Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Every Team Should Be Represented In All-Star Game

We are nearing the MLB All Star break and we get into the time honored tradition of whining about who is on the team. One of my main gripes is when people say "they shouldn't have at least one person from every franchise in the game. Put the best players on it instead."

Um. No.

To me, that's part of baseball. The entire league and all its teams should be represented. I don't care if a 7th Yankee doesn't get on the team because you had to put a Royal on there. All the bad teams should have someone on their league's squad.

And spare me "the game counts now" crap. If that was the guide for the game, than the National League would start Ubaldo Jimenez and make him pitch six, seven innings. The starters (or the best players) would play the entire game and never sit. I mean, what other game during the season sees teams intentionally try to get guys rest and feature as many players on their expanded roster as possible? That's the entire reason the leagues expanded their rosters ... to get more players on the team (and allow those players to receive contracted bonuses). Why would we need more players on the team if the starters played all or most of the game?

See, the line of reasoning is stupid. Oh, and what if no Kansas City Royal deserved to get on the team and none were voted to it? What if those Royals turn it around and win the AL Central? Say they take that momentum and win the American League pennant. So the World Series ... which home field advantage is determined by the All Star Game ... will feature a team that wasn't allowed to have a player on it to help determine who gets the advantage.

To me, the fact that the home field advantage is on the line even solidifies the fact that every team should be represented. Don't feature just the best players on the best teams -- bring on a rep from all teams since that is the true "power" of league. Take the good with the bad.

(By the way, I think home field advantage in the World Series should be determined by who wins the interleague war).

So bring on the Royal, the Oriole, the Indian, the Mariner, the Pirate, the Astro and the Diamondback. They all should have at least one guy flipping their cap in Anaheim.

Why Soccer Really Won't Work In America

Now the pundits want to discuss the impact the 2010 World Cup will have on the future of soccer in the United States. Some think this will start to take off and the sport will flourish. Others think that we'll just go back to our daily lives and not care again.

I think the latter will happen.

I do think soccer will get a slight up-tick (more on that later). But soccer will never be very meaningful in this country. It wasn't after Pele joined the American pro leagues. It wasn't after the U.S. hosted the 1994 World Cup. It won't be now.

The difference is that here, the best athletes don't play soccer. In nearly every other country, the best athletes are pushed into soccer and that is the sport everyone is dying to play. In the U.S., the best athletes want to play basketball, football or baseball. Soccer picks up only the diehards.

Imagine if guys like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Adrian Peterson, Joe Mauer, Jimmy Rollins, Dwyane Wade and Chris Johnson played soccer instead of their respective sports. The Americans would field a team with so much athleticsm and (probably) skill that we'd be among the elite in the world soccer community. Those guys won't play soccer, though, so we don't have to worry about that.

The one thing soccer could have going for it is if they decide to reach out to the inner cities and latch on to the growing Hispanic communities out there. It would still be hard to get kids growing up in America to play soccer no matter their nationality, but you'd have a better chance going after kids whose parents grew up loving the game. Outside of that, I don't see soccer exploding here for a long, long time.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Should Kobe Have Both His Numbers Retired?

With all of this discussion among fans and talking heads about Kobe Bryant's legacy and his place amongst the great of the NBA, it got me thinking about the simpler spoils. Like, when the Lakers retire Bryant's jersey ... will it be No. 8 or No. 24?

Or both.

There's a case to have both numbers retired.

NUMBER 8 (1996-2006): Kobe won the first three of his NBA Championships while wearing this number. He also accomplished the most amazing individual feat I've ever seen when he dumped 81 points on the Raptors. He also finished off his career with that number with a 35.4 ppg average in 2006; one of the highest scoring averages anyone has had over the last four decades.

NUMBER 24 (2006-present): He's won two titles so far with this number. He also transitioned from athletic marvel to smartest basketball player during this time. While he had already won three titles before, these were title teams he was the leader of. He won two NBA Finals MVP awards. In the four years he's had this number, they've been to the Finals three times.

Statistic-wise, having No. 8 retired makes the most sense. Most of his jaw dropping feats happened during these years. But the Kobe we'll remember the most after he retires will be the current one. The Assassin. The Black Mamba. The greatest player of his time.

They'll probably only retire No. 24 since that's the number he will leave off with. Still, there's a case to be made for both.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why Can't We Eliminate Referees?

This is 2010. Sports are different. They are huge money makers that fans get more on edge about than ever before. In a world where few things are sacred, your sports allegiances are some of our strongest loves.

So when we see someone make a mistake and screw over one of our teams, it's grounds to go.

Today's USA-Slovenia World Cup soccer game/match/round/whatever featured a goal that was negated by a bad call by an official. This comes a couple weeks after Jim Joyce robbed Armando Galarraga of a perfect game. And all of that comes after the Tim Donaghy gets pinched for tampering with games for gamblers' benefit.

Officiating is horrible everywhere. It isn't all their fault. Officiating sports is one of the toughest things to do. You have to be Armando Galarraga every day ... perfect. You cannot make a mistake or ... in this day and age ... it will be shown in 10 different angles and fans will be instantly upset. Dealing with angry players (who may or may not be correct) is another deal.

The only time I ever officiated anything was during a "charity" basketball game. I played in a youth league at my local YMCA when I was 17 years old. The "charity" game featured all the coaches of the various teams against the officials in the various leagues. It was all supposed to be in great fun and a couple of players, myself included, got to hold a whistle to at least attempt to act like a ref.

Big mistake. Those coaches and refs complained about everything. They wanted ticky tack fouls called but then would scream bloody murder when they assaulted someone and you blew the whistle. I never saw grown men act like babies in my life. Again, we were teenagers who never did this before ... and these were our mentors. From that point on, I never officiated anything in my life. I don't want to get involved.

That small sample has allowed me to be a bit sympathetic about officials. But I'm not on the biggest stage in sports. I was at some YCMA in Charlotte for a meaningless game. I'm not calling the World Cup or Super Bowl or NBA Finals or a Major League Baseball game. Those guys do that for a living and are the best in their business. And they get it wrong.

Why can't we just eliminated these guys? The linesmen at tennis matches. Officials in football. Umps in baseball? I mean, do we really need an ump tell me if someone is safe or out? You could sit a camera on each base (or even sensors) to determine that. Sure, we need humans out there for a quick call in baseball (we can't keep playing on if we don't know if there was an out or not), but we can get these cats a bunch of help.

Again, this is 2010 and still no one can get it right. Even the sports that use technology to aid their officiating can't get it completely right. Why isn't there a replay offical that makes the calls in the booth for the NFL? Why do we have to call down to the referee and have him put his head under a hood and watch the play? Pay someone to sit up there with all the equipment and make those calls. I can sit at my house and with my DVR make a decision quicker.

How hard is it to have someone sitting at each venue (or even one guy sitting at the main offices) who can quickly look at each play and then correct it when needed? I know there are piddly calls that may not need a change (did the clock stop with 9:37 or 9:38 left?; is it 2nd and 4 or 2nd and 4 1/2?) but the big mistakes need to be corrected. Obvious mistakes need to be overturned.

You owe that to us, the fans.

Remembering Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals

Game 7 and the 2010 NBA Finals are in the book after an interesting game Thursday. Not a great game ... but highly intense and very physical. Great matchup. That's what you get in Game 7s. These guys know what you want to do and are now fully trained to try to stop it.

So here are my bullet points after Game 7:

KOBE BRYANT: He's got his 5th ring. Despite the horrible game he had, he found other ways to contribute. His rebounding and defense were outstanding and he's a deserving Finals MVP. His legacy is solid.

RAY ALLEN: I said going into this game that Allen will either have 25 points or 11 points. Nothing in between. I was nearly correct, since Allen just got 13 points. I don't see how one of the greatest shooters we've ever seen had such a horrible Finals (aside from that epic Game 2).

RON ARTEST: All year long, everybody wondered if the Lakers made a mistake signing Ron Ron instead of resigning Trevor Ariza. It seemed to work out nicely. While Artest didn't put up huge numbers, he came up huge when it counted. His tip in at the buzzer in Game 5 of the Western Conference championship saved the season. He then went on to score 25 on the Suns in a closeout game. In this series, he made life a living hell for Paul Pierce. And when everyone else was struggling, it was Artest fighting for rebounds, loose balls and scoring points.

PHIL JACKSON: I think he made the key in-game adjustment. In the third quarter, the Lakers started switching off on everything. Didn't matter who was guarding who ... they switched. That helped keep the Celtics out of the paint and forced them to take tough shots. It would be easy for a coach to get bent with a 13-point deficit in the third quarter, but Phil kept calm and got his troops directed to the right path.

KEVIN GARNETT: KG isn't the same cat anymore. He is in stretches and if he's rested. I think KG's minutes need to be dropped in order to make himself more effective. He was great in the first half but had no gas in the tank late.

DOC RIVERS: I think he's out the door. He coached a great series, but I think he sees the window closing in Boston. I think he hangs up his whistle and spends time with his family. When he wants to get back into coaching, he'll have his pick of jobs. In this Game 7, he really struggled trying to keep his guys fresh. Because he couldn't get them enough rest, Sheed and KG hit the wall late. That's not a knock on Doc since there really wasn't anything he could do.

SHELDON WILLIAMS: He's the reason the Celtics loss. Don't you know that Duke players can't win titles in the NBA!?!?

ANDREW BYNUM: I can't believe he played in these playoffs with his knee that jacked up. Thanks for showing up!

SASHA VUJACIC: Coming in cold with 12 seconds left and hitting two huge free throws was impressive.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Shaq: Kobe Wins and He'll Be Greatest Laker

In an interview (the video is shown here at LakersNation), Shaquille O'Neal says that if Kobe Bryant and the Lakers win tonight's Game 7 against Boston, he would be the greatest Laker ever.


He's in the discussion already, but I have to put Kareem and Magic ahead of him. Jerry West is a tough call. So is Shaq, himself, who dominated as a Laker.

This all smells like Shaq wants to know how Kobe's "ass tastes". Shaq is ... shockingly ... a free agent this summer. He still wants to play and he most likely wants to play for a winner. He tried to chase down a 5th ring in with Steve Nash in Phoenix and with LeBron James in Cleveland. It looks like he's trying to position himself to try to squeeze one more out with the Lakers.

If he is very cheap, it's not a bad move. I mean, he is better than DJ Mbenga. If he played cheap and was just a fill-in for Andrew Bynum then it could work. But the scuttlebutt that the roster would become just isn't worth it. I mean, you (probably) have the Zen Master next to The Black Mamba next to Ron-Ron next to Lamar Odom next to Shaq?

Anyways, it's nice to see that Shaq still loves him some Kobe Bryant.

Who Has More On the Line Tonight In Game 7?

Game 7s can't be any more hyped than they are. We've all heard all the noise about "anything can happen" and "this is when legends are made." Maybe, but who individually has the most riding on the outcome tonight.

1-KOBE BRYANT: It's obvious that this has been Kobe's series. He's been dominant in nearly every game and could possibly be the Finals MVP even if the Lakers lose tonight. Still, this title would vault him even further into the discussion of greatest ever. He'd have the same amount of rings as Magic Johnson. One less than Kareem and Jordan. Coming up huge tonight would just solidify any doubts that he should be considered among the greats. By the way, Jordan never won a Game 7 in the Finals (well, he never played one).

2-RAY ALLEN: I'm not as sold on Ray Allen as a Hall of Fame player. He's right there in the discussion. I feel that we'll either see a HUGE night from Allen ... or one of those off nights. Nothing in between. He's either scoring 26 or 11. If he shoots the lights out and lifts the Celtics to their 18th championship, then he would most likely be Finals MVP and placed in the Hall category with little questions asked. If he comes up small, people will criticize him for another poor postseason showing.

3-PAU GASOL: A big showing tonight (along with a win) and Gasol joins the list of big men with multiple titles. No, he's not on the same level as a Hakeem or anything, but it still is a huge accomplishment. Just like Ray Allen, Gasol's "legacy" could be greatly helped tonight. He's been known as Ga-soft. Bringing it tonight would knock that down off the wall. Coming up small would only magnify it.

4-PAUL PIERCE: Pierce is the leader of this Celtics team and the most clutch player they have. Winning a second ring would place him right among Larry Bird and the rest as great Celtic champions. A loss wouldn't be devastating to his legacy, but a win would catapult it.

5-DOC RIVERS: This may be his final game in Boston no matter what happens. A win places him as a multiple champion (nothing to sneeze at) and would allow him to pick any job whenever he decides to come back.

Jerrah Jones Wants Arkansas and Notre Dame In Big XII

The Big XII has 10 teams right now and Dallas Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones knows who should fill the last two spots.

Arkansas and Notre Dame.

Um. No and no.

I see why he'd want Arkansas in there. He played for the Razorbacks and Arkansas is a bit out of place in the SEC. They'd fit in the Big XII and would be able to rekindle those lost SWC rivalries with Texas, A&M, Tech and Baylor. However, why in the heck would anyone leave the SEC? Especially to a conference that almost extinct earlier this week. The SEC is still the best football conference in the country. The Big XII just lost two programs who have won national championships in the last 20 years.

Arkansas would be better off just standing pat and waiting for the Big XII to crumble (it may or may not happen) and watch the SEC gobble up Texas A&M or Oklahoma or somebody. Wanting the Razorbacks in the Big XII just doesn't make sense for the school.

As for Notre Dame? Um, no. Why would Notre Dame bother with the Big XII? If they wanted to join a conference, they'd join the Big Ten. Whenever the Irish want in, I'm sure they'll be welcomed with open arms. They'd still have their rivalries with Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and the like. In the Big XII, they'd be booked with those conference teams that it would kill off many of their yearly opponents.

The only way I can see Notre Dame even thinking about doing it is if the Big XII didn't want them for football. But the Irish has the same deal with the Big East and that conference is among the elite in other sports.

The Big XII will stick with 10 teams. Their football title game (which Texas and Oklahoma both hated) is gone and in its place is the ol' skool nine game round robin season with a natural champion. Their hoops conference got a lot better just by getting rid of Nebraska and Colorado. Really, it's quite simple.

Ask Jerrah if he'd like the Dallas Cowboys moved to the NFC West so they can revive rivalries with the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers. I'm sure he'd pass, too.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lakers Have Won 8 of Their Last 10 Game 7s

Since the infamous "Willis Reed Game" in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers have been in 10 Game 7s. Their record in those games? 8-2. Their only two losses were in the 1984 NBA Finals against the Celtics and in 2006 against the Suns (when the Lakers weren't that good).

That includes the 1988 Game 7 against the Detroit Pistons ... the last time they won a Game 7 in the Finals. It also includes Western Conference Championship games against the Kings, Blazers and Mavericks.

W-Rockets 2009

L-@ Suns 2006

W-@ Kings 2002

W-Blazers 2000

W-Pistons 1988

W-Mavericks 1988

W-Jazz 1988

L-@ Celtics 1984

W-Warriors 1977

W-Bulls 1971

Should We Expect a Classic Game 7?

Let's look at the last 12 Game 7s in NBA history.

2005-Spurs 81, Pistons 74: It was tied going into the 4th quarter but the Spurs quickly gained control of the game. While it may have been a tight game, it wasn't a great one to watch.

1994-Rockets 90, Knicks 84: Again, not one of the more beautiful games to watch. Especially as John Starks kept clanging shots all night.

1988-Lakers 108, Pistons 105: This one lived up to the hype. The game was tight throughout ... though the Lakers started pulling away in the 4th. However, Detroit cut it to one point with just :06 remaining in the game.

1984-Celtics 111, Lakers 102: Boston was dominating this game until a late LA run. Still, a healthy win.

1978-Bullets 105, Sonics 99: Again, another game where one team held a double-digit lead but saw that whittled down in the closing minutes. As with Starks' poor shooting in 1994, Dennis Johnson missed each of his 14 shots.

1974-Celtics 102, Bucks 87: Blowout. Complete blowout.

1970-Knicks 113, Lakers 99: Another blowout. This one is always remembered as the Willis Reed game. Maybe Kendrick Perkins or Andrew Bynum will have a similar moment.

1969-Celtics 108, Lakers 106: This is known as the game with the Don Nelson shot and Jerry West's amazing triple-double (42 pts, 13 rbs, 12 ast).

1966-Celtics 95, Lakers 93: Interesting. Yet another game where one team held a sizable lead and then watching it go away late. Not as close as the score indicates.

1962-Celtics 110, Lakers 107 (OT): This is the one game we hope to see Thursday night. A nip and tuck affair that features game winning buzzer beaters and extended play.

1960-Celtics 122, Hawks 103: Um. Yeah.

1957-Celtics 125, Hawks 123 (2OT): Wait, this is what we want to see on Thursday night.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Winners and Losers In Expansion Armageddon


NOTRE DAME: The Irish took a gamble and it seemed to have paid off. Despite the rumors of widespread expansion that would end up ripping apart the Big East, the Irish stayed calm and let all the pieces move around them. When the dust settled, the Irish are still in the best position for themselves and what they wanted all along.

COLORADO: While I'm not thrilled with the Pac-10's moves, if you are a Buffs fan then you should be happy. Colorado makes more sense in the Pac-10 and you'll get to travel to sunny destinations in California, the Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest. It is a perfect fit for them.

BIG XII COMMISH: Don Beebe (is that his name?) saved his butt by convincing Texas to stay in the Big XII. He was a day away from helming a conference that would either have to be completely rebuilt or no conference at all. Now he helms a conference with all members happier than they were two weeks ago. It's a better basketball conference (losing Nebraska and Colorado does hurt the football side of things) and it gets rid of the Big XII title game that Oklahoma and Texas hated. Now they can take their 10-team conference and hold a typical 9-game season to determine their real champion.

UTAH: The Utes will most likely be asked to be the Pac-10's 12th member very soon and they will of course jump all over that. Utah will be the only non-BCS school to move into a BCS conference. And with them going to the Pac-10, their recruiting opens up considerably. Plus, they would walk into the Pac-10 (or 12) North as, most likely, the best program. Who else challeges them in football? Colorado? Oregon? Oregon State? We will see a lot of USC-Utah title games.

ACC AND SEC: Both for different reasons. For the ACC, the expansion, so far, hasn't bothered their conference. That could all change if Maryland leaves for the Big Ten, but I'm not so sure that will happen. Even if it does, the ACC has plenty to choose from (Pitt, Syracuse, UConn) to fill the void. While it doesn't really change the SEC at all, it does keep them as the power league in the country. They have the best football conference and great TV contracts and, since the Pac-10 and Big Ten got marginally better instead of exponentially better, the SEC isn't behind the times. Also for the SEC, since the Pac-10 couldn't pry them away, that gets them some extra time to work on Texas and Oklahoma just in case they want to bolt down the road.

BIG EAST: The fact that there is still a Big East is amazing. If the dominos fell as they were believe to have, the Big East would have been raided by the Big Ten, ACC and SEC. The football league would no longer exist and the basketball league would be severely damaged. The Big East isn't out of the woods yet (Rutgers, among others, is on the Big Ten's radar) but at least they have a pulse.

BOISE STATE: BSU took a gamble and it has paid off. Going to the MWC was a no-brainer ... but it could've been disasterous if a rebuilding Big XII decided to loot the MWC. Since BSU is a newbie, they'd been stuck with the leftovers and, ironically, WAC teams that are added to replace them.


NEBRASKA: Sorry, but aside from the cash grab, I don't see how this works out for the Huskers. Their football program will struggle in the deeper Big Ten and they are the most western of schools. They will lose the Texas recruiting base since they won't be playing those schools (why would any of them keep up with them?). While the midwest is beaming with talent, most of that won't go all the way out to Nebraska to play. They'll be a solid program but nothing more than a mediocre team. As for hoops, they get to be further down the pecking order. Penn State and Northwestern can't wait for the Huskers to get in so they aren't the laughingstock of the league.

PAC-10: Look, the Pac-12 will get their championship game and their new TV deal. But none of it will be near what it could've been had Texas and those other schools joined. Now all the Pac-12 did was expand to Colorado and most likely Utah. Not really the groundbreaking moves we all thought. They get those markets, but they also get a Colorado football program that's sitting right on the fence and a hoops program that is horrid. Oh, and remember that USC and Oregon haven't had a good time of late with arrests, suspensions and NCAA sanctions.

MOUNTAIN WEST SCHOOLS: The MWC were on the verge of netting some quality programs in Kansas, K State, Missouri and Iowa State. Now none will be joining up with them and, in fact, they'll watch Utah leave for the Pac-10. They did get Boise State, which is great, but they'll lose Utah a week later. The MWC was hoping that a conference with Utah, Boise State and TCU (along with BYU) would get them into the door for an automatic BCS bid. Now that may not happen.

MEMPHIS: It could eventually work out for them, but they looked like whores. Rumor had it that they were willing to pay any BCS conference $10M for membership.

WAC: They watch Boise State ... their only football program worth anything ... bolt for the Mountain West. With the MWC staying pat, it really lessens the WAC's standing in the country.

TEXAS A&M: Two days ago, A&M was getting props for getting out of big brother Texas' shadow and work on a deal with the SEC. Instead, they stay in line and follow Texas' lead in a new Big XII.

The Big Ten Should Stay the "Big Ten"

What's in a name?

Many people are trying to figure out how the conference can remain with the name Big Ten despite having 12 teams. Should the Big Ten and Big XII switch names (since the Big XII now has 10 teams).

No. Let the Big Ten be the Big Ten.

The Big Ten's name holds a lot of clout. Aside from the Ivy League, it is probably the most respected conference name out there. So what if they have 12 teams? Keep them the Big Ten.

The Atlantic 10 has 14 teams and no one bats an eye. Oh, they also have two teams in Ohio and a team in Missouri. The Big East has schools in Ohio, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Indiana. The Western Athletic Conference has a team in Louisiana. And don't even get me started in those basketball only conferences like the Sun Belt which has teams in Colorado.

KFC sells more than just chicken. Pizza Hut sells more than just pizza. You drive on parkways and park on driveways. Dusty Baker is a baseball manager ... not a baker. Who cares? Let the Big Ten keep their name. I mean, they had 11 teams for nearly 20 years and never became the "Big Eleven". Keep the name and shut up.

So What's Next In NCAA Expansion?

(First off, this is my 2,000th post on this website. Yeah!!!)

With the Big XII saved at the last minute, the Expansion Armageddon apparently won't happen (at least not for a while). Still, that doesn't mean all this movement isn't over. There are a few items that have to be cleared up and a few teams that will be on the move.


It looks like Utah will become the 12th member of the Pac-10 (most likely renamed Pac-12). That would get the conference a championship game and a cherry TV deal. The conference most likely will be split into a North and South divisional setup (unlike the planned east/west that adding the Big XII schools would form).

NORTH: Colorado, Oregon, Oregon St, Utah, Washington, Washington St
SOUTH: Arizona, Arizona St, Cal, Stanford, UCLA, USC

Most likely, the Pac-10 will go to a 8 or 9-team football schedule where you'd play each fellow division rival once a year and either three or four teams from the other division. The interesting item will be the basketball side of things. Right now, the Pac-10 plays an 18-game schedule. Would they sink back into a typical 16-team schedule that the other 12-team conferences employ? Will they act like the ACC and Big XII and disband the divisions for basketball and still hold a 18-game skeddie?


Despite yesterday's news, the Big XII is still on shaky ground. They are all held together by promises of TV riches which could make or break the conference. First off, Texas still holds the power ... which was a subject of contention before all this started. Second off, the Big XII won't have their championship game anymore.

So, would they be willing to open up their pie to two new members? Tough to say. Assuming if they did, who would they even invite? Could it be BYU? The Cougars will be in a Mountain West Conference without Utah. How about Memphis? You get a huge school and expand your reach. Other MWC and CUSA schools would be on the radar, but I'd go after those two.

No matter what, the Big XII is still shaky and it may only be a matter of a few years before the conference crumbles again. If so, then that huge expansion will be on.


For the time being ... yes. They'll still go after Notre Dame but now the Irish aren't worried about their future. All this expansion didn't touch the Big East (not yet) so the Irish are cool with their non-football sports. The only thing that could happen is the Big Ten get froggy and go after Big East schools Rutgers, Pitt, Syracuse or UConn ... or ACC schools Virginia or Maryland. I don't see the ACC schools leaving their intact conference. The Big East schools would be interesting ... but would the Big Ten do so if it doesn't net the Irish?

Instead, I think the Big Ten will stand pat until they see anything happen to the Big XII (or even the Big East).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Big XII Could Absorb Mountain West

With the "orphans" (the five teams that will be lost when the Big XII implodes: Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Missouri and Baylor) trying to keep the Big XII alive, there are also Plan B scenarios that could come in to play.

The most popular one is that Kansas, K State, Iowa State and Missouri heading off to the Mountain West Conference while Baylor tries to find something (Conference USA?).

Well a new scenario has come up that it's shocking that no one has thought of: The Big XII could absorb the Mountain West.

It's not a bad idea for anyone involved. Obviously, those "orphan" teams would love it since they keep the Big XII alive and stay in a BCS conference. The Mountain West teams would like it since they'd be joining a conference that already has BCS status. It is a win-win as far as that goes.

Also consider that it would mean the Big XII could receive money from the departing schools (Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Colorado and Texas Tech) in penalty fees. If there is no Big XII, then those schools wouldn't really have to pay a leaving fee to the conference. Keeping the Big XII alive would mean the conference would rake in those exit fees.

Right now, the Mountain West has 10 teams. That could change if Texas A&M decides to go to the SEC and the Pac-10 decides to add MWC's Utah. That would mean the nine MWC teams would hook up with the five remaining Big XII teams and form a 14-team conference. If the Pac-10 doesn't nab Utah, then the Big XII would have 15-teams and would almost assuredly add a 16th member (I'd go for Memphis, though SMU or UTEP could work).

Of course, the big wigs in the MWC wouldn't be fond of losing their conference they've worked so hard to put at almost-BCS status. But the schools involved would be fools not to jump at the opportunity to land in a BCS guaranteed conference. It would also put the league among those SuperConferences and could attempt to follow the Pac-10s lead of multiple BCS bids (a longshot, yes, but they'd have a chance at it).

Even if the Big XII didn't want to expand up to 14 or 16 teams, they could just add 7 of the MWC's teams and form a 12-team league. They could add all everyone but San Diego State, Air Force and Wyoming (or pick your schools, but that would see to be smartest). They could also just grab four or five MWC schools and have a 9 or 10-team league. TCU, Utah, BYU, Colorado State and UNLV may be the most likely schools to go after ... in that order.

I do think that wouldn't happen since I think the MWC members would like to see everyone join.

By the way, I think Boise State may have jumped to the MWC too soon. If the Big XII would take just a few schools to the Big XII, it would be stuck in a bad conference again. Oddly, the MWC would then loot the WAC ... BSU's old conference ... for new members. If Boise had just held out a little longer, they could've been offered a spot in the Big XII.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Why Would the SEC Raid the ACC?

There are a lot of rumors flying around right now. Texas to the Pac-10? Or the SEC? Or the Big Ten? Texas A&M is going here or there. The Big Ten may stop at 12 teams ... or balloon up to 16. The SEC will raid the ACC ... who will then raid the Big East again.

With all the crap flying, I have one questions I need answered:


As the dominos fall, it could lead to the SEC raiding some ACC schools. The typical schools mentioned are Clemson, Ga Tech, Florida State, Miami and Va Tech. None of those schools do anything to expand the footprint of the SEC. Clemson doubles up with South Carolina. Same goes for Ga Tech and Georgia. Florida State and Miami will steal Florida's thunder. Va Tech would be new ground, but will it really mean anything?

Va Tech is in the middle of nowhere and doesn't have the Washington DC area footing that Maryland or Virginia have (not to mention that I'm bent that the Virginia legislature demanded that the ACC take Va Tech in the last round of expansion. It makes me sick to think that they'd then bail on the ACC). The SEC could steal West Virginia away from the Big East and get the same effect.

The only additions that would make sense is a far-out proposal to bring North Carolina and Duke into the fold. That would lock in the North Carolina market that the ACC all but has a monopoly on (adding the Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham markets) and strengthen the SEC on the hoops side. If they somehow bolt, then Maryland could be had as well. That would bring in the DC market. This, though, seems like a fantasy grab for the SEC. They should try ... but don't get their hopes up.

To me, it makes more sense for the SEC to expand west. I don't know why they aren't trying to appeal to Texas. Texas A&M already wants in and is just waiting for the SEC to ask. Maybe the two Oklahoma schools would follow and the SEC would have their 16-team megaconference. Think about that power.

To me, the SEC doesn't need to expand. They have a long-term TV contract that is quite lucrative right now. Adding teams doesn't necessarily mean adding money to everyone. It just may not be worth it.

That would be good news for the ACC. Any raid would most likely rip the football powers from the ACC. Football is king at FSU, Miami, Ga Tech, Clemson and Va Tech and football is king in the SEC. If a combination of schools depart for the SEC, the ACC would then have to go back to the Big East to look for replacements (Syracuse? UConn? Cincinnati? Louisville?). While the ACC still would have a decent football conference, it would be obvious that basketball is where their name would hold the most clout. Imagine a conference with Duke, North Carolina, UConn, Syracuse and Maryland.

The ACC wants everything to blow past them. They are very content with the 12-team membership they currently have. Sure, if one of those schools leave then the ACC would have to add someone from the Big East (if they acted quick enough, they could nab Pitt. If not, I'd try for UConn). Other than that, the ACC just wants to receive the least amount of damage it can.

Friday, June 11, 2010

NCAA Armageddon Update (6/11): Boise State Leaves WAC For MWC

In a move that shocks no one, the Mountain West Conference has added Boise State.

This does two things: One, it keeps the Mountain West still viable as a possible BCS Conference. Boise State has been to two BCS games recently, joining Utah and TCU in that distinction. The MWC will look good for one of those spots.

It also helps in case the other dominos fall ... or even if they don't. If they don't fall, Utah will most likely leave for the Pac-12. If they do, then the MWC is poised to soak up those Big XII leftovers (Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State) and become a mega conference in their own right.

As for the WAC, well this knocks them further down the peg. Sure, Hawaii made a magical bowl run a couple of years ago ... but Boise State was their big dog. Their football version of the WCC's Gonzaga. The WAC will move on but will have to take on a much smaller school with less tradition. But then again, how much tradition did Boise State have a decade ago?

NCAA Armaggedon Update (6/11): Texas A&M to SEC?

One of the interesting rumors has Texas A&M not sticking with Texas and instead going to the SEC. This does two things. One, it opens up the opportunity for Baylor or Kansas to join the Pac-16 instead. Two, it cranks up the SEC's expansion worries east of the Mississippi.

That all is good news for the Big Ten and for Missouri. If the SEC starts expanding, it will take from the ACC and Big East. Then the ACC will raid the Big East. That means Notre Dame will be all but resigned to the fact that they have to join the Big Ten. If the Big Ten decides to keep expanding, then they could invite Missouri along with Rutgers and Pitt (though it would almost be beneficial for the Big Ten to add Rutgers and cap out at 14 teams).

This interestingly puts Texas in a very tough spot. They want to go to the Pac-16, they don't see themselves as a fit for the SEC and they know they are the lynchpin for all of this expansion and league destruction.

EAST: Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Pitt*, Purdue, Rutgers*
WEST: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri*, Nebraska*, Northwestern, Wisconsin

EAST: Arizona, Arizona State, Baylor*, Colorado*, Oklahoma*, Oklahoma State*, Texas*, Texas Tech*
WEST: Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State

EAST: Clemson*, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Va Tech*, West Virginia*
WEST: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi, Miss State, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt

NORTH: Boston College, Cincinnati*, Louisville*, Maryland, Syracuse*, Temple*, UConn*, Virginia
SOUTH: Duke, Florida State, Ga Tech, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, So. Florida*, Wake Forest

EAST: Iowa State*, Kansas*, Kansas State*, New Mexico, TCU, Wyoming
WEST: Air Force, Boise State*, BYU, Colorado State, San Diego State, UNLV

Can We Concentrate On the Actual Games and Not Just the Crap Around It?

I love sports. I love all kinds of sports stories. I'm a sucker for the off-field stuff that goes on, but not so much so that I let it trump the actual games themselves.

Right now, we are in the midst of one of the better NBA Finals in quite a while. But instead of the water coolers lighting up about the Lakers and Celtics, everyone is talking about LeBron James and the upcoming free agent class. If someone takes a pic of Dwyane Wade walking out of a donut shop in Chicago, it becomes news.

Look, I'm interested in where these free agents are going to go. The thing is that I can actually WAIT (that's a big word that I'll get to later) for the Finals to end, the Draft to occur and then July 1st when they can actually sign with someone.

By the way, I'd like to take this opportunity to send congrats to the Chicago Blackhawks for winning the Stanley Cup. Now let's talk about the important stuff: NCAA Conference Realignment. Colorado is going west. Nebraska is going east. The Texas schools are planning their next move. What will the SEC decide to do? What about Notre Dame? Will the Big XII dissolve? Will this also cause the Big East to be on the endangered species list.

Oh, yeah. Way to go Chicago!

Same thing in baseball. We are going ga-ga over Stephen Strasberg's debut and that's not a bad thing. But we are barely mentioning the greatness of Ubaldo Jimenez in Colorado this year.

We need to learn how to WAIT and enjoy what's going on around us now. Once the Lakers or Celtics win the NBA Championship, it won't take long for us to wonder if they will do it again next year. Let them enjoy what they just did before moving on so fast!

In college sports (especially basketball), the second after the NCAA Tournament is over, we all go into "who's leaving early" mode. Then we start blaming 19-year olds for taking the ungodly amounts of moneys instead of playing as a "student" for free just because it weakens our team for next year.

As a Tar Heel fan, I know this all to well. Right after the euphoria of a title in 2005, everyone went into immediate "will Felton, McCants, May and Marvin Williams go pro" hype. Same thing after the 2009 title with Lawson, Ellington and Ed Davis. I get that it is part of the whole deal, but let everyone enjoy what just happened for a while instead of thinking of next year. On SportsCenter after a championship game, they already have a top five or ten for the next season queued up.

The problem is that there is no going back. We now live in an age where information is sooooo easy to obtain. We also live in an age where any schmuck (which includes me) can get on a computer and spread rumors and gossip about anything that enters our mind. Fifteen years ago, the only way I knew about North Carolina's recruits is when they actually signed ... and that was a blurb in the newspaper.

Now I can find out who North Carolina is looking at for the next couple of years. We can watch their high school highlights on YouTube. We have mock drafts and power rankings ... all meaningless exercises used to try to figure out the futures of our franchises. We have this other way of doing that -- wait for the season to play out.

Excuse me while I check my LeBron James free agency rumor site as well as streaming the Ben Roethlisberger testimony tapes.

NCAA Conference Realignment May Not Reach Armageddon Status

There are a lot of rumors flying everywhere about the future of college athletics. We do know that Colorado has left the Big XII for the Pac-10. We're pretty sure that Nebraska is leaving the Big XII for the Big Ten. After that, it is all speculative.

One note coming in Thursday night is that Texas and Texas A&M aren't on the same page about what they should do. Both want the Big XII to stay functional and it could happen that way. Texas has enough clout to keep the Big XII afloat.

It all comes down to one thing: will the Big Ten expand beyond the 12 teams in apparently has? If not, then I don't see this Armageddon thing happening. (Note: *-denotes a new team to the conference).

EAST: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue
WEST: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska*, Northwestern, Wisconsin

The Big Ten could stop at Nebraska, split into two divisions and host their championship game. This would be an interesting scenario since adding Nebraska really won't provide the big bang in their expanding their market share. But it would give them the lucrative title game (which could be played in Indianapolis, Detroit, Chicago or ... imagine it ... Green Bay.

NORTH: Colorado*, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah*, Washington, Washington State
SOUTH: Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Stanford, UCLA, USC

Another issue is the ability of the Pac-10 to lure away five more schools from the Big XII. If those five schools feel that it is in their best interests to reform their conference, the Pac-10 may be looking at adding just Colorado and one more school. That school would most likely be Utah ... who would jump at that opportunity.

NORTH: BYU*, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma State
SOUTH: Baylor, Oklahoma, TCU*, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

If Texas and their crew decide to stay put, the Big XII will then have to reformulate itself. It could just let Nebraska and Colorado walk and turn into a 10-team conference (ironic that the Big Ten would have 12 teams and the Big XII would have 10). Not having a conference championship game could be to the likening of Texas and Oklahoma who then wouldn't have to win that extra game to get to a BCS game. Still, with all that's going on around (and the money a Big XII title game brings), I think the conference adds two more members. I see BYU and TCU making the jump.

In dividing up the conference, either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State would have to move north. Putting Oklahoma there would make an epic Texas-Oklahoma championship game. But I think that Oklahoma State goes so that exact scenario doesn't happen and it hindering both being able to get BCS berths.


Both these conferences would stay the same. With the Armageddon deal not happening, neither conference (which have been quiet during all of this) will feel compelled to make any kinds of moves.

But for giggles, if the Armageddon deal happens ... here is what I see happening:

EAST: Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Pitt*, Purdue, Rutgers*
WEST: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri*, Nebraska*, Northwestern, Wisconsin

EAST: Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado*, Oklahoma*, Oklahoma State*, Texas*, Texas A&M*, Texas Tech*
WEST: Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State

EAST: Clemson*, Florida, Georgia, Ga Tech*, South Carolina, Tennessee, Va Tech*, West Virginia*
WEST: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Miss State, Vanderbilt

NORTH: Boston College, Cincinnati*, Louisville*, Marshall*, Maryland, Syracuse*, Temple*, UConn*
SOUTH: Duke, Florida State, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, So. Florida*, Virginia, Wake Forest

EAST: Baylor*, Iowa State*, Kansas*, Kansas State*, TCU, Wyoming
WEST: Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
-I could see the MWC add SMU, UTEP, Rice and Houston from CUSA if they wanted a 16-team league.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kansas Could Be Big Loser In Realignment War

Nebraska is apparently ready to accept an invite to join the Big Ten. That's the first domino to fall in the destruction of the Big XII.

Missouri will most likely follow ... given the fact that the Big Ten will probably ask them to join. And late in the night, it was reported that the Pac-10 has extended an invitation to Colorado. The report also says that the Pac-10 is ready to offer invites to Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Another rumor is that Texas and Texas A&M officials are going to meet to discuss their options.

The Big XII may be a conference for only another week or so. Tough news. The sad thing is a great powerhouse like the Kansas Jayhawks may not have anywhere to go.

Kansas is in no man's land. With Nebraska and Missouri moving to the Big Ten and the six schools the Pac-10 is looking at probably going, that leaves Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Baylor as the odd men out. Unless the Big XII decides to raid the Mountain West, Conference USA and/or WAC that conference will be no more.

So where could Kansas ... who has won three NCAA basketball championships and one of three schools with over 2,000 wins ... land in the new world of college athletics?

Of the major conferences, there's nothing out there. The Pac-16 will be full. The Big Ten probably won't come calling for them (other than the basketball tradition, there's no reason for the Big Ten to be interested). The ACC and SEC don't make sense ... though imagine Kansas, North Carolina and Duke in the same hoops conference. The Big East doesn't make much sense either.

That means Kansas won't be in a major conference (*) anymore. That means they'll have to look to one of those second tier conferences for a home. Maybe the Mountain West would be interested? It makes some sense for the MWC to add Kansas. It will surely up their hoops profile and puts the conference a little more east. Maybe Conference USA would be interested and that could make some sense. The geography would be decent and they'd have a natural power rival in Memphis. The WAC is a stretch, but it is an option.

Now, that (*) I added in the last paragraph could be key. The Mountain West could become a major conference pretty quick. They are already right on the cusp of an automatic BCS berth. Last week, there were rumors that the MWC would invite Boise State to all but assure the BCS will lock them in (the MWC didn't send the invite but said they'll see how things shake out and re-assess). So with all this new movement, the MWC could add Boise State as their 10th member ... then go after Kansas and Kansas State.

Kansas, Kansas State, Boise State, TCU, BYU, Utah, New Mexico, Air Force, Colorado State, San Diego State, Wyoming and UNLV would form a nice conference. You have decent football strength (Kansas, Boise State, TCU and Utah have all recently played in BCS bowls ... while BYU owns a national championship many moons ago) as well as pretty good basketball strength.

EAST: Kansas, Kansas State, TCU, Air Force, Colorado State, Wyoming
WEST: Boise State, BYU, Utah, San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico

That may be the best option for Kansas.

The only other option would be to try to form a new conference of midwestern schools (or rebuild the current Big XII and attempt to keep their BCS affiliation). Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and Iowa State would really only need to add four schools to form a conference. Maybe Memphis would be interested? Maybe Utah, BYU and Boise State would be willing to move. If those three come, then TCU could be persuaded to be the 9th school. From there, they could add three more schools and get back to the 12-team lineup they have now. Even if they didn't, that 9-team lineup would be more than adequate.

However it works out, I just feel bad for Kansas. This is a great traditional school that may get pushed to the side. Their basketball prowess will get dismissed because of their football weakness.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

NBA Should Adopt No Foul Limit

There was discussion on ESPN's First Take this morning about eliminating the foul limit. The idea is that instead of a player being disqualified after his sixth foul ... it would make each foul after the sixth turn into two free throws and the ball for the opposing team.

I've been on the fence about this. I hate foul trouble. The NBA is star driven and poorly officiated. That means we could have a couple bad calls go against the star and he has to sit on the bench. We don't want this. We want to see the stars. We want to see Ray Allen in Game 1. We want to see Kobe Bryant in Game 2. We didn't get either of those because some tough calls went against them and they had to sit.

The problem I have with instituting a no foul limit is what the game could become.

One. Will players then take the opportunity to hack at will? I don't see that as that big of a problem since the penalty of two shots and the ball is quite severe after that sixth foul.

Two. At the same time, will officials be quick to blow the whistle? Now, they do look the other way because they tend to not want to get too ticky-tacky on the calls. If it didn't keep a player on the bench, would they call more fouls? Would the game just turn into a parade to the foul line?

It's something I've wondered. I want the stars to be able to stay in the game and not have the officials dictate outcomes of games. I just don't want the game to suffer as well.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ken Griffey's Retirement ... Like His Career ... Is Shadowed By Other's Controversies

Didja know that Ken Griffey Jr retired last night? You may push that to the side a bit after what happened to Armando Galarraga's imperfect game last night.

That's what Griffey's career was though. He gets lost in the shuffle in his retirement just like his whole career was lost in the shuffle by the steroid era. Griffey finishes with 630 home runs; 5th all-time. The top guy on that list, Barry Bonds, has been plagued by steroid implications. Alex Rodriguez, who will pass Griffey at some point, has already admitted to using performance enhancers.

That doesn't even take into consideration his contemporaries. During Mark McGwire's and Sammy Sosa's steroid fueled home run battles, Griffey was right there with them. Nobody remembers that Griffey was right there with them. In 1997 and 1998, Griffey hit 56 home runs in each year. That was an amazing feat that gets eclipsed by McGwire and Sosa and their cartoonish home run totals. He didn't get the same love.

Griffey is a tough guy to pinpoint historically. To people who watched him play over the past 22 years (well, at least the first 12 seasons and a few after that), he was the best player of his time. He was what people think of Albert Pujols right now. The difference is that Pujols is a better hitter for average and Griffey was one of the greatest fielders we've ever seen. During the early 1990s, there was no more exciting player in the game.

But he's also a guy that never won a championship. In fact, he never even got to the World Series. He made just one appearance in the League Championship Series (Mariners 1995). He only made the playoffs three times and one of those times (2008 with the White Sox) he was nothing more than a role player. Another time (1997), he was awful.

His time with Cincinnati was all but forgettable. He debuted with a bang (40 HRs, 118 RBIs) but then quickly fell off. He played in more than 128 games only once in the next seven years. When he was healthy, he was pretty effective. Too bad he seemed to always be injured.

Still, Griffey is easily a first ballot Hall Of Famer and should be viewed as one of the greatest talents to have ever played baseball.

Hey, Bud. It's Time To Get Some Instant Replay In Baseball

I know that baseball seems to be slow moving with the times and ackward about embracing technology. But what happened last night was so horrible that Commish Bud Selig just has to look into adopting more instant replay in his sport.

By now, you know what happened last night to Armando Galarraga of the Detroit Tigers. He had a perfect game through 8 2/3 when a horrible mistake by an umpire (Jim Joyce) ripped an epic event away from Galarraga. The runner was out by a full step, yet the ump called him safe. No perfect game. No no hitter. No historic accomplishment of having three of the 21 perfect games in history happening in the same month.

It makes me sick.

I'm not being dramatic with that. It physically made me sick. I checked my ESPN.com when a "Breaking News" alert came on that Galarraga was perfect through eight innings. So I rushed in front of my television, turned on MLBTV and watched that final inning unfold. When that last non-out happened, it turned my stomach. I don't know much about Galarraga, but I felt so bad for him.

Why doesn't baseball have the ability to correct this? Seriously! Aside from the NFL, Major League Baseball has the biggest need for instant replay. There are so many close calls in a baseball game (just like football) that it is ridiculous that in 2010 that no one wants to fix it. In that Tigers-Indians game, a few players and coaches left the dugout for the clubhouse to see the replays on the TV. By the time the next batter bounced out, every Detroit Tiger knew this was a bad call. That's all the time you need to take to figure it out and correct it.

I sat at home and watched the replay immediately after it happened. Me, sitting a couple hundred miles away from Comerica Park. You are going to tell me that someone actually sitting at the game with access to a television can't get it that quickly.

Think about this: Armando Galarraga became the first pitcher in MAJOR LEAGUE HISTORY to pitch a 28-out perfect game. Lost in the obvious blown call is the fact that Galarraga got the next batter (who shouldn't have come up to bat) out. So he actually retired 28 straight batters.

It makes me sick. Makes me sick.