Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Thinking out loud: Good things happening for college sports

John Rooke
May 22, 2020 - 11:02 am
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Thinking out loud…while wondering if I can trust TB12’s new immunity supplements…

  • Every time I hear “we will get through this together,” I wince.  It’s cringeworthy. 

 

  • Of course we will get through this together.  Is there any other choice? 

 

  • So, can we stop saying it already?

 

  • Or just make a slight rearrangement and say, “will we,” and then add the word “WHEN” at the beginning.  As in “when will we get through this, together?”

 

  • In that spirit, when will we be back on campus?

 

  • Soon enough, it appears.  The NCAA Division I Council voted this week to allow voluntary athletic activities in football and men’s and women’s basketball to return to campus June 1.  So, it’s a staht.

 

  • One of the underlying considerations for reopening college campuses is liability issues for returning students.  What happens if a healthy kid gets sick?  What happens if hundreds get sick? 

 

  • Does a school potentially put itself in the path of legal issues (and possible lawsuits) which could push them further toward a financial black hole?

 

  • Don’t think this doesn’t keep college administrators awake at night, as the rest of us hope and expect a sports comeback to proceed as planned.  It does.

 

  • One way to approach this – is to get a jump on the virus before it can make another end run.  South Carolina, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Marquette, Creighton, Texas and NC State have all decided to begin their fall semesters early, and end them around Thanksgiving – just as the cold and flu season begins to settle in.

 

  • In theory, keeping students off campus for nearly two months before the spring semester would begin is certainly a proactive measure to lessen liability, while maintaining a sense of normalcy.  Expect other schools to explore, and possibly follow this model.

 

  • Think about this – if college football isn’t played this fall each “Football 5” school, on average, will lose $62 million in revenue, per a Washington University study.  Kick. It. Off.

 

  • Assuming the show must go on…the latest iteration of ESPN’s “way too early” Top 25 in hoops for next year has Villanova #2 and Creighton at #12. 

 

  • CBS’ Jon Rothstein tweeted this week the Big East is planning on their first conference games, with the enlarged 20-game schedule, to begin in mid-December.

 

  • But…Dunkin Donuts’ Center general manager Larry Lepore told WPRO this week his facility could be vacant for the rest of this calendar year.  Where, exactly, would the Friars (and P-Bruins) play their games, if they have them? 

 

  • Alumni Hall?  Schneider Arena?  And with or without fans?  Another fly in the ointment for ya’.

 

  • Looks as if the Pac-12 isn’t going to lie around and take mediocrity much longer.  The league is partnering with the Oak View Group to create the Pac-12 “Coast-to-Coast Challenge.”

 

  • The Sports Business Journal reports the plan is to launch this December with four Pac-12 vs. Big 12 games in Las Vegas.  In Year Two (2021) eight new teams will also meet eight teams from the Big East, also in Vegas, followed by a repeat in New York in 2022 and then rotating for five years.

 

  • With all of the conference ‘challenges’ out there, the Pac-12 has largely been left out of the fun – partially because the league hasn’t been very good outside of Arizona.  Welcome to the party, Left Coasters.

 

  • A true ‘East vs. West’ concept is solid, providing potential matchups (and TV games) that are not often seen or played.  Providence has only played 24 games against current Pac-12 teams in 93 years (most recently against USC and Arizona), and has never faced Oregon State or Colorado.

 

  • If you’re not keeping count at home, let’s see…in the Big East for 2021, you now have the Big 10 matchup in the Gavitt Games, the Big East-Big 12 Battle and now the Big East-Pac-12 Coast to Coast Challenge.

 

  • And you just added two more conference games with UConn.  Cupcakes?  Who needs stinkin’ cupcakes?  At this rate with such a loaded non-league slate, even DePaul inches closer to a dance invite.

 

  • And that precisely…is what it’s all about.  Dancin’.

 

  • Speaking of the Pac-12, UCLA made it official this week, plucking BC’s Martin Jarmond away from The Heights to run the athletic department in LA-LA land.  But in his three years at Boston College, Jarmond at least showed the Eagles what a modern-day AD looks like.

 

  • Raise mo’ money, mo’ money and mo’ money.  Build facilities.  And tap back into fan and alumni bases after years of stagnation.  BC may not (ever) be on par with Tobacco Road rivals, but at least they’re off the ACC’s floor.  Collegiate Sports Associates is leading the search for his replacement.

 

  • It appears the Mountain West Conference will join the trend and move to 20 league games, starting in 2022.  So they’ll be able to play a true, double round-robin as the Big East and Big 12 do…but that will also leave less opportunity for their teams in non-conference play.

 

  • Which is precisely what the Mountain West needs.  More opportunity against teams in other conferences, not less.  And not smaht. 

 

  • The Atlantic-10, perhaps wisely, is deciding against a move to 20 league games, because they don’t play a true round-robin (with 14 teams).  The challenge in creating competitive non-league scheduling, however, and strong NET rankings will be tougher than ever.

 

  • As expected, URI’s program received a HUGE boost for next year with Fatts Russell’s decision to return to school and withdraw from the NBA Draft.  It may be the single difference between relevance and irrelevance next season within the A-10 for the Rams.

 

  • But the one-time immediate transfer rule will not go into effect for the upcoming school year, instead tabled for discussion and a vote in 2021…which means Rhody and PC will both have key players (Mitchell twins at URI, Brycen Goodine and Ed Croswell at PC) sitting out next season without waivers.

 

  • That also means that nearly 1000 athletes in the NCAA transfer portal are now left in limbo.  Coaches are mostly against immediate one-time transfers, fearing a new, college ’free agency.’

 

  • Everyone else (including the NCAA) seems to support them, especially with all other sports besides football, basketball and hockey already allowing immediate, one-time transfers.  Expect the rule to pass in January.

 

  • The story this week on incoming URI hoop recruit Ishmael Leggett being an alleged murder target by a former high school classmate is stunning.  But sadly, in this day and age, you can’t say it’s unbelievable. 

 

  • A new trend – congressional lobbying from major conferences centering around athlete endorsement deals.  The Football Five schools reportedly have already spent several hundred thousand dollars on lobbying in Washington, sez the Associated Press.

 

  • What do they want?  To dictate terms, ostensibly to level the athlete endorsement playing field for everyone. 

 

  • Among the core principles sought by the schools and lobbyists – limitations on who can advise athletes, a ban on deals in categories not consistent with higher education and athletes showing a minimum of one semester of academic progress before they can sign any endorsement.

 

  • The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame announced Wednesday that its’ inaugural London Showcase scheduled for this December (featuring Kentucky and Michigan) has been postponed to 2021.  But Kentucky and Michigan will play this year in Ann Arbor, anyway.

 

  • The college athletic losses are beginning to mount, without games being played.  Bowling Green this week dropped its baseball program.  Furman (Brad Faxon’s alma mater) dropped baseball and men’s lacrosse.

 

  • Central Michigan dumped men’s track and field, cutting CMU down to the FBS-minimum 16 varsity sports, and East Carolina has sacrificed men’s and women’s swimming and tennis.  At least they were transparent about it.  The count is now seven DI schools dropping 13 varsity teams…and counting.

 

  • UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford and head coaches Walt Bell (football) and Matt McCall (basketball) are taking 10% pay cuts due to the pandemic and subsequent financial fall-out.  But right now, no sports are on the cut list in Amherst.

 

  • Even a cheerleading scandal at Kentucky has resulted in the school firing its cheerleading coaches.  Seems they allowed nude routines, nude hijinks during a retreat and a lot of drinking during initiation rituals.  Probably in the nude, too.

 

  • I had something snarky to add here, but suddenly, the words just fail me.

 

  • My buddy “Big E” sez his neighbor working from home has been sitting in on a lot of tea parties lately with his 3-year-old daughter. While he works, she often brings him a cup of tea, which is really only water, and he sips it as he works on his computer.

 

  • When his wife caught their daughter in the act of making a tea ‘delivery’ the other day, it apparently dawned on her to speak up. “Did it ever occur to you that the only place in the house she can reach to get water is the toilet?”

 

  • If there is any lasting takeaway from “The Last Stand,” it’s that eating pizza in Utah might be hazardous to your health.

 

  • Would that be anything like eating stuffies in say, West Virginia?

 

  • And – that Dennis Rodman (fined $20K for missing a media session, earned $250K for making a WCW appearance) back in 1998 was one shrewd businessman.

 

  • A person who claimed to have “made” and delivered that pizza to MJ appeared on Salt Lake sports radio this week – and refuted everything that Jordan said in the series finale last Sunday. 

 

  • Food poisoning?  He was a Bulls’ fan and had even bet on Chicago against Utah. 

 

  • Craig Fite was an assistant store manager at the chain restaurant and remembered it as a thin crust, pepperoni pizza…which would be hard to get food poisoning from, unless someone added a little somethin’-somethin’ besides oregano.

 

  • Tweet of the Week I, from @JimMcIlvaine: “The NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement requires that teams stay at hotels that offer 24-hour room service. That leaves me wondering why the Marriott didn’t, unless MJ just wanted a pizza that wasn’t on the menu.”

 

  • A personal takeaway from the five-week, 10 episode “The Last Dance:” Appreciate what you have today, while you have it.  Enjoy the ride.  You might not get the chance to do it/see it/watch it/experience it again.

 

  • Patriot fans – that one is for you.

 

  • Tweet of the Week II, from @AdamSchefter: “Anyone got the behind-the-scenes footage of the Patriots’ last Super Bowl run?”

 

  • No, we won’t weep for MJ.  Although his time as an owner (and as a Washington Wizard, untold in the series) pales in comparison to his Chicago-era on-the-floor prowess.  Just sayin’.

 

  • Tweet of the Week III, from @DarrenRovell: “Michael Jordan made $90 million in salary in the NBA. He now makes more than that every year from Nike. He owns the Charlotte Hornets. And is the richest former pro athlete in the world at $2.1 billion, according to Forbes.”

 

  • Fact I: It’s just plain hard to keep a dynasty rolling.

 

  • Fact II: The Patriots kept it rolling for longer than any other humans before or since…unless you count the Roman Empire, or the ancient Egyptians and Chinese.

 

  • And Rookestradamus doubled down this week on the Patriots extending that dynasty…by repeating the words “Cam” and “Newton” over and over again.  Like he’s in a trance or something.

 

  • Ok, so what are the next ESPN docs to watch before games return to our consciousness?  “Lance” (disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong), “Be Water” (martial arts star Bruce Lee June 7), “Long Gone Summer” (the Sosa-McGwire ’98 HR race June 14). 

 

  • I’ll be watching – and chances are you’ll catch at least some of it, too.  The average audience for The Last Dance was 5.6 million viewers per episode.

 

  • Not for nuthin’, but if you’re wondering – like I am – how football players are going to return to the actual blood, sweat and tears of the field and NOT put themselves at more risk?

 

  • Adam Schefter’s podcast this week featured the NFLPA’s medical director, Dr. Thom Mayer, who reported that NFL engineers and the sports performance company Oakley are testing ways to improve facemasks by utilizing N95 material.

 

  • In the mid ‘70’s, Phyllis George became the most talked about woman in sports.  Maybe ever.  Largely because other than Billie Jean King, she was the most visible – having joined the set of “The NFL Today” on CBS. 

 

  • That was a team. Brent (Musberger), Irv (Cross), Phyllis and Jimmy ‘The Greek’ (Snyder).  Their personalities drew the audience into pro football as much as the sport itself did.  And Phyllis George was as classy and smaht as they come, showing that ladies knew their sports, too.

 

  • George passed away last weekend at the all-too-early age of 70 after battling an illness.  The former Miss America was also once the First Lady of Kentucky, married to one-time Celtics’ owner and former Kentucky Governor John Y. Brown. 

 

  • She blazed the trail so many young women are still following today, within an industry still dominated by those who only have the “Y” chromosome in their makeup.  But thanks in part to George’s early success, X’s now often mark the spot today in the TV biz. 

 

  • There’s a lot of talking, but very little action.  When will we be back on the field and in the arenas of our pro sports teams?

 

  • Understood, situations change by the day, if not by the hour or minute.  But my overall impression?  There’s very little actual “L-E-A-D-E-R-S-H-I-P” taking charge.  Maybe they’re scared to be wrong, or afraid to have to change course?

 

  • But isn’t that what true leaders do – sometimes, they swing and miss?  At the very least, however, they’re at the plate taking their hacks.

 

  • The NFL is taking its hacks.  The NHL, MLB, NBA?  Swing and a whiff.

 

  • The return of sports – with no fans – last weekend (Germany’s Bundesliga, NASCAR, golf) seemed to be well-received by the TV ratings.  As expected. 

 

  • Now, do better. 

 

  • I’m guessing that the city of Orlando is going to reacquaint itself with the American public very soon…with both the NBA and MLS considering their re-starts from Florida.  Disney is a big partner with hoops and soccer, so that makes sense.

 

  • Like the idea of an East/West kinda thing in Arizona, or Vegas, for baseball and maybe the NHL, too, coupled with Orlando.  The NWSL (women’s pro soccer) is headed for Salt Lake City and a month-long tournament starting June 27.

 

  • But it’s time to p*** or get off the pot here.

 

  • Want a guy to put on your ice radar?  Providence Bruins forward Jack Studnicka earned a slot on the AHL all-rookie team for the past season, scoring 49 points in 60 games. 

 

  • Besides that, you’ve gotta love that name.  That’s a sports name right there.  Stud-neek-uh. 

 

  • The RI Hockey Hall of Fame and the RI Reds Heritage Society have postponed their 2020 induction event and reunion and jointly moved to the end of August, 2021 at Twin River.

 

  • Everybody knows, or knew, someone like Eddie Haskell growing up as a kid, amiright? 

 

  • Ken Osmond played that smarmy, obnoxious, unctuous role in the old “Leave it to Beaver” TV sitcom of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s so well, he typecast himself for the remainder of his life and career…which included a 20-year run on the Los Angeles police force.    Osmond died this week at age 76.

 

  • A big-time supporter of the UMass-Dartmouth athletic program, Taunton’s Dan Dermody, also unexpectedly passed away this week at age 57.  Dermody was a friend – we worked together at WPRO-AM in the early-to-mid ‘90’s – and he was serving as a Taunton city councilman while championing several worthwhile causes in town.

 

  • Yeah, let’s turn McCoy Stadium into an outdoor restaurant.  Cool idea.  But is that for ballpark food only?

 

  • Oh, and did you notice this week TB12 is out with a couple of new “immunity” supplements? 

 

  • Two questions here: 1) Where were these two months ago? 2) Who remembers the stories of the ‘snake oil’ salesmen in the late 19th century from your history books?  I do.

 

  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics, whenever they play again) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to jrooke@weei.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

 

Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Cordischi and Coit!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.