College football closes in on a playoff _ finally (Yahoo! Sports)
CHICAGO (AP) College football has always relied on polls and bowls to crown a national championship. It is an inexact science that has left many fans frustrated and wondering why they can’t settle it on the field – like every other sport – with a playoff. Finally, the people in charge agree with the people in the stands. A major college football playoff, albeit a small one, is closer than ever to becoming a reality. The BCS commissioners have backed a plan for a four-team playoff with the sites for the national semifinals rotating among the major bowl games and a selection committee picking the participants. The plan will be presented to university presidents next week for approval. Once the presidents sign off – and that seems likely – major college football’s champion will be decided by a playoff for the first time, starting in 2014. The Bowl Championship Series is on its death bed. Even the name is likely to go away. ”We are excited to be on the threshold of creating a new postseason structure for college football that builds on the great popularity of our sport,” Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Wednesday. All 11 commissioners stood shoulder-to-shoulder behind Swarbrick, who read the BCS statement from a podium set up in a hotel conference room. The commissioners have been working on reshaping college football’s postseason since January. The meeting Wednesday was the sixth formal get-together of the year. They met for four hours and emerged with a commitment to stand behind a plan. ”I think we’re very unified,” said Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, who for years had been a staunch opponent of even the smallest playoff. For decades, major college football didn’t even try to organize a championship game. The top teams played in marquee bowl games and if it happened to work out that No.1 and No. 2 squared off on New Year’s Day, well, all the better. When all the games were done, the voters in the AP poll would crown a champion and so would the coaches who vote in their poll. Sometimes there would be two No. 1s. In the 1990s, the commissioners of the major conferences came up with the idea to create a national title game, matching No. 1 vs. No. 2 every year. Eventually, that spawned the Bowl Championship Series, which was implemented in 1998. Instead of solving the problem of crowning a champion, the BCS only seemed to exasperate fans even more. Too often, using polls and computer ratings to narrow the field to two teams was all but impossible. Like last year, when Alabama lost to LSU in the regular season, but ended up getting a second crack at the Tigers in the BCS title game – despite having the same record as Big 12 champion Oklahoma State. The Crimson Tide validated their appearance by trouncing LSU and winning the BCS title, but many outside of SEC country were left unsatisfied. Under the commissioners’ proposal, Alabama and Oklahoma State likely would have played in one semifinal while LSU played Pac-12 champion Oregon in the other. No doubt many will wonder, ”Why only four?” ”I’m sure it won’t satisfy everyone,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. ”Until you have an eight-team or 16-team seeded playoff, there will be folks out there that aren’t completely satisfied. We get that. But we’re trying to balance other important parties, like the value of the regular season, the bowls, the academic calendar.” The commissioners refrained from providing many specifics of the plan in their announcement. Scott did say the two semifinals would be worked into the existing major bowls and the site of the national championship game will be bid out to any city that wants it, the way the NFL does with the Super Bowl. People with firsthand knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press that the semifinals of the proposed plan would rotate among the major bowls and not be tied to traditional conference relationships. They also said that under the plan a selection committee would choose the schools that play for the national title. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the commissioners did not want to reveal many details before talking to their bosses. ”I am delighted,” said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, whose push for a four-team playoff in 2008 was shot down. ”I am pleased with the progress we have made. There are some differences, but we will work them out. We’re trying to do what is in the best interest of the game.” It will certainly be in the best financial interest. The BCS television contract with ESPN – along with the Rose Bowl’s separate contract with ABC – pays the participating schools $155 million per year. BCS officials won’t put an exact number on it, but they aren’t shy about saying that a playoff would be worth much more. Probably more than double. How that money will be split up among the conferences is still to be determined, and will likely be a point of contention with high-profile and high revenue generating leagues such as the SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Atlantic Coast Conference getting more than the likes of the Mountain West and Conference USA. The rebuilt Big East could be looking at being bumped to second-tier status. But before they split up the pot, there were other details that needed to be sorted out. There was some debate about whether to have semifinal sites rotate between the current BCS bowls – the Orange, Sugar, Rose and Fiesta – or link the sites of the games to traditional conference affiliations. By linking sites to leagues Southeastern Conference teams could host games at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and Pac-12 and Big Ten teams could host games at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. But the logistical issues that come with not having the sites for the semifinals set in advance were too big a problem. Now it will be possible for Ohio State and Oregon to play a semifinal in Miami, the site of the Orange Bowl. How the teams will be selected also has been hotly debated; the current Bowl Championship Series uses a combination of polls and computer rankings. There are still major details to be worked out, such as who exactly makes up the selection committee, but college football will take a page from college basketball, which uses a committee of athletic directors and commissioners to pick the teams for its championship tournament. The 12-member BCS Presidential Oversight Committee meets Tuesday in Washington. The commissioners and Swarbrick all stressed that ultimately the decision lies with the presidents. And that they will have more than just one model to talk about at their meeting. But unless something unexpected happens in Washington, a playoff will take another step to becoming a reality. —- Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
Reutimann to replace Kurt Busch at Pocono (The Associated Press)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) David Reutimann will replace suspended driver Kurt Busch at Pocono Raceway, but Busch’s future with Phoenix Racing appears murky, at best. Busch was suspended by NASCAR on Monday for verbally abusing a reporter following the Nationwide Series race at Dover. NASCAR said his behavior was in violation of the probation Busch was placed on last month, and he’s not eligible to return to a NASCAR-sanctioned event until June 13. Tommy Baldwin Racing will let Reutimann drive Busch’s No. 51 Chevrolet on Sunday at Pocono. There is no Nationwide Series race this weekend, so Busch was not scheduled to drive for Kyle Busch Motorsports, his younger brother’s race team. It’s assumed he’ll be back with both Phoenix and KBM after his suspension is lifted, but Phoenix owner James Finch said Tuesday their partnership will be on a race-by-race basis going forward. ”Here’s the deal: Quit wrecking the cars, get a good finish, be nice to people. That’s not real hard to do,” Finch told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday. ”It’s affecting me. If I can’t get a sponsor, I can’t keep running without a sponsor. That’s a slow death. I don’t want to do that.” Finch said Busch has wrecked 14 cars so far this season, and at least three of them were beyond repair. With limited sponsorship money, and Busch’s behavior interfering with the potential to land funding, Finch said something has to give. ”Hopefully if we can get Kurt’s mind right, we can win some races,” he said. ”If we can’t get his mind right so we can race into the future, then I’ll go do something else. It’s just that simple. I’m doing my part. We’ve wrecked 14 cars this year. Four at Daytona. We’ve killed three or four cars and had to completely throw them away.” Busch’s latest penalty stems from a confrontation with a Sporting News reporter after Saturday’s race. Contact on the track with Justin Allgaier led to a discussion on pit road after the race, and Busch was asked if being on probation impacted the way he raced Allgaier. ”It refrains me from not beating the (expletive) out of you right now because you ask me stupid questions. But since I’m on probation, I suppose that’s improper to say as well,” Busch replied. The exchange was captured on video. Busch apologized in a statement Monday night for his behavior and said he accepts NASCAR’s decision. ”I put them in a box, they had to take action and it’s my fault for putting them in this position.” It’s just the latest in a series of ugly incidents for Busch, who lost his job with Penske Racing at the end of the season because of his behavior. He had a rage-filled rant on his team radio last year that drew widespread attention, sparred with two reporters in September at Richmond, and then was caught on video by a fan verbally abusing an ESPN reporter during the season finale. The video was posted on YouTube, Busch was fined $50,000 by NASCAR after it went public, and his split by ”mutual agreement” with Penske came shortly after. He then signed with Finch, and has said driving for the underfunded team would help him ”put the fun back into racing for me.” It’s been trying, though, and Busch has had a handful of bumps in the road. Last month, he was fined $50,000 by NASCAR and placed on probation through July 25 for reckless driving on pit road, and a post-race altercation with Ryan Newman’s crew members. That probation has now been extended through the end of the year. His issues come when Busch is trying to line up a top-level ride for next season. He’s believed to have had discussions with Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing. But the more attention he gets for off-track issues, the harder it is for a team owner to sell Busch to a sponsor.
Cris Carter said that he put bounties on defensive players when he played
Cris Carter is not ordering a pizza. (Getty Images) If you think that defensive players are the only ones capable of putting bounties on opponents — paying teammates to exact physical retribution of any stripe — on the field, former receiver Cris Carter is here to give you a nice little reality check. Carter, who caught 1,101 passes in his 16-year career and may be the best eligible player not in the Hall of Fame, told Mike Hill and Mark Schlereth of ESPN Radio on Tuesday that he did indeed pay what he called “protection money” to do what needed to be done. “I’m guilty of [bounties] — I mean, first time I’ve ever admitted it — but I put a bounty on guys before,” Carter said. “I put bounties on guys. If a guy tries to take me out, a guy takes a cheap shot on me? I put a bounty on him right now!” Carter admitted that the bounties were financial in nature, but that the intentions were not the same as the ones put out by Gregg Williams and his New Orleans Saints players — these were more about “an eye for an eye” than “kill the head and the body will die.” “But you have to realize the league we grew up in, the bounty was based on protection, or a big hit, excitement or for helping your team win,” he said. “It wasn’t to maim or hurt the dude,” said Carter, who retired from the NFL following the 2002 season. “When a guy said he was going to hurt me, my recourse was to put a bounty on him to make sure.” On ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” show on Wednesday morning, Carter explained exactly how the process worked. “When you come out onto the field, you’re getting ready to run the first play, and you see the guy across the line, and [he says]. ‘If you come across the middle, I’ll end your career.’ Well, no problem, because you ain’t gonna end my career! I’ve got a wife to take care of, and two kids, and a couple of houses, and several cars, and I’m gonna protect that. So I go to Randall McDaniel, who’s the left guard, and an All-Pro, and I say, ‘Bill Romanowski is acting a fool — I need some protection.’ I go to Todd Steussie, the left tackle, and say, ‘Keep an eye on Romanowski.’ I go to Korey Stringer, the right tackle, and say, “Hey, big Korey, I’ve got some fools [out there] — keep an eye on Romanowski.’ It goes something like that.” What does “keep an eye on Romanowski” mean? “I know you might find this kinda hard, but in football, you’re going to get tackled,” Carter told ESPN’s Mike Greenberg. “There’s only a certain amount of protection you can get. You’re just trying to get protection against the extra activity.” Carter said that retribution could come against a targeted defender in pile-ups, or on plays where Carter was not specifically targeted and the officials might be looking the other way. “I’m not asking for any extra protection if it’s a cornerback or safety, but if it’s a linebacker coming in on me, I expect a lineman to be able to handle that. There is no pure protection from everyone — you don’t want that — but it’s just to create an even playing field so that you can concentrate on your assignment and your job.” One suspects that Carter is far from the only NFL player — past or present — who’s availed himself of this kind of protection against the extracurricular activities of defenders. Especially in decades past, when the on-field code was less stringent when it came to the culture of intimidation, you can imagine an offensive lineman blocking for John Elway, or the tight end who isn’t going to the Super Bowl if that New York Giants defensive end keeps hitting Joe Montana in his already-injured back, going out of his way to ensure that equal playing field. That defenders may have had specific bounties on him makes Carter’s statements less black-and-white. Was this a weird case of self-defense in an NFL that let these things go on? “I don’t regret it,” Carter said. “It’s a part of the game. I have a clear conscience with God, and a clear conscience with my family. I feel like I did everything for us to win.” On the Saints’practices, however, Carter had a different take when asked if intentional injury for money was commonplace in the NFL at any time. “The Saints took a model that most teams have, and they put a little extra on it.”
NBA fines Jordan for labor comments (AP)
NEW YORK (AP)Michael Jordan has been fined by the NBA for making comments about the leagues ongoing collective bargaining process. NBA spokesman Tim Frank confirmed the penalty for the Charlotte Bobcats owner on Monday, but said the league doesnt comment on the total. ESPN.com reported the fine was $100,000. In an interview last month with Australias Herald Sun, Jordan said the NBAs current model was broken and called for revenue sharing for small market teams such as his Bobcats and the Milwaukee Bucks, whom Australian Andrew Bogut(notes) plays for. The Hall of Famer added that he knows owners are not going to move off what we feel is very necessary for us to get a deal in place where we can coexist as partners. The NBA prohibits owners from speaking publicly about the labor situation.
On being reminded LeBron is amazing, and wanting more
About 90 minutes before tipoff of the LeBron James Homecoming Game between the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers, I asked a joking-but-not-really question on Twitter: “Hey, non-Cavs fans: We secretly all want Bron to throw up a double-nickel tonight, right?”It was, at heart, a joke — that’s mostly what I do on Twitter — but there was more than a kernel of honesty there, too. It wasn’t that I wanted to see Cleveland suffer; on the contrary, like many fans and observers on Thursday night, I was hopeful that the Cavs would feed off of a phenomenally energetic home crowd, exploit some of the myriad weaknesses the Heat had shown in stumbling to an 11-8 start and provide us with some compelling on-court drama to pair with the compelling off-court storyline. Sadly, as we saw, that didn’t happen.Really, I just wanted to see the monster break out of his cage, the beast unleashed. I wanted to see LeBron James actually be the player we all remember him being before he bailed out on the Cavs in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last summer. What can I say? Maybe I’m selfish.I mean, LeBron’s had 30-point games and made spectacular plays this season, but it just hasn’t really felt the same — when I see him zip a no-look pass on the button, successfully make a play he had no business attempting or move more quickly than any man his size should be able to, it’s felt like I’m only seeing a thumbnail sketch of the true scope of his talent, or just reaching back for a dim recollection of his full brilliance. Like there’s some sort of restrictor plate on his ass-kicking.Obviously, it’s not like James has been a stiff — going into Thursday night, he was averaging 23.4 points, 7.5 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game — and obviously, the ongoing process of figuring out how to effectively create offense alongside a similarly styled superstar in Dwyane Wade has a lot to do with him not looking quite like himself. Still, though, something’s seemed different, and as a result, I’ve felt like I’m forgetting how rapturous a force of nature LeBron James can really be. I don’t think I’m alone there.And then, stuff like Thursday night happens, and you go, “Oh, right.” You watch him blow past defenders, elevate, go up and under the rim, get thwacked across the head and finish with a reverse over defenders’ outstretched arms. You watch him get out on the break, elevate for an alley-oop, get pushed off-course by a defender, reach out to corral the pass one-handed and push a layup off the window for the foul and an and-one. You watch him do these things like they’re involuntary actions, like breathing or growing hair, and you go, “Oh, right.” (Well, maybe not growing hair in LeBron’s case.)You watch him score 24 points in the third quarter, a Heat franchise record, getting buckets however he wants them, and you remember that before we (justifiably) branded him a quitter and a sellout and a charlatan and, well, a brand, we mostly referred to him as an amalgamation of basketball talents unlike anything we’d ever seen. Frankly, it felt good to remember that.Independent of wondering whether he’d apologize for “The Decision,” how his ex-teammates would greet him or if the city of Cleveland would burn to ash around the Q, it felt good to see LeBron James being an unstoppable force. It felt especially good to see that happen when the eyes of the world were on him, when he was walking into as hostile a regular-season environment as he’d ever faced, and when an awful lot of people thought he’d turtle up, play distributor and let his superior teammates carry the night against an inferior Cavaliers roster. But he didn’t. He played to his level. He dominated. He reminded.Maybe I’m buying a one-way ticket to the firepit way down south by saying this, but I really hope he keeps doing it. The game’s more fun to watch when the transcendent actually transcend. As long as you’re not rooting for the guys in the other jerseys, that is.
President Obama takes shot to lip playing hoops, needs stitches
You can say what you want about his politics, his style of execution (or lack thereof), or the ideology his political party tends to represent. But boy howdy, do I much prefer my President’s nagging injuries coming in the form of an elbow to the grill while playing basketball than grabbing a nasty boo-boo following a fall after choking on a pretzel, or getting stuck in a bathtub. President Barack Obama was in the middle of one of his regular pickup basketball games this afternoon, working off that second helping of Thanksgiving everything, when he reportedly sustained an elbow shot to the lip, breaking it open and requiring 12 stitches.A White House press release says pretty much the same thing I just wrote:”After being inadvertently hit with an opposing player’s elbow in the lip while playing basketball with friends and family, the President received 12 stitches today administered by the White House Medical Unit. They were done in the doctor’s office located on the ground floor of the White House.” That’s a shot of our President leaving the court after taking the ‘bow, which is fine and all, but I much prefer this soon-to-be-internet-meme/picture of a forlorn President, looking out of the White House window with an ice bag over his mouth.He’s actually watching the White House Christmas tree’s arrival, which just makes it sadder on so many levels. Like the little boy who couldn’t help decorate the Christmas tree because he got the flu and can’t be around his brothers and sisters. I will now back off and let what is sure to be the strangest comment section in Ball Don’t Lie’s history take over.(SECOND PHOTO: AP)
Cavs add police, ban anti-LeBron clothing for his return to Ohio
Since the moment he took his talents to South Beach last July, citizens of Cleveland have ramped up their hate for LeBron James to amazing levels. There have been websites, organized merchandise bonfires, and enough videos to clog up the YouTube servers, all to announce the Cleve’s hatred for their one-time savior.Yet all this righteous anger is little more than a run-up to LeBron’s first game back in Cleveland on December 2. Anticipating an ornery crowd, the Cavs have decided to take new measures to ensure James’s safety. From Chris Broussard on ESPN.com: To ensure James’ safety, there will be dozens of extra police officers on hand, both uniformed and undercover. Officers will be stationed inside and outside the arena, and many will be positioned by the Heat bench and at the tunnel where the Heat players will enter the court.”Honestly, I’m a little bit afraid,” one member of the Cavs organization said. “Some people don’t care. Their mentality is ‘‘I’ve got to get this off my chest.’ There’s so much negative energy around this game. People aren’t excited about the game itself. They’re just like, ‘‘I can’t wait to do something.’ ” [...]The team has done research on the various crude and offensive James T-shirts in circulation locally, and officials will be stationed at entrances to make sure no fans enter with such shirts or signs that disrespect James or his family members. They’ll also be in the stands, authorized to take away inappropriate apparel. Fans who have such shirts will be required to remove them and then will be given a Cavaliers-branded T-shirt to wear instead. All inappropriate signs also will be confiscated and officials will be on the lookout throughout the game for inebriated fans or fans who are preparing to throw things onto the court.Kudos to the Cavs for not saying to hell with their former star and skimping on security. That would be irresponsible, of course, and a terrible thing for any franchise to do. But in the wake of Dan Gilbert’s Comic Sans rant on the night of The Decision and various other attempts to say the franchise now won’t sell out its morals for one player, any instance of the organization acting with maturity should be met with applause.Then again, I can’t help but think that Gilbert and Co. helped stoke the fires of LeBron discord this summer. Changing their mind is fine and a positive development, but the Cavs still justified and condoned the hate by acting like James was a no-good jerk who doomed the franchise with his greed and bad attitude. The reality is obviously more complicated: he helped put the Cavs back on the NBA map after years of wandering through the lottery.Increased security measures are a necessary precaution for this game. But if something bad happens during the game, the Cavs shouldn’t act as if they did everything possible to protect LeBron. If that were the case, they would have handled the post-Decision fallout much differently.