Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Commentary on the Olympics

I am currently prepping the College Football Preview, which will be downsized this year.  I have other things on my plate, but will continue to blog weekly about the college football scene in Utah.  I find the Big 12 expansion debate thrilling, but I have no credible information leading to how it will turn out in the end.

The Olympic games just finished in Rio.  Overall, things went well for the United States.  There were some disappointments.  There always are, and there always will be.  At this level of competition, anything can happen.  Eventually, the women's basketball team will lose, and someone else will dominate the pool.  But that is all another place and time.  But there is nothing for Americans to be ashamed of.  I, for one, am proud.

There were some off-the-field embarrassments.  Ryan Lochte was one of them.  He should just admit he was drunk, and therefore not capable of telling the truth about what happened.  That would be the most believable thing he should say.

Hope Solo was an ungracious loser.  Soccer is a funny sport.  More than any other popular sport, the underdog has a chance in any given game.  This is why most professional soccer leagues world-wide do not crown a champion after a playoff.  It is very likely that the best team overall during the season will lose.

The same thing can be said in selecting a host city for the games.  I do not think that Los Angeles will be the hose of the 2024 games.  It is likely Rome or Paris.  There were 52 years between the LA games of 1932 and 1984.  That is about right time between games hosted in the United States.  Even if it can be done on the cheap.  Atlanta hosted the Olympic games of 1996.  The next time the United States should host the summer games is 2048.

Sale Lake City had a good plan when building Olympic Venues for the 2002 winter games.  They set aside money for continuous upkeep.  They constantly bid to bring the World Cup to Salt Lake.  They open up the venues for the public to use.  Some of the venues are still used for training.  If Salt Lake were to host the games again, they really could do it with little money.  It is a much better plan that hosting the game and then letting the venues wither away through neglect and non-use.  This should be the template going forward.

There were 22 years between the Lake Placid games of 1980, and the Salt Lake games.  24 years is about right for the United States to wait for their next Winter games.  The USOC should plan on putting a strong bid for the 2026 Winter games.

I am very surprised to find that no cities in North America are bidding for the 2028 games.  Buenos Aries will host the 2018 youth games.  If Paris or Rome wins the right to host the 2024 games, Argentina becomes the front runner for the 2028 games.  No other cities in either North or South America are planning bids for 2028 so far.  Perhaps this is a sign that the USOC will put together a bid for the 2026 Winter games should the LA bid fail.

If 2024 LA fails, then the next window of opportunity for the US to host the summer games, is literally 2040 as the IOC loves to rotate the games around the world.  2024 is likely to be in Europe.  2028 is likely to be in the Americas with Buenos Aires the only city in the Americas that has expressed interest, so far.  2032 is likely to be in Asia or Oceania.  2036 would then be in either Europe or Africa.  US Cities will likely try and bid, but the best chance is 2040 when the Summer games will visit the Americas once again.

The winter games don't necessarily follow this pattern.  No one in Europe or the Americas bid for the 2022 winter games.  All of the other cities dropped out.  That is why you get two winter games in a row for Asia and three consecutive Olympic games in that part of the world.  Very good chance that if the USOC goes for the 2026 Winter games, they will get it, whatever city they choose.  Therefore, choose wisely.

Hosting the Olympic games is costly.  Most cities don't plan for what to do with the venues after the games.  With planning and architecture improving, I see more games making use of temporary stadia and venues that will be taken down or re-purposed after the games are over, much like some of the venues in Rio.  Many of the venues in Tokyo will be temporary.  This is another model that may work for future Olympic games.

Let's hope that they can find ways to keep the Olympic games affordable for host nations and keep the tradition alive.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Big 12 Expansion, How I think the Dominoes will Fall

Scenario 1

Big12--Expands to 12

Adds: BYU and Houston or Cincy

American adds Army for football only

End of scenario

Scenario 2

Big 12--Expands to 14

Adds: BYU, Colorado State, Houston and Cincinnati

American adds: Army and Air Force for football only
Air Force joins Missouri Valley for other sports

Mountain West Adds: UTEP and Rice

Conference USA Adds: New Mexico State and Texas State

Sun Belt Adds: Lamar

Scenario 3

Big 12--Expands to 12, but does not include BYU

Big 12 Adds Houston and Cincy (Or any two schools from the AAC)

American Adds: Army and Air Force

Mountain West Adds: UTEP

Conference USA Adds: New Mexico State

Scenario 4

Big 12--Really Crazy Scenario

Well, let's just hope it doesn't get too crazy this time.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

What about the NHL expansion team in Las Vegas?

I have been following the saga of the Raiders potential relocation to Las Vegas.  The question has to be asked, does the NHL expansion team in Las Vegas block the Raiders?

The NHL chose Las Vegas for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, there are people who call Las Vegas home who have money to burn.  If there is one thing that spots leagues want is a potential owner who has money in a city that has money.  There is plenty of money in Vegas.  Most people leave with a lot less than they came with.  There are other reasons as well.  For example, Vegans have been strong supporters of minor league hockey for many decades.  The NHL believes that it can succeed there.

And yes, the NHL owners did consider the possibility that the Raiders would make the move to Las Vegas.  Obviously, that is not a concern, or at least not a deal breaker.  It could be because they do not believe that NFL owners will approve the move.  Or, they don't look at the Raiders as a threat to their likelihood of success.  My hunch is that it is the latter.  Here is why.

First of all, the Las Vegas metro has 2 million people, and is approaching the size of Pittsburgh, a city with both an NFL and NHL franchise...and a MLB franchise.  Las Vegas is not exactly a city that is overloaded with sports teams right now.  The door of opportunity is open.

Second, the NHL and NFL regular seasons overlap a little, but only for about 2 and 1/2 months.  From January to April, the NHL will not compete against the NFL.  For more than half of the NFL season, the Raiders would not compete against the NHL franchise.

Third, during that season-overlap time, the NHL can ovoid scheduling home games on Sunday, Monday and Thursday.  I think that the NFL puts out their schedule earlier enough for the NHL to avoid scheduling games that conflict with the NFL teams in the same cities of NHL teams.

Fourth, there are hockey fans that don't care for football and visa versa.

Fifth, if market size was the only thing that mattered to the success of a sports franchise, the US sports leagues would all look like the English Premier League, where half the league resides in three cities.  (In the EPL it's London, Manchester and Liverpool...In the US it would be six cities, New York, LA, Chicago, Houston, Dallas and San Francisco).

In conclusion, I do not think the NHL expansion team is a good reason to prevent the Raiders from relocating to Las Vegas.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Is it Now or Never for BYU?

It seems that the Big 12 will announce expansion sometime between the end of May and the first of August.  BYU fans are on pins and needles.  Of course there are reasons to choose BYU and reasons to say no.  I will not go into those here, but answer some other questions.

First, is this the last chance for BYU to get into a power conference?  No.  There will be changes coming to college education and to college sports.  There is no way that this will be the end of expansion.  One thing that we have not yet to see, which is surely coming sometime in the near future, is power 5 programs who are not keeping up deciding to accept a step back.  Much like Idaho has taken a step back from the FBS and deciding to return to the Big Sky Conference.  I do not know who, yet.  But there are very few programs actually profitable.  Sooner or later, states will look at expenses, and determine that the high cost isn't worth it.  Schools, after all, are spending tons of money on facilities that do not seem to educate students, and only benefit a handful.  That money has to be looked at.  Is it really fair to force students to borrow money to cover the expenses of others?  Some schools will have to make hard choices and determine that Power-5 athletics are not worth the price, and drop bakc.  If BYU does not get into the Big 12 now, there will shortly be other opportunities.

Will BYU remain independent if the Big 12 passes on them this time time?  That will be the case if they can find another conference that will work with them.  Perhaps it will be the American, but just for football.  It is still doubtful, at least in my mind, that the MWC will take them back.  Perhaps there will be a new conference form for the Cougars.  However, it seems most likely that if the Big 12 passes on the Cougars, that they will remain independent for the near future.

My hunch is that it is most likely that BYU will join the Big 12 with Cincinnati.  And if it is not now, it is also not never, either.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Leicester City Equivelent

I know that most of my readers are probably not familiar with the English Premier League.  This is one of the top four soccer leagues in the world (along with Spain's La Liga, Germany's Bundesliga and Italy's Siere A), and the equivalent of the NFL here.  Something absolutely incredible has happened there.

In the European Leagues, they practice something known as promotion/relegation.  It would be similar to knocking the bottom-finishing MLB baseball teams to AAA at the end of the season, and giving the best AAA teams a shot at the majors in their place.  (Except the AAA teams would be independent and not farm clubs of the Major League Teams.)

In England, the Leicester City Football Club was promoted to the English Premier League for the 2014/15 season.  In their second season in the top tier league, they win it.  Absolutely incredible.  Here is what I think would be the American equivalent to what Leicester just did.


The Jacksonville Jaguars Win Super Bowl LI.
Closest actual experience...Super Bowl XXXVI, where Brady, as a rookie, lead the Patriots to their first championship.


The Utah Jazz win the 2017 NBA Title.
Closest actual experience...1977 Portland Trailblazers beat the Philadelphia 76ers to win the NBA Title.


The Columbus Blue Jackets hoist Lord Stanley's Cup.
The closest actual experience...1974 Philadelphia Flyers over the Boston Bruins.  This was the first time a non-original six team won the cup.


The Albuquerque Isotopes win the 2017 World Series.
The closest actual experience...1969 New York Mets winning the World Series over the Orioles.  Remember, the Mets replaced the Dodgers/Giants in 1962.

College Football

The Montana Grizzlies claim the FBS College Playoff Championship
The closest actual experience...Notre Dame in 1943.  All of the young men were drafted into the Army.  Anyone other than a service academy winning at this time was incredible.  (Army won most of their national titles during this era.)

College Basketball

UMKC Kangaroos claim NCAA Final Four Championship.  (There are probably 270 schools that fit this description.  The 'Roos were the first one I thought of.)
The closest actual experience...Texas Western (Now UTEP) in 1966.  The only time between 1964 and 1973 that someone other than UCLA won.  Don Haskins broke the color barrier in College Basketball in a big way.

MLS Soccer

Sacramento Republic claim MLS Cup.
The closest actual experience...Real Salt Lake in 2009.  RSL started in 2005 and the LA Galaxy had some of the best players in the world.


Ben Hunt (That's me...Sorry no photo) wins the Masters.  (I wear a 40 short)
The closest actual experience...2013 Adam Scott

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Update on the Raiders in Las Vegas--4/28/16--The Silver and Black State.

Mike Davis, the owner of the Raiders, has committed a half billion of his own dollars to build a stadium in Las Vegas.  I do not know all of the details, and I can't find a good rendering, however, this is what I know.

Funding does not look like it will be a problem, with most of the cost coming from the Raiders and some of the casino owners in town.  However, it will take some city money to provide the underlying infrastructure as sports facilities have greater SWPPP requirements than other projects.  There are also parking structures and other such items to build, which often a city will pay for as long as there is year-round use for it.  The commitment from the community will be minimal.  Which I understand could happen with simply a minor increase in hotel taxes.  Most visitors won't know the difference, as they go to Sin City to lose money, anyway.  What's an extra buck or two on a hotel when you lose your shirt?

Here are some other details that I have been able to glean.  The final stadium may vary from this.  These things always change from the early planning stages.

-The new stadium will seat 65,000...possibly expandable to 75,000 to host the Super Bowl and provide extra seating for other special events.  But the latter detail is not confirmed.
-It will either be domed stadium, or with a retractable roof.
-The stadium would likely also be the new home of UNLV football and the Las Vegas Bowl in addition to the Raiders.  This wouldn't only facility in the NFL that is shared with a local college team on a permanent basis.  Until recently, the Saints shared their home with Tulane.  The Buccaneers share their home with USF.  The Eagles and Temple play in the same stadium.  The Chargers and San Diego State also share a stadium, but it is unclear if this will continue with the new stadium in San Diego.  Qualcomm field is close to campus, and SDSU may remain there...with some renovations, of course.  There are many other examples from the past that I do not need to mention, I think you get the point.
-The stadium could also host the NCAA final four, if it has either a permanent or retractable roof.
-The stadium will likely host premiere boxing matches and other similar events.
-The stadium could be the home of a new annual music festival.
-The stadium may also host an MLS franchise, and the field will likely be soccer-friendly.

The state and city were already in negotiation with UNLV to build a new stadium, however, the traction was not there to give the Rebels a new football filed, at least not yet.  Below is what UNLV was trying to build, but they couldn't get the state allow UNLV to pay their share of the construction costs.  Which could be an obstacle still, but with Davis's Benjamins, it could now be a reality.  And the share that UNLV would have to pay might be less, much less.   The Raiders stadium might look something like this, but on a grander scale, and may not.  In this shot, the roof is cut-away.  At the side of the stadium we can't see in this view (Not the end zone, but the sideline), there is a large stage, running goal-line to goal line, which could hold the extra seats needed to host the Super Bowl.  There is also an large LCD screen above the state.

Here is a view from the inside:

There are some other roadblocks to getting the Raiders there in the meantime.  Mostly, that pro sports leagues, not just the NFL, are hesitant to locate in Las Vegas...but this blog has already addressed that issue.  I have one thing to add, however.  There are three NCAA conferences, the Mountain West, the PAC-12 and the WCC that have their men's and women's conference championship tournaments in Las Vegas.  The most intriguing of these is the WCC, which is is the home of ultra-conservative, stone-cold sober, BYU and 9 other private, religious institutions.  Most of the WCC schools are Roman Catholic Jesuit schools who all very much against gambling and prostitution.  If the WCC can play in Vegas, so can the NFL.

Also, in spite of playing in one of the worst 3 stadiums currently in the NFL for 2016, the Oakland Raiders are nearly sold out of season tickets for the upcoming season.  That is part of the problem with sports moves.  You will leave fans behind.  The fans want the team to stay in Oakland.  They don't want to follow the team to Las Vegas, and are voting for their wallets.  This is why I think that Davis and Oakland should make one last effort to keep the team in the Bay Area.  Bring the A's, Warriors and Sharks together on this as well and work out a deal.

One other obstacle to overcome for the Raiders is that if they make the move, where would they play in 2017?  Certainly remaining in Oakland wouldn't work.  Sam Boyd Stadium, the current home of the UNLV Rebels, isn't exactly an NFL Stadium.  It currently holds just 40,000 if you put seats at the North (open) end.  It will take 2-3 years to build the new facility.  However, the Titans played one year at Vanderbilt stadium, which is about the same size as SBS while waiting for Nissan Stadium to finish.  The Bears played at Northwestern while Soldier Field was being renovated, which is only slightly larger.  The Vikings have been playing for the last 2 and 1/2 seasons at the University of Minnesota, which is larger, but not protected from the weather.  This may only be a slight concern.  There may be temporary considerations to help overcome concerns about the old Silver Bowl as a temporary home.

One last comment.  Why isn't Davis taking his half billion to Oakland and building there?  It has to do with the cost of living difference.  Companies aren't leaving California in droves, but many are moving some of their operations out of the Bay Area because of cost.  I work for one such company.  We are not moving everything to Utah, and certainly not the company headquarters, but much of it will be relocated here to save cost.

Because of cost, the half Billion that Davis is willing to spend on a new stadium will not go as far in Oakland.  Yes, he can build a stadium there, but it will not be as nice.  In Las Vegas, Davis can build something that will rival the new Rams stadium, or perhaps be the very nicest in the NFL.  But in Oakland, it will only be your average, median stadium, at best.  Plus, it will only be for the Raiders.  No Super Bowl, no Final Four, no Boxing, no music festival.

In conclusion, even though I think the Raiders owe it to their fans to make one last try to remain where they are, I understand why Mike Davis wants to move.  And if they do move to Las Vegas, which is only a 6 hour drive (plus crossing a time zone) from my home in the Salt Lake Valley, I might just go see a game (of course it will be on Monday Night).  I've never been to an NFL game, and it is on my bucket list.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Proposal for the Big Sky Conference

With New Mexico State and Idaho closer to accepting relegation, perhaps it is time for the Big Sky Conference to consider its options.  And the WAC finally kicking the bucket opens up a possibility.  And one options I think they should consider is splitting.  There is always the talk of how cool a conference championship game would be.  But at the FCS level, you do not get extra credit for being super large.  The BSC will have one and only one automatic NCAA bid whether the conference is at 20 members or 7.  The other problem is that conference members will have a harder time finding quality non-conference that they can travel to with a super-large conference.  Super Conferences aren't always the best solution.

Therefore, I suggest that the conference split once formally joined by Idaho and New Mexico State for football.  It can be a football-only split, as some members of the conference are football-only schools.

Big Sky Conference

Eastern Washington
Idaho State
Montana State
North Dakota
Portland State
Weber State

Western Rivers Conference

Cal Poly (Football Only)
UC Davis (Football Only)
San Diego  (Football Only)
Dixie State
Northern Arizona
Northern Colorado
New Mexico State
Sacramento State
Southern Utah
Seattle (Non Football)
CSU Bakersfield (Non Football)
Utah Valley (Non Football)
Grand Canyon (Non Football)

This is what I have done.  The Original 5 members of the BSC make up the new BSC, rounded out by EWU, PSU and UND.  There is unity.  These are all public schools and with the exception of UND in place of Sacramento State, have been in the same conference for decades.

The new WRC, has the football only schools, put San Diego University, an outlier of the Pioneer conference.  but has 5 football schools as a base with the inclusion of DSU and NMSU for football.  There are the 4 other remnants from the non-football WAC joining the full-time schools for basketball and the so-called Olympic Sports.

The benefits will be a new conference and a second automatic bid to the NCAA football tournament and basketball tournament, etc.  And there will be help with scheduling.  And it team that finishes 8-3 will not be 5th in the conference.

Think about it.  A Big Sky is good, but a really big sky, not so much.