Nice Neighbors…

I bumped into a neighbor who is a reader of these rants and he asked me why I had not commented on the NCAA ruling against “satellite football camps”. He said that he thought the decision by the NCAA was narrow-minded and he was surprised that I had not taken the opportunity to use the NCAA as a punching bag as I so often have done. My answer to him was that at the time it was a “front-and-center issue”, I had not considered it a big enough deal to worry about. My neighbor said he thought it was “a really cheesy move” by the NCAA and that I should go back and look at what they had done.

So, I did. And indeed it was a “cheesy” move. Then again, coming from the NCAA “cheesy” is sort of the center of gravity of what I have come to expect from such pronouncements and rules interpretations. Nevertheless, let me recap this for you.

    The NCAA – prodded to a large extent by the folks in the SEC and the ACC – ruled that Jim Harbaugh could not hold a “satellite football camp” in the South hoping to get to know potential recruits there. Then, it went a step further and said that if/when a school holds a camp in its own facilities, coaches from other schools cannot attend that camp or participate in the instruction there – even at the invitation of the school hosting the event.

I can understand the first rule. Indeed, it was a power play by the SEC who have a vested interest in keeping Michigan out of their fertile recruiting grounds. I get that. I do not like it, but I get it. It is the second part of this pronouncement from the NCAA that makes no sense at all. Since this all started with Jim Harbaugh and Michigan, let me use them as the centerpiece of this example:

    Jim Harbaugh decides to hold a football camp right there on campus in “The Big House” where the NCAA says he is allowed to do so. He invites a ton of recruits from Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Western Pennsylvania and Western New York because those areas are proximal to Ann Arbor.

    He knows that all of the invitees will not be of a caliber that he will want at Michigan but he also knows that he wants to “be known” in a lot of communities in that part of the recruiting world, so he brings in lots of potential collegiate players – only some of them will ply their trade at some lower level program.

    Then, to help run the event and to maintain good relations with coaches at neighboring institutions at a level beneath Michigan, he also invites the coaches at Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Michigan Tech, Finlandia University and Albion College. [Please note: Michigan State is not invited to this hypothetical event.] Those coaching staffs decide to join in the fun to get to see some potential recruits for their programs (the ones who will not go to Michigan) and to maintain their local networking connections.

    The NCAA says those coaches at smaller schools cannot attend or participate.

Surely, those coaches now barred from participation did not petition the NCAA for their banishment. So, what is the purpose here? What sinister and venal motivation had to be held at bay with this ruling?

The NCAA has lots of really serious issues to contend with including the Ed O’Bannon lawsuit, the pressures to pay college players in the revenue sports and player safety as evidenced by the Ivy League’s move to ban tackling at practices during the season. The complaints here amounted to not much more than whining by a few coaches and athletic departments who were arguing from a point of transparent self-interest. My neighbor called this ruling “cheesy”. It is really nice living in a neighborhood where the residents are so polite.

Switching gears, in Spanish soccer teams compete in La Liga at the top level of the sport there and at the same time teams compete for the Copa del Rey. I do not speak Spanish but I believe that means the King’s Cup; it is a tournament that has been ongoing for more than 100 years and it is a very big deal in Spain. Perhaps, it is analogous to the FA Cup in Great Britain.

Back in December, Real Madrid – one of the top teams in Spain – was disqualified from this year’s Copa del Rey tournament because it used an ineligible player, Denis Cheryshev. Here is a link to an article in The Guardian that describes why Cheryshev was ineligible and what the ruling was related to his participation. In the end, Real Madrid appealed the ruling but lost that appeal so the club was out. Their opponent in the contested game, Cadiz, went on to the next round.

I have to admit that I had to go back and look up the references here to figure out what happened to Real Madrid in this matter and what the stature of the Copa del Rey was. Spanish soccer is not even close to my wheelhouse. What brought this to my attention was a comment by Brad Rock in his column Rock On in the Deseret News this week:

“Fans of Real Madrid are suing the club president after the team was tossed from Copa del Rey, due to an ineligible player. reports the plaintiffs feel they “had to endure being taunted in cafes and our place of work.”

“In America, that’s called life after losing the Utah-BYU game.”

I wonder if part of the pain these fans nominally had to endure came from fans of Barcelona – Real Madrid’s arch rival – because at the moment, Barcelona is the current holder of the Copa del Rey…

Finally, consider this comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald wherein he channels Carnac the Magnificent:

“Answer: The U.S. team trained in Miami won the World Cup of FootGolf, a sport played on golf courses in which players kick soccer balls into giant holes.

“Question: Whaddya mean there are too many ridiculous, made-up sports?”

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

Mea Culpa…

I have to begin today by correcting an error from a rant last week. I was talking about the impending retirement of Dick Enberg and said:

“Enberg had the call for the Ohio State/Cincinnati NCAA basketball championship game in 1961. That was the game that had Oscar Robertson on one side and Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek, Larry Siegfried and Bob Knight.”

I received a correction from the reader in Houston who is a top-shelf sports historian. I got part of the above right – but I depended on my memory and not on Google for the details here. Mea culpa… :

“Oscar was with Cincy in 1961, but it was the Cincy Royals of the NBA. He was in the Final Four with Cincy in 1959 and 1960, losing in the semis both years to Cal, which was led by Darrall Imhoff at center.

“The Big O finished his senior year after the 1960 season and played on the Olympic team in Rome beside Jerry West, which was a “dream team” before the “Dream Team”.

“Tom Thacker took over Robertson’s spot on the Bearcats in 1961. The 1961 game between Cincy and OSU was one of the greatest finals of all time, as Cincy beat undefeated reigning national champ OSU, 70-65 in OT, but since it was shown in only a few markets, it is hardly remembered by the public and media as a classic.

“Cincy also made it to the championship game in 1962, beating OSU again, but rather easily this time, as Lucas wrenched his knee in the semi-final win vs. Wake and was no match vs. Cincy’s Paul Hogue in the championship game, getting outscored, 22-11.

“Then in 1963, Cincy met Loyola Chicago in another classic game won at the buzzer on a put-in by the Ramblers’ Vic Rouse. Loyola trailed by 15 points with 14 minutes left. Once again, only a minority of us got to see the game on TV, so this game also is often overlooked as one of the great NCAA Finals of all time.”

Thanks to the reader in Houston for the correction and the expansion here…

In Boston, the Red Sox have put Pablo Sandoval on the DL with a shoulder injury. Some people have suggested that this is a phantom injury and the real problem is that Sandoval is too fat to play well. If indeed, this is a ruse on the part of the team, they have gone to great lengths to establish the hoax. Sandoval has had an MRI on his shoulder and supposedly will see Dr. James Andrews for another examination.

As all of that is playing out, Sandoval’s former trainer, Ethan Banning, said that Sandoval needs a “baby-sitter” to help him control his eating. The former trainer likened Sandoval’s eating proclivities to an alcoholic’s drinking behaviors. Obviously, I am not qualified to make a determination here and I have no idea if Banning has the qualifications to make such a diagnosis. What I can conclude simply from observation is that Sandoval is way overweight.

I always enjoyed watching Pablo Sandoval play baseball back in his days with the Giants. Even then, his physique was atypical for a major league baseball player; but he played with a flare and a joy that made him fun to watch. After he signed his 5-year/$95M contract with the Red Sox before the start of the 2015 season, he added weight to his already corpulent stature. This year, he showed up in training camp even bigger; some folks speculated that he was at or north of “three bills” and the added weight did not help him in the batter’s box or defensively at third base. He lost the starting third base job to Travis Shaw who is a converted first baseman. Let me just say in summary that all is not well in Boston between Sandoval, the Red Sox and the Red Sox fans.

Now there are also rumors that the Red Sox would like to trade Sandoval but – and this is too easy – there are two large obstacles:

    1. Sandoval’s girth – and –

    2. Sandoval’s large contract which includes:

      $70M in base salary through 2019
      Club option at $17M per year or a $5M buyout in 2020
      Limited no trade clause (he can block trades to 3 teams)
      A suite in hotels for road games
      A variety of bonuses for various achievements.

Obviously, if Sandoval has a shoulder injury that is serious, no team will take on that contract until the injury is completely in the past. Even if that injury is healed – or if it never existed in the first place – most teams will be wary of assuming that contract for a player who is overweight and hit only .245 (with an OPS of only .658) last season.

A trade might help Sandoval get back to a sufficient condition where he was a sought-after free agent. In the Boston area, there is a Dunkin’ Donuts attached to about half of the gas stations there. If Sandoval has an eating disorder of some kind, that is not an environment that would work for him. I have no idea how all of this will end, but I believe that Pablo Sandoval needs to lose 30 lbs – and maybe 50 – in order for him to be the player he was in San Francisco.

Here is how Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times sees this situation:

“If corpulent Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval were a car, he’d be in the shop getting:

    a) heavier suspension springs
    b) a gas-tank reduction
    c) a belt replaced”

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

The Wheels On The Bus Go ‘Round and ‘Round…

There is a small eddy current in the flow of collegiate basketball coaches at the moment. Let me hit a few highlights here:

    UNLV fired its coach in mid-season last year. On March 27, UNLV hired Chris Beard away from Arkansas-Little Rock.

    It took about 2 weeks before the pooh-bahs at UNLV approved Beard’s contract and even then it was a split vote to accept it.

    Soon after that vote, Tubby Smith left Texas Tech to take the head coaching job at Memphis.

    About a week after the vote to approve Beard’s contract at UNLV, he paid them the “exit fee” (reportedly $1M) to get out of the contract and take the job at Texas Tech.

    UNLV then hired Marvin Menzies away from New Mexico State.

    New Mexico State is on the clock…

None of this would have been particularly interesting without a comment made by the UNLV Athletic Director, Tina Kunzer-Murphy, as she announced that Menzies would take over the program at UNLV. She said among other things that Menzies “respects the tradition of Runnin’ Rebel basketball.” [Aside: Menzies was an assistant coach at UNLV in the past.]

I do not want to rain on Ms. Kunzer-Murphy’s parade here, but 99% of college basketball coaches respect the tradition of whatever college they are at now only to the degree that they do not get a more lucrative offer elsewhere. This whole round-robin started when Chris Beard disrespected the tradition of Arkansas-Little Rock basketball to jump to UNLV. Then Tubby Smith moved on so that Beard could make a second coaching jump in a couple of weeks. Then Ms. Kunzer-Murphy hired Menzies away from New Mexico State meaning that he showed no respect for Aggie basketball. All of these men had time left on their existing contracts.

    Memo to Tina Kunzer-Murphy: ‘Tis the way of the college coaching world. In most cases, schools can only buy loyalty from coaches. And when you “buy loyalty”, it really is not a high grade of “loyalty”.

While on the topic of collegiate athletic directors – sort of – USC picked Lynn Swann to take over the position vacated by Pat Haden recently. This is the third consecutive time that USC has turned to one of its former star football players to run the athletic department. Here is what Dwight Perry had to say about that in the Seattle Times:

“From USC football star to Trojans athletic director: Mike Garrett … Pat Haden … Lynn Swann …

“’So when’s it my turn?’ asked O.J.”

With the NBA regular season mercifully behind us – it began on 27 October 2015, two weeks shy of 6 months ago – the attendance figures for the teams are “in the books”. Here is a link where you can find the numbers for all of the teams if you wish. Here are six highlights that stood out to me:

    Nine of the thirty teams played to 100% of capacity – or higher – in their home games for the season.

    Thirteen of the thirty teams played to between 90% and 99.7% of capacity in their home games for the season.

    The Chicago Bulls had the highest average home attendance (21,820) for the season despite the fact that the Bulls did not make the playoffs.

    The “Kobe Bryant Farewell Tour Across America” was a real phenomenon. The Lakers played to the highest percentage of capacity in road games for the season (100.9%)

    The Sixers were not dead last in home attendance despite their record of 10-72. Both the Timberwolves and the Nuggets drew fewer fans to home games last year.

    The Sixers were not dead last in road attendance either. In fact, six teams drew fewer fans on the road (Celtics, Jazz, Kings, Magic, Raptors, Suns)

I read a report that the NBA “ruled” that a Sudanese/Australian high schooler would be eligible for the NBA Draft this year. The collectively bargained draft eligibility rules for the NBA Draft are that the player must be 19 years old and that he is one-year removed from high school. The player in question here is named Thon Maker; he is 19 years old and the NBA determined that he did in fact graduate from a high school in Ontario in 2015.

Maker is 7’ 1” tall but he only weighs 218 lbs according to a scouting report. He was born in South Sudan but escaped from the civil strife there to Uganda and then Australia. He has been playing basketball for only 5 years but clearly his size makes him a worthy prospect. Given his need to add significant bulk to be able to play inside in the NBA, it is unlikely that he will be an impact player next year. Too bad for him that Sam Hinkie is no longer making draft decisions for the Sixers; Maker would fit perfectly with previous Hinkie selections of center, Nerlens Noel, – injured and had to sit out a year – and center, Joel Embiid – injured and had to sit out two years.

Finally, here is an item from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“LeBron James signs lifetime deal with Nike. Am picturing LeBron, at 75, pushing Nike’s new line of orthopedic bedroom slippers.”

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

Tax Day…

To commemorate this year’s Tax Day, let me begin this morning with a comment from Mark Twain:

“Only difference between a taxidermist and the tax man is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.”

I think we can fairly surmise that Mark Twain would be in favor of “tax cutting” were he alive and able to vote in this year’s elections…

Recently, I mentioned the apparently last-ditch efforts in San Diego to seek approval from voters there to build a new stadium for the Chargers lest the team pick up and move north to Los Angeles. Obviously, that collection of issues would generate angst among the folks in SoCal as people take sides on the issues. However, there are two events that will play out in SoCal this summer on which very few people should disagree. This will be the last summer for:

    1. Vin Scully in Los Angeles broadcasting LA Dodgers’ games.

    2. Dick Enberg in San Diego broadcasting SD Padres’ games.

Both men are retiring at the end of this year after long and illustrious careers. Scully started with the Dodgers back in Brooklyn in 1950 as part of a three-man team to do Dodgers’ games that included Red Barber and Ernie Harwell. There you have a broadcasting trifecta of greatness. Just about every baseball fan knows about Scully and has heard Scully; I think there are elements of Enberg’s “backstory” that many folks do not know and I find them interesting:

    Enberg had the call for the Ohio State/Cincinnati NCAA basketball championship game in 1961. That was the game that had Oscar Robertson on one side and Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek, Larry Siegfried and Bob Knight.

    Enberg was not regularly on the air until the late 60s. He earned a PhD in Health Science from the University of Indiana and was as an Assistant Professor before going into broadcasting full time.

Lots of people will write paeans to both of these men as their departures from the airwaves become imminent. I want to say something about Vin Scully that may not be mentioned and it is something that I have come to appreciate a lot.

    I have never heard Vin Scully refer to the Dodgers – or any other team on the field in front of him – in the first person. He never says “we”; he always says “they” or “the Dodgers” or “the team”.

Far too many broadcasters today – particularly color commentators – use the first person and it is annoying and inappropriate. Broadcasters are there to tell the listeners/viewers what is happening; they are not supposed to be fanboys. Vin Scully has been on the air for 66 years now. I surely have not heard every one of his broadcasts, but I have never heard him lapse into “fanboy-mode” and that is something I greatly appreciate.

Let me stay in SoCal for one more moment here… The euphoria of Kobe Bryant’s final game where he scored 60 points in a victory needs to tone down a bit so that we can look at reality for a moment. The LA Lakers’ franchise is a mess. How big a mess? Consider:

    Over the past 2 years, the Lakers’ cumulative record is 48-116.

    Over the past 2 seasons, the Sacramento Kings’ cumulative record is 62-102. The Lakers are 14 games behind the Kings and just about everyone thinks the Kings are about as good as puddle of pig puke.

    Over the past 2 seasons, the Sixers’ cumulative record is 28-136. That is a whole lot worse than the Lakers’ record but remember, the Sixers were not even trying to win most of the time.

The Lakers were a benchmark team in the NBA from the 1976/77 season through 20012/13. In that 37-year time span, the Lakers won 10 NBA Championships and only missed the playoffs 2 times. And now, this is the level to which the Lakers have fallen…

Well, since I mentioned the Sacramento Kings just above, the team just fired George Karl after his first full season with the team. The last time the Kings made the NBA playoffs was in 2006; when the Kings hire Karl’s replacement, that person will be the 9th coach of the team since the last playoff appearance.

Shed no tears for George Karl. In a sense, this firing is a reprieve for him. He no longer has to deal with the dysfunctional roster and an owner who seems to model his ownership behavior after Danny Boy Snyder. Karl got a 4-year deal from the Kings back in Feb 2015 when he took over the job in mid-season; he has two-and-a-half years of salary still to go on that contract…

The NFL schedule is out and lots of folks are pointing to “key games” among the 256 contests on the schedule. I shall resist the temptation to make a list of the “Top Ten Most Anticipated Contests for 2016” or anything like that. I shall also resist any temptation to click on any website link that even sounds like that. However, let me point out something from the schedule:

    Christmas falls on a Sunday this year. The NFL will play 14 games on Saturday, December 24 that week and 2 games on Christmas Day. The Christmas Day schedule is:

      Baltimore at Pittsburgh (4:30 PM EST)
      Denver at KC (8:30 EST)

    New Year’s Day is also a Sunday for this NFL season. The NFL will end its season with all 16 games on Sunday that week. There will be no Monday night game on 2 January.

Finally, since I mentioned dysfunctional NBA teams above, consider this comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:

“Toymaker Mattel is out $3M after unwittingly wiring funds to cyber-thieves in China.

“Which is not dissimilar to the Nets paying Joe Johnson $25M for this season.”

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

Whither The Oakland Raiders?

News seems to be heating up with regard to the possibility that the Oakland Raiders might move to Las Vegas. A recent report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal said that Raiders’ owner, Mark Davis, would be in Las Vegas at the end of April to meet with the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee regarding the potential for an NFL caliber stadium in Las Vegas. Let me be clear about this:

    I have no idea whatsoever with regard to the stature and/or the importance of the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee so I have no idea if this meeting is completely pro forma or if this is critically important.

According to the report in the Review-Journal linked above, whatever recommendations this Committee makes this summer will not be binding on anyone but I assume that its recommendations will carry some sort of weight. If not, then one needs to question why the Committee exists in the first place and why any NFL owner would take the time to meet with its members.

Las Vegas developers would propose to build a 65,000 seat stadium at a site near McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas near the top end of The Strip. I am surely not any kind of “real estate mogul” with any kind of useful insight into the Las Vegas market, but I can offer this observation:

    From my visits to Las Vegas and traveling to and from the airport there, I think there is ample room to put a stadium where these folks say they want to put it.

    By the way, I believe the proposed site for the stadium would be within walking distance of the Pinball Hall of Fame. That should be a positive consideration for this Committee…

The Raiders do need a new venue; the Coliseum in Oakland is a dump – and I say that knowing that some dumps around the world might take offense at being lumped into the same category as the Oakland Coliseum. Moreover, the Raiders’ lease with the city to use the Coliseum ran out at the end of last season; and in order to play there again this year, the lease costs for the team went up by $925K. That may not be a “killer amount” for an NFL team, but any increase in rent for a facility that suffers from random sewage backups into the locker room areas is problematic. The lease extension signed by the Raiders gives them two 1-year options to extend the lease for the 2017 and/or the 2018 seasons if they have to.

The NFL has seemingly kept an “open mind” with regard to Mark Davis’ interactions and meetings with Las Vegas movers and shakers. You could look at that in two ways:

    1. The NFL has quietly come to grips with the reality that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas is no more a threat to the “integrity of the game” than is the presence of illegal gambling in every other NFL city.

    2. The NFL is allowing Davis to do this to keep the pressure on the folks in San Diego to find a way to build a new stadium for the Chargers there. After all, if the Raiders can move to a city that was not on the radar at the previous owners’ meetings, surely the Chargers can pick up and go to LA where they can be part of the Stan Kroenke real estate development extravaganza.

With regard to his current thinking on those sportsbooks – those dens of iniquity – that the NFL has sought to avoid in the past at all costs, here is Roger Goodell’s more recent commentary:

“[The sportsbooks] are things we’d have to deal with. We would have to understand the impact on us. Each owner would have a vote; it would be a factor many owners would have to balance; the league would have to balance.”

And …

“Relocations are always, as you know and we experienced it this January, one, painful, but two, subject to 32 teams’ view about it. They each make their own decision on that. That would be a factor that I think many owners would have to balance, the league would have to balance, but until we got a hard proposal that really put that in front of us, we’d have to understand what the ramifications of that are.”

A “relocation” for the Raiders might be more “painful” than it was for the Rams or potentially for the Chargers. The Rams paid the NFL more than $600M for the privilege of picking up and moving from St. Louis to LA. Stan Kroenke could handle that because his net worth is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $7B and his wife is the niece of the late Sam Walton who founded a company you may have heard of – – Wal Mart. Let’s just say she does not need to count pennies…

Raiders’ owner Mark Davis has no such access to those sorts of funds. If estimates of his net worth are accurate, he could not pony up $600M because he does not have it. And that presents a hurdle for Davis and for the other owners in the NFL. They will surely want their relocation fee paid; Davis will not get a free ride here. However, they may be leery of him taking on a partner with deep pockets if that partner happened to be a casino owner/operator. The league as an entity and the owners individually may be coming to a point where legalized gambling is not seen as the demon it once was but I really wonder if they are ready to have a casino owner as part of their exclusive club.

The Raiders’ fans in Oakland are caught in most uncompromising position. Their team plays in a venue that needs a $400M upgrade just to be classified as “woefully sub-standard”. At the same time, the city is in no financial state that would allow even a reckless custodian of the public coffers to spend something north of a billion dollars to build a new stadium for the Raiders. In San Diego, people talk about the absence of “political will” to spend tax revenue on a stadium for the Chargers. In Oakland, it is simpler than that; the tax revenue base simply is not there. Absent a “manna from Heaven” situation, the Raiders need to move out of Oakland. Maybe that is in the very near term; maybe it is in the intermediate term. But the team needs to move and the fans in Oakland need to deal with that reality.

Here is another comment from The Commish that adds some gravitas to Mark Davis’ flirtations with cities other than Las Vegas:

“There are several cities that have a tremendous interest in the Raiders. I’m hopeful also that Oakland will be one of those and that we can avoid any relocation to start with. Those are ultimately decisions about where they go and the impact that the potential gambling that we’d have to deal with. We’d have to understand it, we’d have to understand what the impact is on us and ultimately each owner would have a vote on that.”

Translation: You folks in St. Louis/San Antonio/Tidewater, VA/Birmingham who might want an NFL team in your area can start to dig deep into your pockets. If you do, we will keep your phone numbers on our speed-dial list.

Obviously, nothing has been decided yet and the NFL has not yet begun to put the squeeze on the cities that might want to have the Raiders as their own in the future. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize that the Raiders are a franchise that is “in play” for any city that Is willing to spend the money to bring the team to its area. Most importantly, the reason that the Raiders are ‘in play” is that the cost of maintaining an NFL franchise is not an insignificant sum for a city these days. And Oakland is not a city with anywhere near the financial reserves to be able to afford such “team maintenance costs” without having to do some painful “other things” like close libraries, curtail transportation costs, keep police and fire departments funded at appropriate levels, … you get the idea.

Now if you think that the Raiders’ situation is complicated enough as it is and that there are too many balls in the air for now, just consider that the NFL could someday decide to expand to 36 teams. If that is the case, then international venues come into play and all sorts of other manipulative factors will become paramount. The fat lady has not yet sung; in fact, the fat lady may not be in the building yet warming up her pipes for her song.

Stay tuned…

Finally, in a previous incarnation, the Raiders took pride in populating the roster with some players who had a few anti-social tendencies. However, Al Davis is no longer among us orchestrating that sort of roster-mix. But if he were, he might take a close look at the person described here by Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“Kentucky fullback William Collins faces charges after police caught him and another guy walking down the street carrying a parking meter. He was actually preparing for another weird NFL combine event — the two-man parking meter shuttle.”

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

Money, Money, Money…

Low probability events happen every day. According to a report in the Washington Post yesterday, the NCAA has issued a moratorium on approvals for any new college football bowl games for the next 3 years. The NCAA came down in favor of restraint and against incremental revenue. That is a low probability event.

I was unaware that three cities had applied for NCAA approval to stage additional bowl games and that the approval process was proceeding apace. Those cities are:

    Austin, Texas
    Charleston, S. Carolina
    Myrtle Beach, S. Carolina

Obviously, Kalispell Montana failed to get its paperwork into NCAA HQs in time for that round of approvals…

Last year, there were 40 college football bowl games requiring 80 participating teams. Not surprisingly, there were not enough teams who were “bowl eligible” according to the rules the NCAA had established and they had to figure a way to let 3 “ineligible teams” take the field. Let me be clear, the hurdle the NCAA established for “bowl eligibility” is not a daunting one; all a team needs to do is break even for the season with a 6-6 record. Last year, 3 teams played in bowl games even though they were 5-7 for the season.

The NCAA has a task force that will – nominally – make recommendations to the Football Oversight Committee by June of this year with regard to “reforming the postseason”. Even in the announcement of the existence of this task force, there is every indication that the NCAA mavens do not recognize the fundamental flaw in their postseason architecture. The task force will also determine “what should qualify as a deserving team and how a 5-7 team should be placed in a bowl game if necessary.”

What that statement of objectives for the task force means is that the NCAA does not recognize that teams with a 6-6 record are not “deserving teams” and only get to go to a bowl game because there is a glut of them out there. In any event, we will have to wait until June to see if the great black monolith from 2001 A Space Odyssey makes an appearance at any of the task force meetings and alters the course of human evolution/thinking amongst those toilers. I suspect that is what it will take for them to recognize that the “correct answer” to the problem here is to reduce the number of bowl games from 40 to somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-24.

    Not gonna happen…

Clearly, cutting back on the number of bowl games will cut into the revenue streams for college athletics and that is why this is not gonna happen. However, do not mistakenly conclude that the NCAA and the conferences and the athletic departments are destitute and running on fumes. Concurrently with the work of this task force which ought to recommend a cutback here, the NCAA has agreed with CBS and Turner Broadcasting to extend the contract for television rights to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

The reason you did not know that the existing contract was about to expire and therefore negotiations for a new one were underway is that the existing contract was nowhere near expiration. In fact, the current deal would not have expired until 2024; the current contract calls for the NCAA to receive an average of “only” $771M per year from the networks. ($10.8B over a 14-year period).

The contract extension adds another 8 years to the deal taking it out to 2032 and those additional 8 years will bring in an average of $1.1B. I am well-aware that there are lots of member institutions out there to share in the bounty here, but no matter how you slice it, this is a whole lot of cheese.

Speaking of the intersection of sports and money, the San Diego Chargers have proposed a way for them to get a new stadium in San Diego – keeping the team there “permanently”. The facility would have 65,000 seats and it would be municipally owned; the Chargers propose an oversight entity for the stadium that would maintain the stadium and run the venue for any non-NFL events that might take place there. Let me just say that there is nothing revolutionary about such a concept.

The way the Chargers propose to pay for all of this is for the NFL to kick in $300M and for the Chargers to pony up $350M. Over and above that the local government entities would pick up the tab. For the moment, the idea is for the city/county to raise its Transient Occupancy Tax – us normal folk would call it a hotel/motel tax – by 4%. Also contained in this proposal is the use of some Transient Occupancy Tax money to build a new convention center for the city.

This all sounds reasonable except for a few details:

    1. The site proposed by the Chargers is one that the city fathers have rejected more than once in the past.

    2. The hotel/motel owners and operators in the city have been dead set against any increase in the Transient Occupancy Tax every time funding for a new stadium has been discussed.

    3. There seems not to be a consensus in San Diego that the city needs a new convention center.

In any event, the Chargers want to put this question to the voters in a referendum. Stay tuned for posturing and positioning on that issue…

Finally, in keeping with the theme of college football bowl games and TV money and the like, consider this observation from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald:

“The College Football Playoff committee has altered the 2016 playoff schedule. This after we learned last year that Americans would rather spend New Year’s Eve with their face planted in a bowl of dip than watch a football game.”

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

Coaches News/Rumors… reports this morning on a rumor that Washington Wizards’ coach, Randy Wittman will be fired at the end of the season. Since this is a local team for me, I get to see them play more times than I do any other team. Here is my assessment of this rumor:

    The Wizards made it to the second round of the NBA Playoffs last year and some pundits thought that the Wizards would be the team in the East that would challenge the Cavaliers for supremacy there. That was pie-in-the-sky and not analytical thinking.

    The Wizards will not make the playoffs at all this year. Other teams have had worse seasons but the Wizards may be the most disappointing team in the NBA.

    The problem is the roster and not the coach. Unless of course you believe that the team’s failure to play defense for the entire season is the coach’s fault. The basis for the disappointment this season is bad defense – and bad defense means the roster is not capable of playing good defense or refuses to work on defense. The coach is only marginally responsible there.

    Another problem with the roster has to do with things other than physical skill;

      John Wall continues to declare that he is one of the elite point guards in the NBA – top 5 if he is doing the evaluation. He is not.

      Bradley Beal is a good shooting guard who gets hurt twice a season and misses a dozen games at a time.

      Their two centers could easily be named Slow and Slower.

I do not want anyone to think that I put Randy Wittman in the same category with the great coaches in the NBA today and in the past. He is better than average and not much more. However, I do not care who the team might get to replace him, the “new coach” is not going to win the NBA East with that roster.

Speaking of coaching rumors, another one floating out there is that the Phoenix Suns will try to hire Jay Wright away from Villanova once the NBA season is over. I am not Jay Wright’s accountant nor do I know Jay Wright’s accountant so the best thing I can do here is to take a wild guess at what he earns at Villanova. Given that basketball is the “big dog” in the Villanova athletic department and that Wright has been there a while, I will GUESS that he makes about $2.5M as the coach and then adds some pocket change on top of that for things like motivational speaking and/or a local radio program and/or stuff like that. The added stuff probably does not amount to much so let me GUESS that his total income is $2.6M.

NBA coaches make between $2M a year and $10M a year. Coaches for bad teams (Sixers) and first time head coaches are obviously at the bottom of the ladder. Experienced coaches seem to start at the $3M per year level. Billy Donovan left Florida last year to take over the Oklahoma City Thunder and reports say that he makes $6M per year; Brad Stevens jumped from Butler to the Boston Celtics several years ago and reports say that he now makes $3.6M per year.

Looking purely at the numbers, Jay Wright could take down a nice pay raise going to the NBA off his NCAA Tournament championship about a week ago. But I wonder if “the numbers” are the critical factor in this decision. After all, if my GUESS above is off by 20% to the high side, Jay Wright and his family are in no danger of dining at soup kitchens anytime in the near future. Consider:

    Jay Wright has “Philadelphia roots”. His family lived in suburban Philly and he graduated from high school there.

    He was an assistant coach at Villanova and at Drexel from 1986 through 1992.

    He has been the head coach at Villanova since 2001.

I am sure that an NBA team could make him a financial offer that he could not refuse. After all, reports say that Doc Rivers makes $10M per year in LA to coach the Clippers and that Greg Popovich makes $11M per year to coach the Spurs. However, the Suns were reportedly paying Jeff Hornacek $2M per year prior to firing him back in January setting in motion the rumor that they might go after Jay Wright. [Aside: Recall that Hornacek was the runner-up Coach of the Year in the NBA the year before he was fired and the suns were paying him $2M per year.] That datum does not suggest that Wright will be swept off his feet financially by the Suns.

Moreover, Jay Wright can pretty much run his basketball program at Villanova however he wants to run it. In addition to the NCAA Championship the team just won, Wright’s cumulative record at Villanova is a gaudy 354-157 – a winning percentage of .693. With the Suns, he will need to run the basketball program in concert with a GM (Ryan McDonough) and a majority owner (Robert Sarver). I do not know a whole lot about Ryan McDonough but I do know that Robert Sarver has a history of meddling with the franchise and has gone off the rails with his comments in the past. Google Sarver’s name with “millennials” and see what I mean.

If I were advising Jay Wright – and you may be certain that he will not seek my advice or read this rant and take it to heart – I would tell him to listen to any NBA offer that any team might want to put in front of him. However, if the offer comes from a troubled franchise (Kings, Sixers, Suns, Wolves, Nets, etc.), be sure the annual salary is at least double what you are making now and that the contract is guaranteed in total for at least 5 years. Even then, I would suggest it would come down to a family decision involving the preferences of wife and kids. [Aside again: Jay Wright’s wife is a Villanova grad.]

Finally, here is a comment from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding another member of the coaching fraternity:

“Jim Harbaugh made an appearance at the Sweet 16. At the current rate of appearances and sightings, I fully expect Harbaugh to show up in photos sent back by the Mars rover.”

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

Unlucky Sevens…

The number “7” was not lucky for two golfers in The Masters over the weekend. On Thursday, Ernie Els putted “7” times on his first hole in the tournament. On Sunday, Jordan Speith had the lead going into the 12th hole and proceeded to shoot a “7” on the hole and it cost him the tournament. Greg Cote put the Ernie Els “accomplishment” into perspective with this comment in the Miami Herald:

“Ernie Els 7-putted the first green at The Masters. There’s a phrase for that in golf: ‘Greg Cote.’”

The Internet is awash with mockery of the Jordan Speith debacle. One needs only to use Google to find plenty of it if anyone is interested.

While I am at it, here are three more comments from Greg Cote last weekend to bring you up- to speed on happenings in the world of tennis:

“Recently (I’m serious) the No. 75-ranked Hurricanes men’s tennis team hosted No. 41 North Carolina State. Um, is it possible college tennis might wanna tap the brakes on how many teams it ranks?”

And …

“Novak Djokovic won the Miami Open but Serena Williams did not. For once, women’s tennis is less predictable.”

And …

“The 24th-ranked men’s tennis player is an American named Jack Sock. He’s a shoe-in.”

Last week, the NFL organized and ran its “Personal Finance Camp” and 28 players (current and former) participated. This is the second time the league has done this; the “camp” is a 4-day event focusing on financial education. Given the stats that so many retired athletes face bankruptcy within 10 years of retirement, this sort of activity would seem to be very important and that is why I was surprised that only 28 players – along with some wives/significant others – were availing themselves of this opportunity.

The seminar – for lack of a better word – was organized by NFL Player Engagement in conjunction with TD Ameritrade and the University of Miami School of Business. Given that the goal here is to provide players with the knowledge they need to maintain financial security in the long term – after Father Time calls a halt to their playing careers – having access to professionals in academia and in the world of investing seems like a good idea to me.

Earlier this year, there was a Business Academy organized by NFL Player Engagement with cooperation from the University of Michigan. Similarly, the goal there was to educate players with regard to the world of business and business opportunities. Reports said that “more than 40” players and wives took part in those sessions.

Two things surprise me here:

    1. NFL Player Engagement is an organization/activity that exists under the banner of the league. I would have thought that this would be an activity high on the priority list for the NFLPA.

    2. There were about 1700 active players on rosters at the end of the 2015 NFL season and when you include retired players, the number of folks who might choose to participate swells to several thousand. So, how come there were so few participants?

If you are interested, here is a link to NFL Player Engagement and the various programs that they present. Until about a week ago, I did not know this entity existed.

As the baseball season begins to hit its stride, I guess it is time to take note of a few of the culinary options one might have at various ballparks this year. Here are two beauties you can get at Progressive Field in Cleveland should you choose to take in an Indians game this year:

    The Fat Italian: This is a very large sandwich that contains ham, salami, capicola, pepperoni, and hot sausage and then gets topped with provolone cheese, hard-boiled egg, lettuce, tomato, onion, hot peppers and mayo.

    The Spaghetti & Meatball Pizza: I guess the folks who concocted this bad boy thought that there were insufficient carbs in an ordinary pizza and to remedy that shortcoming they put pasta on top of the pizza dough.

If you do not have plans to visit Cleveland this summer but you think you might find yourself in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, consider this item offered by the Texas Rangers.

    The Wicked Pig: Start with a Hawaiian roll and pile onto it some pulled pork, bacon, split sausages, prosciutto and ham to give you a variety of pig meat products. That is all topped with barbecue sauce and cole slaw. Naturally, it comes with a side of pork rinds.

Finally, here is a note from Brad Dickson in the Omaha World-Herald regarding the local minor league baseball team, the Storm Chasers:

“Auditions to sing the national anthem at Storm Chasers games were held at Oak View Mall in front of 11 judges. There are only nine justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, right? Just checking.”

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

Sports Hash…

Today is going to be a jumble of issues – a regular sports hash. About a week ago, the US Women’s National Soccer Team hired Jeffrey Kessler and he filed on their behalf a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission seeking equal pay for equal work for those women. In the majority of sports situations, I would look askance at such a complaint because there is – I believe – a measure that tilts the equality away from women in most cases:

    The comparable men’s sport to which the comparison must be made brings in more revenue than does the women’s version of that sport. Pay is tied to work and work output to be sure but it ought also to be tied to the value of the results of the work – namely revenue in the case of sports.

In the case of soccer in the US, the Women’s National Team is more successful on the field than is the Men’s National Team and – even more importantly – according to reports, the Women’s National Team brings in more revenue to the US Soccer mavens than does the Men’s National Team. Jeffrey Kessler is not just some lawyer the women found by perusing the Yellow Pages; he is a formidable figure in the field of labor law and anti-trust law. I really hope he wins this case; the US Women’s National Soccer Team deserves to win.

In another area of gender equality, the IOC recently announced that they have been successful in increasing the number of women representatives on various IOC Commissions. IOC President, Thomas Bach, said that women participation is now greater than 33%; that may not sound like “equality” but it is a significant increase. Buried in his statements/announcements however was the fact that the composition of the IOC Ethics Committee [snicker] remains unchanged. The last thing they need on that committee is a fresh pair of eyes and a new set of motor neurons … no matter what combination of X and Y chromosomes might come with those eyes/motor neurons.

Over the past several weeks, there have been various reports saying that Tim Tebow is considering running for public office or that he is intrigued by the idea of running for public office or – – you get the idea. When I look at the caliber of the 535 incumbents in the US Congress and add all of the folks who sought to run for the Presidential nominations this year, I just shrug my shoulders and think that it would be difficult for Tim Tebow to lower the efficacy of that mélange of folks. Therefore, in the spirit of constructive suggestion, allow me to offer some unsolicited advice to Tim Tebow:

    Be sure you choose to RUN for public office. You will probably be less likely to succeed if you try to PASS your way into office.

A UNC fan has started a petition at This petition seeks to nullify Villanova’s win in the final game last Monday night on the basis of poor/biased officiating. As of this morning, 2600 folks have signed onto this petition. Here is the link to that petition in case you want to sign on.

By the way, even if this petition were to gain 2 million signatures, the message I would have for the originator and all of the signatories is very simple:

    Good luck getting the NCAA to pay attention for even a nanosecond…

The NFL will implement a new rule this Fall that would automatically eject any player guilty of 2 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in a single game. Coaches do not like the rule; I think it will not amount to much since it is rare for there to be two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in a game let alone 2 on the same player. However, the rule that might have a much greater effect on player safety would be a rule that links ejection to personal foul penalties. Consider one of these scenarios:

    If a player commits two personal fouls of any variety in a single game, he is ejected from that game immediately. If this happens in the first half of said game, he may play in the next game. If this happens in the second half of said game, he will sit out the rest of the game and the first half of the next game.

    A player is allowed 4 personal foul penalties in a season. Upon commission of the 5th personal foul, he is ejected from that game and will be suspended for the next game. For each personal foul beyond the 5th one, he will be immediately ejected and suspended also.

Speaking of the NFL and obliquely about player safety in the NFL, consider this comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:

“Isn’t it rich: If timing is everything, what are we to make of this? While the New York Times writes, and the NFL denies, the league under-reported the number of player concussions over the years, Roger Goodell will be honored next week with the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program Leadership in Sports Health, Safety and Research Award. Is this somebody’s idea of satire?”

Meanwhile, I think it is fair to say that Greg Cote of the Miami Herald is not particularly impressed with the news that the Cleveland Browns signed RG3 as their QB for next year.

“This just in. The Cleveland Browns are giving a tryout to Ryan Leaf and the late Otto Graham.”

Finally, here is an item from Brad Rock in the Deseret News regarding player names:

“A British man — with a little help from his good friend alcohol — has changed his name from Simon Smith to Bacon Double Cheeseburger.

“He says it hasn’t affected his job.

“’My work speaks for itself … people keep hiring me,’ he told the BBC.

“Somewhere Metta World Peace is thinking: ‘Maybe if I changed my name to Wendy’s Apple Pecan Chicken Salad …’”

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

Follow-Up From Yesterday…

As soon as I finished saying yesterday that perhaps one should not be hasty in proclaiming the Villanova/UNC game as “the best final game in history”, I figured that I would get snarky comments about being older than dirt and complaining that kids were always on my lawn. Indeed, I was tempted to try to forestall some of them by announcing that I had changed locales for yesterday’s rant from Curmudgeon Central to Geezer Gulch. What I did not expect was to get an e-mail from the reader in Houston who is my font of knowledge on sports history and sports gambling. I have never met him, but from comments he has made over time, I figure that he and I are “of a similar age” and that he has a better memory – and database – than I do.

Here is the text of his message to me:

“Was the UNC/Villanova Final Game on Monday night the best NCAA final Game ever?”

“You hit the nail right on the head when you wrote, ‘Do not allow the folks who produce sports talk radio or the ‘splashy’ ESPN TV shows to make you think that anything that happened before 1980 never really happened.’

“It’s a shame that hardly anybody alive saw or remembers the 1950 game at MSG between unranked CCNY and #1 Bradley. Actually CCNY had beaten Bradley the week before in the NIT Final also at MSG. (CCNY was a last minute invite.) In those 3 weeks, CCNY beat #12 San Francisco, #3 Kentucky, #6 Duquesne, and #1 Bradley. Then in the 8-team NCAA, they beat #2 Ohio State, #5 NC State, and #1 Bradley again.

“The 1953 NCAA Final saw Indiana beat Kansas by a point in KC. Kansas missed three shots in the last 10 seconds to win it. (Dean Smith was a benchwarmer for KU.)

“You mentioned the 1957 classic in KC between Kansas and NC.

“In 1959, California beat WVU by a point on a Darrell Inhoff tip-in followed by him blocking Jerry West’s attempted winner.

“In 1961, Cincy beat undefeated defending champ OSU (with four future NBAers and Bobby Knight – Lucas, Havlicek, and Knight are Hall of Famers) in OT.

“In 1963, Loyola came from 15 down with 14 minutes left to beat two-time defending champ Cincy on a Vic Rouse tip-in. That was the first Championship Game in which a majority of starters (7) were black. Eat your heart out Texas Western.

“But since those games weren’t on National TV, were not part of what we now know as “March Madness”, etc., it’s like they never happened except maybe to fans of the respective schools/teams.

“As far as recent best games go, how about Duke-Butler, which ended with Haywood missing the three-pointer to end the game. Butler was a 7.5 point dog. In 1999, UConn was a 9.5 point dog to Duke and they won, as the biggest point spread dog winner in an NCAA Final. When a big dog wins, it has to be up there as a “best” game nominee.”

So, as great as the Villanova/UNC game was on Monday night, keep in mind that plenty of NCAA final games have been excellent games and have gone down to the final play.

Allow me one more “follow-up comment” concerning the dominance of the UConn women’s basketball team and how that helps/hurts the sport of women’s college basketball. The UConn women won their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament championship on Tuesday night beating Syracuse by 31 points. I do not know what the final line on that game was, but at one point on Monday, I happened to see that the line was UConn – 26. So, if you had money on the game, it was “close” down to the end; if you did not have money on the game, the outcome was not in doubt for most of the contest.

In a blockbuster investigative report over in the world of business news, the revelation of the “Panama Papers” is that lots of rich people in the world use lots of shady dealings to avoid paying lots of taxes in lots of countries in the world. I sort of suspected those kinds of things were ongoing but the details provided here go far beyond what I had “imagined’. And let me be clear, I do not pretend for even a moment that I understand all of the intricacies that these shady deals involved themselves with. What I did notice was that there was a part of the Panama Papers’ revelations that intersected with the sports world and as soon as I read it my reaction was:

      Isn’t that special…? [/The Church Lady]

According to The Guardian, the new FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, is “mentioned” in the Panama Papers. Infantino is the man selected to take over from Sepp Blatter and the other rascals who raised the corruption levels of FIFA to such heights that FIFA actually challenged the IOC as the Sleaziest Organization on the Planet – in the category of “Non-Political Parties” of course. Infantino, the former head of UEFA, was portrayed as IOC’s reformer, its White Knight, its moral compass, its …

Here are three paragraphs from The Guardian report:

“Files seen by the Guardian will raise questions about the role Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino, played in deals that were concluded when he was director of legal services at Uefa, European football’s governing body.

“According to records, Uefa concluded offshore deals with one of the indicted figures at the heart of an alleged “World Cup of fraud” despite previously insisting it had no dealings with any of them.

“The emergence of the contracts from 2003 and 2006, which were co-signed by Infantino, link Uefa for the first time to one of the companies involved in the huge unfolding scandal that has brought down former Fifa president Sepp Blatter.”

If Infantino was the guy that the soccer mavens elevated to clean up the giant puddle of cat-vomit left behind by Blatter and company, then either the soccer mavens are easily fooled or the level of corruption in the sport goes down to the lowest levels imaginable and there is no intention to reform the sport at all. Let me recommend that you read this report in its entirety.

Finally, here is an observation from Greg Cote last weekend in the Miami Herald:

“Somebody check on LeBron James, make sure he’s OK. It’s been almost a week since he’s said or done anything to call attention to himself.”

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