LSU and UCF – The sports media says you have NO chance!

On Saturday night in Baton Rouge, the LSU Tigers will take on the #1 team in the nation, the Alabama Crimson Tide.

According to this sports report today, Tiger fans would be wise to sell their valuable tickets to the game to Bama fans, take their profits, and watch the slaughter on television at home instead.

Hey, Coach Orgeron!  Based on the unlimited knowledge of these so-called sports experts, your LSU football team has NO chance to win this game.

Zero.  Nada.  You might as well go ahead and forfeit.

On Thursday night, I enjoyed a terrific college football game between the unbeaten University of Central Florida and a very talented Temple Owls team.  UCF prevailed by a final score of 52-40.

UCF’s offense is nearly as much fun to watch as the upstart Boise State teams from several years ago.  The defense has some work to do, but this team’s up-tempo and prolific offense runs and passes the ball downfield like a basketball team on a fast break.

UCF has now won 21 consecutive games going back two years.  In 2017, they defeated Auburn in their bowl game.  That was the same Auburn team which beat both BCS finalists (Alabama and Georgia).

I have some bad news for you, Knights.  The sports media has now proclaimed that your team has the same chances of getting into the BCS Final Four as LSU does of winning against Bama this weekend.

Almost zero.  Actually, ESPN generously showed UCF having a 0.1% chance of getting into the BCS final group this season.

That’s also what I heard on ESPN from former Auburn head coach, Gene Chizik, during the game’s final minutes.  While he and the other sports analysts have a right to their opinion, it can be unwise to speak with such certainty with so many games left to be played over 2018’s final month.

Coming into this weekend, there are only four unbeaten teams left out of the 130 upper division football programs as Alabama, Clemson, and Notre Dame join UCF without a loss.  I’ve been around long enough to know that you can expect a lot of surprise outcomes over the remaining month of the season.

Prior to last night’s win over a 5-3 Temple team, ESPN said that UCF’s so-called “strength of schedule” was listed as 127th out of 130 teams.  Ouch.

After the win, the Knights have zoomed up to 87th place.  With games against Cincinnati, South Florida, and, perhaps, the University of Houston in the conference championship game, UCF’s strength of schedule is on the way up.

Speaking of schedules, did you know that Alabama’s strength of schedule coming into this weekend is only 27th?   The LSU Tigers’ schedule is ranked #2 with wins over several ranked teams already this season.

So, if Alabama hasn’t been challenged for an entire game this season, and LSU has played a hard schedule and is playing at home supported by 102,000 of the nation’s most passionate fans, why wouldn’t LSU have a chance to win on Saturday night?

Of course, they do.

But, the sports media said that most of Alabama’s players are superior and will end-up in the NFL!  While the Tide has a large contingent of players in the NFL, LSU has nearly the same number of former players as Bama does in today’s NFL.  Maybe that talent at LSU is pretty good after all, eh?

I realize that the odds of LSU beating a very talented Alabama team on Saturday night are against them.  So, too, are the probabilities for an undefeated UCF team making it into the BCS Final Four once the season ends.

For now, though, let’s just play the games and enjoy the final month!

Your SwampSwami predicts a 100% chance that we will see plenty of surprise results prior to the end of this college football season.

ESPN’s Epic Chemistry Fail

It took ESPN years to build a successful morning team with Mike & Mike.  In just a matter of months, ESPN has managed to turn a success into failure in an epic way as the network’s very expensive new morning show featuring Mike Greenberg called “Get Up!” is losing a host next week along with an hour of programming time.

After nearly 18 years of success together, the team of ex-sportswriter Mike Greenberg and former professional football defensive tackle, Mike Golic, eventually soured and became toxic.  By the end of 2017, the team was split-up as the hosts went in different directions.

The “Mike & Mike” show combined a unique blend of two personalities and their perspectives on current events in sports.  To the audience, Greenberg played the educated sports nerd while Golic was the “Been there, done that” sports legend who could quickly agree with or tear down some of Greenberg’s unique angles on a story.  Most of the time, their on-air work was friendly and cooperative, but, toward the end, fans of the show could feel the relationship turning quite icy.

ESPN seemed to be betting that Greenberg had the most upside and lifted him into an expensive new venture which, ironically, competes for viewers against his former partner, Golic.  ESPN’s new morning show is called “Get Up!” (I think the show’s name itself was the first big mistake) and has attempted to blend an affable retired NBA player in Jalen Rose with another ESPN studio show host named Michelle Beadle along with Greenberg’s primary host duties.

“Get Up,” Greenberg told reporters, “is something we’ve never done before. This is uncharted waters for the company, but I think we’re a good bet.”

I can hear Mike Golic laughing out loud right now about that last comment.

“Get Up!” began in April on ESPN.  Ratings and viewership (300,000 on average) have been dismal from the start and and now the show is jettisoning Michelle Beadle starting next week.

In my opinion, Beadle’s talent was overestimated from the start and was likely politically-correct ESPN’s way of making sure that their female audience was being represented.

Epic fail.

If Beadle wasn’t already a question mark for most viewers, she torched her own sports credibility this week by stating that she doesn’t plan to watch either college or professional football this season.  She’s quite miffed about Ohio State’s handling of the Urban Meyer situation (he was suspended for three games), doesn’t like the bickering about knee-wars in the NFL, and plans to spend her weekends doing other things than keeping up with football.

Beadle’s comments about abandoning football are like hearing Rush Limbaugh tell his radio audience that he isn’t planning to cover the upcoming mid-term elections.  Whether or not she knew it at the time, Michelle Beadle shot herself in the foot and effectively sunk her career battleship.

Rather than fire her, though, ESPN cleverly announced that they are moving Beadle back into her prior assignment to get ready to cover the NBA again this fall.  She keeps the extra money (she is being paid a reported $5 million/year) and is now saved from a sinking morning show.

Along with that move, ESPN also announced that “Get Up!” was being trimmed from three hours to two in favor of another hour of SportsCenter (which was, ironically, the show ESPN was replacing in the first place).

Go figure.

Meanwhile, Mike Golic’s new show on ESPN Radio and ESPNews (“Golic and Wingo”) continues to quietly soldier on.  Though Golic and co-host, Trey Wingo, were friends for several years prior to their new venture, “Golic and Wingo” still lack the spark and spontaneity that Mike and Mike brought to the table.

Chemistry can be that way.  If you tamper with a good formula by changing any of the ingredients, your prior success may turn toxic in a flash.

Right, ESPN?

 

 

 

 

 

25 years later, Coach Jim Valvano would be quite proud

In 1993, the sports world lost one of its brightest lights when former North Carolina State University basketball coach, Jim Valvano, succumbed to cancer at the relatively young age of 47.  Twenty five years after his death, I believe he would be overcome with joy to see the legacy which he has left behind.

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”

Jim Valvano, the son of a New York City high school basketball coach (Rocco Valvano), made it to Rutgers University as a basketball player, but his dynamic personality and motivation pushed him to become a great college coach.  After a year as an assistant at Rutgers, Valvano landed his first head coaching assignment at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore at the tender age of 22.  He took the Blue Jays to their first winning record (10-9) in twenty four years.  From there, he spent a few seasons as an assistant at UConn and three years as head coach at Bucknell (32-32).

“How do you go from where you are to where you want to be? I think you have to have an enthusiasm for life. You have to have a dream, a goal, and you have to be willing to work for it.”

His next head coaching stop at Iona College, a Catholic University just outside of New York City, lit the fuse to skyrocket Valvano’s career.  During the final two years of Coach V’s five years at tiny Iona, he took the Gaels to records of 23-6 (first NCAA tournament appearance ever) and 29-5 (made it to the second round of NCAA tournament).

“No matter what business you’re in, you can’t run in place or someone will pass you by. It doesn’t matter how many games you’ve won.”

Jim Valvano then took one of the most difficult coaching assignments in the United States.  In 1980 at the age of 34, Coach V became the head basketball coach at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.  NC State competes in one of the toughest basketball conferences in America (the Atlantic Coast Conference).  NC State is also just 20 miles down the road from two of the most successful programs in college basketball history – the University of North Carolina and Duke University.

“Be a dreamer. If you don’t know how to dream, you’re dead.”

After posting two winning seasons, Valvano’s 1983 Wolfpack team finished the ACC regular season in third place with an overall record of 17-10 . They did not lose again, winning a bid to the NCAA tournament by capturing the ACC tournament, and upsetting higher-ranked teams to reach the final against Phi Slamma Jamma – the University of Houston.

At the time, UH was ranked #1 in the country, had won 26 straight games, and was led by future NBA Hall-of-Famers Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon and Clyde “The Glide” Drexler.

“Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”

Down by six points with a minute to go, Coach Valvano ordered his North Carolina State team to foul a Houston player on every possession.  After several missed free throws by UH and some key buckets by NC State to tie the game at 52 points each, the Wolfpack had the ball for the game’s final possession.  Guard Dereck Whittenburg lofted up a desperate long-range shot which fell into the waiting hands of center Lorenzo Charles.  Charles then dunked the ball before the buzzer sounded to complete one of the most stunning championship upsets in NCAA basketball history.

“I asked a ref if he could give me a technical foul for thinking bad things about him. He said, of course not. I said, I think you stink. And he gave me a technical. You can’t trust ’em.”

After winning the national championship, Valvano’s North Carolina State basketball program endured a series of investigations in which some players reportedly received financial benefits from program boosters and/or sports agents.  In 1990, Jim Valvano left college coaching and began a new career as a college basketball analyst with ABC and ESPN.  Just two years into his new job, Coach V learned that he had developed metastatic adenocarcinoma, a type of glandular cancer that can spread to the bones.

“Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.”

Just weeks prior to his death in 1993, Jim Valvano was honored by the sports world at ESPN’s annual ESPY sports awards show as recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award.  His emotional acceptance speech also announced the formation of a cancer research foundation to provide more money toward finding a cure for cancer.

“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy.  But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

With the annual help of his legion of friends, especially Duke head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and fellow coach-turned-ESPN analyst Dick Vitale, Jim Valvano’s final big dream has become a very successful beacon of hope and lasting legacy.

For the past 25 years, the V Foundation (whose motto is “Victory over Cancer”) has spread Jim’s message by funding incredible projects and researchers focused on finding a cure for all cancers.  During this time, the V Foundation has awarded more than $200 million to fund additional cancer research and programs.

In 2017 alone, over $20 million was distributed to more than forty dedicated Ph.D.’s and M.D.’s working at hospitals and cancer research facilities around the United States who are giving their all to help find a cancer cure.

This Wednesday night July 18, the annual ESPY Awards show will be televised at 7PM Central on ABC.  This week, ABC’s ESPN unit will be promoting the show and remembering Coach Valvano during “V Week” by asking viewers to help to fund the V Foundation.

https://www.jimmyv.org/home-3/

 

 

 

Mike check! ESPN morphs Mike & Mike into Mike vs. Mike

Last year, we learned that ESPN was breaking-up their successful morning sports duo of “Mike & Mike” and sending each in a different direction.  For eighteen years, former NFL defensive tackle Mike Golic sparred with affable sportswriter Mike Greenberg in the morning drive show for ESPN Radio and, later, on ESPN2.

This highly unlikely professional duo had something special which is hard to replicate.  Golic, whose bigger-than-life physical stature made him the tough guy, and Greenberg, whose insightful writing and out-of-left-field questioning style made him the protagonist, were simply a joy to listen to.  They made sports talk fun and spawned countless national and local radio wannabes.

Then, ESPN announced the duo was splitting up and going in different directions.

Last fall, the “Mike & Mike” show became “Golic and Wingo” with Trey Wingo trying to fill the shoes of Mike Greenberg.  Though Wingo has talent, the spark of fun that Greenberg injected into the show with his unusual line of questions to Golic is sorely missed.  As much as I am a Mike Golic fan, “Golic and Wingo” just doesn’t sound like either one of them is having any fun.

Enter Phase 2.  On Monday, ESPN television will begin its new weekday morning show featuring Mike Greenberg.  This time, Greeny will be paired with former NBA star, Jalen Rose, and ESPN on-air personality, Michelle Beadle.  The show will be called, “Get Up!” (brought to you by Viagra?  nyuk, nyuk, nyuk).

Greenberg claims the new show will be about sports and only sports.  Pardon my sarcasm, but it looks to me like ESPN is assembling a multi-personality cast to compete with morning television shows such as Good Morning America, Fox & Friends, and the like.  ESPN has been known to venture into a left-of-center position on many social and political issues in recent years.  It is hard for me to believe that this show will be any different.

It is also a very costly venture – if only for the personalities alone.  While ESPN has laid off hundreds of staff workers due to diminishing revenues, the three stars of this shiny new ESPN morning show won’t be underpaid.  According to one source, Greenberg will be earning $6.5 million, Beadle $5 million, and Rose about $3 million.

On the same day Mike Greenberg’s new television show debuts on ESPN, Mike Golic’s new venture is being pushed further into television obscurity.  Beginning Monday, the televised portion of “Golic & Wingo” will be banished from ESPN2 and will be simulcast on ESPNews.

In my television market (and many nationally), ESPN and ESPN2 are on consecutive channels.  Being the trouble-making conspiracy theorist that I am, it would appear that ESPN is trying to avoid having the two “Mikes” living next to each other – even on the television dial.  Seriously, why else would ESPN choose to relocate Mike Golic’s program on the same day that Greenberg’s new show debuts?

I like Mike Greenberg and wish him well.  Personally, I have doubts about how informative and entertaining his new team will be, but television is all about appearances, isn’t it?

For Mike Golic, radio is a completely different animal.  I truly hope he can find that spark of fun that Greenberg was able to provide during their “Mike & Mike” days again soon.  Radio is entertainment, too, but it is also a theater of the mind and requires a lot of creativity in order to build loyal listeners.

Will the two “Mike” shows succeed?  It certainly looks like ESPN has given Greenberg’s venture all of the resources needed for success, while the company has literally ripped a sail off of Golic’s boat by banishing his morning show further down the dial.

Great chemistry is hard to replicate.  Did ESPN make the right moves by splitting-up “Mike & Mike” or will they blow-up the chemistry laboratory (again) by messing with the magic formula that brought so much success?

 

 

 

 

 

FUMBLE! ESPN’s Monday Night mistakes continue

While most of us are focusing on our NCAA March Madness picks or watching to see if we can get a Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson duel in The Masters in a few weeks, ESPN is digging out from under yet another set of self-inflicted blunders.

Just in the last month or so, the fast-falling sports giant has lost its president (John Skipper – who resigned to seek treatment for substance abuse).  He had been with the network since 1997 and as president since 2012.  Under his leadership, ESPN has gone from Disney’s darling (a reliable cash cow) to a source of great financial concern as cable systems have been dumping ESPN’s high priced offerings in droves over the past several years.

ESPN’s on-camera product has been suffering as well.  As of last Friday, the network has lost both sides of their nightly 6PM spotlight sports program.  First, the controversial female lead, Jamelle Hill, was sent to the bench after alienating many sports viewers for her political opinions during a sports-themed show.  Last week, her former co-anchor Michael Smith asked to be reassigned, too.  Based on the ratings of their show, it is doubtful that many viewers will miss them.

Can it get worse for ESPN?  The past few weeks, you may have heard the rumblings that the network’s NFL Monday Night Football broadcast was seeking to fill the analyst shoes of former NFL head coach, Jon Gruden, with another football legend.  Word has it that ESPN dangled $10 million/year under the nose of legendary quarterback Peyton Manning to come on-board to spend a few months per year of providing color commentary and analysis for the network.

Today, the reports are that Manning has rejected the ESPN offer and is still contemplating other options (including rival Fox Sports).  There is no doubt that Peyton Manning would have attracted a number of curious fans upon his debut into the broadcasting booth.  On the other hand, it was also quite a risky move for Disney’s ESPN brand as, heretofore, Manning’s most famous broadcast phrases have included, “Omaha, Omaha” and “Nationwide is on your side”.

In what may be the best move that ESPN has made recently, the current play-by-play man for Monday Night Football, Sean McDonough, has been sent to the bench and reassigned to college football coverage.  I found the skills of McDonough to be a poor fit in such a high profile job.  Though his primary responsibility was to be the set-up man for Jon Gruden’s antics, McDonough’s lack of enthusiasm in the booth made for a boring product when the game itself was lacking.  The loss of the talented Mike Tirico from the ESPN play-by-play chair on Monday Night Football in 2015 as he bolted to NBC has proven to be another significant loss of talent.

Dear ESPN – I have a great idea which you can have for free.  Pick your choice of a new play-by-play person for Monday Night Football and then announce a competition for the job of analyst by rotating a group of guest co-hosts for the upcoming NFL season.  Tell fans that they will help to choose their top three analysts for the permanent job, and then negotiate a deal with one of them going forward.

This would entice fans to watch as former players, coaches, and others sit in the other chair.  Can you imagine the weekly buzz?  For example, how many people would watch someone like University of Miami defensive lineman Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, help to call a ballgame for Monday Night Football?

With all of the free weekly publicity, ESPN would probably get a bump in ratings while saving most of the $10 mm it would have spent on “Pay-a-ton” Manning next fall.

ESPN has some fundamental choices to make.  By injecting more fun and less politics into their sports coverage, I believe they would see a return of more sports fans, too.

 

 

 

Got 4 hours for a college football game?

If you watched the Rose Bowl college football game on New Year’s Day, you saw a dandy NCAA semi-final matchup between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Georgia Bulldogs.  The two teams thrilled us with an exciting 54-48 double-overtime game ultimately won by Georgia.

The game kicked-off at 4PM SwampSwami time and ended well after 8PM.  And that was BEFORE the overtime began!

How does a college football game last over four hours?  Simple.  It’s all about the money!

In 2012, ESPN cut a 12-year deal (gasp!) with the NCAA to pay $470 million annually for the rights to televise the college football playoffs (including the national championship game).  With a total of six college bowl games to televise each season, ESPN is spending an average of $78 million per contest.

Wow, that sounds a little excessive, doesn’t it?  Consider this.  ESPN has charged advertisers over $1.2 million per thirty second spot in BCS championship games during recent years.  A few years ago, a source reported that the average college football game (then only three hours on average) was comprised of 70% football and 30% commercial time.  In a three-hour game, 30% works out to 54 minutes (or 108 thirty second spots).  At $1.2 million per spot, that provides ESPN with nearly $130 million for the championship game.

Ever think about what happens when the referees head to the instant replay booth?  Yep, ESPN rings the cash register!  Do you think that ESPN (or any television network, for that matter) will ever want to eliminate instant replays to speed-up the game?  No way!

“Uh-oh.  It looks like a player was injured on the play.  We’ll be right back to check on the injured player…” (right after we add another $4.8 or, better yet, $7.2 million to pay for this game).

Ever wonder what has happened to the length of time-outs?  How did a one minute time-out become two minutes, then three, and, yes, even four minutes?

I timed the commercial break between the third and fourth quarter in yesterday’s Rose Bowl game.  Four minutes.  That’s $9.6 million for DIS, thankyouverymuch!

For all the barbs I have taken at the NFL (more to come!), the halftime for an NFL game was smartly reduced to 12 minutes to keep the games closer to three hours in length to help keep the viewers watching.

For college football, though, halftime lasts a minimum of twenty minutes (sometimes longer if by mutual agreement).  If you wondered what the networks do with those extra eight (or more) minutes, simply take a look at the cash register.

Speaking of halftimes, I would much prefer to watch a hard working college marching band perform than see three, four, or even five people crammed at a table telling me what I just saw in the first half.  Please, networks, save your money.  Get rid of the halftime zoo of analysts and bring back the college bands during halftime!

The BCS championship game will be played in Atlanta on Monday, January 8, 2018 at 8PM Eastern/7PM Central.  It will be LOUD with the home state Georgia Bulldogs playing against their football-crazed neighbors to the west in Alabama.  These are two great SEC teams competing for the national title.  Let’s get ready to rumble!

And when the clock hits :00 (probably about four hours later), take a sleepy look at your clock and remember how long this game just took.  E$PN thanks you!

 

 

 

 

 

Is your college football team 6-6 (or worse)? SwampSwami sez: “No Bowl For You!”

After staying up (far too late) to watch Texas Tech rally to beat the University of Texas on Friday night, these two college football teams finished their records with an identical record of 6-6.  Whoop-t-doo, right?

Well, there’s good news for fans of the Red Raiders and Longhorns, because, according to the geniuses of the NCAA and their partner in advertising sales, ESPN, your football teams will now become part of the chattel market called the “Bowl Season”.

College football’s bowl games used to be a reward for teams finishing with a winning record and their fans who wanted to see an extra game played in a warm-weather city between Christmas and New Year’s Day.   Happy fans would flock to locations in California, Arizona, Florida or other Gulf Coast states for a final chance to see their teams play a quality opponent from a different conference.  As the 1990’s ended, there were 20 post-season college football bowl games.

Then things began to change.  Beginning in the year 2000, a whopping 19 new bowls have been created and sanctioned by the NCAA for post-season play.

My, how things have changed since media giant ESPN and the NCAA have collaborated to ignore common sense to put holiday cash into their respective wallets.

The college bowl season is all about math now.  If you check out the list (count ’em), 39 bowl games will be played this year before the BCS National Championship game.  That means that 78 teams will be needed to fill those slots.  And, you guessed it, Disney’s ESPN and ABC will televise all but five of those games.

But wait?  There are only 130 teams participating in the NCAA’s upper division, right?  That means that 60% of this year’s college football teams will be placed into a bowl game.  And, unfortunately, that means that teams with a losing record will be “rewarded” by being sent to one of these games to fill-out the TV slate.

And those dreams of your favorite team playing a quality opponent in a warm climate ball game between Christmas and New Year’s Day?  Forget about it!  Your team could be sent to beautiful Boise, Idaho for the “Famous Potatoes” Bowl Game on December 22 (where the average December high is 38 degrees and the payout for your university is a paltry $325,000 per team) or the Raycom Media Magnolia Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama, where a payout of $200,000 per team awaits your school.

Who makes money, you ask?

  1.  First, the NCAA and its ten conferences for selling the rights to televise these games (primarily to ESPN).
  2. Your university’s head football coach (and, in many cases, his staff) – who are usually rewarded with a bonus for taking your team to a bowl game (which used to mean something)
  3. ESPN – gets to provide live television coverage of NCAA football games versus its usual weekday blather of increasingly lower-rated talk shows.  Ratings for even the most minor bowl games (after production costs) will generate ESPN more advertising revenue than its standard weekday fare.
  4. Oh, and lastly, don’t forget those folks in many cities who “work” year round to promote your local bowl.  They wouldn’t have a job if it wasn’t for the benevolence of this odd system.  They spend much of the time lining another bowl sponsor (ever notice how often the sponsors change?) and some even send “scouts” (at the cost of the bowl, of course) to observe late season games of potential bowl participants and encourage those schools to accept the invitation when it comes.  Good luck trying to get financial information released about how much money those organizations really cost (see also Fiesta Bowl).

The losers?  Most colleges who send teams to participate in a non-BCS level game.  Simply put, the majority of these schools will lose money by playing in these newest bowl games.

Let’s take the example of New Mexico State University.  A recent Yahoo! Sports report said that this Sunbelt Conference school may reject a bowl bid (which would be their first bowl game since 1960) due to unfavorable economics should the Aggies finish with a 6-6 record by winning their final two games.  The university recently trimmed $12 million from its overall budget with $1 million coming out of the athletics budget.  They simply can’t afford to be “rewarded” by absorbing a financial hit courtesy of the NCAA and ESPN’s collaborative efforts to hijack the bowl season.

Unless the bowl is regionally close to the school, then New Mexico State may tell the NCAA and their list of Tidy Bowls to “flush it”.

I, for one, will commend them.  If you’re 6-6, you shouldn’t be playing in a bowl game anyway.