From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while watching summer quickly give way to the start of the college football season:

Dotting the ‘I’

Urban Meyer has been the head football coach at Ohio State for six seasons,  forever endearing himself to Buckeye fans by winning the 2012 national championship. But that doesn’t mean he should be still coaching in Columbus this season.

Or coaching anywhere else, for that matter.

He should have forfeited that privilege when he lied at Big Ten Media Days in July after being asked about a 2015 domestic abuse incident involving assistant coach Zach Smith. If that bungled cover up wasn’t reason enough for Ohio State officials to decide to part ways with Meyer, they should have shown him the door once they learned he had erased text messages on his cell phone.

Smith was fired on July 23 and when Meyer was asked the next day about reports that Smith’s former wife, Courtney, had filed an order of protection from him in 2015, the Ohio State head coach claimed he hadn’t been aware of the incident.

A week later Meyer was placed on administrative leave after evidence that he had known came to light. He should have joined Smith in the unemployment line then. And yet Meyer is still employed by the Big Ten power, earning a $5-million salary.

Meyer compounded his error on Wednesday when he failed to apologize to Courtney Smith. He finally did that in a statement he released on Twitter on Friday when he said:

“My words and demeanor on Wednesday did not show how seriously I take relationship violence … I sincerely  apologize to Courtney Smith and her children for what they have gone through.”

It’s a little late, and you’ve got to believe that Meyer was prompted to issue the statement by his wife, Shelley. But how he really feels was demonstrated in 2015 when he protected Zach Smith’s job on his coaching staff.

It’s a pattern of behavior for Meyer, who also had other opportunities to fire Zach Smith, and never did. But hey, at least he added a morality clause to the coaching contracts after learning about Smith making trips to strip clubs while on recruiting trips and also having an affair with a department secretary.

He also had Smith on his coaching staff at Florida, and gave him a pass for a 2009 arrest for domestic violence. So he hired Smith at Ohio State knowing what he was getting.

And yet  we’re now supposed to believe Meyer has finally learned his lesson about setting the right example and demanding a higher standard for his staff and players..

Some have suggested that the three-week suspension without pay Meyer received this week will be enough to knock him off his arrogant stride; that having his reputation  smudged in such a public manner will set him straight. But that assumes Meyer even cares what anyone outside Buckeye Nation thinks about him.

Here’s a clue:  He doesn’t. I learned he doesn’t give a damn about the fans when he was coaching Florida and I was the sports editor in Tallahassee, which has a large and active Gator Club despite being home to Florida State. Meyer came to spring booster club gatherings his first two years as the UF coach, then bypassed the state capital whenever he could as he reduced the overall contact he had with fans outside of Gainesville.

He doesn’t have to make such subjective decisions about fan loyalty as coach of the Buckeyes, who essentially own the entire state. As long as he beats Michigan and has the Buckeyes contending for another NCAA title, Ohio State fans will embrace his overblown ego.

Say what?

Traded by the Miami Dolphins to the Cleveland Browns last March, wide receiver Jarvis Landry is still tasting grass and shoe leather because of the comments he made about his new team.

He stuck both cleats in his mouth when he accused Dolphins coach Adam Gase of scheduling his career funeral in Cleveland, where the Browns were 0-16 last season. “I just felt like, for some reason, Adam (Gase) sent me here to die,” he told ESPN.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, he was traded to the Browns in return for mid-round draft picks.

Landry, who signed a five-year extension worth $75.5 million in April, said he never felt like he fit in with the Dolphins. But with Miami going 6-10, Landry did have a career-high 112 receptions for 987 yards and nine touchdowns last season.

His attitude – and the Browns’ fortunes – may have started to turn around on Thursday. Although it was just a preseason game. Cleveland beat the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles 5-0.

No, that’s not a typo.

They said it

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “AP Top 25 Preseason Poll is out and Ohio State is #5. Even Pete Rose wouldn’t bet on Urban Meyer being fired.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, perhaps referencing some NFL teams will have male cheerleaders this season: “The Buffalo Jills haven’t cheered the Bills since 2014 after doing something the NFL found egregious and way out of line for women. They asked to be paid at least minimum wage.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “Breaking news: Urban Meyer has been suspended for almost as long as the average booth review takes.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Elon Musk’s The Boring Company wants to drill a tunnel from a subway station in East Hollywood to Dodger Stadium that would reduce an hour-long car trip to under four minutes via electric vehicle. It’s believed to be the first speed-up proposal in MLB history that might actually work.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Caesar’s Palace Sports Book reports there are more bets on the Browns to win AFC North than the other three teams combined. Beam me up Scotty….”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh said he doesn’t eat chicken because it’s a nervous bird. Shame it didn’t stop his Wolverines from laying an egg last year.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “If you’ve put the autographed jersey Scott Frost signed for you up for sale on eBay YOU ARE NOT A REAL FAN.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Semiretired Chris Berman could return to ESPN in a reduced role on “SportsCenter” and NFL-related programming, the New York Post reported. In other words, Berman might be … nah, too easy.”

Comedy writer Brad Dickson, again, on Twitter: “Forget trying to speed up the game of baseball. Can somebody please figure out a way to speed up Cornhole?”

RJ Currie of Sportsdeke.com, again: “Dwight Howard, the much-travelled new Wizards forward, reportedly carries just three per cent fat on his body. Twenty per cent if you include his head.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Election officials in Michigan are trying to ban straight-ticket voting. Critics say the tactic inevitably leads to a lazy electorate — or even worse, 22 Detroit Lions starting in the Pro Bowl.”

Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com on a study saying that having a weak grip might signal health problems, even in children: “The good news there: Just try to get an iPad out of the grip of any 10-year-old.”

Comedian Eric Stangel on Twitter: “Going to go out on a limb here and say there’s no one better in baseball today at flying out to straightaway centerfield than Greg Bird.”

Jim Barach of jokesbyjim.blogspot.com: “FIFA’s Jose Maria Marin of Brazil has been sentenced to four years in prison for corruption. It turns out those soccer officials never use their hands either except to take sacks of bribe money.”

Comedian Eric Stangel on Twitter, again: “Matt Schaub has made over $87 million in his career. Just in case you were looking for another reason to be depressed about your life…”

Ball boys

We should have known LaVar Ball would find a way to ruin the Lithuania “vacation” he took with sons LiAngelo and LaMelo.

After agreeing to a sponsorship deal with the BC Prinai-Skycop team in the Lithuanian pro league, Ball tried to dictate how much playing time his sons received as they attempted to develop into NBA draft prospects.

When they didn’t attract the attention of NBA scouts, the two brothers headed home with their dad with two games left in the season. By then, coach Virginijus Seskus was glad to see the Balls leave – even if it did leave the team without a sponsor.

LaVar Ball blamed Seskus for the lack of skills development made by his boys. Seskus fired back, saying the Ball brothers “have no inner drive to become better.”

LiAngelo averaged 12.6 points and LaMelo averaged 6.5.

Next chapter

Tyra Buss, who led the Indiana University women’s basketball team to a WNIT championship last season, has signed a professional contract with Greece club Sporting Athens.

With her work ethic, you can be sure Buss won’t squander the opportunity to develop her skills so she can take another crack at making a WNBA roster.

“It has always been a dream of mine to play professionally and I am so grateful for this opportunity I have been given,” Buss said. “I am excited for this new journey and look forward to all the opportunities I’ll have to work on my game.”

As a senior last season, the Mt. Carmel, Illinois native averaged 20.6 points and 4.7 assists while leading the NCAA in minutes played at 40.0 per game.

She also was the WNIT’s most valuable player and finished her college career as IU’s all-time leader in seven categories, including points scored (2,364), assists (574) and steals (293).

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Andrew Luck vows to bring Indianapolis another great pizza ad.”

SportsPickle.com: “Joe Flacco’s career won’t last much longer. Please treasure every hilarious moment.”

@NinjaEonomics: “LeBron James to lose to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals instead of the NBA Finals.”

Fark.com: “Baseball fights are still stupid, awful and extremely watchable.”

SportsPickle.com: “Stop feeling bad for Tyrod Taylor. Now he will never have to play quarterback in a real game for the Browns. Tonight saved his career. #blessed.”

TheOnion.com: “Nation would be totally fine just doing World Series now.”

Fark.com: “Jon Stewart could lose backup Giants RB job, may have to return to hosting show on Comedy Central.”

SportsPickle.com: “Let he who roots for a Big Ten program that has not had its own disgusting scandal cast the first stone.” – Legends and Leaders 10:16.”

TheOnion.com: “Doctors clear Ben Roethlisberger for unwanted contact.”

Fark.com: “Virginia teen doing pullups monopolizes squat rack for 20 hours.”

@NinaEconomics: “Nobody wants to deliver the paper anymore. Which is great since nobody wants to receive it.”

Fark.com: The New York Knicks fan has given up hope on his team so he sells his soul to highest bidder.”

Bears watching

Chris Zorich deserves credit for having the confidence he can make a difference as the athletic director at tiny Chicago State.

Given a three-year contract with a base salary of $135,000, Zorich is overseeing a school that spent just $5.5 million on 13 Division 1 programs in 2016. The school earned less than $3,000 in ticket revenue.

Having made his name in football as a player at Notre Dame and with the Chicago Bears, his first challenge at Chicago State was to hire men’s and women’s basketball coaches, which he did with the recent introductions of Lance Irvin and Misty Opat. The two coaches take over programs that have gone 21-107 and 9-108 since 2014-15.

But Zorich is undeterred after coming off an encouraging three years as AD at Prairie State. He’s determined to make a difference, even if the school doesn’t have a football program and is still facing financial and academic issues.

“I didn’t take this blindly,” Zorich said. “All I know is what I’ve read in the newspaper — and there were some crazy things written in the paper. I want to change that. I want people to know we’re open for business.”

It’s not the first adversity he has faced in his life. Each time he’s been counted out, he’s battled back. He credits the guidance he received from his mother, Zora, as he grew up facing poverty and gang violence before getting a football scholarship at Notre Dame.

“If not for athletics, I’m not sure where we’d be,” he says.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

  • Time to revise your NFL predictions after what may be the greatest preseason upset based on last season: winless Cleveland beats champions Philadelphia. But yeah, neither team scored a TD in Browns 5-0 win.
  • French Open is imposing a dress code. No superhero costumes allowed, which means Serena Williams can no longer live her cat woman fantasy.
  • Isn’t it nice to know Ohio State’s 3-Game suspension of Urban Meyer won’t leave the Buckeyes at a disadvantage for any Big Ten games that matter. Rutgers? That game has already been won by OSU hasn’t it?
  • Urban may need to adopt nickname Houdini
  • Pharoh Cooper, whose Twitter handle is

@KingTutt_chdown, got some love with sideline interview on NFL Network during
Rams 19-15 win over Raiders. Not bad for guy who caught 2 passes for negative
yardage,

  • Evansville’s Bosse Field claims to be 3rd oldest pro baseball stadium in operation behind Wrigley and Fenway. But Bosse opened in 1915 and Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Ala., opened in 1910. The Birmingham Barons still play there once a year, so put an asterisk on Bosse’s claim.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while noting that dozens of high schools nationwide have announced they are dropping football because of low participation numbers. And so, the soccer revolution finally begins, right?:

Flurry of Aces

Some girls have all the luck.

Scotland’s Ali Gibb, who now lives in London, won the 36-hole Ladies Club Championship at Crohum Hurst Golf Club on Thursday when she compiled a two-day score of 163, following up her first round 81 with a closing 82.

But the bigger news is that she had three hole-in-ones on par-3 holes during the tournament in South Croydon outside London. She owned the 144-yard No. 5 hole twice and also aced the 190-yard No. 11, according to Golf.com’s Sean Zak.

The chances of an average golfer coming away with a hole-in-one in an 18-hole round is estimated at 12,500 to one, but three in 36 holes? Or three in five hours? The best guesstimate a Cambridge mathematician could offer was “in excess of 160 million to one,” according to the Sun.

We also should mention that she defended her title, but it wasn’t so easily done despite the three aces. On back-to-back holes that bridged the two rounds, she needed 17 strokes – giving her something to agonize over.

“On my card I had a nine, two eights, sixes, fives, fours, three, twos and three ones,” said Gibb, who began playing golf 25 years ago when she was invited to a corporate outing.

The 51-year-old amateur had previously aced the 151-yard No. 7 hole and also had pocketed two other hole-in-ones in her outings since 2009. But three in two rounds and three in one tournament?

“The club gives out a bottle of Champagne for every hole-in-one, so they gave me three,” she said. “We had a great night. It was just a weird, weird day.”

“My mother scored a hole-in-one at St Andrews in sixties,” she said. “So I guess it runs in the family.”

If it does, she’s taken it to a new level with a half-dozen in less than 10 years.

Marlins 101

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has reported that the Marlins have implemented an educational program for players and staff that is designed to create better communication and camaraderie.

It’s simple, really. If you speak English, you’ll be learning Spanish. And if you speak Spanish, you’ll be learning English.

No one gets off the hook. Not even Marlins part owner and CEO Derek Jeter.

“Everybody expects the Latin players to make an effort to speak English,” said Jeter. “Well, especially here in Miami, if you don’t speak Spanish, you don’t fit in. I think it’s important.”

The Marlins are also tutoring their younger players on budgeting, shopping and cooking.

But if the Marlins aren’t going to go shopping for veteran talent, the pressure is on manager Don Mattingly and his coaching staff to teach the young Marlins how to win. And that’s going to take a considerable investment in time.

They said it

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Browns rookie QB Baker Mayfield reportedly told Hard Knocks they couldn’t film inside his motorhome. To some guys an RV is prime wheel estate.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: If you aren’t planning to cash in your IRA or 401K early and take the penalty in order to afford more “Frost Warning” T-shirts YOU ARE NOT A REAL FAN.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Aug. 4 marked the 25th anniversary of White Sox hitter Robin Ventura charging the mound and taking a pummeling after Rangers pitcher Nolan Ryan put him in a headlock and delivered a series of quick punches upside the noggin. It’s believed to be the only bobblehead night in baseball history in which no dolls were given away.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Bud Light will be giving out free beer at 10 Cleveland-area bars when the Browns win their first regular-season game. Prompting the obvious question – so how long can beer age?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “The NFL preseason opened with the Ravens beating the Bears 17-16 in the annual Hall of Who Cares game.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter, again: “I was expecting the following first question at the Brooks Koepka presser after winning the PGA: ‘Can you get me Tiger Woods’ autograph?’ ”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Antonio Callaway turned a short pass into a 54-yard TD in the Browns’ exhibition opener, just days after the rookie receiver was pulled over and cited for marijuana possession. Just one question: If the cops can catch him, why can’t the New York Giants?”

Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot, trying to look on the bright side of Johnny Manziel throwing four interceptions in his CFL debut: “That did give him an opportunity to make two tackles.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Death Valley, Calif. recorded the hottest month on record with an average of 108 degrees in July. Though Urban Meyer’s seat at Ohio State already is threatening to break it.”

Hoops pioneers

Lindsey Harding is the latest former WNBA player to join the coaching staff on an NBA team after the Philadelphia 76ers hired her as a full-time scout for the 2018-19 season.

Harding joins three other women making inroads in the NBA – San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon, Dallas Mavericks assistant Jenny Boucek and Los Angeles Clippers assistant Natalie Nakase.

“Your gender shouldn’t even matter,” Harding said. “It should be about if you can do it, if you’re good, you’re experienced, if you know what you’re doing and what you’re talking about.”

Harding was the WNBA’s No. 1 overall pick in 2007, but retired after last summer after nine seasons with six teams. Harding told ESPN her goal is to parlay her scouting position into a coaching or front office job in the NBA.

“I would love to be in the front office and really understand how to put a team together,” Harding said. “I still love being on the floor and having the opportunity to coach. But I really just wanted to get my foot in the door.”

Cutting edge

Cleveland Browns safety Jabrill Peppers, who played for suspended Maryland head coach DJ Durkin when he was the defensive coordinator at Michigan: “His tactics were different. It felt extreme a times … I thought once he became a head coach that he would calm down a little bit, become more of a people person, a player’s coach.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “I know. To really punish Urban Meyer make him the new head coach at Maryland.”

Serena Williams on how she reacted after coach Patrick Mouratoglou told her a few months ago she needed to put tennis first and quit breastfeeding her daughter Alexis, who was born last September: “He’s not a woman, he doesn’t understand that connection, that the best time of the day for me was when I tried to feed her. I’ve spent my whole life making everyone happy, just servicing it seems like everyone. And this is something I wanted to do.”

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Urban Meyer would tell you anything just to get through the next 5 minutes of the press conference. It didn’t matter if it was true or not…he’s probably the most disingenuous coach I’ve ever covered.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: A sure sign the Montreal Alouettes already consider this a lost CFL season? The Als gift shop is selling cushions in the shape of a toilet seat.

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “SF 49ers now say there’s nothing they can do about the intense sun & heat faced by fans on east side of Levi’s Stadium. But they will lower the price of bottled water from $6 to $2 so fans can stay hydrated. The NFL equivalent of ‘thoughts and prayers.’”

Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “Swimmer Ryan Lochte has been banned for a year after posting a picture of himself getting injected with a performance-enhancing substance. The number of Olympic medals Lochte has is 12. The exact same number of his IQ score.”

Unruly changes

ESPN the Magazine’s Steve Etheridge provided “The Unwritten Rules of Baseball – Written” in a recent column. My top five favorites:

  • Don’t hit a home run if they opposing team has already hit a home run. Find your own thing.
  • If a pitcher hits a batter with a pitch, he has asserted his dominance and is now the father of the batter’s children.
  • If a bunt is rolling down the line teetering between fair and foul, do not use a leaf blower to change the ball’s trajectory in your favor.
  •  Never question why your uniforms have belts. Just go with it.
  •  If it’s been a while since the third-base coach had gotten to do the “Run home!” windmill gesture, call timeout and let him go wild for a minute or two.

Minor accomplishment

According to Seattle Times’ Dwight Perry in his Sideline Chatter column, two pairs of minor league baseball teammates, Gio Brusa and Jalen Miller of the Class A San Jose Giants, and Kevin Newman and Jacob Stallings of the AAA Indianapolis Indians, have managed to hit for the cycle this season in the same game. That’s a remarkable accomplishment – even more so since no MLB teammates have ever done it.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Should the MLB ban infield shapeshifting.”

SportsPickle.com: “Nick Foles looks bad. Time to end this experiment and return him to his natural position of wide receiver.”

Fark.com: “Kobe Bryant must be good at investing, where a $6 million investment turns into $200 million.”

SportsPickle.com: “It’s time for the NFL to ban shots to the head in training camp fights.”

TheOnion.com: “Bill Belichick announces this final season he will coach in current mortal form.”

Fark.com: “You’re 3-12 this season, and your  opponent’s first batter is a hot rookie who has homered in 5 consecutive games. What do you do?”

TheOnion.com: “If Urban Meyer didn’t want to get up in an abuse scandal, why was he hanging around college football.”

SportsPickle.com: “Being placed on paid administrative leave is the American Dream. Congratulations to Urban Meyer and DJ Durkin.”

TheOnion.com: “Scouts highly doubtful Tim Tebow will ever make it to heaven.”

Fark.com: “Ryan Tannehill kicks rookie RB out of Dolphins’ huddle, forces him to eat lunch by himself.”

Tortoise torture?

No one can accuse Maryland interim head football coach Matt Canada of being a cruel and heartless taskmaster.

”The focus of our player’s health and safety is No. 1, and our players are feeling that and understanding that,” Canada said Wednesday.

Yeah, good job reading the tea leaves, Matt.

Canada is seemingly taking credit for having two tents installed at the Terrapins’ practice fields to provide relief for players needing to escape the heat, take a drink, get some ice and cool off in front of misting fans. Most practices are also now limited to two hours.

Of course, school officials mandated such corrective actions after the death from heat exhaustion of freshman offensive lineman Jordan McNair.

McNair collapsed on May 29 while running 110-yard sprints and no one on the training staff immediately diagnosed him with heat exhaustion. Thus, the treatment protocols that might have saved him – fluids and ice – weren’t provided in a timely manner. He died in the hospital on June 13.

With former players and athletic staff leveling accusations that suspended head coach DJ Durkin had a “toxic environment” in his program, the university’s athletic department will be sliced and diced under the microscope for the foreseeable future. There’s no way Durkin isn’t fired after an independent investigation is completed.

Already Durkin’s choice of strength coach, Rick Court, has been forced to resign – if you can consider it a resignation when someone receives a $300,000 parting gift.

Durkin and Court should be joined in the unemployment line by University of Maryland President Wallace Loh, who chose one year ago to reject a plan that would have had all athletic trainers receiving training and guidance from the UM medical school in Baltimore.

Friendly fire

When Furman University serves as the sacrificial lamb for Dabo Swinney’s powerhouse Clemson program on Sept. 1, Paladins’ quarterback Harris Roberts could be staring into the familiar faces of a classmate or two.

There may even be a few Clemson students in the stands cheering him on if he steps on the field.

When Roberts chose to play football at Furman, he knew that in order to accomplish his academic goals that he would have to enroll in a cooperative educational exchange program that would allow him to obtain a mechanical engineering degree at Clemson.

So after earning his pre-engineering degree at Furman in three years, he took aim at receiving a second bachelor’s degree from Clemson, which is 30 miles away.

“The drive back and forth sometimes gets a little monotonous,” said Roberts. “That takes a lot of time out of the day that I could use for studying for class, studying film or taking a nap. Being able to manage my time is the most difficult part, but it’s been going well.”

According to sports information director Hunter Reid, Roberts would be the first Furman player enrolled in the co-op program at Clemson in at least 30 years who is on track to play against the Tigers.

Follow the DNA

For now, the days of David Stockton dribbling in his dad’s footprints are over after he was waived by the Utah Jazz.

The son of Hall of Fame guard John Stockton finished the 2017-18 season with the Jazz but only played three games as a backup. Like his father, David also played in college at Gonzaga, helping add to the Zags’ NCAA tournament history.

Stockton, who spent most of the past four years playing for the Reno Bighorns of the NBA G League, plans to play for Medi Bayreuth in Germany this season. His older brother Michael has played for several German teams.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

  • In addition to being an alleged serial wife abuser, former Ohio State assistant Zach Smith reportedly had sex in coaches offices with a OSU staffer and also took photos of his genitalia, including possibly during visit to White House in 2015. Hey, he was an OFFENSIVE assistant.
  • newarena.com‘s Top 5 NFL quaraterbacks:
    1. Tom Brady, Patriots; 2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers; 3. Drew Brees, Saints; 4. Carson Wentz, Eagles; 5. Russell Wilson, Seahawks.
  • So, Eagles’ Nick Foles isn’t one of the 32 best QBs in NFL in listing by http://newarena.com? He’s just the returning
    Super Bowl MVP even if he did chose to be Carson Wentz’s backup. Foles led Eagles to win over Patriots and Tom Brady, who is No. 1 on list.
  • Marlins are taking a bilingual approach to baseball, requiring English-speaking players to learn Spanish and Spanish-speaking players to learn English. But wHich language does Taiwan pitcher Wei-Yin Chen speak?
  • IU’s Lilly King finished 2nd to fellow American Micah Sumrall in 200m breaststroke at Pan Pacific swimming Sunday. The Evansville native had .05 lead at 100m but finished .71 hundredths behind her U.S. rival, posting final time of 1:08.88.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while pulling for my favorite swimmer, Indiana’s  Lilly King, to continue her 50 and 100 meter breaststroke dominance this weekend at nationals:

Home, sweet, home

South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp, who says spending time at five Southeastern Conference schools, gives him a unique perspective, is obviously a little biased toward his current employer.

The Gamecocks are just putting the finishing touches on their new football operations building, so he had reason to strut like a proud rooster during his appearance at the SEC Media Days in Atlanta last week. The football ops building is 110-square feet of magnificence, which is a $50-million investment in the program.

“It’s been a difference-maker for us in our program,” said Muschamp, a former Georgia player who has coached at Auburn, LSU, Florida and South Carolina. “People have asked me all of the time: ‘You guys really seem like you’re recruiting well.’ When you invest in the student-athletes, like we are doing now in South Carolina and we’ve never done before, wholeheartedly with the football program, it makes a difference … It’s going to be a lot of fun moving forward.”

While things appear to be on the upswing athletically, the Gamecocks are already near the top of the collegiate world academically. South Carolina’s football program was first in the SEC in graduation rate and third in the nation last year and the team finished with a spring semester cumulative GPS of 2.87, which is third highest in school history.

“We represent 27 different majors on our campus on our football team,” said Muschamp. “That’s impressive. I worked at some institutions in this league that had about two.”

Sounds about right.

$70-million man

Well, that seals the deal.

Nick Saban will have the rest of us to kick around for at least another seven seasons.

Alabama has announced the Crimson Tide head football coach has agreed to a contract extension through the 2025 season. His base salary this fall will be $7.5 million and will automatically increase by $400,000 annually.  He’ll also received $800,000 bonus payments at the end of  the 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 seasons. That means that by the time he walks away from Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Feb. 28, 2026, Saban will be have pocketed approximately another $70 million, even if he doesn’t win another title.

Pays to be good

Speaking of salaries, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, isn’t doing too poorly himself. He just had the Board of Trustees sign off on a 5-year deal that will pay him a total of $11.6 million, not counting bonuses.

As it is, he will earn $2,2 million this season, which is a half-million dollar raise from 2017. Not bad for coaching a little ball and being restrained on the sidelines a dozen times a game.

In addition to adding two years to Venables’ contract, the school will provide further compensation for each season he stays through life insurance premiums totaling $1.2 million over the next four years.

And then there’s the benefit Venables will receive of getting to watch his son, Jake, play for the Tigers. You can’t put a monetary value on that.

They said it

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Iowa defensive lineman Brady Reiff was arrested for public intoxication – to the tune of .204 BAC – after he tried to open the door of a University of Iowa police car that he mistook for a Uber. Hawkeye apologists immediately accused the cops of disguising their coverage.”

NBC comedian Seth Myers, after police arrested a Massachusetts man for stripping naked and doing yoga poses at a Planet Fitness gym: “That story again: A man in Massachusetts has become the first person ever to successfully cancel his gym membership.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “Vince Carter has re-upped for his 21st year with the Hawks. Your turn, Manu  Ginobili   #GoSpursGo.”

Danica Patrick, hosting the ESPYs: “Why do people keep talking about Tiger Woods when he isn’t winning? I mean, who does he think he is? Me?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Justin Verlander predicted Aaron Judge would homer in the All-Star game. He also foretold Middle East unrest, a World Cup player diving and Donald Trump having a bad hair day.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “After seeing how confident Scott Frost was at Media Days I’ve begun work on my banner congratulating the Huskers for winning the 2021 national championship.”

 Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel on Ricky Stenhouse and Danica Patrick breaking up: “Valentine’s Day in the garage at Daytona just won’t be the same without Ricky romantically giving Danica a dozen long-stemmed socket wrenches and a box of chocolate-covered lug nuts.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Larry Nassar alleges he was assaulted in prison. “I feel so sorry for him,” said absolutely, positively nobody.”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter:  “After hearing Lovie Smith’s assessment of the present state of the Illinois program, grief counselors were brought into the room to help the assembled media deal with their emotions.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “The U.S. women’s fencing team, competing in Wuxi, China, became the first American squad in history to win a senior world championship in the foil discipline. Guess you won’t be hearing them say, “Curses – foiled again!” any time soon.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Watching the Nadal-Djokovic Wimbledon match after the Isner-Anderson servers’ duel was like taking in an Impressionist art exhibit after looking at a fridge covered in finger-paintings.”

Former NBA coach George Karl, writing in his 2017 memoir, “Furious George: My Forty Years Surviving NBA Divas, Clueless GMs, and Poor Shot Selection,” alleging some NBA players had used performance enhancing drugs: “How are some guys getting older — yet thinner and fitter? How are they recovering from injuries so fast? Why the hell are they going to Germany in the offseason? I doubt it’s for the sauerkraut.”

Pearls of wisdom

Now managing the Chicago Cubs, Eddie Vedder.

Ok, not really. But the Pearl Jam singer is getting a look at Joe Maddon’s lineups before each game, even if the group is on tour in Europe.

Whatever works. After all, Vedder is a Cubs fan from Evanston, Ill., and Maddon is superstitious enough to believe that the rocker’s support had something to do with the club winning it all in 2016. Vedder even wrote a song, “All the Way.”

So if Maddon wants Vedder looking over his lineup card, so be it. The team has the best record in the National League.  That has to count for something.

Long odds

Patricio Heras reached a career-high ranking of No. 269 on the ATP Tour when he was 24. That was nearly five years ago, which probably should have been the Argentinian tennis player’s sign to hang up the racket.

Why? Because he’s now been sanctioned for trying to fix a 2015 match on the ATP Challenger circuit in Barranguilla, Colombia. Now 29, he has been found guilty of the charges and has been suspended from playing until his punishment has been decided.

Another Argentine player, Nicholas Kicker, was recently suspended for six years for match fixing, so Heras would be wise to give up his dreams of Wimbledon glory.

Besides, he’s now ranked No. 306.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Promotion offers fans free pizza if Phillies don’t blow any easy plays in 5th inning.”

Fark.com: “The Cleveland Browns unveil new slogan, and its pretty Cleveland Brownsy.”

TheOnion.com: “Royals players concerned about fan who stuck out 3-hour rain delay.”

Fark.com: “Carmelo Anthony continues tradition of blaming anybody but himself.”

TheOnion.com: “NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL team owners vote to unionize.”

Fark.com: “In other news, Vince Carter is still in the NBA.”

Fark.com: “Arena soccer includes a penalty box, power-play and substitutions are done on the fly. Why has there never been a sport like this before?”

Russian collusion

The start of the European Championships in track and field are less than two weeks away, and once again Russian athletes won’t be waving their country’s flag when the competition begins in Berlin.

The IAAF Council extended the sanctions against Russia’s federation of track and field.

Rune Anderson, a Swede who heads up the IAAF’s Russian taskforce team, did hold out hope that the testing of the country’s athletes has shown significant improvement.

However, to be reinstated fully by the IAAF, Anderson said the Russian federation must do three things: reimburse the IAAF for its investigation of the doping scandal; must be reinstated by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which includes a confession that doping was sanctioned by Russian authorities; and the IAAF must be given access to drug tests conducted at RUSADA’s Moscow laboratory between 2011-15.

Russia was accused in a WADA report in 2016 of widespread state-sponsored doping. Its track team was barred from that summer’s Rio Olympics and also missed the IAAF World Championships in London a year later.

A number of Russian athletes, however, have been granted permission by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to compete as neutrals. However, the IOC lifted its Olympic ban on Russia after the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games.

Ranking the pros

According to Business Insider, the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles will enter the season as the best the National Football League has to offer

After that, it’s pretty much the usual suspects,

The top eight teams in their rankings: 1. Eagles; 2. Los Angeles Rams; 3. Minnesota Vikings; 4. New England Patriots; 5. New Orleans Saints; 6. Carolina Panthers; 7. Jacksonville Jaguars; 8. Atlanta Falcons.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while noting that one of the biggest disappointments about being retired is not having a working gig during today’s Kentucky Derby:

Stirring it up

Sometimes Charles Barkley is the biggest knucklehead in the TNT studio. He just can’t help himself.

Such was the case after Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors and Rajon Rondo of the New Orleans Pelicans went nose-to-nose while engaged in “some unfriendly chatter” Tuesday night.

During TNT’s halftime show, Barkley suggested Green deserved to pay a price for trying to intimidate and provoke Rondo into fighting.

When Ernie Johnson asked the panel for their thoughts, Barkley said, “I just want someone to punch him in the face. I really do. I just want someone to punch him in the face.”

After the game when Green was asked to respond to Barkley’s comments, the war of words was on.

“He’s seen me a million times,” said Green.” If he feels that strongly about something, then punch me in my face when you see me. If he’s not going to punch me in my face when he sees me, then shut up. It’s no different than someone sitting behind a computer screen and tweeting, “I’ll knock you out, and you never see them in your life.”

Green continued his rant by suggesting Barkley should have the guts to follow through on his threat.

“Punch me in my face when you see me. If not, no one cares what you would have done. You’re old and it is what it is,” said Green. “If you aren’t going to punch me when you see me, then stop talking about it. Period.”

When he initially had trouble putting the microphone back on its base, he looked at the reporters in the room and said, “Drop the mike.” Then he got up and left the interview session.

Meanwhile, Rondo laughed off the incident and said it was essentially gamesmanship between the two. He said he wasn’t trying to “bait” Green, but he wasn’t going to back down, either.

For the record, the Warriors lead the West semifinal series, 2-1, after the Pelicans bounced back for a 119-100 win Friday night. Neither Green or Rondo was much of a factor scoringwise in that game, combining for 15 points. But Green did have 12 rebounds and nine assists and Rondo had 21 assists and 10 rebounds.

So, no title?

For the record, Scott Frost, now the head football coach at Nebraska, doesn’t claim he won a national championship at UCF last season after completing a 13-0 season by leading the Knights past Auburn in the Peach Bowl.

Sure, he understands why UCF athletic director Danny White scheduled a title parade, hung banners around campus and purchased championship rings for the team. Heck, Frost and his coaching staff even accepted the championship bonus checks – and then all bolted for jobs with the Cornhuskers.

Not a bad way of double-dipping on your football salary, if you can manage it.

“All I’ll say is if I had stayed there, I would have had a hard time getting behind it,” said Frost. “I think it was smart by them because it has kept UCF in the media and in the conversation. But you know, like our rings, I kind of wish my ring just said ‘Undefeated Season’ and ‘Peach Bowl Champion.’”

All the media fuss the championship claim has created is reportedly been worth $200 million in publicity for UCF. And it hasn’t cost UCF anything but the expense of the parade, banners, rings and coaching bonuses.

“I do think it was almost criminal how low (the CFB Committee) kept UCF in the rankings, and I think it was intentional,” Frost told USA Today. “But at the end of the day, the playoff system  is that the national champion is the team that wins the playoff.”

So while White sticks to his assertion that UCF has a championship claim because it beat both Alabama and Georgia – the two teams that played for the title in the same stadium in Atlanta – Frost recognizes the Crimson Tide as the true champions.

’Skins game

The New York Times reported this week that several Washington Redskins cheerleaders were forced to go topless or wear only body paint during a 2013 calendar shoot in Costa Rica. Since there was no nudity in the calendar, the real problem is that the women allege corporate sponsors and other men were on the trip and were invited to watch the photo shoots. The story also alleges that the cheerleaders were then required to escort those men to a nightclub.

It took a few days, but the team is now finally, and predictably, pushing back on those charges. Two former squad captains who were on the Costa Rica trip dispute that the team was “pimping us out.”

“Those terms — ‘pimped out,’ ‘escort’ — they just need to stop, because it’s absolutely not what happened,” Rachel Gill said in an interview with NBC’s “Today” show alongside fellow ex-team member Charo Bishop.

The Times, which interviewed five former cheerleaders, stands by its reporting. The women remain anonymous because they were required to sign confidentiality agreements to go on the trip.

While none of the cheerleaders have alleged they were required to have sex, they do claim that the squad’s director, Stephanie Jojokian, used them “as sex symbols to please male sponsors.”

Bishop, however, said she didn’t see anything wrong with the cheerleaders’ roles at the team’s corportate events. She also told NBC that going topless at the photo shoots was, “All optional, voluntary. Some girls were excited to do those things.”

The Times report also alleges that during a 2012 private boat party the men were allowed to shoot liquor into the mouths of cheerleaders with turkey basters” and “handed out cash prizes in twerking contests.”

Team president Bruce Allen said in a statement Thursday that the team is investigating the allegations.

“I can promise that once we have completed looking into this matter, if it is revealed that any of our employees acted inappropriately, those employees will face significant repercussions,” Allen said.

Of course, what’s really needed is for the NFL to get serious about its diminished image and realize that a growing percentage of its fans are female. So where is the side of beefcake?

Right step

Meanwhile, over in the NBA, another step in the right direction toward women’s rights comes the news that the Milwaukee Bucks plan on interviewing Becky Hammon for their vacant head coaching job, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com.

Hammon already has been a trailblazer in the league, serving as an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs. In 2015, she coached the Spurs’ Las Vegas Summer League team and won the championship.

Despite being undrafted in 1999, the former standout at Colorado State played 16 seasons in the WNBA with the New York Liberty and the San Antonio Stars and was named as one of the league’s top 15 players all-time in 2011.

The Bucks interviewed Hammon for their general manager job in 2017 but she wasn’t a finalist

For the coaching vacancy, Milwaukee is expected to interview several other candidates, including former Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer, former New Orleans coach Monty Williams and former Cleveland coach David Blatt.

They said it

Mike Bianchi of Orlando Sentinel on the report that some Washington Redskins cheerleaders were forced to pose topless during a 2013 calendar shoot in Costa Rica:  “New team motto: “We’re a sexist organization with a racist nickname!”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “You can slip us this Mickey anytime: A 1952 Mantle baseball card has sold for $2.88 million — or 384 times the $7,500 he was paid to play that season.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “FIFA called out Trump on ethics after he tweeted about not supporting countries who don’t support North American World Cup 2026 bid. Give Donald Trump credit – who else could give FIFA the moral high road?”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “A study reveals that the best way to add years to your life is to exercise, lose weight, and not drink too much. To which all of America replied, “What else you got?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Two ex-cheerleaders who filed NFL discrimination suits said if Commissioner Roger Goodell met with them, they’d settle for $1 each. Or twice their old salaries.”

Dwight Perry, again: “Scientists in Singapore created a robot that can put together an Ikea chair in roughly 20 minute. So now it’s on to even tougher challenges, like assembling a roster for the Cincinnati Reds.”

Age-old problem

Jerry Richardson is clearly not smarter than a fifth-grader.

The 81-year-old owner of the Carolina Panthers is being forced to sell his NFL team because of numerous harassment complaints, including sexually suggestive comments he made to female employees.

One such incident even borders on middle-school hijinks since Richardson allegedly passed a note to at least one woman that sought to determine if she had any interest in having a relationship with him.

“Do you think of me as: 1. Your grandfather; 2. Your second father; 3. Your second husband; 4. Your friend; 5. Your boyfriend; 6. Something else.

 Gridiron grandstanding

When NewArena.com compiled its listing of the top college football coaches, the Big Ten surprisingly came out on top with  nine of the 33 ranked coaches. Ohio State’s Urban Meyer led the way for the league at No. 2, while Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh was No. 5.

Meanwhile, the ACC had the second most coaches on the list with seven, giving the league two more than the SEC. But despite those overall numbers, it’s interesting to note that Clemson’s Dabo Swinney was the only ACC coach ranked among the Top 10.

Alabama’s Nick Saban was No. 1 overall to lead the SEC’s three coaches in the Top 10, including Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M at No. 7 and Gus Malzahn of Auburn at 10.

But based on numbers, the Pac-12 could claim dominance with UCLA’s Chip Kelley ranked No. 4, Washington’s Chris Petersen at No. 6 and Stanford’s David Shaw at No. 8.

We should also note that Fisher bolted from Florida State of the AC at the end of the season to take the Aggies’ job. If that hadn’t happened, the Pac-12 would have been the only league with three coaches ranked in the top 10.

The list: 1. Nick Saban, Alabama; 2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State; 3. Dabo Swinney, Clemson; 4. Chip Kelley, UCLA; 5. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan; 6. Chris Petersen, Washington; 7. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M; 8. David Shaw, Stanford; 9. Gary Patterson, TCU; 10. Gus Malzahn, Auburn; 11. Bobby Petrino, Louisville; 12. Mark Richt, Miami; 13. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame; 14. James Franklin, Penn State; 15. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State; 16. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State; 17. Kyle Whittingham, Utah; 18. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin; 19. Mike Leach, Washington State; 20. Bill Snyder, Kansas State; 21. Dan Mullen, Florida; 22. David Cutcliffe, Duke; 23. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy; 24. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech; 25. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech; 26. Tom Herman, Texas; 27. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern; 28. Clay Helton, Southern Cal; 29. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa; 30. Scott Frost, Nebraska; 31. Mike Norvell, Memphis 32. Matt Campbell, Iowa State; 33. Jeff Brohm, Purdue.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Don Mattingly yelling at Marlins for leaving dome open with AC on.”

Fark.com: “Boston Marathon gets to keep some of the prize money because three of the top 15 runners lack Y chromosones.”

Onion.com: “LeBron James credits teammates with providing 4 bodies necessary to avoid forfeiture against Pacers.”

TheOnion.com: “Joe Maddon saves up all his mound visits for one long trip in 8th inning.”

Fark.com: “There are dumb people in the world but until today I didn’t know there were people dumb enough to say, ‘let’s put a Super Bowl in London.”

TheOnion.com: “White Sox promotion puts first 9 fans at ballpark in starting lineup.”

Fark.com: “High school baseball player sues third base coach for telling him to slide.”

Fark.com: “Stay classy, Redskins management.”

TheOnion.com: “No (expletive) chance kid who bought mitt to 400 level getting near foul ball.”

TheOnion.com: “Gym patron just resting for a second until will to live returns.”

Higher expectations

Josh Rosen wasn’t pleased that he fell to the 10th pick of the first round of the recent NFL Draft.

“I thought I should’ve been picked at 1, 2 or 3,” said Rosen, who was selected by the Arizona Cardinals. “I dropped, and I was pissed. I was really, really angry. I wasn’t really showing it. I was trying to keep calm, cool, composed.”

So much for projections that Rosen was the top quarterback in the draft. Perhaps the problem with that evaluation is that it caused ‘Chosen Rosen’s” head to further swell, and then burst when he was drafted 10th.

One team GM said Rosen was psychologically a combination of Jeff George and Jay Cutler, two polarizing quarterbacks who can divide teams. It was a way to suggest that Rosen doesn’t have the leadership skills to last in the NFL

But what he did demonstrate in college was that he can make the quick, short-yardage throws that keep the chains moving in a West Coast offense.

Rosen responded to the criticism he’s heard by saying that he would make it a goal to be a leader. “I’m not going to come in and be an a–hole and think that my s— don’t stink,” he said.

Replacement player?

Ben Roethlisberger may have been merely voicing his desire for more help in getting the Steelers to another Super Bowl when he criticized Pittsburgh for taking Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Randolph in the third round. But by bringing it up during a KDKA radio interview on the Cook and Poni Show, he sounded territorial.

Roethlisberger is entering his 15th season in the NFL and he wouldn’t mind sticking around for another few years. Since Big Ben has had a knack for playing through injuries, starting an average of 14 games a season, he thought the Steelers could have used a lower draft pick on a quarterback and gotten help for another position of need.

“I thought that maybe in the third round, you can get some really good football players that can help this team now,” he said.

Personal note

I haven’t fully decided, but this blog may go into hibernation for a few weeks because my wife and I are in the process of relocating from Indiana to South Carolina.

If I can still manage the time to write, I will. You’ll just have to tune in during this transition, but I shall return at some point.

Personally, it’s a good time to take a break since I was kicked to the curb by Gannett one year ago during one of the company’s many downsizing moves. It came less than two weeks after I was recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists with two 2016 writing awards, including second best columnist in Indiana.

As always, you can always reach me by email at randy.beard@yahoo.com

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while blessed to still be able to call myself a deadbeat blogger considering The Wife had to call 9-1-1 on my behalf last Sunday:

 You gotta believe?

Loyola Chicago, which has won 14 straight games, is headed to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed out of the South.

And not just any No. 11 seed. A No. 11 seed that has established a culture of winning, piling up a school record 32 victories this season in winning the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament titles.

“They have a ton of fun with each other,” head coach Porter Moser said of his players. “You can see they have a ton of fun with each other. They’re enjoying this ride more than you guys –  but when it’s time to lock in, they are locked in. It’s because they want to win. It’s in their genes. They are winning young men.”

Now in their fifth year in the MVC, the Ramblers have become the darlings of March Madness, matching the highest seed to ever advance to the Final Four. And obviously it doesn’t hurt to have 98-year-old nun, Sister Jean, leading you in pregame prayers.

She’ll even soon have her own bobblehead to watch over you as you say your prayers.

But according to Moser, the real bond of faith surrounding the Ramblers is the one that exists between his players.

“These guys have been investing for a long time on how hard they worked, how hard they believed, and we’ve kind of had this mantra about the process,” said Moser. “People asked me out there, did you ever think you were going to the Final Four? And to be honest with you, after Selection Sunday, we didn’t say, hey, let’s go to the Final Four. We said, what do we got to do to beat Miami.

“Then it was the next game, and then it was the next game. These guys have done an amazing job on having laser-like focus on what’s right in front of them instead of skipping steps.”

Indeed, Illinois Chicago won its first three NCAA tournament games by a combined four points – beating Miami 64-62, Tennessee 63-62 and Nevada 69-68. Then Saturday the Ramblers collectively took a deep breath and methodically shredded Kansas State, 78-62.

They had 17 assists on 27 baskets. They made 57 percent of 47 shots, including 9 of 18 3-pointers. And defensively, they held Bruce Weber’s K-State team to 34 percent shooting while winning the rebounding battle by eight.

Those who questioned the MVC’s decision for extending an invitation to Loyola after Creighton bolted for the Big East in 2013, your apology is accepted. Clearly, the Ramblers have a lot more going for them than ancient history – a 1963 NCAA title.

Even though it wasn’t a direct swap, the Ramblers have even filled in nicely for the gut-punching departure of Wichita State to the American Athletic Conference in 2017. (Technically, Valparaiso stepped in for the Shockers).

Moser has been a head coach for 13 seasons, including four at Illinois State and six at Loyola. For MVC fans, he had never had a winning conference record in eight seasons in the league until this year, when the Ramblers were 15-3.

He’s still only 64-98 overall in the MVC with an overall record of 226-211. But all that matters at the moment is he’s unbeaten in the NCAA Tournament.

There’s hope

Walter McCarty, who won a national title at Kentucky and played for four NBA teams over 11 seasons, was introduced as the next coach of the University of Evansville on Friday. He’s spent the last five seasons as an assistant with the Boston Celtics.

While McCarty, 44, has never been a head coach in college, it’s not much of a stretch to believe that what Loyola is doing in this tournament will make it easier for him to sell his vision for the Aces to recruits and any of the returning UE players.

McCarty said he favors an attacking brand of basketball, offensively and defensively.

And then there’s this:

Last season Loyola was 18-14 overall and 8-10 in the MVC. This year Evansville was 17-15 and 7-11 in the MVC. So yeah, it is possible to make dramatic improvement in a year’s time.

Also, it’s interesting that 2015 was the year Marty Simmons led Evansville to the second-tier CIT postseason tournament title while Loyola won the CBI championship.

They said it

Humor writer Brad Dickson in Tweet: “Omahans finally get through one of the iciest winters in memory and now we gotta worry about getting tripped by some Duke basketball player.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon on Mattel’s 17 new Barbie dolls on history-making women, including Olympic snowboarder gold medalist Chloe Kim: “It’s called the ‘Way Too Good for Ken Collection.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Sergio García’s new baby girl, Azalea, is named for a flower common at Augusta where he won the 2017 Masters. The kid is lucky Dad didn’t win the Waste Management Open.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Been a rough week already, still have to smile seeing Sister Jean win and John Calipari lose.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “People who ran the L.A. marathon said it was nice to finally get from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica in less than four hours.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson took a tumble while taking a walk last week, requiring knee surgery. Or as he’s now known in physical-therapy circles, Mr. Knocked-Over.”

Kent Somers of Arizona Republic in a tweet: “NFL free agency is just one big yard sale. Your junk is someone else’s treasure.”

Bob Molinaro of Norfolk Virginian-Pilot on PED poster child Alex Rodriguez’s image makeover as television personality: “A-Rod is a good-looking, well-spoken guy who benefits from living in the United States of Amnesia.”

 Big Blue Collapse

John Calipari’s Kentucky basketball team was seeded fifth in the South Region, so it wasn’t as if anyone other than Ashley Judd expected the Wildcats to win another national championship.

Then it happened. March Madness began and all the teams seeded higher than the SEC Tournament champions began falling like Willow Tree branches in a wind storm. The top four seeds in the region – Virginia, Cincinnati, Tennessee and Arizona – each had their seasons halted before all the conspiracy theorists could unpack their bags in Atlanta.

For the Wildcats, that meant that the Road to the Final Four in San Antonio was wide open. And then it wasn’t.

Everyone was telling the UK players that they just had to take care of business against No. 9 seed Kansas State, and then wait for the winner of the game between No. 11 Loyola Chicago and No. 7 Nevada.

But a funny thing happened on the road to San Antonio – UK lost 61-58 to K-State. Cal and his players didn’t even get a chance to test Sister Jean and the power of prayer.

 Fast finish

During his playing days with the Indiana Pacers, Reggie Miller once scored eight points in less than nine seconds to clinch a 1995 playoff game against the New York Knicks. But that was nothing compared to what Miller witnessed Thursday night during Florida State’s 75-60 upset of Gonzaga in a Sweet 16 game.

FSU led 69-60 with 1:36 left when Phil Cofer completed a four-point play – thanks largely to a flagrant foul being whistled on Gonzaga’s Zach Norvell. And then, because the Seminoles kept possession, FSU added a Mfiondu Kabengele dunk to take a 15-point lead with 1:35 remaining.

Six points in one second. Maybe it wasn’t as dramatic as Miller’s heroics in that long ago Eastern Conference semifinal, but FSU coach Leonard Hamilton will celebrate anyway. After all, it’s his first trip to the Elite Eight in 31 years as a head coach.

“It’s interesting that we’re probably the only ones that think we were capable of doing this,” said Hamilton. “It’s fun because we’re always the underdog and we’re scratching and clawing to put ourselves in a position to do it.”

Alas, his team could have used some late-game heroics Saturday night, losing 58-54 to Michigan.

Headlines

SportsPickle.com: “UMBC sees spike in applications among total morons who only hear of universities through sports success.”

TheOnion.com: “Is it time for the NCAA to start paying the coaches?”

Fark.com: “Sam Bradford will sign with Arizona, citing the state’s top-notch hospitals and physical-therapy facilities.”

SportsPickle.com: “Report: Sister Jean negotiating deal with Golden State Warriors.”

TheOnion.com: “Which NCAA Tournament team will struggle most with the pressure of playing under  FBI surveillance?”

TheOnion.com: “Why is March Madness the only time we get to see good, old fashioned, fundamental gambling?”

Fark.com: “Tiger Woods is in the lead of a real live golf tournament. Welcome to 2008.”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • The Power of the MVC: Loyola Chicago is Final Four bound
  • My NCAA hoops bracket was busted last weekend, but tonight I lost my pick to win it all when Purdue fell to Texas Tech by double digits. It really isn’t much consolation the Red Raiders are coached by a BEARD. Disappointed for Matt Painter, but I am pulling for Chris Beard.
  • Strong comeback effort by Clemson in 80-76 loss to Kansas in Sweet 16. The early deficit was just too much but all Brad Brownell’s doubters should be lining up for 2018-19 season tickets at Littlejohn.
  • It won’t happen overnight. And unfortunately I won’t be here to see if it happens at all (since I’m moving to SC), but I think UE made the right decision in hiring @waltermccarty as the Aces’ next basketball coach. Good luck, Walter!
  • Evansville’s Lilly King won the 200 breaststroke, winning her third-straight NCAA title in the event with best time in history – 2:02.60. King is first woman to break the 2:03:00 barrier. She also completed 100, 200 breast double for 3rd straight year. IU finished 8th in standings.

Taking it on chin

Comedian Ellen DeGeneres decided since Purdue Pete and his chunky chin reminds her of her good friend Jay Leno, she’d go with the Boilermakers over Texas Tech while making her Sweet 16 picks.

“It’s like hillbilly Elmo versus Jay Leno – Jay Leno in a hard hat,” she said. “Jay’s a friend of mine so I’m going to go with Jay,” said DeGeneres.

Alas, it wasn’t about Purdue Pete’s chin. It came down to Isaac Haas’ fractured right elbow that kept him on the bench.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while just glad Frank Martin’s South Carolina basketball team is still in contention for the NIT after making it to the Final Four last year.

Serious business?

Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles at the Staples Center will feature a new sandlot-style format, pitting Team LeBron (James) vs. Team Stephen (Curry).

Charles Barkley, for one, can’t wait to see who the knuckleheads will be in the bunch, risking injury to try to win game MVP honors.

“There are always a couple of idiots,” said Barkley on Jimmy Kimmel Live. “…There’s always a couple of guys trying to play like its Game 7. You want to say, ‘Dude, this is an exhibition. Calm down!’ They are diving for loose balls and you’re worried about your legs and everything. But there are always a couple of guys trying to get MVP. Those guys are dangerous.”

There may be more than a couple of players taking the afternoon seriously. Not only is the MVP a nice honor, but players on the winning team will earn $100,000 this season – double the pay they received last season.

The losing players only get $25,000 each.

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni will coach Team Stephen. His starters will be Curry (Golden State), James Harden (Houston), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee) and Joel Emblid (Philadelphia)

Toronto coach Dwayne Casey will guide Team LeBron. His starters will be James, Kevin Durant (Golden State), Antony Davis (New Orleans), DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans) and Kyrie Irving (Boston).

Stat of week

SportsBettingDime.com states that the over-under prop bet for the number of dunks in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game is 40.5.

Philly fans

If anyone should know Philadelphia sports fans, it’d be Barkley.

The former Auburn player spent the first half of his 16-year NBA career with the 76ers. And while he confessed that he didn’t want to be drafted by Philly, he ended up falling in love with the city and the fans.

So, when Barkley was approached at a downtown Philadelphia hotel by a group of Minnesota Vikings fans before the NFC Championship, he was ready to offer some advice.

“They pulled me aside and said, ‘Hey Charles, if things are going good for us in the game, how do you think we should act? I said, ‘Hey, don’t make a sound. Those people are going to be loaded. They are going to go crazy.”

After all, Philadelphia sports fans are known to overreact whether their teams win or lose. Philly police coated the lamp posts with Crisco to prevent people from climbing the poles and getting hurt. But there are also fans who have been known to punch the horses cops ride when patrolling downtown during big events.

“They came back to the hotel after the game and said, ‘Man, you were right. They were throwing things at us.’ And I said, ‘And y’all lost. Can you imagine what they would have done if y’all had won?’”

They said it

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “Over 65,000 people attended the Super Bowl. The crowd was 10 percent Eagles fans, 10 percent Patriots fans and 80 percent angry Vikings fans.”

Actor Dwayne Johnson, who played football at the University of Miami: “Making it to the NFL was the best thing that never happened to me.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “A brawl broke out in a professional rugby game in the country of Georgia, complete with punching, kicking and bloodshed. Then things got really violent: they played rugby.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Referees ejected an Arizona cheerleader for yelling at opposing players through his megaphone during the Wildcats’ 77-70 basketball win over rival Arizona State on Thursday night. He was reportedly released on his own personal recognizance for 2 bits, 4 bits, 6 bits, a dollar.”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “It’s been reported that they’ll be handing out over 100,000 condoms in the Olympic Village. After hearing about it, Americans everywhere said, ‘Now that’s the show we want to watch.’”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb) World-Herald on the XFL vowing not to allow any players with a criminal record: “I hope they’re willing to play eight-man football.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com after Jamie Anderson won Olympic gold in slopestyle: “Millions of Americans: ‘USA! USA! USA! … What’s slopestyle’?”

Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleston, W.Va., after Hawks forward DeAndre’ Bembry was arrested for driving 128 mph: “He is averaging 4.8 points a game, but that just got him 12 points on his driver’s license.”

 Super moment

This season couldn’t have turned out any better for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who once considered handing up his clipboard.

Then starter Carson Wentz tore an ACL in December and Foles was thrust into the starting lineup. The rest is history. He matched Tom Brady’s legacy by leading his team to the championship, beating Brady in the process.

Now he’s suddenly a hot commodity and a fan favorite, giving the Eagles something to think about.

“My safe spot used to be whole food,” said Foles during an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” this week. “But now I can’t go into Whole Foods (without being recognized).”

He said most Philly fans who come up to him end up crying because he helped fulfill a decades-old dream of the Eagles winning the championship.

Foles, who was drafted by the Eagles in the third round in 2012 and spent one season each in St. Louis and Kansas City before returning to Philadelphia this season, has mostly been a backup during his career.

He did start 21 games for the Eagles in 2013-14, passing for 5.054 yards and 40 touchdowns, before signing with St. Louis. But his career path has been on a downward spiral until he stepped in for the Eagles on Dec. 10 against the Raiders.

In seven regular season appearances this season, including three starts, he completed 57 of 101 passes for 537 yards and five touchdowns. In the three playoff games, Foles completed 77 of 106 passes for 971 yards and six touchdowns.

Foles is due to make $4 million in salary next season, but if he’s still with the Eagles on March 18, the team also is on the hook for a $3-million roster bonus.

He wants to stay in Philadelphia and that will put considerable pressure on team management. Imagine how Eagles fans will react if they get off to a slow start next season, knowing they traded the Super Bowl MVP and lost their offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who left to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

Marketing impact

A recent study by picksixpreviews.com asked 224 college football recruits to rank the brands of Power Five schools as if they were each the No. 1 recruit in the nation.

Somewhat surprisingly, Clemson came out on top, underscoring just how much Dabo Swinney has elevated the Tigers in the past few years while winning a national championship in 2016 and finishing second to Alabama in 2015.

Clemson generated the 27th most revenue (($104.8 million) in 2015-16.

Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, which added another title this season (and has won five of nine), has somehow lost some luster with the latest recruiting class. Alabama ranked only No. 19.

The Top Five schools in terms of brand perception are Clemson, Ohio State, Penn State, Georgia and Oregon.

The factors determining brand impact vary with each recruit but include location, overall facilities, stadium size, fan support, media exposure, playing style, uniforms and coach persona.

Of the Top 25 brands, 17 were from the ACC, Big Ten and SEC and 42 of the Top 65 were from those conferences. If you add in Notre Dame, which competes in the ACC in every sport but football, the Irish ranked No. 15.

ACC: 1. Clemson; 7. Miami; 12. Florida State; 22. Louisville; 27. North Carolina; 33. Virginia Tech; 35. N.C. State; 38. Georgia Tech; 44. (tie) Duke; 50. Virginia; 54. Pittsburgh; 55. Wake Forest; 61. Syracuse; 64. Boston College.

Big Ten: 2. Ohio State; 3. Penn State; 11. Michigan State; 16. Wisconsin; 17. Michigan; 21. Nebraska; 39. Iowa; 41. Maryland; 44. (tie) Purdue; 45. Northwestern; 51. Minnesota; 57. Indiana; 58. Rutgers; 62. Illinois.

SEC: 4. Georgia; 10. LSU; 14. Florida; 18. Auburn; 19. Alabama; 24. Texas A&M; 25. Tennessee; 29. Mississippi; 31. Mississippi State; 32. South Carolina; 34. Kentucky; 49. Arkansas; 52. Missouri; 59. Vanderbilt.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Olympic drug-testing official left horribly disfigured after coming into contact with Russian urine.”

SportsPickle.com: “Star curler hoping to parlay Olympics success into dream janitor job.”

Fark.com: “Shirtless Tongen finishes at the bottom of the standings.”

TheOnion.com: “Schnauzers rioting outside Madison Square Garden following Westminster Dog Show defeat.”

SportsPickle.com: “Tom Brady asks his personal trainer for special exercises that can mend a broken heart.”

TheKicker.com: “Kyrie calls LeBron to learn how to properly throw teammates under the bus.:

SportsPickle.com: “Packers preparing to lose Aaron Rodgers after he promises he ‘loves them like family.’”

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11:

  • South Carolina upsets No. 10 Auburn, 84-75, despite furious comeback effort by Tigers. That’s three Top 10 wins for Gamecocks.
  • Auburn’s Anfernee McLemore had a gruesome injury late in first half at South Carolina. Gamecocks lead No. 10 Tigers, 46-25.
  • LaVar Ball gets   my vote as Dumbest Dad. Talk about the entitlement syndrome. He’s insisting Lonzo won’t resign with Lakers unless they sign brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo.
  • It seems Shaun White wants his legacy to be sex, drugs, rock and GOLD. But he should have pursued his groupies instead of drummer in his band, Bad Things.”

 Crying Irish

Notre Dame has had to forfeit 21 wins, including 12 in 2012 when the Irish played Alabama for the national title. (OK, we don’t want to go there, do we.)

The Irish were originally penalized in 2016 for academic violations during the 2012 and 2013 seasons but appealed. That appeal was finally denied this week by the NCAA. The school also received a year of probation and a $5,000 fine.

The infraction occurred when a student-trainer completed coursework for two players and provided improper academic assistance to another six.

Notre Dame suspended five players before the 2014 season, which brought the violations to the NCAA’s attention. Quarterback Everett Golson, who was the 2012 starter, was suspended in 2013. The South Carolina native played one more season in South Bend before transferring to Florida State in 2015.

The biggest impact of the forfeited losses at Notre Dame? Embarrassment, and we’re not just talking the kind of embarrassment from learning about the fake dead girlfriend of Manti Te’o.

Only if the Irish had to forfeit 13 wins from 2012 would this be more meaningful. But as we know, Alabama won that national championship game, 42-14.

Tebow time

Yes, spring training is about to begin, which means more daily reports on Tim Tebow’s attempt to turn an abbreviated NFL career into a cup of coffee in MLB.

“The goal is to get to the Major Leagues, for sure,” said Tebow, who was signed by the Mets last season and had eight home runs in 126 games with the Columbia, S.C. Fireflies and the St. Lucie, Fla. Mets last season while boosting attendances nearly 40 percent for those teams.

“Last year was my first year playing after taking 12 years off, and not playing since my junior year in high school,” the former Heisman Trophy winner at Florida told NBC’s Jimmy Fallon earlier this week.

“Huge transition. Huge obstacle. And of course, no one thinks I can do it. But I love trying to prove people wrong, so I’m excited about the challenge.”

Oh, he battled .226 with 126 strikeouts.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while wondering if Purdue and Ohio State will still be unbeaten in Big Ten basketball when they meet  Feb. 7, just five games before the league tournament:

More drama

Alas, the Jacksonville Jaguars really won’t be facing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with one hand tied behind his back Sunday when they travel to Foxborough, Mass., to challenge New England for the AFC Championship. That’s the bad news.

I’m pulling for the Jaguars anyway, hoping they can find a path to victory that doesn’t depend on Brady being a wounded warrior.

A severely wounded warrior is what Brady was at midweek when he banged his right hand on the helmet buckle of a teammate at practice. He reportedly needed four stitches for a cut around the knuckle of the thumb on his throwing hand, which he also jammed.

He wore gloves on both hands on Thursday, but didn’t participate in practice. However, on Friday he did have a short practice session in which he threw fairly well, according to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport. Pats receiver Danny Amendola caught several of those passes and said the ball had plenty of zip.

While Brady didn’t do interviews Wednesday or Thursday, he did speak Friday. He came to the interview session wearing red gloves to keep his injury hidden.

He was coy about whether he would play in Sunday’s 2 p.m. CT game.

“We’ll see,” he said. “I have played in a lot of games in pain.”

Amendola expects Brady to find a way to do all the dicing on Sunday against the Jags’ secondary.

“He’s a warrior, he’s a competitor, and there’s really only one reason he’s here,” said Amendola. “And that’s to play football.”

Tarnished gold

UPDATED: USA gymnastic doctor Larry Nassar sentenced by Michigan judge Rosemarie Aquilini to 175 years for sexual abuse and pornography and pay a yet to be determined amount of restitution. She told him “she was signing his death warrant” because he’d never get out of prison. He’ll serve 60 years on pornography charges before the other charges. Nearly 160 gymnasts from USA Gymnastics testified against him. There are also victims from Michigan State.

USA Gymnastics may never recover from the failure of leadership which turned a blind eye to team doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of hundreds of young women in the program.

Among the 140 alleged victims are four of the five members of the gold medal-winning 2012 “Fierce Five” and three of the five gold-medal winning 2016 “Final Five” Olympians. The victims include Ally Raisman, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney and Jordyn Wieber.

Raisman and Douglas were on both U.S. Olympic teams.

Nassar is facing 25 years to life in prison for the sexual abuse charges and already has been sentenced to a 60-year sentence for child pornography. Much of the abuse occurred at the Karolyli Ranch in Texas where national team members trained once a month.

He also worked at Michigan State, where more alleged abuse occurred, which is why the trial is being held in Lansing, Michigan.

Nassar had access to the dorm rooms of the U.S. gymnasts at the ranch, where he could be alone with them for the purpose of treating injuries and giving therapeutic massages.

Parents weren’t allowed to stay at the ranch, which was owned by Bela and Martha Karoyli. Both legendary coaches, the Karoylis aren’t facing charges but USA Gymnastics has decided it will no longer use the ranch as a training center.

In her testimony, Raisman was heavily critical of USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee for being slow to address complaints from athletes who first raised concerns about  Nassar. She said both organizations are “rotting from the inside.”

Added Raisman: “To believe in the future of gymnastics is to believe in change. But how are we to believe in change when these organizations aren’t even willing to acknowledge the problem? … False assurances from organizations are dangerous, especially when people so badly want to believe them. They make it easier to look away from the problem and enable bad things to continue to happen.”

Amazingly, Nassar has submitted a letter to the Michigan court stating it had become “mentally” tough for him to listen to the testimony against him.

“You think this is hard for you?” said Raisman. “Imagine how any of us feels.”

They said it

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Drew Brees, 39, will be a free agent this year, But Brees says he wants to be in New Orleans “as long as they’ll have him,” isn’t talking to other teams and thinks a deal will be done by March.  No wonder the guy’s underrated, he’s not enough of a diva.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “David Beckham has released a line of 21 men’s grooming products. I plan to use them – as soon as they come out with Bald It Like Beckham.”

NBC’s Seth Meyers, on O.J. Simpson denying long-running rumors that he is Khloe Kardashian’s biological father: “But then he announced his new book about his relationship with Kris Jenner called ‘If We Did It.’ ”

Dwight Perry of Seattle Times: “A man in Cocoa, Fla., was arrested for allegedly punching an ATM because it gave him too much money. Taking no chances, the ATM is now in the concussion protocol after complaining of withdrawal symptoms.”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald on NBC’s plans for 2,400 hours of Winter Olympic coverage: “If you don’t despise mixed-doubles curling at the beginning, you will by the end.”

NBC comedian Seth Myers: “According to a report, due to global warming, many former winter Olympics sites may not be reliably cold enough to host the games again after 2050. Officials first became suspicious when a figure skater drowned.”

Salute to legend

Brazilian soccer legend Pele, 77,  has suffered numerous health issues in recent years and may not be able to travel to Russia this summer for the 2018 World Cup.

It’d be a shame if that’s the case. Pele made his World Cup debut in 1958 in Sweden at the age of 17 against the USSR. He had an assist in the 2-0 win.

In that World Cup 60 years ago, he went on to score a hat trick in a 5-2 semifinal win over France and then had two goals against host Sweden in the final. He finished with six goals in four games.

He not only became the youngest player to play in a World Cup but also the youngest to score a hat trick.

His first goal against Sweden in the final, where he flicked the ball over a defender and scored off a full volley, was elected as one of the best goals in Cup history.

He is the only player to win the World Cup three times.

Pele was supposed to attend a Football Writers Association dinner in his honor in London on Sunday but he won’t attend because of “exhaustion.” He’s reportedly resting at home near Santos, Brazil.

He has had kidney, prostate and hip surgery.

Headlines

TheKicker.com: “Bengals fans so happy about Steelers loss they give Andy Dalton to charity.”

Fark.com: “Why is fighting in the NHL down to historic lows, and what can be done to fix this terrible problem?”

SportsPickle.com: “Tony Romo to predict when and how you will die in next broadcast.”

TheOnion.com: “USA Gymnastics confident they have plan in place for next time doctor sexually assaults 150 children.”

TheKicker.com: “Eagles to spend entire week practicing defense against last second miracle plays.”

SportsPickle.com: “Tom Brady begging his broken hand to drink more water.

Fark.com: Bestest ballers LiAngelo and LaMelo impress Lithuania with mad bricklaying skills.”

Sign spotted at the Cleveland parade “honoring” the 0-16 Browns: “Hey, LeBron, can you play quarterback?”

Draft blather

Thanks to ESPN, Mel Kiper Jr. has built a cottage industry around the NFL Draft. And for that, you can’t blame ol’ helmet head of hair for such self-promotion while working in cahoots with the cable sports network.”

In partnership with the NFL, they have created a showcase event each year with the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. The 2018 Combine is March 2-5.

Once again NFL and college football fans will be tuned in to see who can run faster, jump higher or throw further. But for those who can’t wait for the raw numbers to come in, there’s Kiper and his assessments of players based on insider interviews with NFL general managers and scouts.

His 2018 mock draft was released this week. Kiper projects Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen will be drafted No. 1 by the Cleveland Browns.

Allen only ranked 82nd in the nation for passing yardage, finishing with 1,870 yards, 16 touchdowns with six interceptions.  In the Mountain West, he was eighth in completion percentage and sixth in passing yardage per game.

UCLA’s Josh Rosen has been atop most NFL draft boards. In comparsion, Rosen was 14th nationally in passing yardage with 3,756 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Kiper, of course, has been wrong before.

In 1998, for instance, he thought Ryan Leaf was a better pro prospect that Peyton Manning.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

–        Huge win for Gamecocks, rally from 14 down in second half to beat #18 Kentucky, 76-68. Chris Silva had career-high, 27 points.

–        Well, that was predictable. Clemson lost to North Carolina 87-79. That stretches record to 0-59 in Chapel Hill. Zero wins. In Basketball. Round ball, flat floor doesn’t help odds for Tigers team that seem to be playing uphill on both ends of court when stepping in UNC’s gym.

–        Skol, Vikings!

–        No Steel Curtain for Pittsburgh vs. Jacksonville. More like Sheer Curtain. Jaguars crunched Pittsburgh for second time this season, winning playoff 45-42.

–        Brian Bowen (La Porte, Ind./La Lumiere School) will attend South Carolina and play for Frank Martin, bringing an end to a tumultuous few months that saw the 5-star recruit enroll at Louisville only to leave after the school decided he would not play there after a NCAA probe.

Cashing in

It pays to be on Nick Saban’s football coaching staff at Alabama.

Not only do the odds favor his assistant coaches winning multiple national championships and setting themselves up for coordinator or head coaching positions at other schools, they are pretty much guaranteed a hefty bonus each season.

This year was particularly rewarding with the Crimson Tide making the CFP playoffs even if they didn’t play for the SEC title.

For winning another national championship, the $7-million man Saban earned a $100,000 bonus.

His assistants, including three who earned bigger bonuses than Saban, were paid a combined $1.07 million.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who has moved on to coach Tennessee, received a bonus of $234,000. Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who is now the OC for the Buffalo Bills, earned an extra $216,000.

Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi was given $171,000 and Mike Locksley, who has been promoted to offensive coordinator from assistant OC, earned $108,000.

The four other staff members received bonuses ranging from $72,000 to $96,000.

Bowl recap

I’ll take consolation that I correctly picked the winners of the College Football Playoff semifinal games, confident that the national championship would be settled by two Southeastern Conference teams.

Alas, I didn’t expect Alabama to prevail in overtime with a stunning 41-yard overtime touchdown pass from freshman backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to beat Georgia 26-23.

My postseason picks had blown up long before that. I finished 21-17 overall, which is a 55.2 percent winning percentage. Again, I’ll take consolation in the fact that I fared better in bowl games involving ACC, Big Ten and SEC teams, posting a record of 14-7 (67 percent).

As a reminder, during the regular season I was 86-20 (81.1 percent) in picking Big Ten games this season, 82-20 (80.5 percent) in the SEC and 79-27 (74.5 percent) in the ACC.

Combined, regular and postseason, I had a winning percentage of 78.3 percent with my picks, 271-84.

Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while noting that it snowed in Evansville just in  time for me to get excited about the Winter Olympics – Not.

Best ever

I hereby concede  Nick Saban is the best college football coach of all-time.

There is no reason to debate it. Saban is in a Hall of Fame class of his own.

As log as Saban is coaching the Southeastern Conference should use its considerable clout to negotiate an automatic bye for the Crimson Tide into the College Football Playoffs.

Furthermore, he’s so good at the coaching biz, Alabama should start every league game with a two-touchdown deficit just to restore more competitive balance to the SEC.

That would not only help the SEC improve its chances of getting a second team into the postseason each year, but it would give more programs a shot at winning the SEC title.

It’ll also get Saban and his players more focused on the only postseason games that matter. After all, the SEC title really doesn’t mean that much to Saban and Alabama fans. It’s merely been  the prerequisite in Alabama’s push for another national title.

But that wasn’t the case this year. Because of  pride, Alabama’s players may have been ticked off that they had to watched Georgia beat Auburn for the league title. But in the end, it all worked out. After the Tide crushed 2016 national champion Clemson in the semifinals, Saban’s boys stunned Georgia, 26-23, in overtime to win the 2017 title.

It was an instant classic, surpassing last season’s upset by Clemson in the final seconds.  This time it was the Tide that snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa coming off the bench to start the second half to lead Alabama’s comeback from a 13-0 deficit. One play after being sacked for a 16-yard loss in overtime, he threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith.

Saban’s decision to start Tagovailoa in the second half was the closing argument for me in declaring  him the best coach of all-time.

There’s zero chance he won’t win at least one more title, maybe two, before Tagovailoa likely moves on to the NFL.

Tracking titles

Saban has now won six national titles, tying him with Alabama’s other legend, Bear Bryant.

Saban already had more titles than all the other active coaches combined with Ohio State’s Urban Meyer winning three (two at Florida) and one each being claimed by Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who is now at Texas A&M.

Saban won one of his championships while coaching LSU in 2003 but he’s won five in nine years at Alabama  (2009,  2011, 2012, 2015. 2017).

His record as a college coach is now 218-62-1 with seven SEC titles, including a 127-20 mark in 11 seasons at Alabama.

Star is born

In the CFP championship game, Tua Tagovailoa completed 14 of 24 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in beating Georgia.

Not bad for one half of work by a freshman who had thrown just 29 passes all season in mop up duty. He completed 21 of those throws for 304 yards and five more touchdowns.

But the best thing Tagovailoa did came days after the title game when he took to Twitter to defend starter Jalen Hurts, who had competed only 3 of 8 passes for 21 yards in the first half of the CFP title game.

Despite being 24-2 as a starter, Hurts was heavily criticized by Twitter idiots. Tgovailoa didn’t hesitate to strike back:

“Tired of people not appreciating the fact that this man led us to the National Championship. And for all the fans that are against Jalen, you are against me too. You either WITH US or AGAINST US. Love you 2. #BigBroLittleBro @JalenHurts.

By the way, one of Tagovailoa’s newest fans is Mr. T, “Professional pitier of fools,” who tweeted: “As a Christian, I was so Proud of Alabama Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Giving the Glory to God!”

They said it

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com:  “Word is Maria Sharapova has unleashed a record-level shriek of 119 decibels. It happened when Australian Open officials announced the withdrawal of Serena Williams.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: ‘Guess I was wrong, I thought respecting the National Anthem meant learning all the words. @realDonaldTrump”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald: ‘How slick were some Omaha streets early Thursday? The Olympic qualifying luge trials were held in my driveway.”

R.J. Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Did you see Lightning forward Tyler Johnson scoring against the Canes with both skates off the ground? I guess switching to right wing really did elevate his game.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Indians hurler Trevor Bauer — using a five-step running start and a three-ounce ball — uncorked a pitch clocked at 116.9 mph. So who needs to hear the crack of the bat when you can have a sonic boom?”

Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleston, W.Va.: “A report says Papa John’s Pizza may not buy ad time for the Super Bowl. Apparently the company just doesn’t have enough dough.”

Comedy writer TC Chong: “The Las Vegas Knights are the most successful first year team in the history of all major sports. Their home record is an astonishing 18-2-1. Are they really that good, or does the policy of having the visiting team partake in the “two drink minimum” have anything to do with this?”

Soccer’s future

For what it’s worth, Christian Pulisic is the future of U.S. Soccer. Big surprise, right?

Only 19, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder was named the United States Soccer Player of the Year Thursday by Futbol de Primera after balloting by 104 writers and broadcasters. It comes on the heels of him being named the U.S. Soccer Federation Male Player of the Year last month, giving him a sweep of the player of the year awards.

For the latest honor, he received 81 first-place and 254 points, topping Jozy Altidore (95) and Michael Bradley (75).

Landon Donovan, at 20, had been the youngest winner of the award.

A native of Hershey, Pa., Pulisic had six goals and four assists in nine games for the national team and was involved in 13 of the 17 American goals in games he played.

The U.S. did not qualify for the World Cup this summer in Russia.

Headlines

SportsPickle.com: “Report: Nick Saban pondering retirement to spend more time criticizing his family.”

Fark.com:  “Marcus Mariota throws a touchdown pass to Marcus Mariota.”

TheKicker.com: “Gruden already putting Raiders assistant coaches through two-a-days.”

Fark.com: “SEC loses in championship game for second straight year.”

SportsPickle.com: “Browns confirm they will skip NFL Draft to avoid drafting any future Browns.”

TheKicker.com: “To play if safe, Vikings will start all 3 quarterbacks at once.”

Earning respect

Central Florida’s declaration that it won the national championship never gained much traction outside of Orlando.

Sure, the Knights were the only team in college football to finish without a loss this year and among their 13 victories was a Peach Bowl triumph over Auburn. And yes, Auburn was the only team to defeat Alabama.

But that’s not how it works.

In the final Associated Press poll, UCF was ranked No. 6 and the USA Today poll had the Knights at No. 7.

But at least CBS Sports’ final rankings of all 130 teams gave UCF some love. That poll had Alabama No. 1, Georgia No. 2, Oklahoma No. 3 and UCF No. 4. Clemson, which was the defending national champion and the No. 1 seed in the CFP playoff this season, was ranked fifth.

All UCF really wanted was to get one of the four seeds in the CFP playoffs. Better late, than never.

Dr. Serena

One day after having an emergency C-section to deliver her daughter Alexis, Serena Williams wasn’t feeling well and suspected she had developed blood clots.

It’s a medical crisis she’s dealt with before, so she was confident she had made the proper diagnosis.

One, she was having trouble breathing. Two, she wasn’t taking her anticoagulant medicine due to the C-section, which she knew increased her chances for developing a pulmonary embolism.

When no one seemed to take her seriously, she got out of bed and walked to the nurse’s station, demanding a CT scan with contrast dye as well as asking to be put on a IV drip for a blood thinner.

The nurses thought she was just being paranoid and was possibly confused by the pain medication, so they scheduled her for an ultrasound exam. When that didn’t reveal any problems, Williams again insisted she need to be put on a blood thinner and be taken for a CT-scan.

The hospital finally consented – probably knowing that Williams could afford the tests herself if it was contested by insurance.

When the CT-scan revealed several small blood clots had settled in her lung, Williams got the blood thinner she had been requesting.

“I was like, listen to Dr. Williams,” she said.

Williams lives in constant fear of blood clots, so she knew enough about the possible complications that can come with having a C-section birth.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

FINAL: Alabama 26, Georgia 23, OT. Nick Saban still hasn’t lost to former assistant and he now has 6 national championships.

UCF = Unfair College Football

UCF = Unfulfilled Championship Fantasy

Indiana head football coach Tom Allen announced today that Kane Wommack has joined His staff as 10th assistant coach now allowed by NCAA.

Brian Bowen (La Porte, Ind./La Lumiere School) will attend South Carolina and play for Frank Martin, bringing an end to a tumultuous few months that saw the 5-star recruit enroll at Louisville only to leave after the school decided he would not play there after FBI/NCAA probe.

Congrats to Mike Brey for becoming Notre Dame’s wins leader with 394th to pass Digger Phelps by routing N.C. State. Brey also now just 7 wins from 500th victory.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while  predicting that the University of Georgia will win the national football championship Monday night:

Mythical  nonsense

Only in the era of mythical national champions would Central Florida be able to stake a claim as the best team in college football.

But this is the playoff era, so get real, Danny White.

If the UCF athletic director wants to cut bonus checks totaling $325,000 to Scott Frost and his staff for an undefeated season – one which will lead to even bigger paydays at Nebraska – so be it. Seriously, no matter how many banners and signs you hang around UCF’s campus, or how many pages you waste reminiscing about a self-proclaimed title in next season’s media guide, it won’t make it true. That makes the parade disingenuous, too.

Yes, UCF beat Auburn 34-27 on Jan. 1 in the Peach Bowl, and did it in the same stadium in Atlanta that will host the College Football Championship game Monday night between two other SEC schools, Alabama and Georgia.

That’s the problem.

While Auburn beat Georgia. 40-17, and defeated Alabama, 26-14, the Tigers lost a rematch with Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs, 28-7.

Alabama, Georgia and Auburn each played tougher schedules throughout the season. Put UCF into that weekly SEC grind and the losses will add up, too.

Yes, scheduling makes a difference. So don’t try to twist the weekly refrain that every game matters.

UCF is unbeaten, going 13-0 against a schedule that ranked only as the nation’s 103rd toughest.

But hey, they did enough this season to deserve another review of the CFP system, which we can only hope leads to an expansion to eight teams in the playoffs. There’s no reason college football can’t tack on another weekend of postseason play, even if it means eliminating the conference championship games.

All Power Five conference champions would be in the field with the three at-large spots going to the next best teams. Furthermore, no conference could have more than two teams and an at-large berth would be reserved for a so-called Group of Five team that is ranked in the Top 10.

And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of the terms Power Five and Group of Five.

Participation Trophy, Part I

To underscore the fact that Alabama won’t be satisfied with anything but coming away with the national championship on Monday night, Crimson Tide strength coach Scott Cochran destroyed the runner-up trophy from last season’s CFP title game.

Clemson beat Alabama 35-31 in that game.

To motivate the Alabama players and to pass on head coach Nick Saban’s disappointment from that game, Cochran picked up the trophy this week and threw it to the floor. He then finished the job of destroying the hardware with a sledgehammer.

The Tide, of course, pretty much destroyed Clemson in the CFP semifinals at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans last Monday.

Alabama plays Georgia for the 2017 title at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Monday.

Participation trophy, Part II

Kobe Bryant, who recently had two jerseys retired by the Los Angeles Lakers – Nos. 8 and 24 – says he no longer shoots baskets with anyone but his daughters, Natalia and Gianna.

During an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel’s show Thursday night, he also revealed that he coaches his daughters and their team runs the triangle offense he learned from Phil Jackson.

He also may be using some of Jackson’s mind games as motivational techniques.

When his players were upset with a fifth-place finish in a tournament and wanted to destroy the trophies they received, he huddled them one more time and told them to use it as motivation.

“None of us want this trophy. I get it. But don’t break it. Take it home. Put it right there on the mantle in your room, and every day you look at that trophy, remind yourself what you will never win again … I sucked today. I will not suck tomorrow.”

They said it

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “According to USA Today, LaVar Ball is still convinced his son Lonzo is better than Steph Curry. If there was a concussion tent in basketball, they’d never let LaVar out of it.”

Dwight Perry of Seattle Times: “Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and race-car driver Danica Patrick were reportedly spotted out on a date at a Green Bay restaurant. Either that or they were just discussing the finer points of two-minute drives.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “With weather that may not hit the teens this weekend in Boston and Buffalo, how thankful are NFL fans that the Patriots have a bye, and the Bills have an away game?”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald on DePaul basketball walk-on Pantelis Xidias: “Everybody’s rooting for him to make it except the DePaul play-by-play guy.”

Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleston, W.Va., on Alex Rodriguez’s reward for serving as the University of Miami’s commencement speaker: “An honorary degree in chemical engineering.”

Looking ahead

We’re still waiting to crown the 2017 champion, but that hasn’t stopped Athlon’s and The Sporting News from releasing their 2018 early look/preseason polls.

So for your reading and debating pleasure, have at it.

Athlon’s 2018 Pre-Preseason: 1. Alabama; 2. Clemson; 3. Ohio State; 4. Georgia; 5. Miami; 6. Oklahoma; 7. Michigan; 8. Wisconsin; 9. Auburn; 10. Michigan State; 11. Penn State; 12. Washington; 13. Southern Cal; 14. Stanford; 15. Notre Dame; 16. Virginia Tech; 17. Florida State; 18. Texas; 19. LSU; 20. Boise State; 21. Mississippi State; 22. West Virginia; 23. Oregon; 24. Kansas State; 25. Florida.

Sporting News 2018 Pre-Preseason: 1. Alabama; 2. Clemson; 3. Georgia; 4. Ohio State; 5. Oklahoma; 6. Wisconsin; 7. Miami; 8. Auburn; 9. Notre Dame; 10. Penn State 11. Washington; 12. Southern California; 13. LSU; 14. Stanford; 15. Virginia Tech; 16. Michigan State; 17. Michigan; 18. TCU; 19. Florida State; 20. Oklahoma; 21. Central Florida; 22. Texas; 23. South Carolina; 24. Memphis; 25. Texas A&M.

Jackson’s future

Rather than returning to Louisville for his senior season, Lamar Jackson has declared for the NFL draft.

Only a junior, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, who finished second in the voting this season, had the option of coming back for a third shot at being named the best player in college football.

But that wouldn’t have improved his draft stock. It also would put him behind another year in making the transition to wide receiver.

While Jackson is a dynamic playmaker, he’s not going to feast on broken plays in the NFL like he did in college. He’ll face bigger, stronger, quicker defensive linemen on every snap as a pro. But get him the football in space, and watch him go. That’s how he can be a game-changer at the next level.

Besides, entering a draft with pro-style passers like UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Southern Cal’s Sam Darnold, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudoph and Wyoming’s Josh Allen puts him at a disadvantage in the QB Lottery.

But as a receiver, Jackson would be a good gamble late in the first round for a team that believes he can make a quick transition to receiver while also getting snaps as a wildcat QB.

Jackson will insist in pre-draft interviews that he wants a shot at QB, but if he’s not flexible in terms of working out at receiver, he could fall to around the fifth round. And if he’s smart, he’ll be working on his footwork and passing accuracy in the weeks ahead.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

Georgia wins 54-48. Heisman jinx befalls Baker Mayfield.

Fat lady about to sing, “In the SEC, it just means more” … as in more teams in national championship game. Georgia vs. Alabama playing for title makes a 4-5 bowl record for conference feel much better.

Label game a big game and sit back and watch Michigan and Jim Harbaugh choke. South Carolina comes from 16 down to win Outback Bowl, 26-19. Five turnovers by Wolverines in second half.

Who needs Jadaveon Clowney to beat Michigan? Gamecocks scored final 23 points to topple Wolverines 26-19 in Outback Bowl. That’s two bowl wins over UM in five years.

Lamar Jackson showed again why he didn’t win the Heisman for second year. He had 329 yards total offense and 3 touchdowns but only completed 13 of 31 passes for 171 yards with 2 TDs and 4 INTs.

 High times

According to Business Insider, former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson is heading a investment team that broke ground last month on a cannabis resort in California City, Calif.

Plans are for the resort to include a campground, a cultivation school to teach growers how to fine-tune their products and a store that will offer edible treats. There will be 40 acres of land, located 65  miles southwest of Death Valley National Park, reserved for growing marijuana. The farm also will produce CBD oil, which has medicinal properties.

Fishing for love

From Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “New Zealander Angela Potter — piqued when her angler boyfriend abruptly ditched her — exacted revenge by going online and offering up the GPS coordinates to his favorite fishing holes to the highest bidder. She wound up with 90,000 responses — and $3,000.

“She also has a new boyfriend who likes fishing, too, but she hasn’t disclosed the secret spots to him.

“I wouldn’t do that,” Potter told Stuff magazine. “I’m fairly honorable in that respect.”

Headlines

TheKicker.com: “After making trick shot, Ginobili signed by Globetrotters.”

Fark.com: “Grinch to become defensive coordinator at Ohio State.”

TheOnion.com: “Football saved my life, says man who will be left paralyzed by sport.”

TheKicker.com: “Dedication: Belichick forces children of players to attend school during blizzard.”

SportsPickle.com: “Report: Steelers worried Patriots will pick up Le’Veon Bell if they cut him.”

TheKicker.com: “Giants considering anyone who’s ever met Belicick for coach.”