Thursday, December 13, 2012

What About Us?

First, the football program lost its marquee names. But now it's looking more and more like basketball is about to cause the Big East to crumble into oblivion. Do Cincinnati and UConn have any chance of staying relevant?

The answer to the above question is yes. But this is an article, so I won't explain quickly. It's my blog, damnit!

Yesterday, news broke that seven Catholic, non-football members of the Big East were exploring their options. Unlike in football, where it's every school for themselves, these schools are looking at making one, big move, which could include dissolving the league altogether.

Over the past two years, the Big East has lost Pitt, Syracuse, Rutgers, Notre Dame, Louisville, and West Virginia. But the league was already a watered down version of itself, which a decade ago featured Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College. Like Cincinnati for head coaches, the conference has become an audition and stepping stone for schools to move into major conferences.

The driving force of college realignment is money. In some situations, it's specifically adding schools in big markets to put their league's games in as many houses as possible, to make more money. The Big Ten added Rutgers and Maryland, from the ACC, to be able to put the Big Ten Network in New York City and Washington DC.

Until yesterday, basketball was the one sport where the Big East was still respectable. However, losing Georgetown, Marquette, and Villanova would be closing the casket and making funeral arrangements for the league, in all sports.

Football brings in the most money. Basketball is the slower, less attractive little brother that is still relevant enough to cause a stir, like the Moon slightly tugging on the Earth (sorry, I've been watching way too much of "The Universe" lately).

So where does that leave Cincinnati, UConn and South Florida? They are the only three remaining football schools from the remnants of the league, which will be adding SMU, Boise State, San Diego State, Houston, UCF, Tulane, East Carolina, and Temple as replacements.

USF is in the worst position of the three schools. While they are in a decent market in Tampa, Florida and Florida State still have a much larger and dominant following. Their football and basketball programs are both below average, and would certainly struggle more in any other major conference. The ACC is the weakest of the five major conferences in football. If you think they're going to sell Duke vs. USF to ESPN or any other network, you're brain damaged.

UConn has a decent football program, which has won shares of the Big East Championship over the past few years. However, in any other conference (except for potentially the ACC), the Huskies would be a bottom feeder team. But UConn is known for its historic and great basketball program. On the other hand, legendary coach Jim Calhoun recently retired, which has left the program on shaky ground, especially with coaches and players being hesitant to join a program in a crumbling league.

Cincinnati is in the best position of the three schools. They have won a share of the Big East Championship four of the past five years, including two outright championships in 2008 and 2009. Their football program has finished the season ranked in the AP Top 25 five of the last six years. While Nippert Stadium only holds about 35,000, the university recently announced plans to raise $70 million for renovations, improvements, and expansion. They also have played games at Paul Brown Stadium, the 67,000 capacity home of the Bengals. In addition, their basketball program is currently ranked 11 in the AP Top 25 (as of 12/13/12) and have been consistently appearing in the NCAA Tournament for decades. Plus, Cincinnati is a top 50 market and, in the right league, their games could be broadcast over the entire state of Ohio, the seventh largest state in the US. Having an enrollment of over 42,000 students and stealing Tommy Tuberville, a high profile coach from a major Big 12 program, can't hurt either.

In the end, Cincinnati and UConn will land in a major conference via a few different scenarios, regardless of the Catholic schools' decision:

1. The ACC will decide to expand to 16 teams and give both schools an invitation. Without any hesitation or speculation, they'll bolt faster than you can say "The Big East is dead." Geographically and athletically, they make sense to add. And as the ACC could potentially be seen as weak and vulnerable with its current 14 teams, Cincinnati and UConn would at least give them wiggle room should any schools leave. It would also prevent the possibility that...

2. The Big 12 invites Cincinnati to join, without UConn. The Huskies don't make sense geographically and wouldn't add much competition to their football program. However, adding the Bearcats would give their newest member, West Virginia, an old rival that is not too far away. Currently, the Big 12 has 10 schools and has declined expanding because 12 team leagues require a league championship game, where upsets are common, and that would make it tougher for Texas or Oklahoma to go undefeated and reach a National Championship Game. At 11 teams, the Big 12 would have a little more stability without needing a conference championship game. BYU has turned down several offers to join the league and Boise State's research and educational standards are a joke, giving Cincinnati an edge. However, a more likely scenario would be...

3. The Big 12 and/or SEC start picking off schools from the ACC. Rumors have been swirling around Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Clemson exploring their options. Should this happen, it will probably be two schools leaving at the same time, not all four. When Maryland bolted for the Big Ten in November, the ACC had serious talks with both Cincinnati and UConn before deciding on adding Louisville as their replacement. At this point, they are clearly the favorites to get invitations should any of their current members leave. Of course, there's always a chance that...

4. The Big Ten decides to add two more schools. While this is a long-shot of happening within the next year or so, Commissioner Jim Delaney's clear goal is to make his league bigger, richer, and more nationally marketable than everyone else. WHEN this happens, don't be surprised if UConn and Boston College are invited. Ohio State would be against adding any other Ohio schools to their conference, so Cincinnati would never get their wish of a real in-state rivalry with their big brother to the north. By adding UConn and BC, the Big Ten would expand their reach and network to the entire Northeast coast, a market that would stretch from Maine to Virginia and Cape Cod to the Great Plains. But this would not leave Cincinnati in the dark, as they would probably be invited to the ACC as a replacement for BC.

Unfortunately for USF, the Bulls will probably remain in what's left of the Big East, or move to a lower tier league like Conference USA or the Sun Belt Conference. There's always a remote chance that if an extra school is picked off from the ACC that they would get an invitation as a filler. But other schools, like UCF and Houston, could be seen as better options.

No matter what happens, as Cincinnati AD Whit Babcock said "This is going to be a wild ride." Buckle up.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Backpage Headline

The gavel has fallen. The punishments have been dealt. One year suspension, without pay, for Saints’ Head Coach Sean Payton. Indefinite suspension for former Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams, currently with the St. Louis Rams. Eight game suspension for General Manager Mickey Loomis. Six game suspension for assistant Joe Vitt. These are huge penalties for what some analysts and writers have called a heinous and thoughtless crime of placing bounties on NFL players during games.

Yet Facebook, Twitter, and every other social media outlet are yet to blow up in disgust or outrage, at least outside of New Orleans.

They didn’t blow up when the news broke last month. There was no outcry when the punishments came down, except maybe a few links with the comment “Ouch” above them.

So if this is considered a serious issue and an inexcusable action, why is there not more shock and awe?

The answer is simple; Nobody was surprised.

The media tried to ram this down our throats and make a story out of it. PFT, ESPN, FSN, and any other lettered network or outlet that covers sports had endless stories, interviews, and articles pouring out. But like the spoiled children we all are, we closed our mouths and didn’t want to eat the crap they were trying to force feed us.

Most people probably believe that this story hasn’t gotten as much coverage because it’s been overshadowed by free agency and the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, followed immediately by the Tim Tebow trade, on the same day that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down his sentences.

But was anyone out there really surprised when this story broke? Sure, there were probably a few gasps at the thought of purposely inflicting serious or severe injuries on another human being for a monetary reward, but c’mon, was it really THAT shocking? When you first heard about this, did you think back to a vicious hit that knocked a player out of a game and ask yourself “I wonder if there was a bounty on him?” Did you ask yourself “I wonder how far this goes?” or “Does my team do this too?”

That was probably the more common reaction than being speechless that this could happen in football. This isn’t soccer. It’s a violent animal of a game where everyone is looking for an edge.

We all know that players and coaches bend the rules, especially when it comes to rewards for big plays. The mentality of coaches, athletes, and teams as a whole today is if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying. In their minds, the risks outweigh the rewards. From college players getting paid under the table to steroids and PEDs to stealing other teams signals and calls, cheating and rule bending are everywhere in sports. And in a sport based on running, pushing, and tackling, this was just another way of getting that big play.

What’s a bigger play than knocking out an opposing team’s star player?

Immediately after the story broke, former players and coaches on ESPN defended less severe bounty systems. They would have pools and rewards for players that made interceptions, sacks, big tackles, and other notable plays. If Jock was a language that none of us normal folk could speak, the subtitles would have read “Yeah, we knew this was going on and we did it too. We just didn’t get caught.”

Ask Brett Favre. He was the target of a bounty during the 2009 season NFC Championship Game against New Orleans. If you watched that game, it was blatantly obvious that the Saints were trying to knock Favre out. As much as I despise him, those hits were so hard that I could feel them in Cleveland.

And while the Saints’ defense was trying to kill Favre, the NFL was investigating this for the first time. And even though the teams’ bad cover up proved successful, they were slapped with a warning and cautioned that the league is watching them. Instead of quitting while ahead, Williams decided to keep the bounties going and Payton, regardless of his direct involvement or lack there of, did nothing to stop it.

Still, when the news broke of “Bountygate,” I didn’t pay much attention.

It wasn’t shocking. It wasn’t even news to me. It was just confirming something that every fan knew was going on. These were just the guys that were dumb enough to get caught.

Payton, Williams, Vitt, and Loomis’s punishments are severe. They are the most severe punishment that Goodell has handed down so far and one of the toughest ever imposed on an organization. However, I do not agree with their punishments, not for the bounties at least.

On the other hand, I do not believe they’re severe enough for the sheer amount of stupidity and thoughtlessness that prevailed in the Saints’ locker room. If you’re going to commit the same crime when the league is watching you closely, you should at least change your name, wear a fake mustache, or blame it on the other guy. The bounties were inexcusable, but the continuing of this illegal system was idiotic as well.

Dangerous and stupid; The worst combination.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Broken Championship Series

This year in college football has proved one thing, again: the BCS system is a joke. One big hypocritical joke.

If anyone believes that #1 LSU vs. #2 Alabama is a fair BCS Championship game, you’re kidding yourself.

It’s not because both teams play in the Southeastern Conference. It’s not even because both teams play in the SEC West. The problem is that these teams have played each other already and that it gives other conference with deserving teams no opportunity to win.

This would be the most hypocritical thing the NCAA and BCS will have ever done if they allow the championship to be played between LSU and Alabama. The proof? The 2006 Ohio State-Michigan rivalry game.

Until this year, when the Big Ten divided itself into two divisions with a conference championship game, Ohio State and Michigan would face each other in the last game of the regular season. In 2006, Ohio State was ranked #1 and Michigan #2, both entering the game undefeated. It ended with a Buckeye victory, 42-39 over the Wolverines. Following the game, a debate ensued over who Ohio State would face in the BCS Championship. At the time Florida also had a one-loss record. In the end, Florida got the nod over Michigan and went on to win the BCS Championship.

The reason that was given for Florida was that Michigan essentially lost their opportunity for a championship when they lost to Ohio State. The final regular season game was treated as a playoff game.

LSU and Alabama played each other this year on November 5. The teams entered the game #1 and #2, respectively, and in the end the Tigers came out victorious over the Tide 9-6. But with several more games left on the schedule for both teams, plus the SEC Championship, what the BCS and NCAA are saying is that because they faced each other earlier in the season, Alabama deserves a rematch.

That’s bullshit.

First, college football doesn’t have a playoff system. It should, but it doesn’t. If Michigan was eliminated in their final game of the regular season but Alabama gets another shot, that is ridiculous. The SEC is the best conference right now, but five years ago the Big Ten was arguably the best conference. The rules today are still the same, so shouldn't the same rules still apply, regardless of when the #1 played the #2?

Second, there are several other, deserving, one-loss teams out there in other conferences this season. #3 Oklahoma State has been hot all season and has an amazing, exciting offense. However, because they lost to an unranked Iowa State in their second to last game of the season, they are being penalized. If they beat in-state, conference rival #9 Oklahoma in the last game of the season, it would be a crime for them to not get a national title shot. And #5 Virginia Tech has fought through a tougher than usual ACC and has been a pleasant surprise. Their only loss came at the hands of Clemson, who is currently ranked and was #13 at the time of the loss, and the two teams meet again this Saturday in the ACC Championship game. But the BCS would claim that the SEC is the better conference so Alabama is more qualified.

Third, if Alabama doesn’t have to win their conference, or even their division, to get to the BCS Championship, then shouldn’t #4 Stanford also be thrown into the mix. Like the Tide, the Cardinal also only have one loss, to #8 Oregon, and have the best quarterback in college football, Andrew Luck.

Yesterday, Collin Cowherd of ESPN said that people need to get used to rematches in college football. With the Big Ten and Pac-12 expanding to 12 teams, and the Big 12 returning to that next season, rematches are going to be common. However, shouldn’t the BCS Championship be different?

In the NFL teams that meet in the playoffs have played each other in the regular season quite often. But once again, there are no playoffs in college football. The NCAA and BCS constantly claim that a playoff would diminish the importance of the regular season, which they claim is the most significant in all of sports for that reason. They claim that the regular season essentially are the playoffs. Well, if by their own logic that is the case, wouldn’t Alabama have been eliminated?

And if we really want to see the stupidity of the “people” running this joke of a system, do they not remember that politicians, some in US Congress, have been breathing down their necks saying that the BCS violates anti-trust laws and have been threatening to legally enforce changes? Don’t they see that a LSU vs. Alabama BCS Championship is only going to help their cause?

In 2006, going into the Championship, everyone assumed that Ohio State and Michigan were still the best two teams. They assumed that Florida had no business in the game and that the Buckeyes would blow them out of the water. They assumed that the Big Ten was the best conference. Well their assumptions were wrong. Florida won.

Shouldn’t these other conference teams be given a shot this year too? Or does the hypocrisy favor the SEC? Maybe other conferences and teams should just make their schedules more favorable?

Either way, you can bet that an all SEC BCS Championship game will not be a big hit with fans. The SEC has won the past five BCS titles and this wouldn't even allow another conference the opportunity to end that streak.

But we, the people, the fans, don’t have a vote, and it looks as if we are heading for a rematch. Let’s just hope it’s not another 9-6 snooze fest.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It All Rolls On

On the Outside

Remember when you were a kid and believed that athletes played for the love of the game?

We all do. And we all can remember when we realized that pro athletes care more about money and endorsements than the sports they play. We watch our favorite stars leave our favorite teams for millions of dollars elsewhere, and our hearts are crushed when they take their talents to places like South Beach.

But there is a sport out there that is still pure, and played for passion and love.

So when I say the words “women’s roller derby,” what comes to mind? This is my story of how I became a part of the culture, and why this sport is becoming more popular in America each season.

On the outside, we see tattooed and pierced women. We see crazy hair colors and make up that would cause Mary Kay to roll over in her grave, assuming she’s dead. We see bruises on the skaters and crutches with the injured. And let’s not even talk about the smell of the venue after the game.

But what we don’t see (or smell) is what roller derby does to each woman that participates. The impact it has on every skater’s life. The memories it makes and the development it causes.

Nobody gets paid for playing this sport, at least not yet. These are women with jobs, women in school. These are women with kids, families, and responsibilities. These are women that go to late night or early morning practices, risking their pride and their bodies, only to leave and wake up, going to work the next day.

They will skate in one or two games, or bouts, a month. Not for money or fame, but for respect and fun. Some teams play in larger college arenas while others roll to skate parks, rec centers, high school gyms, and roller rinks.

But that’s not the whole derby way. You see, roller derby is not just a sport; it’s a way of life.

That might sound a little cliché, but spend a day, even an hour, with a team, and you will see how true it is.

I won't go into the rules of the sport, even though it is very different from any other, because it's far more than women knocking each other around on wheels. As awesome as that sounds, it's way better.

From Determinator to Tom Slamilton

My journey into this culture began in November 2010, when I started dating a member of the Cleveland Steamers, one of the four local teams part of the Burning River Roller Girls (BRRG) in Cleveland. I remember the first time she told me she played derby. I thought it was a cute little hobby. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I became what is called a Non-Skating Official (NSO), or as I called it a “Stat Geek,” for BRRG and went under the alias The Determinator. I made great friends and had a lot of fun. And even though my relationship with the skater known as B-Onya Guard only lasted a few months, my relationship with derby has lasted much, much longer.

Eventually, I ended up moving to Scranton, PA, not knowing a soul. I googled roller derby in the area and became a part of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Roller Radicals. I was nervous entering Skate-away, where they practice, for the first time. I was immediately accepted in Cleveland, and feared, having no friends in the area, that my frat-boy/super-geek combination of a personality would be rejected. When the doors swung open and I entered, I was accepted without question or hesitation. Within a week, they treated me like I had been there for years. Like a family member, in a slightly abusive family.

By the time of their last home game, and my first with the team, they had made me their announcer. I had dreamed of being a broadcaster since I was a little kid, and gave up on my dream of doing it professionally after not being able to find a job in that field after college. Some people said it was silly, but it’s always nice to still hold onto a dream, even if it’s just for a few hours a month. With that, Tom Slamilton was born.

The Culture, the Way of Life

Hold on… Determinator? B-Onya Guard? Tom Slamilton? Anyone reading this who is unfamiliar with derby is probably asking themselves “WTF is this dude smoking?”

The crazy names are only one part of the culture. They range from a funny play on words like CupQuake and Smash Potato, to variations of famous characters and celebrities like Rainbow Fright and Stevie NixHer. It’s what the names represent that emphasize the way of life.

Never once have I called Liberty Violence by Alana or HaloChic by Melissa. These names take on a completely different persona. To the outside, professional world, these are hard working, dedicated women. All of them. Many are single mothers. Many struggle to make ends meet. And they don't get paid to play either. In fact they pay to play.

But for a few hours a week, and maybe a game or two a month, the outside world is null. Deep down, hidden from most of their friends and coworkers, these women are warriors on wheels. All the stress and problems of the real world are left on the sidelines, in their smelly derby bags (never sniff one, trust me). All that matters is what’s on the track. Besides, what’s better stress relief than knocking a bitch four feet in the air?

It’s because of all of this, and more, that these women share a special bond. Derby unites them. They call each other “mommas,” “daughters,” and “wifeys.” In fact, I had the pleasure of witnessing a derby wedding in Long Island several weeks ago. It was… interesting, to say the least.

Derby also shows these women that they are not alone. The only comparison that I can think of to the bond that these women share is that of my college fraternity (I know they’re not going to like reading that). I don’t mean anything about drinking, partying, or shenanigans. I am talking about an experience that they all share. I have seen groups of women that call themselves sisters, but the derby family is by far the closest. Too often are groups gossipy, catty, and cliquey, causing rifts and fights. But in derby, it’s all settled on the track.

And the bond goes beyond the team. As a spectator, I wondered how these women could be competing and beating each other down on the track one minute, and then have a beer and laugh about life together the next? From coast to coast, from country to country, it’s derby. It’s a nation, on wheels.

The Final Frontier

So why do I love derby? I’m a 26 year old Jewish professional who moved from an average Midwestern city to the middle of nowhere PA. I have no tattoos or piercings and come from the average American middle class household. Hell, I’ve never even put on a pair of roller skates before. I have made other friends and have found other hobbies in my new home, yet derby has become a part of me. It is not the cute little hobby that I thought my girlfriend had.

I love derby because it is pure. In a day where college players get paid under the table and not one, but two professional sporting leagues have had lockouts over billions of dollars in revenue this year, derby remains a sport untainted by greed and economics.

In many cases, team records don’t even matter. Some leagues don’t even have playoffs or championships.

These women are athletes. Dedicated, hard working athletes. They may not realize it, but their love and passion goes far beyond what any professional has.

And it goes beyond just the skaters. The culture touches refs, officials, announcers, and everyone else involved. From friends to family, for anyone who loved the innocence of sports as a child, there is a little bit of derby in all of us.

This sport will only get more popular. Maybe one day these athletes will get paid. Maybe one day it will have its own lockout over revenue sharing and TV contracts. The fact that one of the most popular skaters, Suzy Hotrod, is featured in ESPN Magazine’s Body Issue foreshadows what’s to come. But the way of life, the culture, will always remain, even if it goes underground.

For now, derby is carving out its own place in American culture and it is capturing the hearts of millions along the way.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Keep'em or Kick'em

The 2010 NFL season is over. And before the post season begins, as we do every year, we now wonder which head coaches are going to be given another chance and who will be shown the door. Here is my take on the hot seats in the league (and as I wrote this paragraph I discovered that the Browns have fired Eric Mangini, so that makes my life easier).

Miami Dolphins – Tony Sparano:
It’s quite weird talking about Sparano getting the axe only two years after a playoff run. Sparano turned this team around very quickly, after finishing 1-15 in 2007 in Cam Cameron’s only year as head coach, winning the AFC East at 11-5 in 2008. The Dolphins have finished 7-9 the last two seasons, and won only one home game this season, but Sparano deserves another shot. Chad Henne’s struggles prove that he is not the quarterback of the future for this team, and the only argument I believe is valid for firing Sparano is that if this team does draft a new quarterback, an early career coaching change may stunt his development.
Opinion: Give him more time. The defense has improved greatly and they’re not too far from competing for a playoff berth.

Cincinnati Bengals – Marvin Lewis:
This decision is a two way street for both Lewis, if he wants to return, and owner Mike Brown. Lewis is clearly frustrated with Brown’s frugality, having the smallest scouting department in the NFL (which causes the coaches themselves to do off season scouting) and having no GM. Brown is a cheap knock off of Al Davis. At least Davis has had success as a decision maker, albeit that it was almost a decade ago that the Raiders made the playoffs. Brown is as clueless, cheap, and stupid as an NFL owner could be, and for that reason alone, Lewis shouldn’t want to come back, especially with an opportunity at the University of Pittsburgh. The Bengals have had only two winning seasons in 16 years, both of which have been under Lewis. However, there are going to be a lot of players leaving this team as well, and it’s time for Cincinnati to have a fresh start across the board.
Opinion: Leave Marvin… get out while you can. Mike Brown doesn’t deserve a good coach. There are good fans in Cincinnati, but the Bengals can’t win with that owner.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Jack Del Rio:
Del Rio is not a bad coach, but he is not a great one either. Facing a banged up Colts’ team, the Jags just could not pull out a win when they needed it. The fact is that if the Jaguars want to not only make the playoffs but get over the hump and compete for Super Bowls, Del Rio is not the guy. The AFC South is an underachieving division, and Jacksonville cannot afford to be left behind if Tennessee and Houston step up in the next year or two.
Opinion: Fired. Even though quarterback David Garrard did well this year, it’s clear that a new guy is going to be taken within the next year or two. If the Jags want consistency, it’s time to make the coaching switch now so that the players are more comfortable heading into an almost certain rebuilding mode.

Houston Texans – Gary Kubiak:
I know that the Texans have tried to make it clear that Kubiak will be back next year, but I don’t agree with this decision. I know that he led the team to it’s only winning season in franchise history in 2009, but during his tenure the Texans haven’t made the playoffs. The past two years, this team has had the talent to make a post season appearance, and both years they have failed. The defense has been horrendous and even adding Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator won’t be enough.
Opinion: Let him go. It’s time to find a defensive coach who can make this team great. The talent is there.

Tennessee Titans – Jeff Fisher:
He is the longest tenured coach in the NFL, with 16 seasons under his belt. However, owner Bud Adams made it pretty clear with his Christmas cards who he favors in the Fisher-Vince Young feud. It’s hard for any coach to remain at the helm for this long without players starting to get sick of hearing the same thing over and over. Whether VY is the quarterback of this team next year or not, it’s time for the Titans to start fresh. Fisher will have teams lining up to give him another shot, and he also deserves a chance to find a new home.
Opinion: A mutual split. It’s just time for a change.

San Diego Chargers – Norv Turner:
I don’t understand how this guy keeps getting head coaching jobs. He was awful in Washington and Oakland, and now he failed to make the playoffs with a team that many consider to be the most talented in the NFL. How can you fail to reach the post season with a top five offense and defense, and keep your job? Remember, GM AJ Smith fired Marty Schottenheimer after a 14-2 season because the team didn’t make the Super Bowl. The only reason Smith isn’t firing Turner this time is because he is in the hot seat as well after the Vincent Jackson debacle. Owner Dean Spanos has said he isn’t making any changes, but it’s not a good football move.
Opinion: Fire him. If you ask me, the only reason the Chargers have made the playoffs with Turner at the helm is because of how talented this team is.

Oakland Raiders – Tom Cable:
All morning I have read that Cable will be fired. Rumor has it that the veterans think that Cable lacks the discipline to keep his young players in line. Then again, Al Davis is crazy so we know that it wouldn’t be hard for him to get rid of Cable. The team made a lot of improvements and for most of the season was in contention. However, Cable may not be the guy for the long run.
Opinion: Give him another year. Cable turned this team into a contender and he needs one more shot with San Diego on the way down.

New York Giants – Tom Coughlin:
This is how ridiculous the NFL has become when the coach who beat the 16-0 Patriots in the Super Bowl is in the hot seat three years later after finishing 10-6. The Giants didn’t make the post season not because of Coughlin, but because Eli Manning turned the ball over 30 times. If they fire him, it will come back to haunt them, trust me.
Opinion: Keep him.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fair Weather Frenzy: the 2010 World Cup

Today, the United States was defeated by Ghana in the elimination round of the 2010 World Cup. All I can say is “Thank God.”

The fact that I am not a soccer fan does not play any part of my opinion of the average American soccer fan. I have ADD which gives me the super power of being able to tune out anything I want and completely forgetting what I have been talk… Oh, look a tree.

The aggravating part about the average American soccer fan is how fair weather he/she is. For one month every four years they are soccer aficionados, claiming to know all about the sport and love it with a passion. That would be fine and dandy, if they actually were soccer aficionados and did love the sport with a passion.

Here’s a few brain teaser to test any friend to see if they are really a soccer fan;

Question One: Who won the last World Cup?
This might not be the hardest question (I even know the answer to this one) but considering that the average American sports fan has the attention span of a dust mite, it will wean out those who really don’t know shit about soccer.

Question Two: Who won the MLS Cup?
I don’t know if that is the actual name of the MLS championship game but I’m taking a guess at it. If the person corrects you and tells you that it is called something else, he or she is probably right and you might as well not wait for their actual answer.

Question Three: Who won the European Cup?
Like Question Two, I don’t know the name of Europe’s soccer championship. I think they have like five a year so I’m just going to go with that.

Question Four: Name five MLS teams.
This might be the stumping question. Many soccer fans don’t follow American soccer because it is not the best that the world has to offer (hint: anyone that has called you un-patriotic for not cheering for Team USA in the World Cup can suck on this one).

Question Five: What the hell does Real mean or FC stand for?
FC is pretty obvious, but I still don’t know what Real means. Yes, a good journalist finds that out for himself. But I have better things to do with my time like breathing, farting and World of Warcraft.

So to all the real soccer fans out there, I have no problem with you. Nobody should tell you what you can or cannot like.

My problem is with the ignorant people who claim to love soccer, and the second that the World Cup is over or Team USA is eliminated, they don’t give a damn about it anymore.

If so many Americans love soccer so much, then why is the MLS struggling so badly in attendance and financially? Why don’t they and all of their soccer fanatics go to the games?

Want to know why? It’s because they are all fair-weather fans. When it’s cool to like soccer, they love it. But once something shinier pops up, the biggest question once again will be “Who the hell is Landon Donovan?”

Friday, June 4, 2010

The New BCS

This week, rumors have emerged that the PAC 10 Conference is looking to expand. Their main target has been reported as six Big XII schools; Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado.

While the move makes sense, there is no doubt that several of these teams would not fit well geographically in the PAC 10 conference, or whatever it would be renamed.

In addition, the Big Ten has been looking to expand. The four schools they have targeted are Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, and Syracuse. Also, there have been rumors that the Big Ten has been in contact with Texas and Missouri.

The negotiations and changes required would be astronomically impossible to figure out at this point, but we (I) here at Devil of Sports decided to take some time and figure out how the college leagues would change if anything were to actually happen, and what scenarios could actually play out.

This map assumes that with the other conferences looking to expand, the Big XII and Big East would be dissolved and absorbed into the other four. While the Big East is primarily a basketball conference, with another eight teams participating in all other sports except football, I would say that the conference would actually go on, but as a weaker non-football league.

PAC 10 - 16 schools

East: Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Utah

West: Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State

The PAC 10 Conference is the reason that all of this has come to light so I will start with discussing them. The main reason that the conference wants to expand is because of marketability. While they do have two of the nation’s largest markets in Los Angeles and the San Francisco/Oakland area, all of their schools play in the Pacific Time Zone, except for Arizona and Arizona State.

The issue of timing makes it difficult for the conference to sell and broadcast itself to markets on the East coast, which are three hours ahead.

This leads to the main reason that the PAC 10 is chasing the Texas schools; a conference cable network. Making a west coast cable network would not be very easy to sell to places on the east coast. However, by adding central schools, it allows them to cover a greater portion of the country with one of the nation’s largest schools in the University of Texas.

But it would not be a good move for the Longhorns to go to the PAC 10. For starters, geographically it would be a mess for the three Texas schools to have to travel to the Pacific Northwest, even with divisions. Plus, the PAC 10 would not be able to get the same type of coverage that conferences like the Big Ten or SEC have.

With that said, the PAC 10 would have to look elsewhere, to different markets. Texas Christian University (TCU) would be a great fit. It is located in Ft. Worth and would in draw the metroplex area. After being snubbed out of a chance to play for a National Championship in an undefeated regular season, the chance for TCU to move up into the BCS would be an offer that they couldn’t refuse.

Also, if Texas does not go to the PAC 10 it can be safe to bet that its in-state rivals, Tech and A&M, would not follow and would look to stay with the Longhorns. The consolation prize for those schools could be Brigham Young University (BYU) and Utah. Both teams are a good fit both geographically and market-wise. Like TCU, they are both nationally renowned college football programs that play in non-BCS conferences.

The other three teams from the Big XII, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State, I believe would actually go to the PAC 10. While both Oklahoma schools could get offers from the SEC, I believe that it would want the three Texas schools, with their larger markets over the smaller Oklahoma markets. Not wanting to make the conference too large, the SEC would probably not take all six schools from both states, especially when the PAC 10 has no interest in Baylor, and the SEC would accept them as a package.

Big Ten - 18 schools

East: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers

West: Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin

Of all the BCS conferences, the Big Ten is the wealthiest. The reason is simply because they have partnered with Fox to create the Big Ten Network. This brought each school an estimated $22 million in 2008. It is the whole reason why other conferences are talking about expanding.

The Big Ten is interested in Rutgers and Syracuse because they have a market in New York City. However, I cannot see both of them leaping over to the Big Ten just yet. Syracuse is a smaller school and most likely would not be a good fit, primarily because the school prides itself on its basketball program, which would draw huge interest from the ACC. On the other hand, Rutgers would welcome the chance to increase revenue and play in a more competitive football conference.

While Ohio State would refuse to let another school from in-state join, in Cincinnati, Penn State has reportedly welcomed the challenge. That is the cause for Pitt to be getting attention from the conference. However, like with Syracuse, the ACC would probably throw a pitch that could make it one of the dominant football programs in the conference with a basketball league that no other conference could compare to. Plus, Pittsburgh would not want to risk ruining its Backyard Brawl rivalry with West Virginia, whom the conference has no interest in acquiring.

Although the Big Ten has more to offer than any other conference, with a network already strong and in place, the next schools to join would not be their first choices. Missouri is on the Big Ten radar and has been reportedly interested at looking at conferences outside of the Big XII. Should the Big XII fall apart, which this article assumes, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Nebraska would also be looking for new homes. Geographically these schools make perfect sense, as their locations would make the establishment of two divisions easier to create.

The biggest piece of the puzzle is Notre Dame. The Big Ten has invited the Irish to join multiple times. However, Notre Dame makes more money on its own with contracts with NBC and competing with schools all over the country than it would by joining a league.

The Irish pride themselves on being one of the top athletic programs in America. If the Big East folds as a football conference and all that are left are the small schools for basketball, Notre Dame would likely be looking to move its other athletic programs to another conference. However, at this point, no other conference is going to accept Notre Dame without its football program, forcing them to eventually join the Big Ten.

Southeastern Conference - 18 schools

Cincinnati, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt

West: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

With the Big XII folding, the four Texas schools would most likely be more interested in joining the SEC over the PAC 10. From a competition stand-point, the University of Texas would relish the chance to be a member of the best conference in college football today.

It would also allow the creation of a SEC network that could match the marketability of the Big Ten.

Geographically, this is a great fit. A large concern about joining the PAC 10 would be students traveling and arriving home at odd hours only to have to attend class in the morning or a day later. Joining the SEC allows the Texas schools to keep their travel cost and time low, and only have a one hour time difference with some of the other schools in the league.

However, one drawback for Texas would be the academic standards of the SEC schools, which is lower than that of those of the Big XII. While the Big Ten is interested in Texas, the Longhorns would not abandon their in-state rivalries and would require Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Baylor to accompany them, which the Big Ten would not want.

The other two schools in the mix are Louisville and Cincinnati. Kentucky and Louisville are in-state rivals, and both would love to be able to play each other, in football and basketball, every year, with the kind of stakes that only an in-conference game could provide. Should Louisville show interest, it would quickly draw Cincinnati into the equation.

Cincinnati is located only about 100 miles from Lexington, so geographically it fits well in the SEC. However, its main pull would be because Louisville and Cincinnati have been in-conference rivals since 1929, with the creation of the Keg of Nails. Both were founding members of Conference USA and leapt to the Big East together. If one goes, the other will follow.

Cincinnati would also give the SEC a presence in the north, which would give it the chance to compete, head to head, for the Southern Ohio market with Ohio State.

Atlantic Coast Conference - 17 schools

North: Boston College, Connecticut, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia

South: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Florida, Wake Forest

With the dissolving of the Big East, arguably the strongest basketball conference in the NCAA, the remainder of the Big East schools would find a welcoming home in the ACC. Syracuse, UConn, Pitt, and West Virginia all possess four of the premier basketball programs in the country. The chance to be able to match them up against the likes of Duke and North Carolina on an annual basis would draw in more money than any other conference could.

In addition, these are both currently seen as two of the weaker football conferences. With Louisville and Cincinnati joining the SEC and Rutgers the Big Ten, the remainder of the programs will be required to fill in the lost spots. The ACC would be able to add West Virginia and Pittsburgh, absorbing a popular and historic football rivalry.

South Florida would be enticing, as they have a quickly up and coming football program as well.

The combination of the remaining Big East schools with the ACC would also make a conference that could entirely dominate all of the Atlantic Coast markets. While the creation of its own television network would be difficult to sell from a pure football standpoint, the basketball revenue could be enough to generate one, especially if they could convince the basketball teams of Georgetown and Villanova to follow.

A New College Playoff Format

With these four new Super Conferences, the creation of a playoff system would be quite simple. Each conference would now have to hold a conference championship game. And, with now only four conferences instead of six, a plus-one game would be very easy to establish. Of course there would still be questions and scrutiny about barring non-BCS teams from the competition. However, BCS expansion to schools like Boise State would become much easier, giving schools with the talent the ability to compete.

Last year, five teams in the FCS finished with perfect regular seasons; Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, TCU, and Boise State. However, only two of them got to play for the National Championship. Every year there is an outcry for a college football playoff system. With the reduction of the number of leagues and increased revenue generated from TV networks and larger markets, the establishment of a plus-one playoff would be more acceptable to the NCAA and the BCS.