Monday, January 18, 2016

More on why the Rams had to move...and the lessons to be learned.

Sporting News recently ranked all 31 NFL stadiums...they included Wembly the London home of the National Football League.  If you look at the list, you will see that it is not necessarily new that makes the top of the list, as Lambeau Field is #1, it is attention to the overall fan experience.  I highly recommend looking over the list.

The problem with St. Louis is that the entire focus on the stadium was luxury boxes.  It was believed back in the mid 1990s that to focus on luxury boxes would bring a team revenue, and with that revenue the team would be able to sign high-priced free agents.  That never happened in St. Louis because they forgot of the rank-and-file, Average Joe who would pay a much higher percentage of his paycheck for season ticket.  It was the lack of Average Joe at St. Louis Rams games that caused the end of the St. Louis Rams.  This is why one of the oldest stadiums in the NFL, the one on the other side of the Show Me State, is still one of the best in the NFL in spite of its age.  It is a great place for Average Joe to blow a mid-month paycheck.

In addition to this lack of focus is a lack of other things for fans to do outside the stadium on game day.  There are very few places to park that allow tailgating.  There are not very many bars and restaurants nearby.  But the baseball park, where the St. Louis Cardinals play is another story.  The baseball cardinals are, in fact, one of the best attended teams in baseball.

Here are the bottom 5 NFL stadiums according to Sporting News

31. O.co Colosseum, Raiders

If you look at the picture at the Sporting News site, you see the problem.  O.co also serves as home to the Athletics of Baseball.  And there are bleachers that give football fans sideline access for Raider games, which are retracted for baseball as they are in the baseball outfield.  The problem, as you can see from the photo, is those sideline fans are in the sun, and have to compete with the brightest star of all to see much of the game, particularly on one side of the 50 yard line.  There is also little outside the stadium for the fan to enjoy before or after the game.  After 20 years back in Oakland, that renovation is still being paid for by the Raiders because fans have stayed home in droves.

As for a solution, here is what has been proposed.  It's complicated, but here goes.  The Golden State Warriors will be moving to a new arena in San Francisco in 2018.  The plan would be to temporarily move the Warriors to the SAP arena.  The Oracle Arena, which is on the same site as the O.co, would be razed so that a new baseball stadium for the Athletics can be built.  In the mean time, move the Raiders to Levi's Stadium or California Memorial Stadium, temporarily.  Once the Athletics are out of O.co, raze that stadium for a new Raiders stadium.  This will take some time, at least 5 years, before dirt is moved for a new stadium for the Raiders, and is sounds a lot like what went down in Cincinnati a few years ago for the Bengals.  That did not turn out so well.

30.  Qualcomm Stadium, Chargers

It's just old, and has simply been in limbo too long.  The locker room floods.  Fans are staying away in droves.

29.  Georgia Dome, Falcons

It has served its purpose and now the Falcons are two seasons from moving on.  This is much like the story in St. Louis, where the focus was on luxury boxes while the rank and file fans had so suffer from poor sight lines and an inconsistent team

38.  Fed Ex Field, Redskins

In terms of sight lines, the stadium isn't terrible, and the VIPs have it just as bad as the rank and file fans.  They have tried some things to improve the situation, and those things have failed, just like the team on the field, which was one of the best in the NFL at the old place.  Major League Soccer's DC United is the sole tenant at the old place, and soon they will have a new place.  Redskins ownership is now talking about wrecking the old place and building a new place for the team at the sight of the old place.

37.  Edward Jones Dome, Rams

See above.

Best NFL Stadiums

5. Arrowhead Stadium, Chiefs

This one was ahead of its time.

4. Century Link Field, Seahawks

3. Levi's Stadium, 49ers.

There is even an amusement park nearby.

2. AT&T Stadium, Cowboys

1. Lambeau Field, Packers

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Rams are back in LA


As you probably no by now, the Los Angeles Rams have been reborn at the cost of the good taxpayers of the city of St. Louis, who still owe quite a bit of moola on the stadium that the Rams are abandoning.

Fair or not, these are the breaks in the world of professional sports today.  However, as good as St. Louis was for the Rams, it was really a comedy of errors and it can be argued that the Rams should not have moved there.  St. Louis is the 19th largest CSA in the United States.  That puts them just ahead of Pittsburgh, Charlotte and Sacramento and just behind Portland and Orlando.  Out of these six areas, only Pittsburgh is now the home of 3 sports teams from the 5 major sports leagues in the United States.  St. Louis is still the home of Baseball's Cardinals and Hockey's Blues.  Where Portland and Orlando have Basketball and Soccer.  Charlotte is the home of Basketball's Hornets and Football's Panthers.  Sacramento is only home for basketball's Kings.  It seems that in a city the size of St. Louis, two sports teams seems like enough, where three might be too much.

Not having football in LA has mostly been negative.  Sure there are some positives, for example, you could walk into a sports bar in LA wearing any teams colors you wanted to on a Sunday in the fall and not worry about offending the home crowd.  However, anywhere from nine to thirteen current NFL franchises have held their own cities hostage for new stadiums with the threat of moving to a vacant Los Angeles market.

However, it will not really be all that difficult to get new stadiums built in the United States.  There are plenty of other cities that teams can threaten to move to, such as Portland, the 17th largest market in the US, and now the largest without an NFL franchise.  St. Louis, which would gladly risk getting burned a 3rd time by an NFL team, now the 2nd largest market without the NFL.  Sacramento, which only has the Kings to compete against, now the 3rd largest market without an NFL franchise.   Las Vegas has no professional sports and is not much smaller than St. Louis. Oakland, blocked from going back to LA seems willing to find another city as getting a new stadium in Oakland seems far-fetched.  The Jaguars are another teams that is struggling at the gate, and could be looking for a new home in the near future as well.

Times change in the US.  Cities are growing and others are shrinking.  As of now, other than Green Bay, Buffalo is the smallest city in the US that hosts a major sports franchise.  Yes, and efforts are underway to provided both the Bills and the Sabers with new, up to date homes.  However, smaller cities are going to have to build new facilities as a faster rate than larger cities, and the burden on the taxpayer in those cities will be greater and greater.  While larger cities, with larger tax bases are going without.  The Rams are moving to a new stadium, in 2-3 seasons, that is not financed by taxpayers at all.  The new stadium will be surrounded by offices, shopping and condos.  The former Hollywood park site will become a new model for sports facilities in the future if we are lucky.  That is bad new for cities that want to hold on to their teams, but good news for tax-strapped cities of the future.  With this model, it won't be long before someone moves to Las Vegas or another city that has lots of empty real-estate, where a new venue could be the center of a shopping/office space/residential mecca.

I am not saying that the Buffalo Bills should move to Harrisburg.  And I'm sure that there isn't the talent for the NFL to grow larger under the current NFL talent development model.  However, the NFL should look at how to grow their talent pool and expand.  One thing that keeps baseball and hockey growing, and keeps soccer the most popular sport in the world, is they way that they develop talent.  The NFL could look at this model, have teams in LA and keep a team in St. Louis and other places.  With the LA model that keeps taxpayer dollars out of sports venues, teams will move at a faster pace.

For us who are fans of that Utah Jazz, this is a warning.  It might be time to look into a new home for the Jazz.  The Vivint Home Solutions arena is one of the oldest in the NBA.  There are markets larger than Salt Lake that do not have an NBA franchise.  Five of them, to be exact.  And there are a couple of cities that are going faster than Salt Lake and will pass up SLC as SLC has passed up several cities in the past 20 years.  Yes, the Jazz are struggling on the court right now.  And no, no one is looking to buy the Jazz and move them.  And I know that the Miller family will never move them, and I don't believe the Miller family is looking to sell them.  But lets not take the matter lightly.  If we are not careful, we could end up rooting for the Kansas City Jazz.  However, to our credit, in spite of the futility on the court in recent seasons, being in one of the smaller markets in the NBA, being in one of the older arenas in the NBA the Jazz are still in the top 10 in NBA attendance.  This is not a team that you move.  There are plenty of places around the Salt Lake Valley where an LA-type development, where you have the NBA arena at the center of a mixed-use facility with shopping, offices and residential units will work.  One place that comes to mind is where the Cottonwood Mall used to be in Holladay.

Age of the venue isn't the only consideration, however.  Its all about the fan experience.  How else do you explain Fenway Park or Madison Square garden?  The mistake that St. Louis made was managing to build a modern stadium that lacked a good fan experience.  That is why the Rams were the lowest attended team in the NFL.  That is why you no longer have a team there.  That is why the Jazz you may find only 600 or so empty seats when you want to see the Utah Jazz.  The fan experience is still positive.  Any new venue, as much as the focus is on luxury suits and revenue, needs to provide a good fan experience as well.  Otherwise, 15 years later, you have to build a new home before the old home is paid for.  St. Louis is an example of how not to do it.

Franchise moves in the NFL are rare, baseball, hockey and basketball have had moves since the Raiders and Rams both left LA.  Personally, I'm not disappointed to see the Rams back in LA.  To me, in my late 40s and old enough to remember Jack Youngblood and Vince Faragamo almost beat the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV, it seems like the Rams belong there and that all is right with the world.

Largest CSA (Combined Statistical Areas) without an NFL Franchise that are larger than Buffalo, the 2nd smallest NFL city.

1.  Portland/Vancouver (Home to NBA Blazers and MLS Timbers)
2.  St. Louis (Home to MLB Cardinals and NHL Blues)
3.  Sacramento (Home to NBA Kings)
4.  Salt Lake City/Provo (Home to NBA Jazz and MLS Real)
5.  Columbus (Home to NHL Blue Jackets and MLS Crew)
6.  San Antonio (Home to NBA Spurs)
7.  Las Vegas
8.  Raleigh/Durham (Home to NHL Hurricanes)
9.  Virginia Beach/Norfolk
10.  Greensboro/Winston-Salem
11.  Louisville
12.  Hartford
13.  Grand Rapids
14.  Greenville/Spartanburg
15.  Oklahoma City
16.  Memphis
17.  Birmingham
18.  Harrisburg

Largest CSA without a MLB franchise that are larger than Milwaukee, Baseball's smallest market.

1.  Portland/Vancouver
2.  Orlando (Home to NBA Magic and MLS Orlando City)
3.  Charlotte (Home to NBA Hornets and NFL Panthers)
4.  Sacramento
5.  Salt Lake City/Provo
6.  Columbus
7.  San Antonio
8.  Las Vegas

Largest CSA without an NBA franchise in the US that are larger than Memphis, the smallest NBA Market

1.  Seattle
2.  St. Louis
3.  Pittsburgh
4.  Kansas City
5.  Columbus
6.  Las Vegas
7.  Cincinnati
8.  Raleigh/Durham
9.  Nashville
10.  Virginia Beach
11.  Greensboro
12.  Jacksonville
13.  Louisville
14.  Hartford
15.  Grand Rapids
16.  Greenville/Spartanburg

(No comments on NHL or MLS, as the percentage of teams in Canada is higher.  Canada doesn't track a CSA.)

Largest CSA without any major sports franchises that are larger than Buffalo

1.  Las Vegas
2.  Virginia Beach/Norfolk
3.  Greensboro/Winston-Salem
4.  Louisville
5.  Hartford
6.  Grand Rapids
7.  Greenville/Spartanburg
8.  Birmingham
9.  Harrisburgh

Oldest NFL stadiums that were built before Rams and Raiders moved out of LA in 1995

1.  LA Colosseum, Rams** (Temporary home of the Rams--replaced by 2019)
2.  Soldier Field, Bears (Renovated in 2003)
3.  Lambeau Field, Packers (Renovated in 2015)
4.  O.co Colosseum, Raiders* (Renovated in 1995)
5.  Qualcomm Stadium, Chargers**
6.  Arrowhead Stadium, Chiefs
7.  Ralph Wilson Stadium, Bills
8.  Superdome, Saints (Renovated 2006)
9.  Sunlife Stadium, Dolphins** (Currently undergoing renovations)
10.  Georgia Dome (New stadium under construction)

*Shared with MLB team
**Shared with NCAA college team

Oldest 10 arenas in the NBA

1.  Oracle Arena, Warriors (New arena under construction)
2.  Madison Square Garden IV, Knicks* (Renovated 2013)
3.  Bradley Center, Bucks
4.  Sleep Train Arena, Kings (New arena under construction)
5.  The Palace of Auburn Hills, Pistons
6.  Target Center, Timberwolves
7.  Vivint Smart Home Arena, Jazz
8.  Talking Stick Resort Arena, Suns
9.  Quicken Loans Arena, Cavaliers
10.  United Center, Bulls*

*Shared with NHL team

Oldest 10 arenas in the NHL

1.  Madison Square Garden IV, Rangers* (Renovated 2013)
2.  Rexall Place, Oilers
3.  Joe Lewis Arena, Red Wings
4.  Saddledome, Flames
5.  Honda Center, Ducks
6.  SAP Center, Sharks
7.  ScottTrade Center, Blues
8.  United Center, Blackhawks*
9.  Rogers Arena, Canucks
10. TD Garden, Bruins*

*Shared with NBA team

Oldest 10 stadiums in Baseball

1.  Fenway Park, Red Sox
2.  Wrigley Field, Cubs
3.  Dodger Stadium, Dodgers
4.  Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Angels
5.  O.co Colosseum, Athletics
6.  Kauffman Stadium, Royals
7.  Rogers Centre, Blue Jays
8.  Topicana Field, Rays
9.  US Cellular Field, White Sox
10.  Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Orioles

Teams that are in danger of moving

NFL:

Raiders
Chargers
Bills
Jaguars

NBA:

Pistons
Grizzlies
Bucks
Timberwolves
Nuggets

MLB:

Rays
Athletics

NHL:

Predators
Panthers
Blue Jackets
Hurricanes

MLS:

Crew

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Thoughts on Big 12 Expansion and BYU's quest for Relevance

As many BYU fans noted, the Big 12 receive permission from the NCAA to hold a championship game without splitting into divisions.  That does not mean that they will actually do this, nor does it mean, per se, that they will not add BYU or any other schools and expand.  They only agreed to the principle.

Let me find another metaphor to compare this two.  There once was a band in England called the Beatles.  They were very good.  They were relevant.  They had a friend named Eric Clapton, who was also very good.  When things got a little difficult, they invited Clapton to join with them on a song called "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."  It was one of their best.  There was serious talk of inviting Clapton to join permanently.  To replace either a burned out Lennon or a frustrated Harrison.  But it never happened before the band broke up.  Clapton was just a successful in his own right.

Just because BYU is left out of the Big 12 does not mean that they are a bad school.  Academically, there are only three things that matter for an institution of higher learning.  1.  Are your graduates good potential job candidates?  2.  Are your graduates good candidates for post-graduate programs?  3.  Is the research performed by your institution relevant?  BYU is in pretty good standing in these categories, even better than some athletic P5 institutions.  Athletics probably lags behind the rest of the university.  But this is not a permanent situation.

I believe that BYU sports will eventually get the invite that they want.  It probably will not happen by the end of this decade, but it will happen eventually.  Not every school in every P5 conference will be able to keep up with Jones-es, for lack of a better metaphor.  Sooner or later, someone will drop out.  The cracks are already showing in some places.  BYU should be ready to be a good replacement if, or rather, when that happens.  For now, they need to make the most of their current situation.  They do not need to win every game.  When they lose, they need to look good in losing.  Some goes for Boise State, Cincinnati, Central Florida, Connecticut, Memphis, Houston and everyone else hoping for a shot.  That didn't happen in every game in 2015 for BYU.  It needs to happen in every game in 2016 and beyond.

Looking good in losing means, no shutouts to Michigan without getting a first down.  No "bar fights" in Miami after an overtime loss.  No below the belt punches.  No over exaggerated attempts to cause a fumble.  No throwing garbage on the referees after a close loss.  No more need for coaches or administrators to apologize for anything.  No more being sorry for your lack of preparation.  No more being sorry for your behavior on the field, in the stands, on campus or in town.

Beyond this do some positive things as well.  Show up to every game.  Bring a contingent of enthusiastic and supportive fans to every game, especially bowl games.  Beat the teams you should, and surprise everyone else.  Get players into the NFL.  Win bowl games.  Get players into the NBA.  Go deep in the NCAA tournament.  Play baseball in Omaha.  Win championships in other sports, especially women's sports.  Get boosters to spend money on facilities.

This is what will get BYU over the top.  Do so in a manner that who ever expands next will think of no one but BYU.  Be patient, and eventually, BYU will be where they think they should be.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Utah/BYU basketball game next season canceled...the real reason why.

Utah has cancelled the 2016 game at BYU in basketball, and there are no more game scheduled between the Utes and the Cougars.  Utah is now running with the big boys, and they do not need BYU any longer.  Player safety has nothing to do with it.  Yes, Nick Emery took a cheap shot in the BYU/Utah game a few weeks ago.  Yes, it was uncalled for.  Yes, it COULD have gotten out of hand.  But it did not.  No, this is not a safety issue no matter what Larry K and the rest of the Ute apologist will tell you.

The Running Utes, in case you have not heard, are now in the PAC-12.  BYU is not.  Frankly, BYU is on the same level as Utah State and Weber State, whom Utah no longer plays either, like it or not.  Utah can fill up their non-conference schedule with the likes of Texas Pan-American at the Huntsman Center, and it will not matter.  They will have a home and home every season with UCLA, Arizona, Stanford and Washington.  Playing BYU in Provo, win or lose, does nothing to help Utah get into the NCAA tournament.  In fact, it can only hurt their chances.  Let's say that BYU wins, or even plays Utah close, it will hurt Utah's chances of getting a favorable seed.  If Utah ever goes to Provo again, they better win by at least 15.

Yes, it sounds like sour grapes.  But it is the way the world works in college basketball today.  So what if people don't fill up the Huntsman center.  You have a big TV contract and money will come in, even if only 20 students show up to the game.  BYU, USU and WSU can come to Salt Lake and play the Utes any time they want to.  But don't expect Utah to return the trip.

The NCAA committee will give credit to Utah and Duke for playing at MSG.  But it's too risky for Duke or Utah to play in Provo, or Logan or Ogden.  The committee will not give any P5 school credit for taking this kind of risk.  BYU is lucky to get 1 P5 program in the Marriott Center every two years or so.  Same for Utah State.  And I can't remember the last time someone like Arizona played the Wildcats at the Purple Palace.  It doesn't make sense for a P5 program to do it, so it never happens.

Don't expect this to change if BYU gets into the Big 12.  Utah's home schedule, outside of BYU included Southern Utah, San Diego State, Idaho State, Savannah State, Delaware State and the College of Idaho.  And Utah played only 1 real non-conference road game.  Why?  Because they don't have to.  You will have 11 home games against p5 competition.  No need to kill yourself before they get here.  They will get into the NCAA tournament without putting too much meat in their non-conference schedule.  They can eat dessert before they are finished with dinner.  Everyone does it.  If BYU gets into the Big 12, they will get Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Baylor in the Marriott Center every season.  And if that happens, BYU won't need Utah either.  (It's a two-way street.)  I'd like to think that BYU would continue to play in Logan and Ogden if they get into the Big 12, but they probably won't.

This is likely the end of the BYU/Utah series in basketball.  Because BYU is private, there is really nothing that can be done about it.  At least we have BYU/Utah State, BYU/Weber State, BYU/Utah Valley, Utah State/Weber State, Utah State/Utah Valley and Weber State/Southern Utah home and home for now.  Let's enjoy what we do have.

I don't complain about problems without posing a solution.  Here it is.

1.  The NCAA committee needs to have non-conference road games as a formal tie-breaker to make the NCAA or NIT tournament.  Win or lose, non-conference road games will improve your chances.  Reward schools for taking the risk.

2.  In order to be eligible to win the Old Oquirrh Bucket, the trophy that goes to the best basketball team in Utah, you must play at least one real road game against another school in the state.  If you are Utah, and this trophy is important to you, then you must play at least one road game against another school in the state.

3.  The NCAA could allow more high school recruits to attend games where the two teams are within 100 miles of each-other.

4.  Require that Utah work into the contract of their head basketball coach, one of the highest-paid public employees in the state, bonuses for playing in-state games on the road...win or lose.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Ed Lamb's Legacy at Southern Utah

One of the sad realities of being an FCS program is this, rarely does a head coach stay on for his entire career.  Of course that are people like Eddie Robinson, but most FCS coaches will eventually move on.  It is both with sadness and excitement that Southern Utah should say goodbye to Ed Lamb.

Lamb will be taking the position of Assistant Head Coach and will also coach the tight ends and special teams for new BYU coach Kalani Sitake.  His experience as a head coach will be invaluable to Sitake, a first-time head coach.

Lamb leaves a big footprint in Cedar City.  He is the only coach who what led the Thunderbirds in the post-season.  He bridged the gap that brought SUU to the Big Sky Conference as a result of the 2010 college football realignment and led SUU to the Big Sky Conference title in 2015.

Ed Lamb is a BYU alum, who was a teammate of Sitake under coach LaVell Edwards.  He is not Mormon, but has married into a Mormon family.  For Lamb, this is likely another step in his career.  I expect his stay in Provo will be a short one this time before he either goes to the NFL or resumes his Head Coaching career at another FBS school.

For SUU, however, they have some good men who are ready to take over for Lamb.  Most likely Ryan Hunt (no relation) and Demario Warren are the leading candidates to replace him.  Other candidates would include Snow College Head Coach Britt Maughan or Weber State Offensive Coordinator Steve Clark.  I would expect SUU to name their new head coach shortly after the new year.  Coach Warren has been named the interim head coach.

The Big Sky has a lot of good schools, and power can turn over very quickly.  SUU will not only have to defend their conference title without Lamb, but a lot of good seniors have played their last game.  Don't expect the Thunderbirds to be rebuilding for very long, however.  They have a lot to offer an FCS-level athlete.

Ranking Southern Utah's Head Coaches

1.  Jack Bishop 1978-1995
2.  Ed Lamb 2008-2015 (Only SUU coach to take T-Birds to post-season)
3.  Tom Kingsford 1967-1977
4.  Bruce Osborne 1963-1964
5.  Bill Reeske 1965-1966
6.  Ray Gregory 1997-2002
7.  Rich Ellerson 1996
8.  Gary Anderson 2003
9.  Don Conrad 1983-1985
10. Wes Meier 2004-2007

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Welcoming Kalani Sitake (back) to Provo

It took BYU a little over two weeks to find a replacement to Bronco Mendenhall.  Of course, the man they got wasn't their first choice.  Rarely, does a college get their first choice when hiring a new coach.

Kenny Niumatalolo is a model Latter-Day Saint.  That is likely why BYU went after him in the first place.  It is difficult to lure someone away from a place they like to work, and from where your employer shows that they value you.  Coach Ken and Navy are like peanut butter and jelly, or like turkey and stuffing on a holiday dinner.  They just go well together.  Sure, perhaps you should give credit to BYU for trying, but it was never meant to be.

Along comes Kalani Sitake.  He is not an experienced head coach.  But neither was LaVell Edwards.  We all know how that turned out.  Kalani is the first branch of LaVell's coaching tree to come back to BYU.  Not all have been successful, but most have.  There may be a few games next season where the inexperience will show, but eventually things will fall into place.

Sitake may not be the coach that will take BYU to the next level, or back to where the Cougars are in the national conversation every week.  But expect that as long as the team has healthy talent, that they will at least compete every single week.  That will be an improvement over Mendenhall, sad to say.  The next two or three seasons should be fun to watch as Sitake's coaching style takes shape.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Potato Bowl Impressions

In my expectations blog, I pointed out that Akron has not beaten a team with a winning record this year.  No one pointed out to me that if Akron won, USU would finish sub-500 this year.  Therefore, Akron still hasn't beaten a team with a winning record.  The Aggies finish what can be described at a disappointing season.  Their first sub-.500 season since 2010.

It's hard to tell what is plaguing the Aggies from week to week.  If its not one thing, its another.  In the bowl, it was the play of the quarterbacks.  Neither Chuckie Keeton nor Kent Meyers was 100% for the bowl game, and neither was very effective.  USU was unable to take advantage of only the 3rd 100+ yard outing by a RB this season.

Akron came in perhaps a little more motivated.  For the Zips, this is their first bowl win ever.