Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Perhaps They Should.


A few days ago, the NLRB gave the Northwestern Football Team permission to form a union to represent them.  As of today, there are really more questions than there are answers.  However, the CEO of the Green Bay Packers, Mark Murphy, says that it may force the NFL to form their own development league, although he did not explain how that could happen.

I am one who thinks that the NFL should anyway.  Currently, college athletics is the only training ground for the NFL.  Out of the 5 major sports in North America, the NFL is the only league at this time where the only way to the pros is through College Athletics, although the NBA only gives lip-service to its development league today and also relies on America’s universities as its primary training ground.

Who can blame the NFL for relying so heavily on colleges?  Many American universities have intense fan followings.  A popular player from college brings his fan following to the NFL.  It’s a way to see more merchandise and perhaps some tickets as well.  But it really isn’t the best way to go.

Although I don’t know of any official studies, there is scant evidence that college makes athletes better.  If you want evidence otherwise, look at European Soccer, what is known as football in most of the rest of the world.  In the World Cup in Brazil this summer, you will notice that most of the players on the pitch were developed through farm systems similar to the minor league baseball system in the United States.  Out of the 32 teams in the FIFA World Cup this year, you probably won’t find a starting 11 that have a university education.

In American sports, you have players like NBA Hall-of-Famer Moses Malone and current best-ever player Labron James who never earned a university education.  Not to mention that the Baseball Hall of Fame is full of those who never earned one credit from a university before playing professionally.  The NFL probably doesn’t need the athletes to earn a proper education in college, they are more likely hoping that bodies mature and grow stronger.

College football is brutal, both body and mind.  This is why Northwestern players are forming a union.  It’s not like you can’t put a value on what they receive in return.  If the players finish their degree, and play in the NFL, they could be set for life.  Even if they don’t play professionally, they enter the work-force debt free.  However, a little over half of men who begin playing college football ever graduate and the NCAA won’t even let the schools cover the full cost of education.  When these men finish playing football, they are usually on the hook to cover years of medical expenses for injuries sustained in college.  Even if they are insured, the copays for surgeries and time off work can add up.

During football season, many college teams require players to spend up to 50 or even 60 hours a week on football related activities.  Add to that the burden of being a full-time student, spending an additional 12 hours a week in class and 24-36 hours studying.  There are only 168 hours during any given week.  That doesn’t leave a lot of time for sleep or for having fun and diversion at the Beta House.  No wonder there are so many behavioral problems in the NFL.  Suddenly, these players have free time, and they don’t know what to do with it.

One thing that people don’t realize is that college athletic scholarships are 1-year renewable -scholarships.  If a player isn’t performing, he will get cut.  If he is a super freshman who suffers a career-ending injury, then he loses is scholarship to someone who is healthy.  For most of these young men, once they lose that scholarship, their college career is finished and there is no education.  If it weren’t for football, there would be no motivation for a higher education and no means to pay for it.  For many young men, playing football represents a way out of the ghetto.

How is an NFL development league better for the athlete?  The reason why some young men wash out at the college level is academics, not athletics.  Not everyone who washes out academically is bound to be a failure athletically.  And sometimes the reason some boys fail is the demand of trying to do too much.  They may succeed as athletes if there weren’t the stringent requirements that they succeed as a student.

It would be hoped, or assumed, that an NFL development league would work much like minor league baseball.  In the minors, not only is there focus on learning the game of baseball and on honing skills, there is also mentoring by athletes who have been to the majors.  This could be why baseball has fewer off-the-field behavioral problems than the other major sports.

Many people believe that if the NFL were to field a development league, that fewer schools would play football, after all isn’t the existence of minor leagues the reason why there are fewer colleges playing baseball?  This may not be the case.  The college baseball season runs from early February to May, which makes fielding a baseball team a difficult proposition for schools in northern or high-altitude climates.  There are many college baseball team that play before large and enthusiastic crowds, and the College World Series sells out a major-league-sized stadium for several games every June.

It is true that in baseball, many of the best prospects choose to become professionals right out of high school.  If the NFL had a real development league, the same would be true of football players.  The 5-star recruits are likely to be drafted into the pros.  But I suspect that college football will be as fun and competitive as always, in most cases.

There will be cities like Las Vegas and Memphis that may end up losing their college football team to the NFL development league.  How many Vegans would miss the Running Rebels on the gridiron at this juncture anyway?  But no NFL farm club would be able to replace the teams that occupy the stadiums in Lincoln, Nebraska or South Bend, Indiana.  The NFL would be foolish to try and compete with the Cornhuskers or the Fighting Irish or the Crimson Tide.

There is one possibility to the NFL farm system.  That is that some colleges frustrated with the NCAA may join the NFL farm league.  Unionization certainly opens this possibility and the BYU Soccer Cougars opened the door for this to happen.  It would also be a way to get around Title IX and certain other restrictions.  However, I think that colleges hooking up with a NFL development league would be a poor idea.  The college teams would be at a distinct disadvantage because their athletes are students.

In the long run, and NFL development league makes sense for college football as well.  It would eliminate the student would is going to college just to play football in the NFL.  The kids in your program really want to be there.  It levels the playing field and has the potential to close the gap between the haves and have nots at the college level.  It may reduce revenues at the college level and has the potential to also reduce expenses.  Perhaps the bowl system will finally be replaced with a real playoff.

I, however, don’t live in the Fantasyland that says that college sports will be the same.  It won’t be, especially if the best athletes become professionals right out of high school.  But it has already changed, and it will continue to change.  We can make it change for the better, and perhaps it’s time for the NFL to take charge and ensure College Football changes for the better.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

MLS 2014 Prediction

Here is my prediction for how Major League Soccer will finish in 2014, even though we are  already one week into the season.

Eastern Conference

1. Sporting Kansas City
2. Houston Dynamo
3. New York Red Bulls
4. Montreal Impact
5. DC United
6. Columbus Crew
7. Chicago Fire
8. Philadelphia Union
9. Toronto FC
10. New England Revolution

Western Conference

1. Real Salt Lake
2. Los Angeles Galaxy
3. Vancouver Whitecaps
4. Portland Timbers
5. Seattle Sounders
6. San Jose Earthquake
7. Colorado Rapids
8. FC Dallas
9. Chivas USA

MLB 2014 Baseball prediction

I don't have a lot of practice at this, but what the heck.  Here is my prediction on how MLB will finish 2014

American League

East
1. Boston
2. Baltimore
3. New York Yankees
4. Tampa Bay
5. Toronto

Central
1. Detroit
2. Kansas City
3. Minnesota
4. Cleveland
5. Chicago White Sox

West
1. Texas
2. Oakland
3. Los Angeles Angles
4. Seattle
5. Houston

National League

East
1. Washington
2. Atlanta
3. New York Mets
4. Philadelphia
5. Miami

Central
1. St. Louis
2. Cincinnati
3. Pittsburgh
4. Chicago Cubs
5. Milwaukee

West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. San Diego
3. Arizona
4. San Francisco
5. Colorado

Monday, February 24, 2014

Will Salt Lake host the Olympics again?

There are many in Utah who think that Salt Lake could host another Winter Olympics games.  That opportunity will be on our doorstep before we even realize it.  Next year, the IOC will award the city that will host the Winter Games in 2022.  The opportunity to host the 2026 Winter Games is at our door, if the USOC wants it.

The challenge for the USOC is that they do not wish to spend money on more than one bid at once.  As such bidding is futile.  The International Olympic community likes to spread the games all over the world, as it is truly a world event.  The last time the Summer Games was held in the same continent for two consecutive Summer Games was 1952 when the Helsinki games followed the London Games of 1948.  As for the Winter Games, the last two consecutive games were held on the same continent was in 1994 when the Winter Games switched from leap years to the other even-number years when the Lillihammer games followed the games in Albertville.  The USOC needs to decide if they want to host the summer or the winter games next.

The main reason Salt Lake had to wait until 2002 to host the winter games instead of getting the 1998 games, Atlanta got the 1996 summer games.  This forced Salt Lake to wait another 4 years, and the 1998 Winter Games went to Nagano, Japan. 

The 2022 games are most certainly going to be in Europe because the 2018 games will be in Asia, in Pyongchang, South Korea.  The USOC passed up the opportunity to bid for these games, and no other cities in the Americas are interested.  The IOC will probably not pick another Asian City for 2022.  Therefore Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan are not in the running.  That leaves the race for the 2022 games between 4 European Cities: Lviv, Ukraine; Munich, German; Krakow, Poland and Oslo, Norway.  How far Olso and Munich get in the voting is something that Salt Lake organizers will watch closely.  Both cities have had the games before.  Gamesh-Partenkirken is just a stone throw away from Munich, which also hosted the 1972 Summer games.  Oslo is not very far from Lillihammer, host of the 1994 Winter Games.  If the IOC picks one of these cities, or at least if one gets to the final vote, it looks good for Salt Lake.  It shows that the IOC likes the possibility of hosting a winter games near a city that has had them before, and that they approve of using many of the same venues.

The 2026 Winter Games appear almost certainly to be in an American city of the USOC wants them there.  Right now, the only cities that have expressed interest in placing bids for the 2026 Winter games are Quebec City, Canada and 6 US Cities.  Those Cities are Anchorage, Alaska; Bozeman, Montana; Boston; Reno, Nevada; Denver and Salt Lake.

Quebec City has a problem, and that is that a city on the southern edge of the Canadian Shield has no ski mountain nearby, and the IOC has told the QC organizers that much.  Find a nearby mountain or don't bother.  The 2026 games seem to be the next US hosted games by default.  Therefore, what is to stop Salt Lake from hosting again?

First of all, do the other cities want want the games as well.  I would not consider Anchorage nor Bozeman credible cities to host the games.  Sure, Pyongchang is a small city, but Korea is not a large country.  A planned high speed train between Seoul and Pyongchang will solve the main problem that the small Korean town has, and that is hotel space.  Many wishing to attend the games can stay in Seoul and take a short, fast train ride to the games.  This is something that Anchorage and Bozeman can't as easily overcome.  Neither city has enough hotel space to accommodate the tens of thousands of people that will converge on the city for the games.  Having lived in both cities, I know what happens when small sporting events come to town.  The Great Alaskan shootout snarls traffic in the Anchorage for one weekend.  And this is just seven visiting basketball teams.  What will the Olympics do when they come.  And a state wrestling tournament takes all of the hotel space in Bozeman.  The Marriots and Hiltons of the world don't build one-use hotels in any town, even if they are on the doorstep of a National Park.  These cities just don't have either the infrastructure nor the facilities to host the Olympics.

As for Denver, they will never be able to live down the fact that they were awarded the 1976 Winter Games, but then turned them away.  The only city in history ever to do so.  Colorado has some of the best snow in the world, but the town has an Olympic history that they will never be able to live down.  They would be a good host city, but blew their chance.  It will never come again.

The Reno/Tahoe people are optimistic that they can host the games.  For Reno, their problem is not the lack of snow this season, and the quality of snow during normal water years.  Some believe that the lack of snow is a portent of things to come, due to global warming.  But most of the western US is gripped in drought this year, and it is likely not typical of what we will see in 2026.  Many were unhappy with the quality of snow conditions in Sochi during this years games, and Reno itself has similar temperatures throughout the winter, even in good snow years.  The Sierra snow is much heavier than snow in the Rockies because the water content is higher.  Reno may have trouble convincing the USOC that they could host the Winter games because of the quality of snow that typically falls in their area.

That leaves Boston, which is certainly more culturally diverse than Salt Lake; has more hotel rooms and has many advantages over Salt Lake.  Massachusetts itself is not known as ski Mecca, but there are quality ski areas in the mountains of western Massachusetts, less than two hours by car from Boston.  That is the big advantage that Salt Lake has over Reno, Denver, and Boston.  Salt Lakers ski in the suburbs, 20 minutes away from the airport, not two hours away like many other cities in the US.

There are really only three other US cities not going for the Winter Games in 2026 that could be good hosts for the Winter Games.  Seattle; Portland, Oregon and Sacramento, California.  Portland has many of the same advantages that Salt Lake has, good hotel space and ski areas that are practically in the suburbs.

For Salt Lake, the USOC may pass simply because they want to see another city play host to the games.  Because the IOC likes to spread the games around, the USOC may do the same.  The US doesn't do as well in the Winter Games because winter sports aren't as popular in the US as summer sports are.  Spreading the Winter Games around may be part of the solution to this problem.  Getting other, perhaps larger cities interested in the Winter Games will help the US win more metals in the Winter Games.  This may be the sole reason a larger city like Boston will gain support from the USOC.

There is only other factor that could derail the US from hosting the Winter Games of 2026, and that is the desire to host the summer games again.  The US probably won't get the 2024 summer games, a city in Europe or Africa, a continent that has never hosted the Olympics, is likely due for the honor in 2024.  The USOC may decide to throw their support behind bidding for the 2028 Summer Olympics instead.  The competition for those games; Guadalajara, Mexico.  The second largest city in Mexico has successfully hosted many international events in recent years, and is gaining the confidence of the World that they can successfully host the Olympic Games.

There are several US Cities interested, including Dallas and San Francisco.  If the US passes on the Winter Games of 2026, the next chance will depend on if the US gets the 2028 Summer Games.  The next chance for a Winter Games may not come until 2034 or later.  If the US passes on 2026, those games will likely be held in Asia or 'down under' with the 2030 games going to Europe. If the US doesn't get to host the summer games in 2028, the next real chance for the Summer Games will likely come in 2040.

The real fact to consider is that the summer games are much more difficult to get than winter games.  We may see the Winter Olympics in the US again much sooner than we see the Summer Olympics.  There are many cities around that world that could host a successful summer games, but not many that can successful host the winter games.  There is a good possibility that the we will see the Winter Olympics in Utah again in our lifetime. 

Summer Games

1896--Athens (1st modern Olympic Games)
1900--Paris
1904--St. Louis (1st Olympic Games held outside of Europe)
1908--London
1912--Stockholm
1916--Canceled, but would have been held in Berlin
1920--Antwerp
1924--Paris
1928--Amsterdam
1932--Los Angeles (Americas) 
1936--Berlin (Europe/Africa)
1940--Canceled, but would have been held in Tokyo
1944--Canceled, but would have been held in London
1948--London (Europe/Africa)
1952--Helsinki (Europe/Africa--Last time consecutive summer games were held on the same continent)
1956--Melbourne (Asia/Australia--First Summer Olympics in Southern Hemisphere)
1960--Rome (Europe/Africa)
1964--Tokyo (Asia--First Olympics in Asia)
1968--Mexico City (Americas)
1972--Munich (Europe/Africa)
1976--Montreal (Americas)
1980--Moscow (Europe/Africa)
1984--Los Angeles (Americas)
1988--Seoul (Asia--First Olympics on Asian Mainland)
1992--Barcelona (Europe)
1996--Atlanta (Americas)
2000-Sydney (Asia/Australia)
2004--Athens (Europe)
2008--Beijing (Asia/Australia)
2012--London (Europe)
2016--Rio (Americas--first Olympic games in South America)
2020--Tokyo (Asia/Australia)
2024--Likely Europe or Africa (Nairobi, Casablanca, Durban, Paris, Hamburg, Rome, Kiev, Istanbul and Baku are making bids, there are also bids from North American and Asian cities)
2028--Likely Americas (Guadalajara or USA (Dallas/San Francisco/Los Angeles))
2032--Likely Asia
2036--Likely Africa or Europe
2040--Likely Americas

Winter Games

1924--Chaminioux
1928--St. Moritz (First Winter games not held in the same country as the summer games.)
1932--Lake Placid
1936--Garmisch-Partenkirken
1940--Canceled, but would have been held in Saporro
1944--Canceled, but would have been held in Cortina d'Ampezzo
1948--St. Moritz (IOC stopped the practice of having the winter games in same country as summer games.)
1952--Oslo
1956--Cortina d'Ampezzo
1960--Squaw Valley (Lake Taho area--Americas).
1964--Insbruck (Europe)
1968--Grenoble (Europe)
1972--Saporro (Asia, first winter games held in Asia)
1976--Insbruck (Originally scheduled for Denver)
1980--Lake Pacid (Americas)
1984--Sarajevo (Europe)
1988--Calgary (Americas)
1992--Alberville (Europe)
1994--Lillehammer (Europe, Winter games began to be held in even numbered years opposite of summer games, last time consecutive winter games held in same continent.)
1998--Nagano (Asia)
2002--Salt Lake City (Americas)
2006--Turino (Europe)
2010--Vancouver (Americas)
2014--Sochi (Europe)
2018--Pyongchang (Asia)
2022--Likely Europe (Oslo, Munich, Krakow or L'viv as USOC passed on the chance to bid for these games.)
2026--Likely Americas (Most likely a US city, unless US hosts 2024 Summer games or decides to bid on 2028 Summer games.)
2030--Likely Asia/Australia
2034--Likely Europe
2038--Likely Americas

Note: Winter games have never been held south of the equator.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Future Sites for the NHL Winter Classic.

On New Year's Day, I am not watching college football.  I will likely catch the BCS Championship Game, but I have little interest in the morning NYD bowls, even the Capitol One Bowl featuring former USU Coach Gary Anderson.  I am watching something that is taking place at a classic College Football Stadium, the NHL Winter Classic currently taking place at Michigan Stadium between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Next season, which will be hosted by the Washington Capitols, the site has not been announced, trying to get clearance from the NFL to host the game at Fed Ex Field.  I, however, think it would be cool to host the game at the National Mall.

A number of classic stadiums have already hosted the classic, including Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.  NFL stadiums are difficult because the NFL season is still going on, but Ralph Wilson Stadium and Heinz Field have hosted the event.  In the south, it is difficult to maintain the ice outdoors.  

Here are 10 cool stadiums for future NHL Winter Classics.

-Ohio Stadium

-Notre Dame Stadium
-Arrowhead Stadium
-Husky Stadium
-Beaver Stadium
-Lambeau Field
-Yale Bowl
-Mitchie Stadium
-Indianapolis Motor Speedway
-Warr Memorial Stadium (Highest large stadium in the US)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

BYU 2013 Season in Review.

Many will list the BYU 2013 as a would-have and could-have season.  But for me, the season was better than I expected.  They won two games that early-on I thought they would lose, Boise State and Texas.  Of course, that was tempered by BYU losing two games I thought they would win, Virginia and Utah.  For those expecting more than 8 wins, I have to ask if those people were dreaming.  BYU just didn't have the team that would have gone into Camp Randall Stadium or Notre Dame Stadium and walked out with a win. 

Offense:

Why did I say that?  BYU had two things lacking on offense to be great with the hot-read offense.  First, BYU doesn't have speedy receivers.  They had Cody Hoffman, recognized as a good 'possession' receiver, but not a speedster.  BYU had few tools that could stretch the defense on the passing game.  Second, they are seeing the effects, or the consequences of recruiting smaller, faster offensive linemen.  The offensive line didn't have the ability to protect Taysom Hill for long.  Therefore, BYU had to force defenses to respect his running ability.  Texas refused and got burned.  After that, rather than over-pursue Hill in the pocket, you cover, and when the protection breaks down, you have someone hanging around the secondary to keep the gains minimal.  These are the reasons that the Cougars had trouble in the red zone and on 3rd downs.

Grade: C+

Defense:

The defense was much better earlier in the season.  Part of that was the level of competition, and part of that was the effect of injuries and an offense that didn't hold onto the ball very long.  There were too many drives that were 3-and-out in less than a minute.  BYU's defense was not deep enough to handle that toward the end of the season, where the defense wasn't good enough to keep games against Wisconsin and Washington close enough to win.

Grade: B+

Special Teams

The punting wasn't as good in 2013, but the field goal kicking was much better.  But the kick-off coverage was problem-some in some games.

Grade: B-

Best Win:
Texas

Worst Loss:
Virginia

Offesnive MVP:
QB Taysom Hill

Defensive MVP:
LB Uani Unga

Special Teams MVP:
PK Justin Sorensen

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Utah Utes 2013 Season in Review.

Whether or not to declare the 2013 season a success depends on your expectations were for the season, it also depends on how you define success.  There was a time, back in the 1980s, when a victory over BYU meant a successful season, even if there were only one or two other victories.  It meant another chance to rub your BYU-fan neighbor's nose in it for another year.  Sooner or later, victories over the Cougars and just being in the PAC-12 will no longer be enough, and that is the way that it should be.

Offense
It has been said that the Utes are a healthy, consistent quarterback away from success.  With a healthy Travis Wilson, the Utes were 4-2.  With problems at quarterback, the Utes were 1-5.  While it remains to be seen if Wilson will be healthy next year, the Utes were just a couple of plays from beginning the season 6-0, and a possible national ranking.  The offense was scoring plenty of points as well.  A more consistent running game and better protection of the quarterback may have led to a more successful season.

Grade: B+

Defense
The Utah defense was not as good as they should have been.  As I just said, the Utes were only a pair of plays away from beginning 6-0.  It's really hard to blame losses to Oregon State and UCLA on the offense.  The Utes were close to finishing 11-1, and the defense is why.  There were some good games, some good plays, but there were plenty of defensive breakdowns as well.

Grade: C

Special Teams:
Converting someone from the ski team into your full-time kicker?

Grade: A

Best game of the year:
Stanford

Worst game of the year:
USC

Offensive Player of the Year:
Travis Wilson

Defensive Player of the Year:
Trevor Reilly

Special Teams Player of the Year:
Andy Phillips