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 continuing to be amazed by Brooks Koepeka’s masterful display of golf since bouncing back from a wrist injury that kept him out of The Masters:

Big Ten Turmoil

Ohio State’s Urban Meyer has a new contender for the hottest preseason seat in college football. Maryland’s third-year head coach D.J. Durkin could have even moved closer to the exit door, based on a Friday report by ESPN.

The Buckeyes’ Meyer has been accused of protecting former receivers coach Zach Smith for years despite multiple domestic abuse incidents, and then perhaps lying about it. Meanwhile, Durkin has been accused of abusing players verbally and physically while operating a toxic culture at Maryland.

The scrutiny has only gotten more serious after offensive lineman Jordan McNair, 19, died of heat stroke in June during a team conditioning workout.

Two current Maryland players only agreed to be interviewed off the record by ESPN because they fear repercussions from Durkin and Rick Count, the strength and conditioning coach. But both have had their allegations supported by multiple former players and current and former athletic department staff members.

Defensive lineman Malik Jones, who transferred to Toledo after last season, said he and Durkin got into an altercation after Durkin accused him of “bad-mouthing the program” and encouraged him to leave.

“I’m not going to let a guy bully me,” said Jones. “… He called me a b—- and stuff like that. I’m not going to tolerate that.”

One former staff member told ESPN that he would “never, ever, ever allow my child to be coached there.”

There are allegations of constant verbal abuse and physical intimidation of players.

Court is alleged to have cursed players and attempted to punish some by forcing them to lift more weight than they’re capable of handling.

“He’s just a ball of testosterone all the time,” one player told ESPN. “He’ll single people out he doesn’t like, which is a common practice here. Guys are run off … He’s kind of Durkin’s tool to accomplish that.”

Multiple members of the Maryland football support staff were placed on administrative leave on Friday amid an investigation into the circumstances surrounding McNair’s death. But according to the Baltimore Sun, Durkin is still expected to be the Terps’ coach this season.

It’s hard to see how that can be possible, though, if the allegations against Durkin prove to be true.

Bearing down

Brendon Morphet may have lost the marathon, but at least he lived to tell about it.

He also came away with a pretty good story after two grizzly bears got in his way during the closing stretch of the Yukon River Trail Marathon in Whitehorse, Canada.

Morphet said he rounded a corner in the third leg of the marathon near Chadburn Lake when he encountered two grizzlies, which weren’t about to get out of his way. When they started moving toward him, Morphet retreated. He ran into a couple of runners who were participating in the relay portion of the event and another marathoner, Denise McHale. McHale was in second place at that point.

After asking the other three runners why they were retreating, McHale chose to keep going forward. It turned out to be the smart move. The grizzlies had moved on, clearing the path for her to win the marathon for the second time in 10 years. She won the 2009 race in 3:18.34. her time this year was 3:34.52.

McHale also has had top four finishes in 2016 (3), 2015 (4), 2013 (3) and 2011 (4).

“He kind of got ripped off a little bit,” McHale said of Morphet.

Morphet, who had led by about 15 minutes, clocked a second-place time of 3:26.51. He also finished second in 2017.

Ken Sylvestre, the director of the race, said runners are forewarned that they can encounter bears on the trails and that no race times are adjusted for such unexpected detours or roadblocks.

“Well, it’s a wilderness race,” Sylvestre told CBS News. “There are bears. We’ve had bears before.”

They said it

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter: “At last report Urban Meyer was huddling with his closest loved ones – BTN analysts and play-by-play men.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: Two brothers in New Jersey uncovered five rare Mickey Mantle baseball cards. Even better, they didn’t find them clipped next to the spokes on their old bicycle.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Police at the Tour de France using tear gas on protestors accidentally sprayed several cyclists. The protestors cried; the cyclists asked for something stronger.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe: “QB Chazz Surratt was one of 13 UNC Carolina football players suspended up to 4 games this season for selling school-issued, special-edition Nike Jordan shoes. So are the Tar Heels now a big-time football program?”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson on Twitter, again, when there was a lull at Big Ten Media Days: “Rutgers is up at the podium, so everybody breaks for lunch.”

NBC comedian Seth Myers: “The NFL’s Arizona Cardinals have launched a new competition where fans can win a team jersey and get their photo on the scoreboard if they eat a burger consisting of five patties, five hot dogs, five bratwursts, eight slices of bacon, eight chicken tenders, 12 ounces of fries, lettuce, pickles, sauce, and 20 slices of cheese in under an hour. Said one fan, “Ugh, lettuce?”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com, again: “Ravens rookie QB Lamar Jackson took a serious shot near the sidelines in the Hall of Fame Game. He was hit so hard it knocked both the chips off his shoulders.”

Bob Molinaro of pilotonline.com: “I was surprised to hear last week that Washington Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg was turning 30. Seems like just the other day the big righty was a gangly kid appearing on his first disabled list.”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, again: “Johnny Manziel threw four first-half interceptions for the Montreal Alouettes in his first CFL game. So Johnny’s auditioning to get back with the Cleveland Browns?”

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: “What’s better. to be through the roof or off the charts? Off the grid or under the radar? Underrated or overserved? Over-exposed or half-baked?”

Omaha comedy writer Brad Dickson, again on Twitter: How good have the Huskers looked so far in practice according to the coaches? Try this on for size: “Super Bowl contenders.

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Star receiver Antonio Brown arrived at Steelers training camp in a helicopter. Holdout RB Le’Veon Bell, not to be outdone, immediately booked a Brinks truck.”

Nebraska football coach Scott Frost on his team’s wide-open QB competition: “Have you ever played Monopoly? Everybody’s on Go right now.”

Brad Rock of Salt Lake City’s Deseret News, after Stanford  RB Bryce Love skipped the Pac-12’s media day because of academics: “Ute fans are already telling him, ‘Don’t forget the Oct. 6 Stanford-Utah game will be during midterms!’ ”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, again: “Sean Newcomb and Trea Turner have joined Josh Hader as MLB players who’ve had years-old offensive tweets suddenly revisited. Just guessing they’re no longer big fans of instant replay.”

LeVar Ball, insisting the L.A. Lakers are still his son Lonzo’s team, despite the arrival of LeBron James: “You can say what you want, but we know what it is. I told you, Lonzo didn’t go to Cleveland. LeBron came here to L.A. We already over here.”

CBS comedian James Corden on news HBO is picking up LeBron James’ Barbershop concept talk show that airs on his digital network Uninterrupted: “Apparently, LeBron’s talk show is going to be him and four random guests you may or may not have heard of. You know, like when he plays basketball.”

Tired of winning

Does President Trump believe that as Commander in Chief, his rule and authority goes beyond being the figurehead leader of our military? And does he realize that such a position of privilege doesn’t give him the authority to order the rest of us to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, sing “God Bless America” or not kneel for the “Star Spangled Banner?”

Because, seriously, he’s just the President. No one appointed him Commissioner of the NFL.

Yet, he was back to binge Tweeting in recognition of the NFL opening its preseason Thursday night.

He once again wrote a lot of meaningless gibberish and then signed off with this gem: “… Stand proudly for your National Athem or be Suspended Without Pay!”

I don’t believe he knows the words to any of those exercises of patriotism, and I suggest we make that a future test before we allow any president-elect put their hand on a Bible.

For all Trump’s bluster, only a couple of players kneeled during the playing of the National Anthem Thursday night, while a few raised their fists in protest of social injustice.

Meanwhile, Trump continues his attempts to distract from the destructive policies of his administration and the acts of corruption that line the pockets of him and his cronies.

If this is what it feels like to win, then yeah, I’m tired of winning.

Unintended tragedy

It’s tragic the way Sandor Szabo lost his life. But it’s also criminal the way Jamill Jones reacted after Szabo, allegedly drunk, started banging on car windows.

Jones, an assistant basketball coach at Wake Forest, didn’t intend to kill Szabo with the punch he threw. I think we can believe that much. But the unintended reality is that’s what happened when Szabo fell backward and hit his head. The punch knocked him out and he never regained consciousness.

The incident happened last Sunday night in New York. Szabo was taken off life support  Tuesday. Jones turned himself in Thursday, and Wake Forest placed Jones on leave Friday.

Based on eyewitness reports, police state Szabo, 35, was confronted by Jones, also 35, after Szabo banged on his window. Jones got out of his car, punched the Floridian, and then sped off. Witnesses believe an inebriated Szabo was trying to locate a Uber driver.

His death has been ruled a homicide caused by blunt impact to his head.

Headlines

Sportspickle.com: “Space Force is getting crushed by the Cleveland Browns. Not a great start for our space troops.”

TheOnion.com: “Terry Francona still amazed people think managing baseball hard in any way.”

Fark.com: “Baseball player catches heat for old tweets. Not a repeat from … wait, how many of these have we done now?”

Sportspickle.com: “Brandon Weeden is 9-for-11 tonight with 2 TDs. The Browns wouldn’t have needed to draft Mayfield No. 1 overall if they had kept Weeden.”

TheOnion.com: “Will new NFL Player Safety rules ruin football injuries.”

Fark.com: “Madden 19 will allow you to relive the glory of the San Diego Chargers.”

Sportspickle.com: “LeBron James became the best in his field, a billionaire, a worldwide brand, opened a (real) school – – and did it all without getting a loan from his father. Clearly he’s a dumb guy.”

TheOnion.com: “Can Carmelo Anthony help Rockets clean up around the arena after games?”

Fark.com: “Patriots to add $5 million in incentives to Tom Brady’s contract, including a bonus for catching a football while wide open.”

Sportspickle.com: “Look, if LeBron James really cared about people, he would have cured cancer. Until he does, I don’t want to hear about him.”

Belated congrats

Indiana University swimmer Lilly King keeps racking up the medals, winning gold in the 100-meter breaststroke at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championship in Tokyo Thursday.

The reigning Olympic gold medalist and world-record holder in the event, King posted a time of 1:05.44 — the second fastest in the world this year.

And the best thing about the senior from Evansville, Indiana is that she doesn’t seem to care about anything but the joy of winning. The medals she claims are willingly shared with young fans.

Gone too soon

Australian golfer Jarrod Lyle lost his battle with leukemia at the age of 36 Thursday after he stopped treatment last week.

He leaves behind wife Briony and children Lusi, 6, and Jemmi, 2. He died at home in Melbourne.

Lyle elected palliative care on August 1 after acute myeloid leukemia returned for a third time beginning at 17.

“He asked that I provide a simple message: ‘Thanks for your support, it meant the world,” said Briony. “My time was short, but if I’ve helped people think and act on behalf of those families who suffer through cancer, hopefully it wasn’t wasted’.”

Fantasy 101

I’m no longer in a Fantasy Football League, but if I were I’d insists on having a starting lineup that I promise wouldn’t change unless there was an injury or a bye week.

Here’s my lineup: Quarterback – Drew Brees, Saints; Running backs – Saquan Barkley, Giants, Christian McCaffrey, Panthers; Wide receivers – T.Y. Hilton, Colts, Alshon Jeffrey, Eagles; Tight end – Jack Doyle, Colts; Kicker – Ryan Succop, Titans; Defense – Texans.

I figure that should be enough to score  60 points each week in a old school league. You know, back when Joe Montana was still hooking up with Freddie Solomon and Dwight Clark.

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 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 after suffering a 7-9 performance in Friday’s first-round games of the NCAA men’s tournament after going 14-2 on Thursday:

Landing spot

Tom Crean didn’t need to make a visit to Athens, Ga., to know he wanted to be the next basketball coach at the University of Georgia.

While serving as a college basketball analyst for ESPN, he was approached about other coaching opportunities during the past year. But of the jobs that were open when Georgia first contacted him on Wednesday, this is the one knew he wanted.

His name was one of the first connected to the opening after Georgia fired Mark Fox last Saturday, so he had most of the week to check out the possibilities even before he was officially contacted. That was enough for him to realize it would be a good fit for him, calling it a “gold mine” several times Friday.

After his wife, Joni, made some phone calls and became acquainted with the area online, she was onboard with making the move, too.

“We had absolutely no doubts about coming in here, and I don’t think we’re going to have,” said Crean.

They even turned down an offer to check out the town and campus in person before making a final decision but decided that was unnecessary.

“We’re here now because, first off, in the age of social media and video, you can see so many things,” Crean said. “As long as she’s happy with the house, I’m going to be happy.”

So on Friday, exactly a year after being terminated at Indiana University, Crean found himself holding his introductory press conference as the new coach at Georgia. And not long afterward, he was officially an SEC coach, making his first appearance on the SEC Network on Paul Finebaum’s show.

With the players off for spring break, he’ll have a few days to start organizing his office and getting his bearings around Stegeman Coliseum and the Ramsey Center weight rooms.

But he’s already exchanged texts with football coach Kirby Smart, who is on a spring break trip with his family, and been welcomed by other members of the UGA family.

The energy he brought to his opening presser has the fanbase convinced that he’ll bring the competitive fire they believe the program lacked under Fox.

He’s heard enough to know that Georgia basketball fans are hungry for the success the school has had in football, including winning the Southeastern Conference and playing for the national title this season.

He also knows the SEC has made it a point of emphasis to become more competitive in basketball, as evidenced by having eight teams make the  NCAA tournament with six– Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn, Texas A&M, Alabama and Florida advancing to the Round of 32.

“I hope one of the first thing we can do is build a Midnight Madness, Georgia Madness, whatever we’re going to call it, type of situation, hopefully something that will work to get the fans to come in and get inside of this,” said Crean. “I know it’s not going to happen overnight but I promise you there will not be a day that goes by that we will not be trying to continue to build on the energy of what can happen here, build on what has already happened here, and continue to move it forward to what will happen here.”

Crean, 51, has a 356-231 record in 18 seasons as a college coach at Marquette and Indiana and has taken 13 teams to the postseason, including nine NCAA appearances. He led three of his Hoosiers squads to the Sweet 16 and took his 2002-03 Marquette team to the Final Four.

He’ll find plenty of similarities between the Georgia and IU jobs, including the fact that both are  great college towns located near major metro areas in which he can center recruiting efforts.

Threepeat not enough

Only Lilly King could expect more from herself than what she accomplished Friday while once again setting an American swimming record in the 100-yard breaststroke.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist became a three-time NCAA champion Friday to remain undefeated in her signature event at the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Columbus, Ohio. She won the 100 breast in 56.25 to again set American and NCAA records.

Only three other swimmers in NCAA history have won the 100-breast three consecutive years (Georgia’s Kristy Kowal (1998-2000, Stanford’s Tara Kirk (2001-2004) of Stanford and Texas A&M’s Breeja Larson (2012-2014). Only Kirk has won the event four-consecutive years, which King will take aim at matching as a senior.

But despite those milestones, King was less than ecstatic with her time Friday even if she had improved her own American record.

“I kind of expected more of myself,” said King. “It’s still a best time, which is neat, but I was really hoping to go 55. I’ve been talking 55 for a long time … It’s a new American record, so I shouldn’t be too upset about it. But I expected more from myself.”

IU swim coach Ray Looze also expected more, according to King.

“He told me a couple of months ago that he was going to quit coaching me if I don’t go 55, so I might be looking for a new head coach,” she said, laughing.

King admitted that motivation is still something she struggles with periodically because of her dominance in the breaststroke.

“It’s obviously not as special as my first NCAAs was,” said King. “After racing at the Olympics and Worlds and all these different meets, it is kind of hard to get up sometimes but it is what it is.”

King swims in the 200 breast finals on Saturday, again aiming to win both events.

Her time in the 100 gave her a comfortable win over fellow Big Ten competitors Miranda Tucker (57.98) and Minnesota’s Lindsey Kozelsky (58.13).

Stat of Week

The Pac-12 Conference, which was 1-8 in football bowl games, was 0-3 in this NCAA basketball tournament.

They said it

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “March Madness has officially arrived. Twelve hours a day of college basketball — or as sports fans call it, payback for “The Bachelor.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com: “Former 49ers linebacker Gary Plummer claims he suffered 2,500 concussions in his NFL career. I’m wondering how he can remember them all.”

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Johnny Manziel tweeted he would play football for free. Guess who’ll be the first one called to take a drug test?”

TBS comedian Conan O’Brien: “Last week, the Kansas City Royals hosted an anti-porn seminar. No one attended.”

 Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com on the death of Roger Bannister, the first to run a mile in less than 4 minutes: “If anyone was sure to be in heaven before the devil knew he was dead …”

NBC comedian Seth Myers: “The owner of a Greek soccer team this weekend stormed onto the field during a match waving a handgun. So long story short, soccer is now the official sport of the NRA.”

O.J. Simpson on his time in prison, which sounds like he played a ‘Godfather’ role: “Nobody would think about screwing with me. Virtually all the guys had my back. I was setting the tone. I was helping guys. I helped put together programs, and when there were problems, I was the guy they came to mediate.”

 Stats of Week, II

The Cincinnati Bearcats women’s basketball team shot 2 for 23, went scoreless in the second quarter and trailed UConn 43-5 at halftime of their American Athletic Conference tournament semifinal. UConn held on to win, 75-21.

 Historic loss

How bad was Virginia’s Friday loss to Maryland-Baltimore County, the first upset in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament by a No. 16 seed over a No. 1 seed?

For starters, the Cavaliers were favored to win by 20.5. Instead, they lost by 20, 74-54.

For another, the Cavs made just 2-of-22 3-pointers, while the Retrievers nailed 12 of 24 attempts.

And for another, the No. 1 seed had beaten the No. 16 seed in all previous 135 matchups.

But at least Virginia fans can quit agonizing over that 1982 loss to NAIA team Chaminade in the regular season, which was only by five points.

Headlines

SportsPickle.com: “Teddy Bridgewater announces retirement, “I didn’t do all this rehab to play for the Jets.”

Fark.com: “In a bid to make the regular season completely irrelevant, the NHL looks to expand the playoffs.”

SportsPickle.com: “FBI agent friend curiously adamant that North Carolina won’t make it past Sweet 16 in his bracket.”

TheKicker.com: “Opinion: Kobe’s film wouldn’t have beaten MJ’s ’96-’98 animated shorts.”

Fark.com: “Arizona getting walloped by Buffalo means no more Pac-12 teams in the NCAA Tournament. The world’s tiniest violin is playing.”

SportsPickle.com; Kirk Cousins, “I just feel blessed to have received a long-term deal before everyone figured out I’m not that good.”

Stat of Week, III

Memphis basketball coach Tubby Smith was fired after just two seasons with an overall record of  40-26. He will receive a $9.7 million buyout.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top Tweets from @Randy_Beard11

  • Crap, the reason I picked Purdue to win the NCAA tournament was 7-2 Isaac Haas. Now he’s out for rest of tourney with fractured right elbow suffered in 74-48 win over Cal State-Fullerton. Matt Painter can’t catch a “break.”
  • Candace Parker better say extra prayer on Saturday. She’s already counting on a Tennessee win over Loyola and Sister Jean.
  • Arizona’s Sean Miller swears he doesn’t pay his players despite FBI investigation. Maybe he should pay them per free throw and layup. #4 seed Wildcats losing to Buffalo by 17 with 4:43 left.
  • I can’t wait to get Christian Laettner’s “2.1 Second Workout” video. I’m sure it will allow me to burn 2.1 calories…. Also love the Top Shelf Bank “commercial” with Greg Oden, former NBA Center and Tall Human, who puts your cash on a top shelf only he can reach .#truTV
  • Tubby Smith out at Memphis. They’ve literally lost the “eye of the Tiger.”
  • Louisville players voted against competing in the NIT after being snubbed by the NCAA tournament selection committee. But Louisville’s powers that be ACCepted the NIT bid anyway. Cardinals will host Northern Kentucky on Tuesday at 6 pm CT.

 Rather unruly

Major League Baseball needs to learn that you can’t improve on perfection.

No doubt, you’ve heard that the baseball czars have decided to implement a new extra-innings rule – only in the minor leagues, for now –that will place a runner at second base.

Considering all the energy focused on tweaking rules, it won’t be long before someone decides it would be a good idea to limit pitch counts to 100 and shorten base paths to 80 feet.

And while we’re at it, let’s really save arms by requiring teams to use hitting tees once a game extends past nine innings.

From Sidelines to punchlines

A different view of sports

Clearing my mind and notebook while bemoaning how quickly fall weather arrived and disappeared, especially in the Midwest:

Heisman dreams

By the time the college football season had reached November, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield was the clear front-runner to win the Heisman Trophy.

It was his to lose after the Sooners racked up road wins over  No. 2-ranked Ohio State on Sept. 9 and No. 11 Oklahoma State on Nov. 4 while proving a high-scoring loss against Iowa State on Oct. 7 wouldn’t be enough to derail them from their championship goals.

The final voting tally underscored just how dominant Mayfield was this season in becoming the Sooners’ sixth Heisman winner. He finished with 2,398 points, easily outdistancing Stanford running back Bryce Love (1,300) and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (793), the 2016 winner.

Mayfield received 732 first-place votes, while Love had 75 first-place votes and Jackson only 47.

Each first-place vote is worth three points, with two points for second and one for third. Mayfield finished with 86 percent of all possible points, which is the third highest percentage since 1950 – topped only by Troy Smith’s 91.6 percent of the votes in 2006 and Marcus Mariotta’s 90.9 percent in 2014.

Not bad for a guy from Austin, Texas who twice had to go from walk-on to starter, first at Texas Tech and then at Oklahoma. Although he grew up an Oklahoma fan, he wasn’t recruited by the Sooners or his hometown University of Texas.

He walked on at Texas Tech and won the starting job as a freshman. But despite passing for more than 2,200 yards and 12 touchdowns, the Red Raiders coaching staff failed to save a scholarship for his sophomore season. So he followed his heart to Norman, Oklahoma.

Now he has the Sooners back in contention for a national championship with a Rose Bowl semifinal date on Jan. 1 against Georgia.

Mayfield referenced his extraordinary path to winning the Heisman by thanking former head coach Bob Stoops and current coach Lincoln Riley, who was the Sooners’ offensive coordinator before taking over as head coach this season when Stoops retired.

“Coach Stoops you welcomed a chubby, unathletic kid into the program with open arms. I wouldn’t say that many would do that,” said Mayfield. “(But) the thing I’m most thankful for is the hiring of Coach Riley. The day you did that changed my life. I appreciate that.

“Coach Riley you’ve been a great mentor to me. We’ve been through a lot together, so I appreciate you.”

Mayfield finished fourth in the Heisman voting two years ago and third last year.

He enters the College Football Playoffs with 12,910 career passing yards and 114 touchdown passes with just 29 interceptions in four seasons. He could leave college with the two best single-season passer ratings.

He rattled off the names of his offensive lineman during his acceptance speech, saying this “wouldn’t have happened without you. Keep up the physicality. We’ve got two more (games).”

That’s as good as guaranteeing a win over Georgia, isn’t it?

But then, Mayfield leaves with a bit of a reputation as a player who’s not afraid to stir up controversy, including planting an OU flag at Ohio State after the Sooners upset the Buckeyes or getting into verbal exchanges with Texas Tech and Kansas fans.

My ballot: I’ve been a Heisman voter for 29 years and I’ve picked the winner all but six or seven of those years. This year I correctly picked Mayfield, but had Jackson at No. 2 and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny as No. 3. The official tally had Penny as the fifth choice behind Penn State’s  Saquon Barkley.

Other honors

The other top award in which I’m still an active voter is the Biletnikoff Award for best receiver, which is given by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club. I was the sports editor in Tallahassee for eight years and always enjoyed attending the banquet and writing a column on the winner.

This year’s winner was James Washington of Oklahoma State, who led the nation with 1,423 yards on 69 catches with 12 touchdowns.

Finishing second was Colorado State’s Michael Gallop and third was West Virginia’s Donald Sills. Gallop was fifth in receiving yards with 1,345 but third best with 94 catches. Sills was 28th in yards (980) but led country with 18 touchdown receptions.

My ballot had Washington first with Sills second and Gallop third.

More awards::

Maxwell Award (player of year): Winner – Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; 2. Bryce Love, Stanford; 3. Saquon Barkley, Penn State.

Chuck Bednarik Award (top defensive player): Winner – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama; 2. Bradley Chubb, N.C. State; 3. Roquan Smith, Georgia.

Bronko Nagurski Award (top defensive player): Winner – Bradley Chubb, N.C. State; 2. Minkah Fitzgerald, Alabama; 3. Josey Jewell, Iowa.

Butkus Award (linebacker): Winner – Roquon Smith, Georgia; 2. Devin Bush, Michigan; 3. Tremaine Edwards, Virginia Tech.

Davey O’Brien Award (quarterback): Winner – Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; 2. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State; 3. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State.

Doak Walker Award (running back): Winner – Bryce Love, Stanford; 2. Saquon Barkley, Penn State; 3. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin.

Jim Thorpe Award (defensive back): Winner – Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama; 2. Deshaun Elliott, Texas; 2. Josh Jackson, Iowa.

Lou Groza Award (kicker): Winner – Matt Gay, Utah; 2. Dominik Eberle, Utah State; 3. Daniel Carlson, Auburn.

Ray Guy Award (punter): Winner – Michael Dickson, Texas; 2. JK Scott, Alabama; 3. Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah.

Outland Trophy (interior lineman): Winner – Ed Oliver, Houston; 2. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame. 3. Orlando Brown, Oklahoma.

Rimington Trophy (center): Winner – Billy Price, Ohio State; 2. Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia; 3. Ethan Pocic, LSU.

Saving grace

S.C. State point guard Ty Solomon didn’t score, didn’t have an assist and only played four minutes in what may be the last basketball game he’ll ever play.

But at least he’s alive.

Solomon collapsed seven minutes into last Saturday’s game in Raleigh, N.C. at PNC Arena against N.C. State. His heart had stopped but he was brought back to life because S.C. State trainer Tyler Long quickly administered CPR and N.C. State trainer Austin Frank came to the rescue with an automated external defibrillator (AED).

As the crowd of 13,000 prayed for his recovery, N.C. State team physician Dr. William Jacobs took over until the EMTs arrived on the scene to transport him to the N.C. Heart and Vascular Hospital.

Solomon, a redshirt senior, was hospitalized for five days before returning home to Johns Island, S.C.

Solomon’s family released a statement earlier this week that praised the medical care he received and asking for continued prayers.

“Ty recognizes that he was in the right place at the right time to have a serious medical emergency that could have had a tragic outcome. Instead, he’s looking forward to resuming a normal life, eventually returning to school and making every second count.”

They said it

Dwight Perry of Seattle Times:  “Football coach Jimbo Fisher reportedly tossed his Christmas tree to the curb after news got out he was bolting Florida State for Texas A&M. Hey, it was either that or have Chief Osceola light it on fire and stick it in the ground at the 50-yard line.”

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com:  “Oddsmakers put Tiger Woods’ chances at 20-1 of winning one of the next four majors. Elvis is at 19-1.”

Brockton (Mont.) High School girls basketball coach Terrence Johnson to the Great Falls Tribune on his players’ reaction after losing 102-0: “They did nothing wrong. At the end of the day, they all went home and asked, ‘What’s for dinner, mom?’ ”

Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “LaVar Ball pulling LiAngelo out of UCLA means the kid will miss out on potentially a great three months of college.”

NBC comedian Jimmy Fallon: “After going 2-10 this season, the Giants have fired coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese. Well, if you are wondering what happened to Ben and Jerry they are probably sitting on the couch eating some Ben & Jerry’s.”

Comedian Steve Hofstetter: “It’s a shitty day and I’m in a lot of pain. But the Giants just fired Ben McAdoo, so it’s not all bad.”

Brad Dickson of the Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald on rumblings that QB Sam Darnold might stay at USC to avoid being drafted by Cleveland: “The Browns are now bragging about ‘doing our part to keep young people in school.’”

Cashing in

Roger Goodell should take two knees and bow down to the owners, coaches and players of the National Football League.

Being the commissioner of the NFL has made Goodell a very rich man who just got richer by agreeing to a new 5-year contract extension that will pay him $40 million per year.

Most of the money will come from bonuses, which are subject to approval by vote of the 32 team owners. His previous deal, which expires in 2019, will pay him a total of $31.7 million before the contact extension kicks in through 2024.

The new Republican tax plan should stretch his dollars even further.

Going bowling

Yes, there are too many bowl games, beginning with a full slate of five matchups kicking things off next Saturday.

But seriously, if you’re like me, you’ll still be looking for stocking stuffers next weekend so you can wait a little longer before you tune into college football’s postseason since none of the early games really matter.

At least to most of us.

But since I really can’t get away with making that big of a beach blanket statement, I promise I’ll make my full slate of bowl predictions by midweek. Until then, here are the 20 games that will involve teams from the ACC, Big Ten and SEC.

Quick Lane Bowl, Dec. 26, 3:15 p.m. CT: Duke vs. Northern Illinois.

Independence Bowl, Dec. 27, 11:30 a.m. CT: Southern Mississippi vs. Florida State.

Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 27,  3:15 p.m. CT: Iowa vs. Boston College.

Foster Farms Bowl, Dec. 27, 6:30 p.m.: Arizona vs. Purdue.

Texas Bowl, Dec. 27, 7 p.m. CT: Texas vs. Missouri.

Military Bowl, Dec. 28, 11:30 a.m. CT: Virginia vs. Navy.

Camping World Bowl, Dec. 28, 3:15 p.m.: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State.

Holiday Bowl, Dec. 28, 7 p.m. CT: Washington State vs. Michigan State.

Belk Bowl, Dec. 29, 11 a.m. CT: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M.

Sun Bowl, Dec. 29, 1 p.m.: N.C. State vs. Arizona State.

Music City Bowl, Dec. 29, 2:30 p.m.: Kentucky vs. Northwestern.

Cotton Bowl, Dec. 29, 6:30 p.m.: Southern California vs. Ohio State.

Taxslayer Bowl, Dec. 30, 10 a.m. CT: Louisville vs. Mississippi State.

Fiesta Bowl, Dec. 30, 2 p.m. CT: Washington vs. Penn State.

Orange Bowl, Dec. 30, 6 p.m. CT: Wisconsin vs. Miami.

Outback Bowl, Jan. 1, 10 a.m. CT: Michigan vs. South Carolina.

Peach Bowl, Jan. 1, 10:30 a.m. CT: Central Florida vs. Auburn.

Citrus Bowl, Jan. 1, 11 a.m. CT: Notre Dame vs. LSU.

College Football Playoff Semifinals

Rose Bowl, Jan. 1, 3 p.m. CT: Georgia vs. Oklahoma.

Sugar Bowl, Jan. 1, 6:45 p.m. CT: Alabama vs. Clemson

Note: CFP Championship Game is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 8, 7 p.m. CT, Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta. It will be televised by ESPN.

Headlines

TheOnion.com: “Lakers add Buffalo Chicken Wing stains to Shaquille O’Neal’s retired jersey.”

TheKicker.com:  “LiAngelo scores 47 in his first game at LaVar Ball University.:

Fark.com: “Lavar takes his Ball and goes home.”

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

TheOnion.com: “New NFL safety rule requires players to be careful.”

Fark.com: “Unlike the Lions, Pontiac Silverdome fails to implode.”

SportsPickle.com: “Roy Moore reminds voters that many of Alabama’s top recruits have also tried to have sex with teenage girls.”

TheOnion.com: “New ‘This is SportsCenter’ commercial features Otto the Syracuse Orange laying off staffers.”

Fark.com: “Nike fires 7-year-old foreman of its NBA jersey factory.”

 Winning Tweet

Twitter really can be useful. Just ask John Goehrke, who turned the social media site into a dating app during the Super Bowl.

With the Atlanta Falcons up 25 points over the New England Patriots, Canadian tennis player Genie Bouchard made the mistake of proclaiming in a tweet that the Super Bowl was over.

We know what happened from there, and no one was more thankful about that than Goehrke, a Missouri college student. That’s because he had answered Bouchard’s tweet by asking if she’d go out with him if Tom Brady rallied New England to victory.

She agreed to his bet, and now it appears they have become friends who have hung out more than once, including going to a Brooklyn Nets game.

Team Tweeting

The best and worst of college Twitter accounts, according to Athlon’s Sports:

Ten Best College Twitter Accounts: 1. South Carolina; 2. Clemson; 3. Miami; 4. Oregon; 5. Georgia; 6. Oklahoma; 7. Ohio State; 8. Auburn; 9. Virginia Tech; 10. Utah.

Five Worst College Twitter Accounts: 1. Michigan; 2. Oregon State; 3. Notre Dame; 4. Alabama; 5. Penn State.

My takes

Rehastagging this week’s top tweets from @Randy_Beard11

At least Jozy Altidore can say he scored one meaningful goal in 2017 with game-winner for Toronto in MLS Cup.

Where’s the Air Force when you need the aerial support? Army beats Navy 14-13 in the snow, but the big story is the two teams combined for 22 yards passing.

@IUMenssocer will play for its 9th NCAA men’s soccer title Sunday. Hoosiers beat North Carolina 1-0 and 2-time defending champion Stanford beat Akron 2-0. It was Hoosiers 18th shutout of season.

@_king_lil (Lilly King) deserves credit for getting this started with her antidoping stance in Rio in 2016

Sorry Urban, but two losses matter, but Buckeyes were No. 5 and Wisconsin No. 6.

Two teams from SEC make playoff, which underscores the need to expand the playoff beyond four teams.

On the move

Since we’re catching up with the usual postseason business, let’s acknowledge the coaching moves that have already taken place in my three favorite conferences.

ACC

Florida State: Willie Taggart (from Oregon)

Big Ten

Nebraska: Scott Frost (from UCF)

SEC

Arkansas: Chad Morris (from SMU)

Florida: Dan Mullen (from Mississippi State)

Mississippi: Matt Luke (promoted from interim coach)

Tennessee: Jeremy Pruitt (from Alabama, defensive coordinator)

Texas A&M: Jimbo Fisher (from Florida State)

UPDATE: King rules FINA meet with 4 golds, 4 world records; rivalry with Russia’s Efimova now ‘friendly one’

Lilly King capped off a dominating week at the FINA World Swimming Championships in Budapest, Hungary on Sunday by winning the 50-meter breaststroke in world record time and then being part of a women’s 4×100 medley relay team that set another world record.

“I couldn’t imagine a better finish to this meet,” King said after she closed out her week.

Overall, King won gold and set world records in four events during the week including two relays. Her golden haul included the 100-meter breaststroke (1:04.13), 50 breaststroke (29.40), 4×100 mixed medley relay (3:38.56) and 4×100 women’s medley relay (3:51.55).

In Sunday’s 50 breast final, King beat Russian rival Yulia Efimova (29.57) by .17 hundredths of a second with USA teammate Katie Meili (29.99) finishing third. Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte, whose world record King shattered, was fourth in 30.20, followed by Sweden’s Jennie Johannson (30.31), Great Britain’s Sarah Vasey (30.62), Italy’s Ariana Castiglioni (30.74) and Canada’s Rachel Nicol (30.80).

In the mixed medley relay, the Evansville, Ind., native posted a 100 breaststroke time of 1:04.15 that was just two-hundredths of a second off her world record. On Sunday in the women’s 4×100 medley relay, King wasn’t quite as fast, but her time of 1:04.48 did give her yet another performance under 65 seconds.

Last summer in Rio the Indiana University swimmer set the Olympic record with a time of 1:04:93 in winning gold in the 100 breast. That means that since last summer, she has trimmed 0.80 hundredths of a second off her time.

Rio de Janeiro is also where a heated rivalry began with Efimova, when King criticized the last-minute decision to allow Efimova to compete despite two previous failed drug tests.  But while swimming’s Cold War may not have ended this week, it did enter a stage of swimming détente.

There was a sign the feud had cooled when King, 20, complimented Efimova, 25, for nearly equaling the world record in the 100-meter breaststroke during the semifinals before King broke the record in the finals.

They officially buried the hatchet during Sunday’s interviews.

“Obviously, we are not best friends, we are rivals, but I was having a good time racing her,” said King. “We have definitely been a lot more civil than we were last year, so I’m enjoying that.”

Added Efimova: “… She told me she loves to race with me because it makes her race faster too and makes it more interesting to watch.”

In addition to all the international acclaim she has earned over the past two summers, King returns for her junior year at IU as the two-time defending champion in the 100- and 200-yard breast events.

If you can call it that, King’s only disappointment this week came with her fourth-place finish in the 200-meter breaststroke that was won by Efimova. But even then, her time of 2:22.11 helped her improve from a 12th-place Olympic finish in the event.

For the week, King won two of the three individual showdowns with Efimova, who is the most decorated woman swimmer in the history of the world championships with 13 total medals.

Efimova added two silver medals to her total Sunday in the 50 breast and 4×100 women’s medley relay. But yes, that’s two more times King was able to finish ahead of Efimova.

But as far as the world stage, we now know that King was just getting started last summer at the Rio Olympics when she won two gold medals and set an Olympic record in the 100-meter breaststroke. This was King’s first time at the world meet, which is second in stature to the Olympics

She is the first IU swimmer to set a world record in an individual event since Jim Montgomery in the 100 freestyle at the 1976 Olympic Games. And King did it twice.

She has established herself with Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel as the stars of the United States women’s national team. Ladecky, a distance freestyle swimmer, earned five gold medals, including being part of  two winning relays.  Meanwhile, freestyle sprinter Manuel claimed three golds, including two relays. Manuel also earned a bronze medal in the 50 freestyle.

Overall, the United States finished with 18 gold medals and 38 overall, more than doubling the number of gold medals (8) from two years ago when the Americans only claimed 23 total medals.

The star for the U.S. was men’s swimmer Caleb Dressell, who tied Michael Phelps for most gold medals in one world meet with seven. Phelps had won seven gold medals 10 years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

King, Efimova remain on collision course

Evansville’s Lilly King will be favored to claim her third gold medal in Sunday’s finals in the 50-meter breaststroke after posting the fastest semifinal time of 29.60.

The clocking allowed King to improve her own American record by another six-hundredths of a second. The Indiana University swimmer posted a 29.66 at nationals in June in Indianapolis to beat a mark that had been held by Jessica Hardy (29.80). That also allowed King to come to Budapest with the fastest time of 2017.

As expected, her top threat will come from Russian rival Yulia Efimova, who won Saturday’s first semifinal in 29.73.

King set a world record in winning the 100 meter race on Tuesday. On Thursday, Efimova won the 200-meter race to become the first woman to claim 11 total medals in her career at the FINA World Swimming Championships.

This is King’s first appearance at worlds.

USA’s Katie Meili (30.12) was third followed by Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte (30.40), Jennie Johansson (30.41), Italy’s Arianna Castiglioni (30.46), Great Britain’s Sarah Vasey (30.46) and Canada’s Rachel Nicol (30.49).

King competed against Johansson, Castiglioni and Nicol in the second semifinals.

King won the 100-meter breaststroke race on Tuesday by shattering the world record with a swim of 104.13. That beat Meilutyte’s record of 1:04.35 set in 2013.

Efimova, who won bronze in the 100, took gold in the 200 in a race that saw King just miss the medals stand with a fourth-place finish.

So on Sunday, the two swimmers who have been feuding since Rio last summer when King won gold in the 100 while setting an Olympic record, will have another showdown.

The relationship appears to have slightly cooled since Brazil, although the fact that Efimova has twice failed drug tests for using performance-enhancing substances still raises suspicions. Still, King complimented Efimova for nearly tying the world record in the 100 in the semifinals. Then King went out in the finals and broke the record.

Sunday will give King at least a shot at a third gold medal of the met, and possibly third world record, since she was part of the USA’s winning mixed 4×100 medley relay team. The Reitz High graduate also could be chosen to swim in the finals of the women’s 4×100 medley relay since it is scheduled six events after the 50 breast.

Sunday’s action begin at approximately around 12:30 p.m CT.

The results can be followed online at http://www.fina.org or http://www.usaswimming.org.

Or you can just check my Twitter feed and return to my blog later Sunday.

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Rivals Lilly King, Yulia Efimova each win prelim heats in 50-meter breaststroke to get top seeds for semifinals

In the buildup for their final breaststroke showdown in Budapest, Lilly King and Russian rival Yulia Efimova won their preliminary heats to earn the top two seeds entering the semifinals later today.

King, an Evansville native, won her 50-meter heat — the last of the morning — at the FINA World Swimming Championships, clocking a 29.76 effort. Efimova swam just ahead of King in the fifth heat and won in 29.99.

Italy’s Arianna Castiglioni (30.33) was third overall and USA’s Katie Meili (30.37) was fourth, Sweden’s Jennie Johansson (30.40) was fifth, Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte (30.58) was sixth, Australia’s Jessica Leigh Hansen (30.59) was seventh and Great Britain’s Sara Vasey (30.71) was eighth.

King set a world record in winning the 100-meter race in which Efimova was third. But in the 200, Efimova claimed gold and King was fourth.

 

UPDATED: King fails to medal in 200 breast, finishing 4th as Efimova wins race

Russia’s Yulia Efimova squared this week’s unofficial FINA World Swimming Championships Breaststroke Challenge at one victory apiece Friday.

Efimova, who was always going to be the favorite at the 200-meter distance, made good on that promise with a blistering 2:19.64 effort. It might not have been the world record she sought — that still belongs to Denmark’s Rikke Pederson (2:19.11) from 2013 — but she did have the satisfaction of keeping American rival Lilly King off the medal stand.

King, who led after 50 meters, couldn’t quite pace herself over the longer distance and  finished fourth in 2:22.10. But compared to her 12th place effort in the 200 at the Rio Olympics, which didn’t qualify her into the finals last summer, King’s improvement has been encouraging in an event that is still a work in progress for her.

The Evansville native and Indiana University swimmer even beat Efimova in one of the 200 breast qualifying heats on Thursday in Budapest when they were drawn into the same group.

And, of course, there is King’s world-record gold medal performance of 1:04.13 in the 100 breaststroke at the world championships on Tuesday where Efimova finished third in 1:05.05  behind American Katie Meili (1:05.03).

The two breaststroke rivals will square off again Saturday and Sunday in the 50-meter breaststroke qualifying, semifinals and finals. Qualifying begins overnight, around 2:30 a.m. CT Saturday. So check back here later to get an update on how the favored King does in her qualifying heat.

On Friday, it was another Indiana native who kept the pressure on Efimova. But when the distance was covered, even Bethany Galat of Mishawaka was more than two seconds slower than the Russian. Galat, who swims at Texas A&M, took second with a time of 2:21.77 and China’s Shi Jinglin was third in 2:21.93. King was another 18-hundredths of a second slower.

A Texas A&M swimmer, Galat did open eyes with her closing speed. She was seventh at the 150-meter mark, which is the point Efimova finally moved into the lead. Over that final 50 meters, Galat claimed the silver medal.

At the NCAA championships in March, contested at yards rather than meters, King won the “A” final. Galat didn’t make that final, but she did win the “B” final (but was more than 3 seconds slower than King).

NOTE: Efimova’s win was part of a sweep for the Russians. The men’s gold was won by Russia’s Anton Churkov, who swam a 2:06.96 race. Americans  Nik Fink and Kevin Cordes were fifth and sixth, nearly two seconds slower.