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.

NFL


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.

NBA


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

Hockey



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.

Baseball


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.

Golf

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
Idaho State
Montana
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.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

MLS 2016 predictions

Here is my prediction for the 2016 season of Major League Soccer.

East

1.  Columbus
2.  New York Red Bulls
3.  DC United
4.  New England
5.  Orlando
6.  Montreal
7.  Toronto
8.  New York City FC
9.  Philadelphia
10.  Chicago

West

1.  FC Dallas
2.  Portland
3.  Vancouver
4.  Los Angeles
5.  Seattle
6.  Real Salt Lake
7.  Sporting Kansas City
8.  Houston
9.  San Jose
10.  Colorado

Raiders in Las Vegas and other options for Mike Davis

Las Vegas is not the place you would go during Lent...that much is certain.  And that is the reason none of the major professional sports leagues have been willing to locate a team there.  Las Vegas is still one of the fastest growing metro areas in the United States, and is now the largest such area in the US without a major sports franchise.

In spite of this, and the fact that a stadium could be built there without any public funds, do not expect the NFL to go there willingly.  They say, whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, however, it is much different when you live there.  And it is all exacerbated when you have young men who are making good money for the first time in their lives and don't know what to do with their extra time.

Eight of the top 15 employers in Las Vegas are involved in the gambling industry.  However, that is not all that is in Sin City.  It is also the western hub for Southwest Airlines, the second largest airline in the United States.  Wal Mart, Target and Home Depot have distribution centers there.  Health Care, like many cities in the southwest, is large because the mild climate and low cost of living is attractive to retirees.  But the percentage of people who work in the gaming industry is very high, and many people feel without others visiting the city to gamble, there wouldn't be much there at all.

But that is not really the reason behind the lack of support in going to Lav Vegas.  The real question is this, will athletes be able to keep out of trouble if we put a team there?  In this day and age, could this still be a reason to continue to shun Las Vegas.  After all, athletes in trouble makes headlines regularly.

Commercial casinos are now legal in 17 states.  12 of these 17 states are currently the home to NFL franchises.  However, in most of these states, gaming casinos are not right next door to the NFL stadiums.  In Colorado, for example, casinos can be found in old mining towns and on the reservation, not right across the street from Investco Field at Mile High, and really, now where near Denver.  Most states that have commercial gaming restrict the territory, making them destination sites.  The NFL allows its players to gamble, but limits what activities they can do.  Outside of former Colt Art Schliester and former 49ers Owner Eddie DeBartalo, Jr, the NFL has been relatively free of gambling controversies.

It is hard to say if gambling would be a problem if an NFL team came to Las Vegas.  But the temptation would certainly be there.  But there are other temptations in Sin City.  Prostitution is legal, and Nevada is the only state where it is.  All of this could lead to greater problems with domestic violence, which is something that the NFL needs less of.

However, what Las Vegas needs is a more diversified economy.  When the overall economy of the US is suffering, Las Vegas suffers as well, especially now that there are options for most Americans to gamble closer to home.  An NFL franchise, or an NBA, MLB, NHL or MLS franchise would help legitimize the city and attract more non-gaming business to the city.  Las Vegas needs this more than anything else right now.  Las Vegas would also be a great place to hold the Super Bowl, as there are plenty of hotels around town.

There are probably other options for the Raiders if they are unable to build a stadium in Oakland.  They could share the Rams new facility.  There are other proposed stadiums in the Los Angeles area that could work for the Raiders.  If the Chargers abandon San Diego, the Raiders could locate there.  They could build in the Central Valley, in either Sacramento or Fresno.  There are also a half dozen other cities around the country that the Raiders could move to, like Portland, Salt Lake, San Antonio, Birmingham, or Southern Virginia.  There is even room for a third franchise in the New York area, perhaps one that actually has a stadium in one of the Five Burroughs.  Finally, they could locate north of the border in either Vancouver or Toronto.  And for that matter, could even move to Mexico City, Monterrey or Guadalajara.

However, let me pitch one final idea.  Let's move the Warriors out of Oakland after this season.  There is a new area going up in San Francisco for the Warriors, let's move them to the SAP Center in San Jose, home of the NHL's Sharks.  Then immediately after the NBA season is finished (and for the Warriors, it looks like it will be early June this year) raise the Oracle Arena and begin construction on a new stadium for the Raiders.  Once the Raiders are able to move out of O.co, then the stadium can be permanently remodeled as a baseball only facility for the Athletics.

However, what makes sense rarely happens and it will be fun to see how this all plays out.

Idaho kicked out of Sun Belt Conference

As announced by the Sun Belt Conference last week, Idaho as a football-only member has been summarily dismissed.  2017 will be the last season the Vandals will compete in the Sun Belt Conference for football.  There are not a lot of options left for Idaho, and most of this was their own doing.  The same was announced for New Mexico State.

There were probably two reasons why the Sun Belt Conference made this move.  First, it was to trim expenses.  It would be better if Moscow, Idaho was located near a major hub airport, but they are not.  Getting from Monroe, Louisiana to Moscow isn't cheap, and involves two or three airplane changes.  Getting to the rest of the Sun Belt can easily be done by bus, which is a cheaper option.  The other reason is the that Vandals have not been competitive since joining the Sun Belt.  And in the current world of College Sports, the Sun Belt needs every member to excel and become competitive.

There are some options for Idaho, but they are limited.  First is to try and join another conference.  However, if the Mountain West or Conference USA wanted Idaho, they would already be there.  I would put a caveat to that statement.  Conference USA probably is a realistic option for New Mexico State, should future realignment cost that conference a member and they (the NMSU Aggies) are a natural rival with UTEP and other C-USA members.  However, Idaho is well outside of the C-USA footprint, and don't really have the pull the NMSU has to get in.

Idaho could compete as an independent in football, and didn't exactly have the trouble scheduling games as an independent that people thought they would.  NMSU may also compete as an independent with them.  There is always BYU to schedule, and perhaps and agreement can be made to bring the Cougars to Moscow.  However, this is not a sustainable model, and the only school that really seems committed to long-term independence is Army.  Notre Dame has a scheduling agreement with the ACC.  BYU is desperately trying to woo the Big 12.

It would not be completely off kilter for Idaho to hold on to the FBS for a couple of years, perhaps until the end of the decade.  There are rumblings of more conference realignment and that could benefit the Vandals to where the MWC or C-USA would welcome them.

One other option for Idaho is to attempt to form a new FBS conference along with some of the more successful FCS programs like Montana and North Dakota State.  But it seems like these schools would rather be a big fish in a little pond and you may not find enough schools willing to make the jump right now.

However, the best bet for Idaho is to take a standing invitation for returned full membership in the Big Sky Conference.  There are several reason why this makes good sense.  First, they could drop a couple of non-revenue sports to reduce the cost of the athletic department.  They could pay their assistant coaches less.  They would not have as many scholarship football athletes.  They could resume rivalries against schools that are geographically close like Montana, Eastern Washington and Idaho State.  The expenses may drop more dramatically than the revenue.  If so, this is the best move.

The senior leaders at Idaho get paid big money to make hard decisions.  At Idaho, they have a hard decision to make right now.  I don't envy them.  Whatever they decide to do, I hope for the best.