for other opinions on the upcoming NBA Draft.  That led me to a compendium by Kevin O’Connor at  He listed there – – and explained his reasoning – – his projected draft order for the selections.  So, I did a rundown on the categories of players; O’Connor listed the top 58 selections.  Here is my shallow analysis.

Players who arrive in the NBA from the G-League and/or playing in a foreign league do not present themselves as a recognizable figure to the US or the Chinese audience – – the two major markets for the NBA.  Players who only played one year of US college basketball might in a few instances be immediately recognizable, but the majority still need time to connect with the sporting public.  So, here is the data from Kevin O’Connor’s list of 58 potential selections by NBA teams:

  • Foreign Players last year = 13
  • G-League Players last year = 3
  • Freshmen from college = 13
  • Upper classmen from college = 29.

Only fifty percent of that projected draft played enough college basketball to have had a chance to make themselves an immediate marketing commodity for the NBA.  Surely, some of the players in other categories will become very good players and develop a following in their fanbases, but there are only a few players on that list who the average fan might be able to identify in a police lineup with Moe, Larry and Curly.  [Aside:  Kevin O’Connor thinks Alex Sarr will be the overall #2 pick this year and not the overall #1 pick if that sort of thing matters to you.]

Now that paying college players is totally above board, the NBA should consider identifying some freshmen who declare for the draft as “high recognition players in the future” and work out a contract with them that pays them to stay in college and play for US college teams until the end of their junior or senior year (TBD in negotiations with individual players) before coming to the league.  This has little to do with players “developing their game” before going pro; this has to do with players developing a connection with the audience before going pro.

Staying with the NBA, here is an item from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“TV timeout: Perfectly delivered sarcasm the other night from TNT NBA courtside analyst Stan Van Gundy as three officials reviewed a moment that never needed a second look. ‘I’ve heard,’ Van Gundy said, ‘from a lot of fans — they love watching the referees stand at the monitor and watch replays.’”

Van Gundy is totally right here – – and I particularly like it when NFL officials take 4 or 5 minutes to “get it right” and then half the audience disagrees with the call.

Finally, since today has been mostly about basketball, let me close with this comment from Dan Daly:

“To get called for traveling in the NBA you’d practically have to run the Boston Marathon.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



Another Challenge For College Sports

I am beginning to feel like Br’er Rabbit right after he began punching the tar baby. [Hat Tip to Joel Chandler Harris and “The Uncle Remus Tales.”]  I cannot seem to extricate myself from the tectonic shifts that are happening in college sports these days and one of the stories getting a lot of attention today puts another perspective on this stark fact:

  • College sports are not dead; college sports as I knew them growing up and as an adult sports fan are indeed dead.

And it is not just the players getting direct payments – – in addition to their NIL deals – – nor the de facto universal free agency of players via the Transfer Portal that have undergone change.  The rumor du jour is that the LA Lakers are going to make an offer to Danny Hurley to leave UConn and take the reins for the Lakers.  When I read that story yesterday afternoon, my first reaction was:

  • Why would he want to leave UConn where he has won two straight NCAA Championships to take on the daily drama that envelops the LA Lakers?

Obviously, there’s the money.  Reports say that Hurley’s deal with UConn is a 6-year deal worth up to $32.1M; other reports say that the Lakers are preparing an offer that would be worth more than $100M.  That is a lot of cheese, and that sort of offer would deserve consideration by just about anyone on this side of Warren Buffet.

But maybe there is more to the decision that Danny Hurley would face if he did indeed get such an offer.

  • Is it possible that the changes in college sports have changed the job of a college coach – – basketball or football – – to the point that experienced and successful coaches see the future in a negative light?

In fairly short order, the collegiate revenue sports have seen championship-caliber coaches abandoning their stature in their profession.  Here is a short list that comes to mind with no research effort at all:

  • Jim Boeheim – – National champion; retires abruptly
  • Jim Harbaugh – – National champion last year; leaves Michigan for the NFL
  • Mike Krzyzewski – – Multiple national championships; retires
  • Urban Meyer – – Multiple national championships; left for the NFL
  • Nick Saban – – Multiple national championships; retires abruptly
  • Jay Wright – – Multiple national championships; retires abruptly

The college basketball or football coach now and in the foreseeable future is not a teacher/mentor/coach; he is the GM and the coach of a for-profit enterprise.  Yes, college coaches have needed to do recruiting during their supposed off-season in the past; now, coaches need to re-recruit their own players in addition to seeking out others in the Transfer Portal and high schoolers who may or may not be ready for college life or college athletics.  [Aside:  By the way, the State of Florida has now cleared the way for high school athletes to receive NIL payments.  Raise your hand if you saw that coming; raise you other hand if you think that is a net positive for our society.]

About 20 years ago, Adrian Wojnarowski wrote a book, The Miracle of Saint Anthony; A Season with Coach Bob Hurley and Basketball’s Most Improbable Dynasty.  If you have not read this book, let me recommend it without reservation to any sports fan.  Bob Hurley is Danny Hurley’s father; Bob Hurley is in the Naismith Hall of Fame for his high school coaching achievements; Danny Hurley – – and his brother Bobby Hurley – – played for their father at Saint Anthony in Jersey City.  Bob Hurley was a no-nonsense coach who stressed fundamentals and strict adherence to team rules; that is the coaching DNA that must have at least some representation in Danny Hurley.

None of Bob Hurley’s players had agents; their version of a Transfer Portal was to move to another city and enroll in another high school.  All that Bob Hurley did was to coach basketball and to guide inner city kids to adopt a way of life that could serve them well into adulthood.  So, if Danny Hurley has even a partial interest in emulating his father as a basketball coach and a molder of constructive citizens, does he really need to put up with all the rest of the ”distractions” facing college coaches.

And therein lies a Catch-22.  If the distractions of college level coaching are burdensome and interfere with the job of coaching/mentoring, what sort of opportunity for that sort of endeavor might present itself as the coach of a team led by a 40-year-old LeBron James – – the self-proclaimed “Chosen One”.  And viewed from that perspective, why not take the humongous pay raise – – fully guaranteed of course – – and reinvent your coaching behaviors and beliefs?

Assuming that the reports are accurate regarding the Lakers’ intent to make a nine-figure offer to Danny Hurley, he will face an important life decision.  One can paint that scenario in the most dramatic of terms, attaching almost cosmic importance to the implications of such a decision.  Here is the good news for Danny Hurley:

  • At the worst he will be coaching basketball for the next 5 years or so and pulling in something on the order of $30M for doing so.
  • I believe that is called a “safety net”.

Finally, let me close today with these words from Danny Hurley’s father, Bob Hurley:

“Your mark is what you do on a day when you don’t want to do it. How good are you on a day when you just don’t have it? Can you push yourself that day? That’s a mark of your character.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



RIP Larry Allen & T. J. Simers

After focusing entirely on the future of college sports since last weekend, I need to catch up here with two sports obits. Cowboys’ and Niners; OL, Larry Allen, died recently at the too-young age of 52 while he was on a family vacation in Mexico.   Allen was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013.  Fans debate if Larry Allen or John Hannah is the best offensive guard ever; rather than take part in that sort of thing, let us just recall Larry Allen as a truly great OL.  He made the Pro Bowl 11 times in 14 seasons and was named as an All-Pro 7 times.

Rest in peace, Larry Allen.

TJ Simers also died within the last week; Simers was a longtime reporter and columnist for newspapers in Denver, San Diego and LA.  To say that he had a “confrontational style” would be like saying Hemmingway could spin an interesting tale.  On the day that Around the Horn debuted on ESPN, TJ Simers was one of the five participants:

  1. Max Kellerman was the “host”
  2. Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe represented the East Coast
  3. Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times represented the Midwest
  4. Woody Paige of the Denver Post represented the Mountain Time Zone
  5. TJ Simers of the LA Times represented the West Coast.

The reported cause of death was brain cancer …

Rest in peace, TJ Simers.

Moving on …  I mentioned last week that the Texas sporting authorities had sanctioned the fight between Mike Tyson and Jake Paul.  Now it seems as if that fight will need to be postponed for at least a while due to “recent health issues” suffered by Tyson who is 57 years old.  Evidently, Tyson has an ulcer in his digestive tract, and he has been advised to stop training for a fight while that condition is in an active flare-up.  One physician who has treated athletes with active ulcer conditions says that he recommends a minimum of three weeks without any athletic training activity to allow the ulcer to “heal” or at least to go back to an inactive state.

I am not going to pretend that I have any medical training or any insight into gastroenterology, but it seems to me that if one’s stomach or intestines are actively bleeding internally, it would not be a good idea to set oneself up to participate in an event where repeated punches to the midsection could expand the ulcer and turn it into a full-blown perforation of the alimentary canal.  I said before that this was not a serious sporting undertaking; now, with this new information, saner heads should prevail and find a way for these two gladiators to move on to other things in their lives.

Next up …  MLB has banned Padres’ infielder, Tucupita Marcano, for life for betting on baseball.  You can read about his betting activities here; not only was he an unsuccessful bettor, but he also made the boneheaded choice of betting on the team he was playing for in MLB more than once.

Four other minor league players have been suspended for 1 year also for betting on baseball albeit not on their own team.  Here is an interesting thing about baseball and gambling.  This year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will have a sponsorship attached to it.  You guessed it, a sports betting entity – – FanDuel – – is the presenting sponsor.  Talk about a conflicted message…

Switching gears … Recall last week that I mentioned the accusations leveled against former Jags kicker Brandon McManus by two flight attendants on the Jags’ charter flight to London last season.  McManus had been signed by the Commanders for the 2024 season, but the team released him earlier this week after taking about a week to “gather information”.

Remember, the difference between a cynic and a realist depends on whether or not you agree with him.  I have no idea about the merits or the bases of these allegations but as I said last week, this is a case where there should be plenty of witnesses to be deposed under oath to help resolve guilt and innocence.  Having said that, I am not even mildly surprised at McManus’ release here.  He is a journeyman kicker not an “impact player” or even a starter on offense or defense.  If the situation had involved a starter for the team, I am certain that the team officials would still be “gathering information” with the intention of finding some way to retain his services with the team. But in the case of a peripatetic kicker … cut bait and move on.

Finally, I’ll close with one of TJ Simers’ observations about sports fans in general”

“The three most important things in the lives of most normal people are their spouse, their children and the NFL draft – not, of course, in that order.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports ………



The Future Of College Sports – – Part III

Niels Bohr was a preeminent theoretical physicist in the early part of the 20th Century; he was the first person to posit atomic structure based on quantum levels.  He is also famous for saying:

“It is difficult to predict, especially the future.”

I have been wading in the pool of predictions relative to the future of college sports for the last couple of days and hope to bring this to a close today.  [Aside:  I heard someone in the back of the room mutter, “Thank the Lord!” and I felt that remark.]

With players about to be “paid to play” and with the current existence of the Transfer Portal, what you have on hand is a situation where every player is a college football/basketball free agent year after year.  I have already commented on the effect on “eligibility” and “enrollment” and “pursuit of a degree” under those circumstances.  In addition, it seems to me that this makes college athletes employees of the Athletic Department.

  • There are tasks to be performed – – games to be played to bring in revenue.
  • There are tasks to be performed – – to prepare to play those games.
  • People are hired to do those jobs and are paid cash money for their services.

That sounds like an employer/employee relationship to me.  So, somewhere in the future, it would seem that the school and/or the Athletic Department should be generating W-2 forms for the players who would then pay taxes on their earnings.  Schools would also need to contribute FICA tax to the Federal coffers for the players as well as Medicare deductions.  I don’t know if college sports will go all the way down this road, but it sounds to me as if there is a huge possibility that college football and college basketball will become not much more than an oversized minor league/prep league for the NFL and the NBA.  [Aside:  I suspect that any real progress along that line by college football would be a significant negative event for the UFL and professional Spring Football.]

I have read in various places that there should be a salary cap for teams as a means of trying to keep the playing field level.  There is logic to that; Big 10 schools are going to take in lots more revenue than Sun Belt schools; ergo …  Here are a couple of problems I see with that thinking:

  • Who is going to enforce the salary cap?  Whatever is left of the NCAA – – the entity that was just found in violation of the anti-trust laws?
  • Isn’t a salary cap itself a violation of the anti-trust laws unless it is created in a Collective Bargaining Agreement between owners/employers and players/employees?
  • Collective Bargaining Agreements arise from negotiations between employers and a recognized union representing employees.  So, college athletes would have to unionize to allow for a situation to evolve that could limit their pay.  Not a lot of motivation there …

I have long advocated a system whereby Athletic Departments and schools are separate entities with contractual affiliations.  The school educates students, and the faculty pursues research and knowledge; the Athletic Department hires mercenary players and tries to win games and make a profit.  For those players who are interested in and who are academically prepared to take courses in pursuit of a degree, the school would admit those players at a reduced tuition rate so long as they remained in the employ of the Athletic Department.

The Athletic Department in this model is a for-profit entity and would be taxed and audited just as if it were National Veeblefetzer Inc.  The schools would maintain their tax-free status even regarding money it received from its affiliated Athletic Department by dint of their contractual arrangement(s).  And in my model, there are two major potential disruptions of the status quo:

  1. Since my formulation of future Athletic Departments has them existing as for-profit entities, any contributions to those Departments by “boosters” may continue at the pleasure of the “booster”.  However, those contributions would not be tax-deductible because the Athletic Department would be recognized for what it is – – a for-profit entity.  Any or all donations to the college would still be tax-deductible so long as they went solely toward academic pursuits such as building a library or funding a professor’s research into something like the needlepoint artistry of the Visigoths.
  2. I am not an attorney, but it seems to me that my formulation might take Title IX and move it to the sidelines instead of putting it in the center of everything.  On one hand, Athletic Departments would not be in receipt of Federal Funds so one could argue that regulations imposed by Title IX would be negated since Title IX prohibits sex-discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the Federal Government.  The school would still have to adhere to Title IX, but the Athletic Department?  [Aside:  Perhaps the Congress could pass new legislation using its power to control and regulate interstate commerce as a way to get some sort of Title-IX-like regulation back into college sports?]

So, where are college sports heading?  Truthfully, I really don’t know.  There are way too many potential forks in the road ahead to allow me to feel confident about almost anything except the obvious.  College sports 10 years from now will be very different from what college sports were last year.  For example:

  • Is all the “conference realignment chaos” finished?
  • Or might the “elite elements” of the Big-10 and the “elite elements” of the SEC and the “elite elements” of the Big-12 and the “elite elements” of the ACC leave their “lesser brethren” behind and form the “Titanic Powerhouse Conference”?
  • Why not?
  • Will Congress “get involved” here?  If so, the range of uncertain futures expands exponentially as new regulations and new oversight mechanisms will necessarily have to come into existence.  Personally, I would hope that the Congress would heed the words of a former Congressman, Daniel P. Moynihan (D-NY) and effect a “period of benign neglect” on college sports.

Finally, I took up this subject after reading – – and quoting – – Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot.  It seems proper therefore, to close here with another paragraph from that same column that kicked this snowball over the cliff:

“For many schools, pay for play comes at a bad time. In the next decade, colleges will experience lower enrollments due to declining birth rates, which translates to less tuition money to go around. There’s a lot more here to contemplate than how much the star quarterback or point guard will rake in.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



The Future of College Sports – – Part II

Once athletic scholarships became acceptable in intercollegiate athletics, it took no time for bigger schools and schools with richer endowments and patrons to take advantage of smaller less wealthy schools.  The idea of “creating a level playing field” for all colleges would certainly have won a plebiscite and eventually a concoction that came to be known as the NCAA – – the National Collegiate Athletic Association – – arrived on the scene.  This Association would make rules that would – – in theory – – give every school the same chance at “athletic glory”.  Here are some of the mechanisms the NCAA used:

  1. Scholarship limitations in all sports:  A rich school could not offer unlimited football scholarships thereby keeping quality players away from opponents.
  2. Eligibility rules.  Players need to be enrolled at the schools they represent AND they must be pursuing a degree from that school sufficient to meet academic progress standards along the way.
  3. Recruiting restrictions I:  Wooing young athletes to come to various colleges can only happen at certain times of the year and the number of contacts made by the schools was limited.
  4. Recruiting restrictions II:  Only certain “amenities” can be afforded to students during and as part of the recruiting processes.
  5. On-campus rules:  Other than team membership and training access, players on athletic scholarships could receive no benefits or access that was not available to every other student on campus.

The first four of those categories of rules produced the infamous NCAA rulebook that stretched to hundreds of pages and at one time actually set forth the foods that could and could not be offered to recruits on a campus visit.  At one time the rules forbade offering recruits cream cheese for the bagels they were served legally; given that level of meaningless detail, it is not surprising that the NCAA rulebook was as long as it was.

However, it was that fifth category that caused the most grief.  Your average student strolling around your average college campus is not the recipient of any cash-money payments from the school for attending that school.  If athletes cannot receive any benefits unavailable to any ordinary student … well, you see the problem here.

After lots of acrimony and confrontation, the Supreme Court ultimately said that athletes can receive benefits – – to include cash-money – – for the licensing of their name image and likeness (NIL).  And just like water spilling over an earthworks dam, once that flow starts the dam is no longer viable.  The NCAA as an institution derived whatever revenues it did as a result of the popularity of the “major schools” under the NCAA umbrella; ergo, the NCAA did its best to avoid severe punishments for those “major schools”.  Enlightened self-interest is the strongest human motivational force.

Now the NCAA seeks to settle a lawsuit that charges the institution with violating the anti-trust laws.  When these laws were being formulated and modified and interpreted more than a hundred years ago, the legislators had no intention of sweeping a future college athletics organization under those laws’ jurisdiction.  And yet, here we are.  The NCAA meets the definitions of impropriety under those laws and the only conclusion is that it did it to itself.  The most generous interpretation I can give to the situation is that the “major schools” finally decided that they have had enough of the nit-picking by the NCAA, and they abandoned the institution and left it to fend for itself.

So, member schools are about to get millions of dollars from the NCAA coffers as a settlement distribution.  Where does that leave us?

  • “Minor schools” will get a one-time windfall of money.  How they use that money – – in theory – – is up to them.
  • “Minor schools” will continue to get smaller revenues from their media rights contracts because those instruments depend solely on public attractiveness of their games.  Here is a fact:
  • More people will watch SEC football games than MAC football games.  More viewers equal more media rights revenue.
  • Minor sports will bring in far less revenue than football or basketball.  Will they survive?

So, will the “minor schools” now have a level playing field with the “big guys”?  Of course not.  The NCAA never achieved that idyllic state; the absence of the NCAA will not bring it to pass.  The schools whose athletic entities are desired brands will dominate the schools who are only known as entries in the agate type list of scores in the morning newspaper.  If that sounds harsh, consider these words from author Christian Bovee:

“Life being full of harsh realities, we seek relief from them in a variety of pleasing delusions.”

So, what might happen once the fate of collegiate athletics is turned over to the marketplace?

  • If schools and/or conferences are free to pursue athletic glory and championships simultaneously with the pursuit of greater revenue and profit, why are athletic departments tied to schools other than using the school’s name as an identifier?  Maybe Athletic Departments can spin-off from schools, pay the schools a licensing fee to use the school’s name and then the Athletic Department can “go it alone”.
  • If anything like that happens, what is to prevent “venture capital” from entering the scene and “investing” in the athletic fortunes of Disco Tech?
  • If the NCAA rulebook becomes nothing more than an amusing relic of a bygone era, what is the meaning of “eligibility”?
  • Will future participants in college athletic events need to be enrolled at the school they represent?  Why?
  • Can college athletes participate in their sport at this level for more than four years?  Why not?
  • Even if enrollment is required somehow, why would an athlete have to attend even a single class should he/she not want to do so?  If they are being paid to play a game, why are they also required to care about learning even the first thing about anthropology?

Enough for today; I will – – hopefully – – conclude this extended ranting tomorrow.  In the meantime, let me close with these words from President Theodore Roosevelt about the value of a college education:

“A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



The Future Of College Sports – – Part I

Last week, I kicked the can down the road about the future of college athletics saying that I did not have a good sense of where it was going and what the ultimate outcome might be.  Those two major uncertainties still exist; but after reading Bob Molinaro’s column last week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot, I suspect I am not alone in my lack of understanding:

“There are many things to ponder about colleges directly paying athletes without complaining that it turns undergrads into pros. Anybody who thinks they’ve got a handle on this — even among school officials and conference leaders — is bluffing. It may take years to analyze the fallout. In the meantime, it’s generally agreed that the big-conference schools — and this is mostly about them — will do all right, thanks to their billion-dollar TV football deals. But …

“What about mid-major and smaller programs that don’t get as much from TV? How will they handle the finances of pay for play? What sort of strain will it put on their boosters when they’re asked to pitch in even more to bankroll the new revenue model? So many questions, so relatively little understanding of how it’s supposed to work.”

I have come to realize that there are at least two reasons for my confusion on this matter:

  1. I am not smart enough or sufficiently connected in the world of college athletics to be able to see through the fog and make out the future end state for college athletics.  I have no difficulty pleading guilty to this charge.
  2. The system is in such a state of turmoil that even the entity of college athletics itself does not know where it will wind up and when that morphology will be completed.  Sometimes when you cannot find something, the reason is more than the fact that you have not looked in the right place; the fact may be that it does not exist.  The next equilibrium state for college athletics may not yet be determined.

Historically, people were admitted to colleges around the world for different reasons.  At first, colleges were places of academic study and investigation.  Wealthy patrons founded the institutions and students were admitted because they were prodigies or because they had a patron of their own who would pay the college to admit the student.  That second route to admission was the start of the “legacy admission” system.

Early colleges did not have athletic departments because they did not play intercollegiate sports.  This was a time when the NCAA’s idealized “student-athlete” concept might have applied; students pursuing graduation from the school played games to pass their leisure time against fellow-students.  That state of affairs led to the occasional contest between a team from one school playing a game against a team from another school.  And off we go …

People in admissions departments swear that athletic successes lead to increases in applications; I will take them at their word for that.  More applicants mean two things:

  1. The school can choose from a larger pool of future scholars, leading to an enhanced academic reputation for the school down the road.
  2. The school can charge more tuition because the Law of Supply and Demand says if demand goes up and supply remains the same, the price of the service will naturally increase.

So, athletic success has enough to do with the ongoing success of the college that it made sense for the institutions to set up “Athletic Departments” – – and that move by various colleges led to the idea of the “athletic scholarship” which created an entirely new category of students on college campuses.  Some athletes are still indeed students pursuing college degrees that should benefit them – – and society-at-large to some degree – – down the road.  Along side those actual student athletes are some “students” who are excellent athletes but have no interest or intent to get a college education and avail themselves of the rights and privileges of a Bachelors’ Degree from the university.

That system of laxity for athletic admissions led to boosters and under-the-table payments to athletes, which has now become a set of almost overt transactions.  I was – – and I remain – – completely in favor of college athletes being reimbursed for the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL) but I never anticipated the sham sorts of arrangements that would come into existence in no time leading to the NIL-world of today.  Likewise, I have no idea how the infusion of several billions of dollars from NCAA coffers as a result of a legal settlement to schools and conferences might change the landscape again.  But I have a couple of thoughts about the future that are sufficiently crystalized that I will offer them up here.  Then I can wait and see if any of them turn out to have relevance to what college athletics evolve to.

  • As Bob Molinaro said above, the “Big-Boy schools and conferences” will go in one direction because they will continue to receive plenty of revenue from their media rights deals involving football and basketball.  But what about the “Litle Guys”.  The Ivy League has survived for 70 years under a mutual agreement to limit “athletic admissions” by eschewing “athletic scholarships”.  Might some other “Little Guy conferences” emulate that arrangement and create other versions of limited admissions?  The Ivies have plenty of advantages that allow them such a “luxury”; can other schools afford to copy the model?
  • Collegiate athletic conferences created long-standing rivalries.  Some of those rivalries have been sacrificed at the altar of “more TV revenue.”  What is to keep current conference alignments together should TV viewers change their preferences for teams and programs five years from now?
  • Might some schools simply abandon intercollegiate athletics if the costs get too high?  That would be a final resting point but perhaps some schools will eschew sports that are not sustainable financially.  Yes, that might mean the end of a school’s fencing team or its lacrosse teams because there are only meager media rights revenues produced by either.  However, it could also mean the end of football at some small schools where the costs of fielding a team are large and the revenue stream coming in is a trickle.  Could happen …
  • The current system involving the Transfer Portal is destabilizing; basically, college athletes are annual free agents.

There are more uncertainties than listed here; tomorrow I will take on some others. Until then, I’ll close today with these words from the oil-field firefighter, Red Adair:

“If you think its expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…