Super Pick; NCAA Under Fire; Coaching Odds and Ends; Tara on Pac-12; NBA's Scoring Explosion
Who's going to win the Super Bowl, the only event so important that it's identified by Roman Numerals?
This year's game is a tough one to predict. I expect a close, hard-fought, fairly high-scoring matchup between San Francisco and Kansas City.
The defenses are comparable in terms of pass rush (with the Niners' Nick Bosa and the Chiefs' Chris Jones) and coverage (with Charvarious Ward and Trent McDuffie). The 49ers have the edge at running back and wide receiver with Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuels.
But in a close game in the playoffs, the three positions that matter most are quarterback, head coach, and kicker.
As much as I like Brock Purdy, he's no Patrick Mahomes. Kyle Shanahan is a successful, creative coach, but he's no Andy Reid. As for kicker, the Chiefs' Harrison Butker is one of the best in the game, 40 of 42 on field goals this year, while the Niner's Jake Moody is an unproven rookie who's already missed some big kicks.
I hope I'm wrong, but the pick here is KC 27-24.
NCAA Under Fire: The long battle between the NCAA and those who advocate compensating athletes for the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL) is boiling over.
Last week attorneys general for the states of Virginia and Tennessee sued the NCAA to challenge its ban on using NIL in recruiting, alleging that the association has violated antitrust laws by denying athletes their ability to earn full compensation for NIL.
This following the NCAA's announcement of sanctions for Florida State and new investigations of Florida and Tennessee for NIL violations.
The alleged violations range from seven or eight-figure NIL contract offers to meetings with boosters to private airline flights for players--all done with the intent of getting top high school athletes or potential transfers to commit to the universities in question.
Florida's infractions were related to a well-publicized $13 million contract for quarterback Jaden Rashada, which eventually was withdrawn, forcing the Gators to release Rashada from his commitment. He ended up at Arizona State. The Tennessee investigation centers on another well-publicized offer, this one for $8 million, to quarterback Nico Iamaleava.
After the Tennessee probe was announced, the university chancellor came out with a scathing statement about the NCAA, claiming that the "failing" organization is pursuing "factually untrue and procedurally flawed allegations."
In a letter to the NCAA, chancellor Donde Plowman correctly charged that instead of providing clear rules, the organization's "2 1/2 years of vague and contradictory memos, emails and 'guidance' about NIL has created extraordinary chaos that student-athletes and institutions are struggling to navigate."
The NCAA issued a response to the Tennessee/Virginia filing, stating that: "There is no reason to...invite chaos on a moment's notice, and transform college sports into an environment where players and schools match up based primarily on the dollars that can change hands."
Sorry fellas, we're not inviting chaos at a minute's notice. The NCAA was the lead actor in creating chaos two and a half years ago. And as for transforming the college sports environment, perhaps you haven't noticed, but it's already happened. NIL dollars are the most important factor in matching up players and schools.
The whole thing is ludicrous, and frankly, distasteful.
In our view, it's more than a little hypocritical for the NCAA, which fought so hard against NIL, then reluctantly gave its approval, then neglected to provide any meaningful or consistent regulations, to suddenly now investigate schools for alleged violations of said inconsistent and contradictory guidelines.
I should also mention that all of this is playing out while new NCAA president Charlie Baker is pushing a new model where schools will take responsibility for NIL funding away from boosters and corporate types and create a new subdivision of big money schools that will set their own rules.
It would be laughable if it weren't so pathetic.
Hafley Had Enough: Last week Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley resigned to become defensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers.
Why would a head coach leave his position to take an assistant's job? Well-placed sources say that Hafley "wants to go coach football again in a league that is all about football. College coaching has become fundraising, NIL and recruiting your own team and transfers. There's no time to coach football anymore. A lot of things he went to college coaching for have disappeared."
Harbaugh's Money Grab: Another coach who left college football for the NFL, former Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, not only won't have to deal with NIL or the transfer portal, but he won't have to worry about where his next meal, or his next mansion, will come from.
Harbaugh, who was making around $9 million at Michigan and had received an offer of $12.5 million for 10 years to stay in Ann Arbor, reportedly will earn $16 million per year on a five year contract with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Nice work if you can get it.
Youth Movement: Fun fact: The two legendary NFL coaches who were recently pushed out by their teams, former New England coach Bill Belichick and former Seattle coach Pete Caroll, are 71 and 72 years old. Their replacements, Jerod Mayo (37) and Mike Macdonald (36), are a combined 73.
Tara Laments Pac-12's Demise: Stanford women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer, who just became the winningest coach in college basketball history, told the Arizona Republic that the destruction of the Pac-12 is "heartbreaking."
"How did we ever get in the place we're in right now?" VanDerveer asked. "It makes no sense. We have a great league, and it was destroyed by, I think, greed. Obviously we know money's important to athletics because it's so expensive. But it seems like there should have been better vision and better leadership to not get where we are."
As we've pointed out on many occasions, that "better leadership" should've come from two self-proclaimed visionaries, Pac-12 commissioners Larry Scott and George Kliavkoff.
But they both dropped the ball, got waylaid by their own arrogance and incompetence, and, in the process, caused the tragic implosion of a great conference.
No Defense: The NBA has suddenly forgotten how to play defense. Last week we saw Joel Embiid's 70-point game, Karl-Anthony Towns' 62, Luka Doncic's 73, Devin Booker's 62, and Steph Curry's 60.
In the last 10 years, the NBA's team scoring average has increased almost 15 points per game, from 101 in 2013-14 to 115.6 this season.
Going further back, the league average was only 94 ppg in 2003-04.
With teams wantonly drilling 3-pointers and shots at the rim, and officials calling every ticky tack foul on defenders, the numbers are only going to get higher.