Thursday, July 2, 2015

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMERICA! SUMMER FOOTBALL NEWS

FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER

Hello Football Fans,

Attached is some football info to chew on as the season approaches.  I'll provide more details in late August before the season starts.

I've included four quiz questions plus lots of other hopefully entertaining stuff.


Enjoy,

The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL, on the lam from the gambling police


While there is not much big news in football right now (I’m talking real football, not soccer), I would like to give you a snapshot of some ongoing issues and statistical minutia for your entertainment.  NFL training camps will open soon, and the college football season begins in less than two months (August 27th).

FOOTBALL IN LOS ANGELES (after a two-decade absence)??

Los Angeles has not had an NFL team since the Rams and Raiders departed for St. Louis and Oakland, respectively, in 1995.  I’ve been ignoring the return of football to LA for many years, because prior proposals have been fraught with snafus (e.g., Ed Roski’s stadium in City of Industry).

But now the re-migration is imminent; widespread speculation is that football will actually be back in Los Angeles for the 2016 season.  The league has two LA proposals on the table.  In January, a developer and a company operated by STL Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke unveiled plans to build a $1.86 billion, 80,000-seat stadium in Inglewood, CA on land he owns near Hollywood Park.  St. Louis is fighting the move, trying to keep the team in Missouri.  In February, the SD Chargers and OAK Raiders proposed building a $1.7 billion NFL stadium in Carson, CA (south of LA), which would be shared by the two teams (and presumably one of those teams would switch from the AFC West to the NFC West).  Both San Diego and Oakland seem to be having problems getting adequate commitments from their respective cities (or are purposely not negotiating in good faith with those cities).

Whatever happens, and it’s still hard to guess which proposal will prevail or if an alternative plan ends up winning out, football most likely will be back in LA in 2016.  The NFL is already searching out temporary venues for playing games in the LA area while a stadium is being built (likely the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and/or the Los Angeles Coliseum).  A new stadium would be ready for the 2018 NFL season.

One alternative plan would be to have the Chargers and Rams share a new LA stadium, leaving Oakland to figure out their situation – working with the City of Oakland, caving in and sharing the SF 49’ers new Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, or maybe moving to another city (St. Louis, perhaps).

The next significant action will be an owners-only meeting in Chicago on August 11th to discuss the issues at hand.
Stay tuned.




#DEFLATE-GATE

The CLE Browns had a relatively minor #Text-Gate violation resolved earlier this year, basically because the organization cooperated with the NFL. 

In case you missed it, General Manager Ray Farmer texted messages to on-field personnel during games, which is against league rules.  He was texting his opinions to tell coaches what plays to run; this was not considered by the NFL to be with intent to gain a competitive advantage.  Farmer was suspended for the first four games of 2015 and the team was fined $250,000 but did not lose any draft picks.

The ATL Falcons had a relatively minor #Decibel-Gate violation resolved earlier this year, basically because the organization cooperated with the NFL.  The punishment --- Team President Rich McKay was suspended 3 months from the NFL Competition Committee and the team was fined $350,000 and lost a 5th round draft pick in 2016.

In case you missed it, the team piped in artificial noise through the intercom system of the indoor stadium in an attempt to gain additional home-field advantage.  Presumably the Falcons’ Director of Event Marketing made a unilateral decision to pump in the noise and violate league rules (the idea probably sounded intelligent to him at the time); he was fired in March.

On the other hand, the NE Patriots have an ongoing dispute with the NFL -- #Deflate-Gate.  This also could have been a relatively minor violation, but there has not been full cooperation from the Patriots organization and its main participant, QB Tom Brady.  As such, it has become a big deal.  The Patriots are being tagged as “repeat offenders”, after having been busted for blatant violations of NFL rules in 2007 for illegally videotaping opponents’ defensive signals (repeatedly) (aka #Spy-Gate, at which time objective football fans would start labeling them “Cheaters”).  Back then, HC Bill Belichick took the hit with a $500,000 fine and the team forfeited a 1st round draft pick.

This time, Tom Brady was the fall-guy and he was nailed with a 4-game suspension without pay (“for conduct detrimental to the integrity of the NFL”) to start the 2015 NFL season (partly for his role and responsibility for footballs being illegally deflated, and partly for non-cooperation with the league’s investigation; he didn’t make his cell phone info available, whereas Ray Rice and all of Miami bullying scandal players and other players did comply with cell phone requests by the NFL).  Of course, Brady appealed the suspension and had his hearing on June 23rd, but no final decision on the appeal has been made by the league.  The New England team has been fined $1 million and lost a 1st round draft pick in 2016 and a 4th round pick in 2017, and owner Robert Kraft accepted the team punishment (probably in the interest of keeping overall league harmony and to avoid a conflict with other team owners), while still not admitting any wrongdoing nor conceding to Brady’s guilt and suspension.

The $1MM fine to the Patriots matched the all-time high fine levied in 1999 against former San Francisco 49’ers owner Eddie DeBartolo for his role in a failed Louisiana riverboat gambling scheme.

Warning: The Fugitive’s opinions are about to be unleashed
The Brady suspension came after the 243-page Wells Report was presented to the league, which was written by Ted Wells after he investigated the incident(s) in question.  According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between players and the league, the standard of “proof” for determining whether rules regarding the integrity of the game were violated requires that it was “more probable than not” that Brady was responsible for the illegal deflating of game balls (presumably that Brady instructed two New England employees: Jim McNally, a game-day attendant for the officials’ locker room and/or John Jastremski, the “Deflator”-- to do the dastardly deeds for him).  After the report was issued and made public, Brady and New England began the subterfuge, coverup, denials, and lack of cooperation and gave the impression of a “lack of institutional control” by the Patriots (language more familiarly used in an NCAA investigation of a college program).  Interestingly, the team indefinitely suspended both McNally and Jastremski without pay (but why, if there was no wrongdoing?).

And of course the following example may have to be taken with a grain of salt, but former NFL A.J. Feely claims that the Patriots were breaking the rules about properly preparing footballs long before Deflate-Gate.  He recalled a game in 2004 when he was playing for the MIA Dolphins in which he saw Brady using old, broken-in balls at a time when NFL rules required teams to use new balls provided by the league.  According to Feely on a radio show recently:  “Prior to Tommy [Brady] and Peyton Manning going to the league and saying ‘Let us doctor our balls’, we used to all play with the same balls.  Somehow this beat-up ball from the ball boy was getting thrown in on offense for New England, yet when we were on offense this orange brand new ball was getting thrown in.”  That was over a decade ago, my friends.  I have to believe it has been going on for a long time, and not just by Brady (although that doesn’t excuse him; he got “caught”-sort of).

And just to pile on the NE Cheaters a bit more, the team has been accused of tampering with the on-field communications systems to the detriment of opponents.  In 2005, the JAX Jaguars HC Jack Del Rio stated that during their playoff game at New England, his coaches’ headsets “mysteriously malfunctioned”.  In a 2006 DET Lions’ game at New England, Detroit OC Mike Martz had the Lions’ offense off to a good start until he lost the ability to call plays because the communications system went out.  It reportedly happened twice to the Lions in this game, both times in the middle of drives when the Lions were picking up steam (according to Paul Zimmerman of Sports Illustrated).  Cincinnati HC Marvin Lewis chimed in upon hearing about this: “Yeah, I know.  Headset went out.  It happened to me in Foxboro, too.”  In 2008, Arizona defensive captain Karlos Dansby suspected the Patriots of wrongdoing when his Cardinals visited New England for a game and had trouble with their coach-to-helmet communications system, as he recalled recently on PFT Live.
[The Fugitive Pontifi-Kurts:  I smell a rat, a big smelly diseased rat; this team is no longer the NE Pats, but instead the NE Rats]

The decision on Brady’s appeal should come down in the next month or so, although you shouldn’t hold your breath.  The appeal of DE Greg Hardy’s 10-game suspension for domestic violence has been on hold for over a month without a final decision.

In the aftermath of the various punishments, Atlanta Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank noted that he fully cooperated and fessed up in Decibel-Gate, whereas the Patriots’ failure to acknowledge any wrongdoing was the difference in penalties assessed by the NFL.

Let’s get on to some real football stuff.





COLLEGE

POWER FIVE CONFERENCE RACES - EARLY ODDS

The CG Technology sportsbook came out with early odds for each of the Power Five (“P5”) conferences in mid-June.  Following is a summary of the favorites to win each conference, and a smattering of odds for other teams of interest to The Fugitive’s loyal readers:

BIG XII

TCU                  1.7 to 1
Baylor               2.5 to 1
Oklahoma         4 to 1
Okie State         5 to 1
Texas                7 to 1
(Iowa State is 25 to 1)

This 10-team conference race should be quite interesting; each team will play the other nine conference members during the regular season.  The Big 12 got left out of the CFP playoffs last year, purportedly because there was a tie for the conference title and a clear winner was not declared by the conference due to rules in place at the time.  That has since been rectified by the Big XII for the 2016 season (i.e., only one team will win the conference title, even if it takes multiple tiebreakers).  However, there still will be no conference title game in 2015 (earliest would be 2016).

ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE (ACC)

FSU                  2.5 to 1
Clemson           3 to 1
GA Tech           4 to 1
Louisville         8 to 1
VA Tech           8 to 1
Miami               10 to 1

This 14-team conference appears to be led by the dominant Atlantic Division (Clemson, FSU).  The Coastal Division favorite is Georgia Tech over Virginia Tech.
Florida State must play road games at Clemson and at GA Tech this year.
Clemson must play a road game at Louisville and hosts GA Tech from the other division.
VA Tech must play at GA Tech, but faces neither Clemson nor FSU in the other division.
GA Tech must play both Clemson and FSU from the other division.

BIG TEN (14-team conference)

Ohio State        1 to 2               Loaded with talent, including three top QB’s
Michigan St      3.25 to 1
Wisconsin        8 to 1
Michigan & Nebraska  12 to 1
(Minnesota 18 to 1, Iowa is 25 to 1, Illinois 60 to 1)

The OSU Buckeyes are projected to have the best player in the conference at 10 of the 22 positions, and appear to be an easy run-away winner of the East Division.  The weaker West Division appears to be a two-team contest between Wisconsin and Nebraska.

PACIFIC 12 CONFERENCE (PAC-12, or 12-PACK)

Oregon              2.25 to 1
USC                  2.75 to 1
Stanford            5 to 1
UCLA               5 to 1
Arizona St        6 to 1
Arizona             7 to 1
Utah                  10 to 1

In the South Division, USC plays at AZ State and at Oregon this year but gets Stanford, UCLA, Utah and Arizona at home.  Arizona State faces road games at UCLA and Utah, but gets USC, Oregon, and Arizona at home.  The Sun Devils don’t have to face Stanford in the regular season.
In the North Division, Oregon plays road games at AZ State and Stanford, but gets USC, Oregon State and Utah at home.  The Ducks don’t play Arizona or UCLA in the regular season.  Stanford looks to be the OU Ducks’ biggest threat; the Cardinal plays a road game at USC, but gets home games against “contenders” in Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon; Stanford doesn’t have to play ASU in the regular season.

SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE (the lowly SEC)

Alabama           2.5 to 1
Auburn             3.75 to 1
Georgia             5 to 1
LSU                  8 to 1
Mississippi       8 to 1
Tennessee         8 to 1
Arkansas           10 to 1
Missouri           12 to 1

The 14-team conference has been dominated by the 7-team West Division, with the ALA Crimson Tide as a slight favorite over Auburn.  The East Division should be a two-team race between Georgia and Tennessee, with Missouri potentially contending (since the Tigers have won the last two West Division titles after being given little chance to do so in both years since they moved into the SEC in 2013).

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS (CFP) – EARLY ODDS

Let’s compare the early odds for a team to win the whole thing – the NCAA Championship, as posted by Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook (6/21/15) and Bovada.lv (there were more extensive odds posted by Westgate; n/a=not available).

Team                            Westgate         Bovada            Comments

Ohio State                    3 to 1               3.5 to 1            The clear favorite; defending champs
Alabama                       7 to 1               7 to 1               SEC favorite; 2014 CFP semifinalist
TCU                              7 to 1               10 to 1             Big XII favorite
Auburn                         12 to 1             12 to 1            
USC                              15 to 1             n/a                   PAC-12 favorite
Baylor                           18 to 1             n/a
Notre Dame                  20 to 1             n/a
Oregon                          20 to 1             n/a                   2014 CFP finalist
FSU                              20 to 1             12 to 1             ACC favorite; 2014 CFP semifinalist

ALABAMA REGULAR SEASON MINUTIA
It's been five years since Alabama has been the betting underdog. That streak is in jeopardy.
The Golden Nugget sportsbook in Las Vegas released point spreads on more than 150 games on June 26th. The line on Alabama's game at Georgia on Oct. 3 opened at Pick 'em (no favorite or underdog).
The Crimson Tide enters the season having been favored in 68 consecutive games, the longest streak in the modern era that dates back to the 2009 SEC championship game, when Tim Tebow's FL Gators were a 5½ -point favorite over Alabama. The Tide rolled over Florida 32-13 and has been in the role of favorite in every game since.  Alabama opened as a 10-point favorite over Wisconsin in the first week of this season at neutral site AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX.

Other notable Week 1 lines include Auburn (-11h) favored over Louisville in neutral site Atlanta, Texas A&M (-3) over Arizona State in neutral site Houston, Notre Dame (-7h) over Texas and Ohio State (-16) at Virginia Tech
The OSU Buckeyes are ranked #1 by a significant margin in Golden Nugget oddsmaker Aaron Kessler's power ratings. Kessler told ESPN Chalk that TCU and Baylor are second and third, respectively. Four Ohio State's games made the opening board. The Buckeyes are favored by double digits in all of them, including by 16 at Michigan.
The Golden Nugget sportsbook in Las Vegas will take $1,000 limit bets on the games.

COLLEGE BOWL SCHEDULE

It may be a bit early for this, but we’re going to have more bowl games this year than in prior years.  Last year, there were 39 bowl games; another expansion will result in 41 bowl games this year (supposed to be 42, but one bowl (the Austin Bowl; no sponsor yet) was postponed until the 2016 season).  The two new bowls will be in Tucson, AZ (C-USA team vs. Mountain West team) and Orlando, FL (American vs. Sun Belt).

That means 62.5% of all FBS schools will get into a bowl game (41 games x 2 = 82 less 2 repeat teams for CFP title game = 80 divided by 128 FBS schools this year).  And for you proponents of the student-athlete, you’ll be happy to know that for this year there will be no FBS schools facing an Academic Performance Report (APR) ban from the postseason (only Idaho was banned for academics last year).  Among all Power 5 teams, Oklahoma State has the lowest APR at .934 [threshold for eligibility is .930; maximum is 1.000].  The Top 5 highest APR scores: Wisconsin .998, followed by Northwestern and Duke at .992, Michigan .990, and Stanford .987.

Interestingly, there will be five FCS schools ineligible for the 2015 season because of substandard APR – Alabama State, Florida A&M, Gardner-Webb, Savannah State, and Tennessee State.

Has the increase in the number of bowl games created less fan interest?  Presumably not, if you follow the money.

After the 2013 season, there were 35 bowl games that generated $309.9MM to be disbursed to the various FBS conferences and teams.  With the advent of the CFP playoff system for the 2014 season and an increase to 39 bowl games, there was $505.9MM doled out.  The increase was mainly due to a $180MM payment by ESPN for the rights to the CFP television package (and that TV package amount will escalate in future years).

UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA-BURMINGHAM (UAB)

UAB abandoned its football program at the end of the 2014 regular season.  So you astute college football fans ask why there are still 128 FBS schools this year, when there were 128 teams last year including Alabama-Birmingham.  The answer is that a new school has been elevated to FBS status – the UNC-Charlotte 49-ers, who will play in Conference USA.

Back to UAB:

In December, the school’s president decided to drop the football program for financial reasons.  Around 55 of the UAB players transferred to other football schools and were given immediate eligibility for the 2015 season.  On June 1, 2015, UAB announced that it would be reinstating the sport of football at the school.  Reportedly, AUB football boosters and community members met with the president and agreed to cover the cost of a projected $17.2 million deficit over the next five years.  Supporters have already raised about $6 million of the estimated $14 million needed for a turf practice field and new fieldhouse.

UAB will remain a full member of the Conference USA, and should resume play for the 2016 or 2017 season, but the quality of the team has been devastated by the mass exodus.  The UAB Blazers’ head coach Bill Clark had done a phenomenal job with the program last year in his first year there (bowl-eligible, but no team remaining to take to the postseason due to school’s hasty decision to abandon program).  He decided not to move to greener pastures (plenty of offers) in hopes that the program would be resurrected – so he still has the UAB head job starting in 2016 (or whenever the team starts playing again) and will have to virtually build the team back up from scratch.

OTHER COLLEGE RESTRUCTURING

As mentioned above, UAB is out of the FBS for 2015; UNC-Charlotte is being added and will in effect take the place of UAB in the Conference USA (so still 13 members in the conference for 2015).

Navy, formerly an independent for over 100 years, has joined the American Athletic Conference (AAC).   That leaves only three teams without a conference affiliation: Notre Dame, BYU, and Army.
The AAC now has 12 members, and the “American” conference will be split into two divisions (and will have a conference title game after the regular season).

East: UCF, CIN, UConn, ECU, USF, and Temple

West: HOU, Memphis, Navy, SMU, Tulane, and Tulsa

That’s pretty much geographically solid, except that Cincinnati “should” be in the West, and Navy “should” be in the East.

That’s it; there are no other conference realignments for the upcoming season.

In the Sun Belt Conference (SBC), Georgia Southern won the conference title last year but was ineligible for a bowl game while in transition from FCS to FBS (as was Appalachian State).  Both teams will be eligible for postseason play this year.

NFL

ONE INTERESTING RULE CHANGE

The “extra point” or “point-after-touchdown” (PAT) rule is being changed for the 2015 regular season.  After a TD, a team will choose whether to go for the 1-point PAT (kick) or 2-point PAT.  The one-point conversion will have the ball placed at the 15-yard line, making the kick the same as a 32-yard field goal; previously, a PAT kick was the same as a 19-yard FG.  If a team elects to “go for two”, the ball will be placed at the 2-yard line, where it had been placed in prior years for all PAT’s.

Will this make a big difference?
In 2014, there were only 8 misses in 1,230 PAT kick attempts (99.35% success rate).  Also last year, the conversion rate for 30-35 yard FG’s was 161 of 169, or 95.3%.  And over the last 10 years at the same field goal distance, the conversion rate was 92%.  So I don’t see much difference here (some, but not earth-moving). 

However, there could be an interesting difference with the rule change that allows the defense to score on a PAT (previously the defense could not score; the NFL rule is changed to match the college rule in that regard).  For example, the defense blocks the PAT kick (or intercepts a pass or recovers a fumble) and returns it to opposite endzone for 2 points.

By the way, the successful conversion rate for the two-point try in the NFL from the 2-yard line has been about 47% over the last ten years.

With the advent of the new rule, you are probably dreaming up oddball scenarios that could occur….. or maybe not, so I’ll give you a few:

1.     Can you still go for two, even though you elected to place the ball at the 15-yard line for a PAT kick?
YES, although this would normally only happen if there was a bobbled snap (element of surprise is probably not enough).

2.     What happens when a penalty occurs on the PAT play?
The team that scored the touchdown can change its mind about whether to go for one or two.  For example, scoring team elects to go for two, commits holding penalty, ball moved back to 12-yard line; offense can elect to move ball back to 15, forego the 2-point conversion, and instead go for the 1-point kick after the 10-yard penalty is imposed, moving the line of scrimmage back to the 25-yard line and forcing a 42-yard extra point try.
Another example: 1-point try from the 15-yard line, defense jumps offside, offense can change to going for 2-point try from the 1-yard line (that is, 2-yard line with penalty enforced as “half-the-distance-to-the-goal”).


3.     What happens on an “excessive celebration” penalty by the scoring team (offense)?
Penalty enforcement will not change from last year; it will be enforced on the ensuing kickoff, not on the PAT try.

4.     One more: Can the offense score ONE point on a two-point conversion try?
YES, of course, or I wouldn’t have brought it up.

How?

If the defense gets the ball on a PAT (e.g., blocked kick; fumble; INT) and then “advances” the ball back into the offensive team’s end zone and gets tackled, the result will be a one-point safety for the offense.

Don’t laugh – it has recently happened in college football:
In the 2013 Fiesta Bowl, Kansas State blocked an Oregon extra point kick and a KSU player picked up the ball and ran it into his own endzone, after which Oregon was credited with one point.

CANADIAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE (CFL) EXTRA POINT CHANGE

Much like the NFL (only a bit more radical), the Canadian Football League changed its extra point rules this year.

In the past, a missed extra point was rare in the CFL — 99.4% of extra points were successful last season.  But this year the CFL has moved the line of scrimmage on extra-point kicks back 20 yards, from the 12-yard line to the 32-yard line.

Going for two” hadn’t been a common occurrence in the past.  Last year, there were only seven successful two-point conversion attempts in the entire CFL season. But this year two-point conversions have been moved up two yards, from the 5-yard line to the 3-yard line.

The CFL decided to change extra points for the same reason as the NFL did: concerns that the play had become so easy as to be boring. But while the NFL only tweaked the rule, the CFL made a much more radical change, making extra-point kicks significantly harder and two-point conversions significantly easier.

OTHER NFL RULE CHANGES


I’ll get to the other rule changes in late August before the regular season games start.

OTHER CATCH-UP and MINUTIA OF POTENTIAL INTEREST

Updates on College Football Playoff (CFP)

The playoff semifinals will controversially be played on New Year’s Eve.  But at least the third and last of the “Major 6” bowl games for the day should end at about 11PM (Eastern), giving the East Coasters one hour to get ready to properly celebrate the new year. 

December 31st    (Thursday)
PEACH BOWL            Noon ET, 11AM Central, 10AM Mountain, 9AM Pacific
COTTON BOWL       4PM or 8PM ET (CFP semifinal)
ORANGE BOWL       4PM or 8PM ET (CFP semifinal)

January 1st (Friday)
FIESTA BOWL            1PM ET
ROSE BOWL               5PM ET
SUGAR BOWL            8:30PM ET

The participants for these games will be announced by the CFP Selection Committee on Sunday, December 6th.  Prior to that date, the Committee will release preliminary rankings starting on Tuesday, November 3rd (one week later as compared to last year) and then weekly thereafter.

The CFP Championship Game will be played on Monday, January 11, 2016 (8:30PM ET) at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ.

NFL Supplemental Draft

The 2015 supplemental draft will be held on July 9th.  In the prior two years, none of the 11 eligible players were drafted.  The last supplemental pick was in 2012 when the Cleveland Browns selected WR Josh Gordon in the 2nd round. 

This year four players are eligible (to date):

Isaiah Battle    OLT    Clemson          “Minor” disciplinary suspensions 2013 and 2014
6’7” and 290 lbs. (age 22)                   Pot possession incident 2015 (three strikes & out)
                                                              Expectant father this summer – needs a job                                     
                                                              Should get selected (I’ll guess 3rd or 4th round)
                         
Darrius Caldwell         DE                   University of West Georgia (Division II)
                                                              I’m guessing he won’t get selected

Dalvon Stuckey           DT                   Also out of West Georgia
                                                              I’m guessing he won’t get selected either

Adrian Wilkins WR/KR           North Carolina Central University (FCS)
I’m guessing he won’t get selected

The guys not selected become unrestricted free agents and may sign with any NFL team.

25 years ago, three players were selected in the first round of the supplemental draft – QB Steve Walsh (Miami.FL), QB Timm Rosenbach (WA.St) and RB Bobby Humphrey (ALA).  Two other players were selected in later rounds; overall, the five selections in one supplemental draft is still the all-time record.

Walsh was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, whose new coach was Jimmy Johnson.  A few months earlier in the regular 1989 NFL draft, the Cowboys had picked up a QB (Troy Aikman, you may have heard of him).  Jimmy had been Walsh’s head coach in college the previous year.  Aikman won the starting job; Walsh was traded to New Orleans the next year for three draft picks, including a 1st-rounder.

The last time a first round pick was used on a supplemental pick was in 1992.  The NY Giants selected Duke QB Dave Brown.

POTPOURRI

Syracuse University has “unretired” jersey number 44 without asking all-time great Jim Brown how he felt about it.  Brown was not all that thrilled with the decision, at least as it appeared by his comments, but he didn’t raise a big stink about it either.  To me, there just doesn’t seem to be any good explanation for the school to make this decision.  Stay tuned.

Sarah Thomas will be officiating in a regular season NFL game this year, the first time ever for a female.

The University of North Carolina is being accused of “lack of institutional control” by the NCAA (June 2015), not long after the NCAA had nailed the football program for past transgressions.  This time, it appears the women’s basketball team will be the main focus.  There was allegedly a lack of cooperation by the persons allegedly involved.

The Dallas Cowboys are the first NFL team to jump on board in trying out an experimental “virtual reality” 3-D simulation devise produced by the STRIVR company.  With this new technology, players can get in practice reps without risking injury.  Once thought to be only good for QB’s, the product now appears to have many additional applications.

The Washington D.C. NFL football team has been controversially hanging onto its traditional nickname.  ‘Skins owner Daniel Snyder is holding firm in keeping the name, in spite of various protests.  Congress has even tried to get involved in the fray.  Right now, the team has 12 years remaining on its football stadium lease in the state of Maryland, where there is no pressure to change the nickname.  If the team would try to relocate to the site of RFK Stadium, the nickname would surely have to be changed.  I’m guessing the nickname will change before the 2017 season.
[How ‘bout the Washington Generals?  Any Harlem Globetrotter fans out there?  RIP – Marcus Haynes, who passed away on May 22, 2015 at the age of 89; he was the renowned “world’s best dribbler”].

Speaking of name changes, the FBS independent Army (West Point) football team agreed on a partnership deal with Nike to change its nickname on April 13th as part of its overall rebranding project.  In 1999, the Cadets officially changed their nickname to the Black Knights.  Since then, their rival Navy beat them 15 of the next 16 seasons.  Subsequent to the preliminary deal to change their name back to the “Cadets”, Army has decided to keep the moniker “Black Knights” as the team moves forward with their new look and rebranding.

As part of the Deflate-Gate scandal, there had been discussions and other related scientific analyses concerning PSI measurements and the physics of air pressure changes due to temperature changes and other variables.  But there has been no change in the NFL rules regarding the PSI for footballs, although there will be changes in the administrative handling of footballs prior to game time.  Duh!  Baseball announced its rule changes to the handling of game balls before the NFL did.

PLAYER UPDATES

NFL Player Updates

BUMMER: JAX Jaguars’ first round draft pick, selected #3 overall, Dante Fowler Jr. tore his ACL in the first day of rookie minicamp, had surgery in late May, and is out for the year.

Bummer for you Broncos’ fans: DEN left OT Ryan Clady tore his ACL in OTA’s in late May and is probably out for the whole season.  And the less-than-nimble aging QB Peyton Manning will be relying on someone else to protect his blind side in 2015.

NY Giants’ left OT Will Beatty tore a pectoral muscle while lifting weights, had surgery in May and will be out until at least November.  This misfortune leaves another Manning QB with compromised blind side protection (Eli) to start the 2015 season.

MIA Dolphins’ OT Branden Albert tore his ACL/MCL in November of 2014, and after rehab has a decent chance to start in Week #1 of the 2015 season.

The DAL Cowboys signed former LSU offensive tackle La’el Collins as an unrestricted free agent soon after the 2015 NFL Draft concluded.  Collins had been projected as a first round talent, but his draft day got derailed when his pregnant ex-girlfriend was murdered the week before the draft.  He went undrafted due to the uncertainty and Dallas took the chance on him, giving him a paltry 3-year, $1.7MM deal.  It was later determined that Collins was not the father of the baby and he was not implicated in the murder after fully cooperating with authorities in the week following the draft.

As an aside to this story, there were 24 early entries (“underclassmen”) who declared for the 2015 NFL Draft that did not get selected in any of the seven rounds.  Sixteen of the twenty-four came from Power Five conferences.  Of the total 84 underclassmen who declared for the 2015 NFL Draft, 43 were drafted in the first three rounds and then only 17 in rounds 4-7.

CAR Panthers’ QB Cam Newton signed a 5-year extension with $103.8MM in new money [full contract now 6-years and $118.5MM with $60MM guaranteed].
MIA Dolphins’ QB Ryan Tannehill re-signed with a 6-year, $96MM contract and $45MM guaranteed, including $25MM guaranteed over the next two years.
SEA Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson is still under his rookie contract for one more year (and getting paid diddly-squat in comparison to others).  He wants a new contract sooner rather than later, and recent signings by other quarterbacks gives him some leverage in negotiations (it appears).  Stay tuned.

SF 49’ers aging DT Justin Smith formally announced his retirement from the NFL on May 17th.

SF 49’ers OT Anthony Davis has “retired” at the age of 25.  However, he is planning to come back to play “in a year or so” after recovering from injuries including concussion problems.

CHI Bears’ Jared Allen is trying to put new life into his career by switching from defensive end to outside linebacker.

College Player Updates

Remember Texas A&M QB Kenny “The Thrill” Hill, who took over for the departed Johnny “Football” Manziel last year and started the 2014 season by leading the Aggies to a 5-0 record with 17 TD passes and only 2 interceptions?  After that, his team went 0-3 and he lost his starting job and was suspended for two games.  The Thrill has since transferred to TCU and must sit out the 2015 season (he will have two years of eligibility remaining).  The TCU Horned Frogs already have top Heisman candidate QB Trevone Boykin as their starter; he is a junior and with a good year will probably declare for the NFL Draft after this season.

In late May, Ex-Missouri DE Michael Sam signed a two-year contract to play football with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.  After showing up for practices, he later left the team (roughly two weeks ago) for “personal reasons” (no details became available), but then returned to the team last week.  Seems that he is ready to play some pro football.

Attempted humorous insert:
A former Alabama defensive lineman and a 4-star recruit out of high school failed to crack the lineup for the Crimson Tide, so he will be transferring to Arkansas State and will sit out the 2015 season.  His name….. Dee Liner (no joke!).

Former Notre Dame QB Everett Golson has transferred to Florida State and will use his final year of eligibility in Tallahassee.  Golson received his degree from ND University in May and as a graduate transfer will be immediately eligible to play the 2015 season.  He will compete for the starting job with last year’s FSU Seminoles’ backup to Jameis Winston – Sean Maguire.

Ex-USC quarterback Max Wittek will be the starter for Hawaii out of the Mountain West conference this year.

Ex-Iowa QB Jake Ruddock, who started for two years for the Hawkeyes, transferred to the enemy – University of Michigan and will be immediately eligible to play for the Wolverines during the 2015 season.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Ohio State really has a “problem”.  The Buckeyes have three quarterbacks, any one of which could be the starter for over 110 of the 128 FBS schools (Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett, and Braxton Miller).  The 2015 team is loaded with talent, having lost only five players to the 2015 NFL Draft.

FOOTBALL (and other sports) QUIZ QUESTIONS


QUESTION #1:  As noted above, Alabama has a current 68-game streak of being the betting favorite.  In the NFL, Jacksonville had a 42-game streak as an underdog until Week #16 last season (favored by 3 over visiting Tennessee).  Now that the Jaguars’ streak has been snapped, what NFL team has the longest current streak of games as an underdog?

QUESTION #2:  The Seattle Seahawks are seeking to reach a third straight Super Bowl this season.  Who was the last NFL team to accomplish this feat?

BONUS: There was one other team to do it since the beginning of the “Super Bowl” after the 1966 season.  Name that team.

QUESTION #3:  Name the college team with the longest current winning streak.

BONUS: Name the college team with the longest current losing streak (Good luck; not a Power 5 team).

QUESTION #4:  Big talk during the NBA Finals was whether LeBron James would win the MVP Award even if the CLE Cavaliers lost to the GS Warriors.  He ended up not winning the award; Golden State’s Andre Iguodala won it.  What three players on losing teams from three major American sports (basketball, baseball, football) have won Championship Series MVP awards?
HINT: There is only one from each of these three sports.




ANSWER #1:
Oakland Raiders with 24 straight games as a ‘dog heading into the 2015 season.

ANSWER #2:
Buffalo Bills actually went to four straight Super Bowls with QB Jim Kelly from the 1990-1993 seasons.
I thought you might get this one.
BONUS: The Miami Dolphins went to three straight Super Bowls in the 1971-1973 seasons.
The Minnesota Vikings went to three Super Bowls in a four-year span (1973-74, 1976 seasons).
The Denver Broncos went to three Super Bowls in a four-year span (1986-87, 1989 seasons).
The Dallas Cowboys went to three Super Bowls in a four-year span (1992-93, 1995 seasons).
The New England Rats (that’s an “R”, not a “P”) went to three Super Bowls in a four-year span (2001-02, 2004 seasons).

ANSWER #3:
Ohio State with 13 straight wins.
Bonus: Georgia State with 11 straight losses.

ANSWER #4:
In baseball, NY Yankees’ 2B Bobby Richardson received the 1960 World Series MVP Award after the Pinstripers lost the seventh and deciding game to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 10-9.  The Yankees scored two in the top of the ninth to tie the game, and then Bill Mazeroski hit a leadoff HR in the bottom of the ninth to win the Series.

In football, Dallas LB Chuck Howley won the Super Bowl V most valuable player award (1970 season) in a 16-13 loss to the Baltimore Colts.

In basketball, LA Lakers’ guard Jerry West at age 30 won the NBA Finals MVP Award after a 7-game series loss to the Boston Celtics in 1969.

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