September 12, 2011

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Q&A with Bill Hancock, Executive Director of the Bowl Championship Series

By: Anson Whaley

Since college football season is here, arguments about the BCS will begin before you know it. With that in mind, I went straight to the guy at the top – BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock. Bill provided his thoughts on the system, why a tournament isn’t best for college football, and conference expansion.

 

Fathead: Obviously, as the season goes on and anticipation grows about who might play in the BCS, things are pretty busy for you. But are you able to get away from it all in the offseason? What type of things do you work on during college football’s ‘off’ months?

 Bill Hancock/BCS: I love my job, but yes, I’m pretty good at getting away.  My interests are my three grandchildren, history, the outdoors, classical music and exercise.  I was lucky to have indulged in all of those during the brief “off” season.  I hiked in Colorado, went to little league games and concerts, read a great book about post-World War II Europe and ran or rode my bike every day.

 

You’ve spent a large part of your life affiliated with the media as a journalism student in college and working as an SID, media relations director, and a newspaper editor for many years.  Being out in the front defending the BCS is part of your job as the Executive Director, so is it safe to say that experience helped prepare you for your current role?

 Journalism is a great teacher.  I learned to listen, to work hard, to write and to understand others’ perspectives.  I was lucky to have grown up in the newspaper business. 

 

Lots of folks think of the BCS as a faceless system, but the fact is that you’re actually extremely visible. Even while making valid points, do you get frustrated about the amount of anger of non-BCS supporters when it comes to defending the system?

 The First Amendment is alive and well.  Thank goodness.  But I must admit that, when I took this job, I did not anticipate the nasty personal attacks.  Some of our critics are bringing slash-and-burn Washington politics to college sports, and I think that may backfire.  I don’t think sports fans appreciate those antics.

 

Many fans probably don’t realize that you were previously the Director for the NCAA’s Final Four. I find it interesting that you were the head of a tournament format championship and now, the BCS. Having seen the wild success of the NCAA tournament up close, why do you feel that the same system (or a shorter modified version of it) would not work in college football?

 Every sport is different, and it’s inappropriate to expect them to be clones of each other.  Basketball is a tournament sport; teams often play three games in a week.  The physical nature of football precludes that.  One coach told me that a football playoff would not be decided on the field, but in the training room instead.  I believe that. 

 

Just as much as you’re involved with the business-side of college football, you’re a fan. What are your thoughts on conference realignment and expansion? In addition, would you rather see the current number of conferences remain the same or fewer, larger mega conferences as have been discussed?

 Yes, I’m a huge fan.  I love college sports.  It’s important for people to remember the history: schools have been changing conferences forever.  For example, people were very frustrated in 1927 when Oklahoma, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Missouri and Nebraska abandoned the Missouri Valley to create the Big Six Conference.  That was nearly 85 years ago!  Still, I was intrigued by Grant Teaff’s comment; he said he had a hard time seeing how the current speculated realignment will be good for college football.  History will give us the best perspective. 

 

If there is conference realignment, how do you think that would affect the BCS?

 The BCS has strong support from the college presidents, athletic directors, coaches and commissioners.  I don’t envision realignment changing that.

 

Regardless of the varying opinions about the BCS, most people realize that the current system is better than the previous one, which didn’t always showcase a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. Still, there have been worthy teams from non-BCS conferences on the outside looking in from time to time. While the BCS has found ways to integrate them into the bowl lineup, we haven’t yet seen one play for a championship. Do you think that can/will ever happen?

 First of all, every conference is a BCS conference.  I work for all 11 commissioners, and they all manage the BCS together.  You’re right; the BCS has provided significantly more revenue, and more access to the top-tier bowl games by the non-AQ conferences than ever before.   Those conferences definitely are on the inside!  I do think a team from a non-AQ conference will play in the championship game someday.  It nearly happened last year. 

 

I imagine that you answer this question nearly every day in some form or another, but in a nutshell, why does the BCS work?

 The BCS works because it allows the top two teams to meet in a bowl game while (1) preserving the best regular season in sports—you know, we have three months of madness and (2) preserving the bowl tradition and the bowl experience for the student-athletes.

August 8, 2011

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NBA Lockout Far Different Than NFL Version

By: Anson Whaley

When it comes to lockouts in professional sports ending a season, my stance is generally that things will sort themselves out before a season is lost. Obviously that’s not always the case as the 2005 NHL work stoppage proved, but the recent NFL lockout was the perfect example that the opportunity exists for logic and common sense to win out. In short, the players need the money and owners of profitable teams don’t want to lose cash flow or goodwill they’ve spent years building up with communities. Sports, in essence, are one of the most important things to a city. Even when things may not be going well economically, residents can look forward to the fact that they have a team they can support.

An NFL lockout was averted at the last minute and not only will there be a NFL season in 2011, it will be a complete one save for the annual preseason NFL Hall of Fame game. Unfortunately for NBA fans, though, the NBA lockout may have a far different outcome since the players and owners have legitimate reasons for not rushing into a deal.

The biggest reason that NBA players will be able to afford to hold out for a better deal is because of the number of professional leagues overseas. Unlike the NFL where few viable professional leagues exist, basketball has become a global sport and there are numerous options available in Europe to NBA stars. The most important aspect of all of this is that players can not only make money, but good money. Some teams may even pay additional expenses such as apartment rentals.

Some lower-level players are already signing contracts overseas and even some of the league’s biggest stars such as Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, and Dwight Howard are said to be giving the option significant consideration. Most players would not dream of risking the ability to play in the NBA in the event there is a season, so over the next few weeks, you can expect to see more and more players sign overseas deals with clauses allowing them to return to their respective NBA clubs once the lockout ends. Under that scenario, the players can earn money but still return to the NBA once the opportunity exists. In addition, those taking advantage of that situation will also be in far better physical shape than athletes sitting at home busy filling out their NFL fantasy football rosters and will have the opportunity to face some quality competition. Players will not only benefit financially by playing overseas, but they should also perform better once the season starts.

Will these players get a chance for another NBA Title?

In addition, the owners also have an incentive to wait until a better situation comes along. In the midst of the NBA season last year, the league claimed that 22 of its 30 teams were losing money. That’s a far different situation than the NFL, which is an enormous moneymaker. At this point, many NBA teams may be better off waiting until they can be more profitable. As much fun as it might sound to hold the keys to an NBA franchise, owners are ultimately in business to make money. For teams losing money, the prospect of not playing a season may not sound all that frightening. 

A factor that both sides will take into consideration is that the season is far longer than that of the NFL. With the playoffs, an NBA season can last about eight months. Add in training camp and the NBA offseason for teams that advance deep into the postseason is an extremely short break compared to their NFL counterparts. Some NBA players would welcome more time off and as the owners know from the lockout in 1998-99, a season can still be played even if it doesn’t start until later in the year. Both sides can do their best to negotiate a fair deal and still make some money by salvaging part of the season.

Unlike the NFL, NBA fans may unfortunately be in for a lockout that wipes out part or all of the season if negotiations don’t pick up.

May 12, 2011

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Golf world loses a legend

By: Joe Williams

The golf world lost one of its greats last week when Seve Ballesteros lost his battle with brain cancer at the age of 54.

He is one of the few that have held the number one spot in the world rankings. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1999. He had 91 professional wins including five major championships.

It wasn’t just the wins that made Ballesteros great. It was the way he played to win that made him so memorable.

PGA President Allen Wronowski said in a statement: “In every generation, there appears one performer in sport who stands out above another for more than just ability alone. Seve Ballesteros, the gallant warrior from Pedrena, Spain, was the ultimate competitor. We were fortunate to have had him choose golf, where he did more than win championships, but proudly became an ambassador for our sport’s global appeal. Seve played with a rare combination of talent and heart, and his intensity endeared him to his teammates in the Ryder Cup, a competition that elevated his talent and leadership. As long as the pipes may play to call teams together for the Ryder Cup, they will play for Seve. We shall miss him dearly, and we mourn with his family and his many friends and fans throughout the world.”

Much like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods do today, Ballesteros routinely pulled off shots that others wouldn’t dare to try. As Tiger Woods said on Twitter, “Seve was one of the most talented and excited golfers to ever play the game. His creativity and inventiveness on the golf course may never be surpassed. His death came much too soon.”

Perhaps his greatest accomplishment is what he did for European golf. He was the reason the Ryder Cup was expanded in 1979 to include continental Europe. He had a 20-12-5 record in eight appearances in the Ryder Cup and turned the tide in Europe’s favor. He teamed with fellow Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal to form a nearly unbeatable team that became known as “The Spanish Armada”. He also led Europe to victory in 1997 as team captain. He is the epitome of the spirit of the Ryder Cup.

Today’s No. 1 player in the world, Lee Westwood, said on Twitter, “Seve made European golf what it is today.”

Seve was a unique blend of talent, charisma, desire and fearlessness. He hit numerous shots that will never be forgotten. And neither will he. Golf was never the same because of Seve and it will not be the same without him.

July 7, 2010

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Charles’ Warning to ‘Murrica: ModaNO!

By: Charles

Boys and girls, it’s time we discussed the most terrifying threat to our national security. This is the most sinister Commie plot ever conceived. No, not the fluoridation of our water, but the very real possibility that Mike Modano AKA “Livonia Jesus” might return to the parched and barren pastures which he once called home: the greater Detroit Metropolitan area. In Modano’s inspiring and Hall of Fame career, he has managed to disentangle himself from the shackles of his evil roots and become possibly the greatest American to ever play the game, but now that he is a free agent, he might make his way back to Mordor and sign with the Legion of Doom (with Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Todd Bertuzzi, and, most diabolical of all, Tomas Holmström- the umlauts let you know how truly evil he is).

Why, you might ask, would I write such incendiary comments from my spacious cubicle in Livonia? Because the people deserve to know the truth, and I, your dutiful intern/investigative journalist behind enemy lines is the only one to tell the world. Mike Modano is a beacon of hope in our times of despair, and his reputation cannot be tarnished by a slanderous association with the Axis of Evil. If, by some contrivance, some hell-born deception, the Sith Lords announce the Golden One’s return to the Land-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named, then we will know the truth: Mike Modano has been captured by evildoers and, in a commie PR stunt, a cosmetic-surgically enhanced Russian body double has signed in his place.

And yes, if you couldn’t tell, I grew up in the Heartland of Hockey, the epicenter of the modern game, the TRUE Hockeytown, Plano, Texas.

Daily SAT Prep:

Try to keep up, this is a tough one,

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Plano: Center of the Hockey Universe

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Questions, Comments, Concerns, and Clown Jokes:

Supposedly Bosh and Wade have agreed to terms with Miami, and allegedly BronBron will make an announcement tomorrow night on ESPN. Then again last night I watched in amazement as a reporter announced that he would be announcing news that LeBron had announced when he would be announcing his announcement, after the break. (Feel free to reread that sentence, it was a doozy) I’ll believe all of this when I see it. I’m still expecting this hoopla (hoopla- get it!) to last until at least the All-Star break. Then again The Collection-of-Less-Than-Savory-Characters might make a power move to try and get The Other Chosen One onto their roster of miscreants and hooligans as a fourth line winger along with Modano.

In World Cup news, the Dutch made quite a push for relevancy in the who-gets-to-get-crushed-in-the-Final showdown (I really do want them to win). Despite an AWESOME bicycle kick to the face, the Flying Dutchmen crushed the Uruguayans to relegate all of South America out of the Cup, leaving only Europeans to continue feeling superior to the rest of the world in every way.

On a surprising note, BP is still making its post-apocalyptic industrial wasteland film staring Kevin Costner (named OilWorld) and Tiger Woods still hates the press.

And, most importantly: Peace. Love. Modano. And Fatheads.