July 31, 2013

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In Case You Missed It

By: Joe Williams

We all know about the Aaron Hernandez situation, Dwight Howard taking his talents to Houston and Ryan Braun getting suspended, but that’s not all the crazy stuff that happened in July. In case you actually have a life, here are a few stories that you may have missed.

Longtime New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur actually got to draft his son Anthony Brodeur for the Devils during the NHL draft.

During last week’s RBC Canadian Open, Hunter Mahan withdrew from the tournament to attend the birth of his first child. Mahan was leading the tournament and didn’t pull out until just before he was supposed to begin his third round, leaving his playing partner John Merrick playing in the final group by himself.

Not only did the Cincinnati Reds play a game in San Francisco as the home team, but during one of the  four-game series between the teams, the Giants grounds crew had a bit of trouble lining up the batter’s box. You shouldn’t have much trouble finding a photo of the screw up online.

When former Florida State offensive lineman Menelik Watson received his championship ring for the team’s win over Georgia Tech in the ACC title game, he was the only Seminoles player that got a ring that reads “2012 SEC Champions.” The rest of the team got rings with the correct conference inscribed on them.

The NCAA claimed that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo committed an NCAA violation when he tweeted “Welcome to the family” to a Class of 2015 wide receiver who recently committed to the University of Michigan.

“Call Me Maybe” singer Carly Rae Jepsen fired one of the worst first pitches I have ever seen. Video of that won’t be hard to find either.

A linebacker at the University of Florida was arrested for sticking his head in a police car and barking at a police dog.

One Cleveland Indians fan pulled off an incredible feat, catching four foul balls in the same game…the odds of which are about one in one trillion.

Another fan in Cleveland wasn’t so lucky. When Scott Entsminger passed away earlier this month, this ended up in his obituary…”A lifelong Cleveland Browns fan and season ticket holder, he also wrote a song each year and sent it to the Cleveland Browns as well as offering other advice on how to run the team. He respectfully requests six Cleveland Browns pall bearers so the Browns can let him down one last time.”

A battle royal erupted between two former Thai Olympic teammates during a doubles badminton match. They started trash-talking before the match even started and things continued to escalate until they fought from one end of the arena to the other. Both players received a black card.

And in the wildest story of the month former NBA player Baron Davis (the guy with the huge beard before James Harden) said that he was abducted by aliens while on a drive from Las Vegas to Los Angeles during a podcast interview. I’m not even going to go there on this one.

I can’t wait to see what happens in August as the NFL season approaches, and the baseball playoff races heat up.

September 26, 2011

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Ten Moves to Save NCAA College Football

By: Anson Whaley

College football just got a whole lot more interesting with the recent moves of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC. The two schools may have inadvertently set off a future exodus of teams heading to other football conferences. Things actually got underway with the news that Texas A&M was headed to the SEC, but that was hardly the move that could cause a mass migration of NCAA teams leaving for greener pastures. However, that coupled with these two recent defections is. That said, if it were up to me, here’s how it would all shake out in ten simple moves:

10. Texas and Oklahoma realize they can save the Big 12: At some point, the Longhorns and Sooners figure out that it makes no sense to head west to the NCAA’s Pac-12. The Midwest rejoices as both schools announce they’re staying in the Big 12 and things start to get crazy.

9. TCU joins the Big 12: Texas’ and Oklahoma’s first call is to TCU, who’s utterly confused at this point. Getting ready to join the Big East in 2012, they’re convinced by the Longhorns and Sooners that they should come to the Big 12 because, you know, they should actually be in the East to play in a conference called the Big East. The Horned Frogs concur and cancel their flights to New York for their introductory Big East press conference. Big East commissioner John Marinatto just finds out minutes before the conference is scheduled to begin when he receives a text from CBS Sports’ Brett McMurphy.

8. Connecticut to the ACC: With the Big East on verge of collapse, UConn heads to the ACC to form the most dominant basketball conference with the likes of Duke, North Carolina, Pitt, and Syracuse. The Huskies mention something about having an NCAA football program, too, but no one actually pays attention.

7. Notre Dame to the ACC: The Irish, not wanting to be upstaged, surprise everyone by agreeing to join the ACC. Notre Dame explains the move by saying they don’t want to be left out of the NCAA football national championship picture … even though they’ve not won enough games to compete for one in nearly 20 years.

6. West Virginia to the SEC: Marinatto, now in a desperate panic to keep the conference together, informs fans they’re actively looking to expand – even with only six teams left. The Mountaineers aren’t convinced and apply to the SEC for a second time. This time, they get in and couches are promptly burnt to a crisp in Morgantown.

5. Big East Basketball Schools Jump Ship: Realizing the football side is nearly dead, the Big East basketball-only schools (DePaul, Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, St. John’s, Providence, and Seton Hall) leave to start their own conference. An ugly lawsuit ensues over the naming rights and the basketball side wins, allowing them to continue as the Big East. They promptly add Xavier and Butler while giving the boot to DePaul because they’re, well, DePaul.

4. Louisville and Cincinnati to the Big 12: Marinatto officially announces the end of the Big East after extending invitations to Navy, Army, and Air Force and never having his calls returned. Louisville and Cincinnati find a good fit in the Midwest.

3. Houston to the Big 12: The Cougars join the Big 12 and Houston brings one of the top ten TV markets along with it. Texas and Oklahoma shake hands as they’ve officially survived expansion. They then turn heel and revoke the membership of Missouri for threatening to leave earlier.

2. Rutgers to Big Ten: The Scarlet Knights and South Florida flip a coin to decide who can join the Big Ten. Wanting the NY/NJ market, conference officials pull the ‘Heads Rutgers wins, tails South Florida loses’ routine to perfection as USF goes independent.

1. BYU Joins Pac-12: Not wanting to be left out, the Pac-12 adds a team merely to keep up. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany immediately issues a press release saying it makes no sense for a conference with 13 teams to call itself the Pac-12.

Um, right.

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.

September 6, 2011

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NCAA Conference Realignment: Why Mega Conferences Could Help College Football

By: Anson Whaley

 

With recent news about the Big 12 potentially losing Texas A&M and other member schools, NCAA conference realignment got back into the news this past week in a big way. In case you’re not up to speed, the ten-team Big 12 conference could be on the ropes. Texas A&M’s planned departure isn’t the only thing to worry about, either. In recent days, additional schools have also been linked to other conferences as well – most recently, powerhouses Oklahoma and Texas have been rumored to potentially become a part of a PAC 16-conference. If the Big 12 ceases to exist, there could be a free-for-all unrivaled by anything we’ve ever seen before. Other conferences would be fighting for the remaining schools such as Missouri and Oklahoma State, which would strengthen any conference.

If the current Pac 12 expands to 16 teams, other conferences would likely follow suit. The question is, if others move towards expansion under the ‘Bigger is Better’ mantra, would that necessarily be good for college football?

My answer is yes.

Right now, there are a total of 66 teams that make up the six BCS football conferences – the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, and Pac 12. If each of those six became ‘mega’ football conferences to include 16 teams, a total of 96 programs would then fall under the BCS umbrella. If mega conferences ever became a reality, the more common scenario most discussed is that there would only be four or five of them. But if the BCS remains, I’m convinced that keeping six conferences would be a good thing.

So why would mega conferences help college football? Simply put, more college football teams would have an opportunity to play in the BCS bowls and in a national championship game. We’ve all seen it before – talented teams being left out of the national championship game or the BCS altogether. The 2004 Auburn Tigers finished their season going undefeated in the SEC, but couldn’t earn a spot in the title game. Then there were the 2006 Boise State Broncos that were the only undefeated team in college football, but still left out of the championship. While these kinds of injustices don’t occur every year, they have happened and will continue to do so.

It can also be argued that teams in smaller conferences don’t have the same opportunities as their BCS-conference brethren. By expanding the BCS conferences, though, those disadvantages would largely disappear. Not only would teams such as Boise State and BYU get their shot at winning a national championship by running the table in a more difficult schedule, but 28 more programs would get their chance as well. And while it could be argued that most non-BCS conference teams couldn’t realistically compete for a national championship, those teams could fight for spots in BCS bowl games.

Sure, mega conferences wouldn’t fix everything. Arguments from the remaining non-BCS conference participants would continue to exist. There would be cries from those left on the outside looking in just as there are every year in the NCAA basketball tournament. The difference, though, is that there’d be fewer of them and many non-BCS schools would have a difficult time putting together a strong case that they should be able to play in a BCS bowl – let alone a national championship.

Another argument against six mega conferences may be that teams wouldn’t get to face every school in their conference. But that already exists as things stand right now and with a short college season, playing every team simply isn’t realistic. Mega conferences would likely need to consist of two divisions where winners would meet in a conference championship game.

Mega conferences wouldn’t fix everything and in the eyes of some fans, the only way to go would be a playoff system. But as long as the BCS exists, finding ways to include as many teams as possible is the best thing to do.