Friday, June 6, 2014

2014 NBA Finals Game 1 - Spurs 110, Heat 95

The San Antonio Spurs hit 3 huge threes in the last 3 minutes to put the Miami Heat away in game one. Plus another with 20 seconds left to rub salt in the wound. Or sweat in the wound as it turned out. 

The air conditioning was out in the AT&T Center in San Antonio tonight, and on-court temperature reached over 90 degrees. Lebron James was carried to the bench with several minutes remaining, unable to move due to cramps. It looks like the Spurs won by dumb luck and pure coincidence. That couldn't have been further from the truth: the Spurs were the ones who in crunch time stepped up, adapted to the conditions, and won the game.

I am a golfer by trade. Sometime you get screwed a bit by getting an unfavorable tee time, while someone else misses some wind or bad weather because of when they teed off. But in almost all circumstances in golf, everyone has to play the same course. That impossible pin placement on number 2? Everyone has to deal with it. The hard fairways on the back side? Same for everyone. The slick greens, the deep bunckers? Same for every man or woman that tees it up that day. Which is one reason I love golf- the corse can be the great equalizer. Each golfer is out there playing the same course, and whoever plays the best that day will win. 

Golf is also a game where you have to adapt to the circumstances as they happen. Wind direction can switch, temperature can change, or a sudden rain shower can come up. All of these have to be delt with, and everyone has to deal with them. Yeah, you could get lucky every once in a while like I said, and miss some bad weather due to a favorable statarting time. But I believe that it all evens out over a career. 

For all intents and purposes though, golf is played on a level playing field- with every player having to deal with the same elements and issues that day. And whoever can overcome them will win. It's about as simple as that. 

Golf is played outside, and no two courses are even close to the same. That's is one thing that seperates golf from other sports, is that no two days are ever going to be the same. But the great thing about sports is the concept of the equal playing field. In sport in general, you have two opponents or opposing teams, competing for supremacy on a single predetermined area. In some cases, it's a whole group of people like in NASCAR or golf, but it's still the same. The playing field is equal. The competition level and rules of the major American sports have changed over the years, making many statistics and players tough to compare from generation to generation. 

But on any given night, when two basketball teams take the court, it's the same old game on the same old court. Home court advantage affects the atmosphere and crowd noise, which can minorly change the course of a game. But the teams still have to play one-on-one, man-to-man, with one team going home the champion. 

Part of being a great golfer is, like I said, is adapting to the circumstances. And this ability to adapt can be shown through an infinite amount of examples in many different sports. Tonight, the Spurs were the team that adapted to the circumstances. There's no doubt that the temperature and air conditioning affected the game. But it was the same for both sides. These are the top 1% of the worlds top athletes. These guys are the best of the best. And they are are shockingly fragile when the air conditioning goes out. Lebron James did not hydrate himself properly- he was simply deyrdated at he end of the game and his body cramped up. Tim Duncan who's as old as the earth was out there in the 4th quarter competing at the high level, and there's no reason Lebron can't do the same.

The media will put an asterisk by this game, saying the heat would have won with Lebron down the stretch if there was air. But Lebron went out because he had cramps and wasn't hydrated properly. He didn't adapt to he situation, as the Spurs did. The Heat didn't adapt to having to play four minutes without their superstar. The Spurs were the best team on the court tonight, regardless of the temperature in the AT&T Center. The Spurs deserved to win this game. They finished the game on a 31-9 run. They hit all the clutch shots at the end. This was a team victory. I promise the media will treat this like it was a travesty that the Heat didn't win, and they would have prevailed if it wasn't for the air. But this game bodes very well for the Spurs. Their chances at a title look very good- they are one game closer from bringing the championship back to Texas. But don't think Lebron and the Heat won't go down without a fight... They might just need to take a dip in the Rio Grande to cool off first. 

Game 2: Sunday June 8th, 8:00, ABC, San Antonio Texas. 

Spurs lead the series 1-0. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Money and College Athletics

When it comes to the balancing act which is money in college athletics, there is never a legal and fair solution that works for everyone.  It is an unsolvable problem that thousands of athletes have faced, or are currently facing in their careers.  In order to gain an accurate perspective of the issue, we must look at all sides of the problem.  This editorial will hopefully shed light on these issues, and what a possible fix for them could be. 

            According to the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), no enrolled or perspective athlete may receive benefits other than a basic athletic scholarship, which covers tuition, room, and board.  The athlete gets for free what every other student (that isn’t on a scholarship) has to pay for.  The NCAA has set guidelines, rules, and restrictions on the benefits that a student-athlete can receive.  In short, anything outside of the standard athletic scholarship is a violation.  Many colleges and players ignore these rules and commit the violations anyways.  Over the years there have been many cases of athletes having cars, houses, loans, and trips paid for people associated with various universities such as coaches, boosters, future agents, and overzealous fans. There are four groups of people at fault here: the athletes, the schools, the NCAA, and the culture surrounding professional athletics.  

            The athletes are the most important dynamic in this issue - without them there would not even be a conflict.  The sports they play, however, might be infinitely more important than the specific players themselves. There is a definite distinction between what is considered “revenue” and “non-revenue” sports.  A revenue sport is a sport that directly makes the schools money through ticket and merchandise sales.  Across the nation, football and men’s basketball are revenue sports, along with hockey at most northern schools that have teams, and baseball at most southern schools that field teams.  Additionally, some schools have great traditions within smaller sports, and these programs also bring money into the schools.  Examples would include gymnastics at the University of Georgia, women’s volleyball at Penn State, and wrestling at Iowa and Oklahoma State.  Other than these unique cases, all other sports are considered non-revenue.  The funding that goes towards these programs is being supported through donations and profit made by the school’s other more successful and profitable programs.  This would include sports like golf, tennis, swimming, and track.  The non-revenue sports, as the name would suggest, don’t generate any profit through ticket sales, and barely any through merchandise.  These sports are important, because they make up the vast majority of college athletes.  Subsequently, this has developed a two-tiered system at nearly every athletically oriented school in the country.  Regardless of the sport or level, the athletes are putting in serious work and time in order to become the best at their discipline.  While all these athletes are working hard, the distinction between revenue and non-revenue stretches to the individual athletes themselves.  Some of these athletes are helping their schools make huge amounts of money off them and their sport, but the vast majority of collegiate athletes end up costing the school thousands of dollars apiece. 

There is a high level of hypocrisy in many top schools: they market and sell merchandise with a player’s number or name on it, and that player gets absolutely nothing while the university gets millions in profit.  Personally, I can remember going to an University of Michigan football game and seeing thousands of fans walking around with “16” on jerseys and shirts.  Of course, they were doing this because the starting quarterback for Michigan at that time was a young man named Denard Robinson.  No other notable Michigan athlete had ever worn the number 16.  Robinson, with his flashy and exciting style of play had made that number famous, and had quickly become a fan favorite.  None of the jerseys had the name “Robinson” on the back, as it is NCAA policy for no merchandise to be sold with a player’s name on it.  But there was no coincidence that Robinson had made the number 16 famous.  These fans were not wearing 16 because some middling backup wide receiver in the 1980s had worn it.  It was because of Denard Robinson, and he wasn’t earning a single cent from this.  Another former Michigan Wolverine, basketball player and future NBA star Chris Webber attended Michigan in the early 1990s.  He was part of a core group of five incredibly talented freshmen that were called the “Fab 5” by the media.  The Fab 5 would reach two NCAA finals in the two years that all five were on campus.   The Fab 5 revolutionized the game by being the first ones to wear baggy shorts and black socks during games.  Chris Webber recalls one time he saw a storefront that was offering $80 for specialty shoes with Michigan colors and “Fab 5” written on it.  Meanwhile, he could barely afford the coat on his back, while his parents struggled to support their family.  It was no surprise that Webber would turn pro leave for the National Basketball Association (NBA) and a hefty paycheck after his sophomore year.  This same scene is reenacted on campuses across the nation every single day – schools using the talents of young men to make millions of dollars without giving them a cut.

            Like most issues, money is the obviously driving factor here. Aside from maybe having a job in their free time or offseason, these athletes don’t have any personal income coming in.  If they are at their sport’s highest level, they have no time for an outside job, because their job every single day of the week is working to become a better player.  As it turns out, even when on a full ride, college life is not free for athletes.  According to a Drexel University study the average athlete on a full ride owes about $3,200 from his or her own pocket per year.  That translates to about $13,000 for four years, more if the athlete is in school for five or six years due to injury or other circumstances.  For many families this is still quite a financial burden, but that is not the end of it.  That same Drexel study did an analysis of what Division 1 revenue sport athletes would be worth on the open market.  They came to a conclusion that each athlete in a major sport is worth over $100,000 per year.  For football, each player is worth about $121,000 per year, for basketball, it’s over $265,000 per year.  For example, a Duke basketball player is worth over a million dollars per year to school when all factors are considered.  Most, if not all, of that money is going back to the university, while the player doesn’t even have all of his incidental school expenses covered.  Some say that we have to treat these kids just like regular students.  However, the average, regular, suffering-through-chemistry-101 student isn’t making his or her school any money!

The full spectrum of the role of money in college athletics wouldn’t be complete without something on the NCAA.  On the surface it appears that they either over or under step their boundaries on countless issues, all while wasting an incredible amount of money in the process.  However, the NCAA has an incredibly tough job as the governing body for all college athletics, and they have decided to use their power to limit the recruiting process, set regulations, and make life more difficult for potential athletes.  Their money and resources would be much better served if they were directed towards compliance and making sure student-athletes across the country were making the grades necessary in order to keep their scholarships.  But the NCAA can only do so much.  They have to leave a majority of the regulating up the schools, who sadly are the ones taking advantage of the NCAA.
 
For most college athletes, playing their sport at the professional level is their dream and goal. The media makes it seem almost mockingly simple: breeze through college, sign a contract, and within months collect a huge paycheck.  While that might be the case for a few individuals each year, the vast majority of college athletes do not make it to the pros.  That small debt that athletes graduate with is no problem for the top players who quickly collect their paycheck, but many who were not fortunate enough to make it to the pros will struggle with that financial obligation.  Something has to be done for the kids that put in work for four years, get their scholarship paid for by the university, and still graduate with debt, never play to play professional sports.  This might not seem like such big a deal, but there are over 420,000 total student athletes in the country according to the NCAA. With over 100,000 graduating every year, this is a problem that must be addressed. 

            The social injustice is that players, coaches, and schools that are taking advantage of the NCAA and violating their rules.  These rules that they are violating aren’t just about money and scholarships.  There are violations committed daily where young men and women are getting their grades forged, tests taken for them, and skipping class just because they are athletes.  The NCAA calls all players “student-athletes”, and they have it right – the student comes first.  They are not fulfilling the “student” part of their scholarship.  This fair for the regular students that are paying thousands of dollars for an education that the school is just giving back to someone not to go to class. 

Taking all of this information into consideration, I think the day has finally come that we must pay college athletes for their attendance and services.  It is my opinion that this is the only way to solve the problem that has become so significant in college athletics.  Now, the opposing argument will say that the student-athletes have their tuition, room, and board covered, and that is enough.  It is much more than the average student is getting, and if the athletes want more, than they can just go to the pros and earn a regular paycheck, or use their degree and earn a living like everyone else.  While this is a valid argument, it doesn’t accurately reflect what collegiate athletics has become. The ultimate goal is to make college athletics as great and as fun as they possibly can be for everyone involved.  College sports should not only be the best four years the individual players will ever have, they need to be the greatest experience for the fans as well.  Everyone wants to see the best players in the country playing in college, because that sells tickets and gets people to watch on TV, thus making the schools, NCAA, and television stations money.  It’s a simple win-win for everyone involved everyone except the players. 

In order to get the best players to play in college, there has to be some form of compensation.  There is a plan I would offer that would fix the monetary issues in college athletics and stop any need for a players union, which some people have suggested as a possible solution.  In fact, football players at Northwestern University have started talks about forming a players union; but legal implications involving unionizing will eventually cause it to fail. First, the colleges would be required to pay all school or athletic-related expenses for the athletes.  The college wouldn’t have to pay any personal expenses, but every aspect about college life would be covered, giving the athletes the ability to graduate debt free, if they manage their expenses properly.  Secondly, the colleges and the NCAA would have to pay a portion of the profits they make directly involving specific players back to the players.  The NCAA would legalize the use of athletes’ names on official apparel, and for the first time the players would get a cut of any profits made directly involving their name and play.  This would not only solve many athletes’ major complaints, but it would keep them in school longer, and give many an added incentive to play and work harder.  Additionally, the players would not receive their check until they leave school, and they would receive a higher percentage of the money if they graduated.  The incentive to graduate is simple: if a player graduates they get a bigger cut of the money made off of their merchandise sales.  Whether this causes players to stay on campus longer or graduate early is beside the point, because it still sets them up better for a career after sports or if sports don’t work out.  But these added benefits need to come with hard work and effort on the part of the athletes.  There will be no more cheating in college athletics, as the NCAA would focus their attention on monitoring academics.  If a regular student doesn’t make grades, he is put on probation, and it would be the same way for athletes: if an athlete’s grades aren’t up the standard they should be at, they lose their cut of profits for that year, and risk losing their scholarship. 

Overall this idea will help keep kids in school longer, help them graduate with good GPAs, and rightfully compensate them for the money that they are making for the university.  Unfortunately, this will not happen for a long time, as the schools are the ones in the positions of power: they don’t think they are doing anything wrong, and they aren’t willing to give up more of their money to athletes.  There appears to be no change soon on the horizon, and the social injustices will continue unless some types of changes are made. Until that happens, college sports will remain unbalanced, one sided, and inequitable. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Heisman Trophy: This Year and Years Past

The best player in college football every year is awarded the prestigious Heisman trophy.  After being presented with the award, what they do with it is up to them.  This great article by the Washington Post tells us what has happened to every Heisman trophy, and where they all currently reside.  Some have been used as hat racks and doorstops, some have been stolen, sold, and much, much more.  HERE is the link to this great story.

As we turn the page to 2013, who do you think will take home the coveted prize this year? This years ballot has the following people (in the order I think they will finish):
Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Andre Williams, RB, Boston College
AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois

The bowl season is upon us! Happy football watching! 'Til next time.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

VMI's Jordan Weethee With a HUGE Slam!

College basketball is back! To kick off my year of coverage from now until the final buzzer sounds in the Final Four, I present this video to you.  VMI's Jordan Weethee takes flight during the first half of their opening game against The Citadel in the All-Military Classic:


VMI would go on to ride this momentum, and win the game.  Stay tuned for more great videos, images, and analysis from the 2013-14 NCAA Men's Basketball Season! 'Til next time.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

When Logos Go Loco

The most identifiable thing about any team is their logo.  It's the first thing that many people associate with, and I know for a fact I prefer certain teams over others because of colors, uniforms, and logos.  Over the decades, logos have evolved into what they are today.  There is only one thing better than a beautifully crafted logo: a horrible one that we can all laugh at.  Mike Tanier over at Sports on Earth just wrote a great article on sports logos, and when they go wrong. It's another great read that I want to share with all of you:

"Yet somehow logos go wrong. Very wrong. Early logos had no predecessors to draw from and can look quaint and ridiculous to modern eyes. Recent logos are so carefully crafted by marketing gurus that they can look like stock-market symbols. In the decades in between, teams have proudly displayed emblems that were silly, ugly, cheaply produced and poorly drawn. For every iconic Cowboys star or Yankees bat-and-top-hat, there have been hundreds of logos that appear to have been scribbled on a cocktail napkin by the team owner's mistress, or cobbled together by the best correspondence art school graduate that World Hockey Association money could afford.
Let's take a tour of the crazy corners and bizarre trends in logo history. We will leave colleges, the baseball minor leagues, and international teams alone -- if some town of 15,000 wants to name its team the "Anthracite Ferrets,who are we to judge? -- and we will stick to the "majorleagues in most cases. From sloppiness to political incorrectness to outright lunacy, we have a vast palette to choose from."
To read the rest of the article, go to the link above or click HERE.  It's a great, funny, and entertaining synopsis of some of the best, funniest, and worst logos in sports history. Enjoy! 'Til next time.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Greatest Thursday Ever

Thursday is usually that day you struggle through, knowing that Friday is next, and after that comes Saturday, which means 12+ straight hours of nonstop college football.  But this week, you will not have to wait until Friday, because sports fans, as this might just become THE GREATEST THURSDAY EVER.
You want a game with major college teams?
Done.
You want two of them?
Done.
You want the games to be hard-fought, and feature teams with something on the line?
Done.
You want them to both feature ranked teams?
Done.
You want all four of those teams to be ranked in the top 10?
Done.
You want these game to feature undefeated teams?
Done!
You want these games TO HAVE MAJOR BCS IMPLICATIONS!
DONE!!!

The only thing that would make this night any better would be a monkey rodeo*... Can we get someone on that please? Thanks.

But seriously, Thursday night is about to be everything you asked for, and then some!

At 7:00 pm (EST) #10 Oklahoma (7-1) goes on the road to take on undefeated #7 Baylor (7-0) on FoxSports1. This will be Baylor's first major test of the season, as they begin a stretch where they play 5 straight tough teams to close out the season (Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, TCU, and Texas are the other 4).  Baylor has yet to play a ranked team this year, and I am excited to see what they can do on a prime time stage.  Baylor is leading the nation with just under 64 points per game, and 417 passing yards per game. Quarterback Bryce Petty is the man that allows them to do this, but he is accompanied by a great group of wide receivers, and a running back with legit NFL potential in Lache Seastrunk.  You may remember him as the guy who scored a touchdown after pulling a hammy mid-run from last year, but he has turned into a great all around back. Baylor's offense is amazing, but will it hold up against the Sooner's defense? This game will be a great indicator of whether or not Baylor has the ability to make a BCS run this year.

An hour and a half later on ESPN comes what might be an even better matchup, when #3 Oregon (8-0)
travels down to Palo Alto and takes on #5 Stanford (7-1).  This game has the potential to propel Oregon past Florida State in the polls if they win.  This is a classic showdown of two opposite systems colliding, as Oregon's high tempo offense meets Stanford's tough defense and grind-it-out offense.  Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota is leading the way for the Ducks, as he has put up some great numbers thus far this year.  Overall, the winner of this game will be in the drivers seat to win the Pac 12 North, but more importantly for Oregon, this could be their shot at a national title game. Remember last year: Oregon was left out of the national championship game, and Alabama was chosen over them because of a 3 point OT loss to Stanford. This looks to be a game for the ages.

If this doesn't entertain you on a Thursday night, I don't know what will! You might just want to call in sick on Friday so you can have some time to recover! I have never seen a non-Saturday be this important in college football.  I can't wait! Just a reminder: Oklahoma @ Baylor is on FoxSports1 at 7:00 pm (EST) and Oregon @ Stanford is on ESPN at 9:00 (EST).  'Til next time.

*Seriously, "Monkey Rodeo" might just be the greatest thing ever.  Check it out HERE!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Former Oregon Player's Perspective on His Team's Fans

This is just a link-drop, something I hope to be doing more of, but I ran across this article by Oregon Live, and felt the need to share it.  Basically, a former player attends his first game as a spectator in the stands, and is shocked by what he sees and hears: 

"I was then verbally attacked by other spectators saying, "you need to keep your (expletive) mouth shut, because you don't know (expletive) about football." They claimed that I didn't know that they had coached college football, and that I had no idea what I was talking about. Ironic to say the least, considering my background and what you know of me, what my old teammates know of me, and what my old coaches know of me."

His take on what the game has become for many college athletes resembles a gladiatorial clash of the Roman times:

"On the outside, spectators placed bets and objectified us. They put us on pedestals and worshiped us for a short time, but only as long as we were winning. In the end, we were just a bunch of dumbass (racial slur) for the owners to whip, and the rich to bet on."

The rest of the article, which is a very good read, is available HERE.  I highly suggest that everyone reads this.  It truly begs the question, should the NCAA start compensating players more than giving kids a full ride to play a sport at a school?  It seems like there is no true good answer to that question. 'Til next time.

Friday, September 20, 2013

College Football Week 4 Viewing Guide

Welcome to Week 4, where College Gameday is in Fargo, North Dakota, and the prime-time ABC game features an 0-2 American Athletic Conference team.  This is probably the worst viewing week of the year, but it is still a weekend of football, and that is good.

Saturday September 21, 2013
There is nothing quite like Saturdays in the fall...

11:45 AM: College Gameday (ESPN):
Even if Gameday is covering a North Dakota State game, it's still worth it to tune in.  NDSU is actually a good team: they beat Kansas State earlier in the year, and are a perennial power int he FCS (Div. 1AA).

12:00 PM: North Carolina @ Georgia Tech (ESPN):
Just keep the TV on ESPN after Gameday is over, because this is a great game.  With a win here, Georgia Tech would move to 2-0 in the ACC.  They seem like an early favorite to win the Coastal Division.  Watch for: How UNC's defense can stand up against Tech's option attack.

3:30 PM: Tennessee @ #19 Florida (CBS):
Both of these teams need a win in the worst way, coming off of embarrassing non-conference losses. Tennessee got destroyed by Oregon, and Florida put up an embarrassing performance against Miami. Watch for: Freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III shut down Tennessee's passing attack.

3:30 PM: Michigan State @ #22 Notre Dame (NBC):
This is my co-marquee game of the week.  Michigan State is 3-0, not having played any tough teams, and Notre Dame is 2-1, and needs a big win badly to solidify their ranking.  If you only watch one game, this is the one. What to watch for: Michigan State has arguably the best defense in the country, and they get their first test this week against Tommy Rees and Notre Dame's dynamic group of receivers

7:00 PM: #23 Arizona State @ #5 Stanford (FOX):
This is my other marquee game of the week, and it is a good one.  Arizona State is coming off a controversial but good win over Wisconsin, and now they travel to Stanford.  The Cardinal hasn't had a stiff test so far this season, and this is a game that impacts the Pac12 in a major way. Watch for: Stanford to gladly sit back and pound the ball between the tackles all game.

7:45 PM: Auburn @ #6 LSU (ESPN):
This is the first test for LSU as they face an Auburn team that is 3-0 on the season, but has yet to play a ranked team. Though there is a large ranking discrepancy, I think this will be a much closer game than the experts think.  Watch for: LSU's "new" offense, which is much more pass-oriented than in years previous.

That is it folks! Some other games to keep your eye on are: #15 Michigan @ Connecticut, Missouri @ Indiana, and Kansas State @ Texas.  Hopefully next week will have a better slate of games! 'Til next time.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

College Football Week 3 Viewing Guide

So, I guess this has become a weekly series...
Week two was fantastic, except Lee Corso is now 0-2 in headgear selections, which really disappointing to me. Anyways, week three features a few really insanely AMAZINGLY good games, and then not too much after that.  There's still plenty to watch, and I'm still here to cover it!

Thursday September 12, 2013
We actually have a watchable Thursday night game this week!

7:30 PM: #24 TCU @ Texas Tech (ESPN):
This is a great Big 12 matchup, and it will be a test to see which team can play to their strengths. Texas Tech's air raid will try to put up points on TCU's stout defense.  Watch for: TCU's quarterback situation. They have two legit starters in Trevone Boykin and Casey Pachall.

Saturday September 14, 2013
Air Force and Boise play on Friday night if you really need your fix... It's nowhere near a good enough game for me to highlight though.  This is one of those fall days where all you need is some good food and your TV!

11:45 AM: College Gameday (ESPN):
On here, just like every week. It's the best thing on TV.

12:00 PM: #16 UCLA @ #23 Nebraska (ABC):
Normally, this is a marquee game, but this week it takes second, and maybe even third fiddle.  Both teams are relatively untested, and have a lot to prove on both sides of the ball.  Both teams could use this win to vault themselves into the serious conversation for their respective conference titles.  Watch for: Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez and their option attack.

3:30 PM: #1 Alabama @ #6 Texas A&M (CBS):
This is what college football is all about.  This isn't my highlight game by accident. This is the best against the best.  The one blemish on Alabama's record last year was caused by Texas A&M.  Can they repeat their performance in the friendly confines of their own stadium? Tune in at 3:30 to find out.  This is going to be one heck of a fight.  Watch for: Johnny Manziel, obviously, but also Alabama's offensive line.  They got pushed around a bit by Virginia Tech, and they will get a major test against Texas A&M.

3:30 PM: Tennessee @ #2 Oregon (ABC):
This is your "I'm going to check this during commercials of a better game" game of the week.  Tennessee is lacking on defense, and that spells disaster headed into Eugene. Watch for: points. Lots of them.

7:00 PM: #4 Ohio State @ California (FOX):
The first actually test for Ohio State as they travel to the west coast to play a Cal team that can put up some serious points.  Cal's "Bear Raid", a pass oriented offense, will try and keep up with Braxton Miller and the Buckeyes.  Watch for: Special teams, as there is a good chance they will make a difference in this game.

7:00 PM: Vanderbilt @ #13 South Carolina (ESPN):
Both of these teams have great potential, and have suffered tough losses in close games: Vandy to Ole Miss, and South Carolina to Georgia.  See which of these two teams can bounce back.  Watch for: You think I'm going to say Clowney for a 3rd straight time, but I won't.  Watch for South Carolina's two quarterback system and if it can be effective against Vanderbilt.

8:00 PM: Ole Miss @ Texas (Longhorn Network):
This just annoys me, because this is a game that I actually want to watch.  Ole Miss got paid a pretty large sum of money for this game to only be televised on Texas' Longhorn Network, which I don't have. Anyways, Watch for: Texas' new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, and if he can stop Ole Miss' potent offense.

10:30 PM: #20 Wisconsin @ Arizona State (ESPN):
This caps off a big weekend for the Big 10 and Pac 12, as these conferences face off in three head to head matchups.  Wisconsin is untested: having played two cupcakes and shutting both of them out.  Watch for: How new coach Gary Anderson does in his first big time game at Wisconsin.

There aren't as many great games this week, but there is at least one quality matchup in every time slot.  As the conference schedules begin to pick up, so will the great games.  Have a great Saturday! 'Til next time.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Will the Notre Dame vs Michigan Rivalry Be Missed?

    The Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry is a perfect example of what money and short term memory do to sports. If you think about when Notre Dame and Michigan have played, you automatically think that the rivalry is one of those that has been played every year since, forever, and has always featured close, competitive games.  I mean, Michigan has the most wins of any other program, and Notre Dame is No. 4 on that same list. This should be one of the all time greatest rivalries. But the thing is, it isn't. Here's the shortened version of the Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry:
1887-1909: Michigan and Notre Dame play 9 times, Michigan wins 8 games.
1942-43: They play both of these, each team winning once.
     This takes us to 1977.  At this time in history, Michigan and Notre Dame have played 11 times, and only twice in the last 50 years.  This is not the picture of a rivalry, but instead of two teams in the same basic geographic region that decide to play each other occasionally.  Nothing to see here.
But that would not be the case for long.  In the late '70s, Michigan athletic director Don Canham wanted to sell more season tickets, so he decided to add a premier opponent to the non-conference schedule.  The idea of Michigan playing Notre Dame though was very far-fetched.  When asked about the possibility of playing the Fighting Irish, Canham said "Our Catholic students will be sitting in Michigan Stadium cheering for the Irish, and I do not want that to happen".  Even though the teams played back in the days of legendary coaches like Fielding Yost and Knute Rockne, Canham went first to Alabama and Bear Bryant to see if he could start a series with them, but Bryant didn't want his team to travel that far north.  Next, Canham talked to (then independent) Penn State about a series.  After that backfired, Notre Dame posed the possibility of a series to Canham, who agreed under some set circumstances: each team would get to keep 100% of the ticket money for the series.  Both sides agreed, and this set a precedent for non-conference scheduling: pay for a team to come play you, and you keep all of the ticket money.  Michigan started to bring in over $2 Million in ticket money, just from the Notre Dame game.  This series changed the scheduling in college football. The teams played 25 times in a 37 year period, which is not bad at all.  A bit of a rivalry began to build.

      Neither team will ever have the other as their main rival, which slightly diminishes the importance of the game: Michigan has Ohio State and Michigan State, and Notre Dame has USC, and in the '80s and '90s had Miami.  And this takes us to 2008.  Over the 37 years previous, the game had always had an edge, maybe some mistrust, but it never really was a rivalry. Here is what has happened the last 5 times these teams have played:
2008: Enter: Rich Rodriguez, new coach, Michigan. Notre Dame forces 6 turnovers in a taunting victory over Michigan.
2009: Michigan engineers a last second drive to beat Notre Dame by 4.  This is starting to heat up.
2010: Enter: Brian Kelly, new coach, Notre Dame.  Michigan once again scores a touchdown in the last minute to beat the Irish by 4.
2011: Enter: Brady Hoke, new coach, Michigan.  First night game in Michigan Stadium history, College Gameday, ESPN, special uniforms, and a 21 point comeback by Michigan, topped off by the game winning touchdown with 8 seconds left.
2012: Notre Dame wins by 7 by scoring a go-ahead touchdown with just minutes to play.

     Now, THAT is a rivalry, folks.  A classic rivalry, no. But this sure does make it seem like it.  Those are 5 of the best games you will ever see, and we are hoping for more of the same this weekend, which takes us to today.  At the game last year, a letter was slipped to the Michigan AD on the sideline that said Notre Dame was ending the series with Michigan. The 2014 game next year will be the last of the series for as far as we know.  Here is what Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly had to say on the matter: "I don't see the game as one of those historic Notre Dame rivalries".
     And he is 100% correct.  It is more recent than the other teams it has history with.  But the question is, will this rivalry be missed more than others would have been? My answer is yes.  The Michigan-Notre Dame game had begun to turn heads throughout the nation to this game.  I live in "SEC Country" and even people down here talk about this game.  It's gotten to be a BIG DEAL! All the alternate jerseys, night games, and trick plays are brought out for this game. It will truly be missed.  But don't take it from me, take it from the Notre Dame fan-base themselves!
I polled about 20 people I know that call themselves Notre Dame fans, and asked them the following question: "If you were to take the following list of teams, and rank them, #1 being the biggest rival Notre Dame has, and #7 being the weakest rival, what would your ranking of these teams be: USC, Indiana, Michigan State, Stanford, Navy, Michigan, and Purdue."
I have made a table where I averaged the scores that everyone gave for those teams (with lowest being the best):

RankSchoolScore
1USC1.25
2Michigan2.13
3MSU3.75
4Stanford4
5Navy4.75
6Purdue5.13
7Indiana7

     As you can see, USC and Michigan are the clear 1 and 2 rivalries.  Michigan State and Stanford are about tied at 3-4, and Navy and Purdue at 5-6. No love for Indiana, at all.  Maybe these results would have been different 5 years ago, but now, this is the second most important rivalry that Notre Dame has, by a long shot. And as for Michigan, Ohio State will always be number 1, but as former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson said "Notre Dame is our number 2, while Michigan State is our number 3".  So there you have it, both sides of the rivalry, and both sides think that this is an important enough to become the second-most important game, which, with these teams and their schedules, is pretty impressive.
     But it's what Notre Dame has done with the rest of the schedule that has many fans upset.  They have entered a contract with the ACC where they play 5 games a year against ACC teams.  They decided to retain the USC rivalry along with... Michigan State, Purdue, and Navy. Um, what? I can tell you that both fan bases would much rather see Michigan on that schedule. Michigan head coach Brady Hoke had a similar reaction to this, and even said Notre Dame was "chickening out of the rivalry".
      Whatever your opinion, I just want you to know that I, and much of the college football world, want this rivalry to happen.  Though it might not be the most traditional or historical for either team, it has become an annual game that is marked on the calender, prepared for months in advance, and talked about for weeks.  So just keep in mind when you watch Michigan and Notre Dame kick it off this weekend: this is one of the last times you will see a game played between these two great traditional football powers. The college game has lost one of its best rivalries, so enjoy it while you can. 'Til next time.

Should Michigan and Notre Dame Continue Their Rivalry?