All posts by Curtis Gibbs

Graphic Design Wins Championships

saban-running-onto-fieldAs Clemson and Alabama lined up to face each other in the 2016 College Football playoffs final, it wasn’t just the players and coaches who dressed for battle. An army of highly paid consultants, by some estimates, in excess of 7 million annual between the two teams also threw on their school’s gear and began to prep for the game. These are not coaches. Instead, this was to pay the army of consultants that helped both teams get to the point that they were at.

In college football the NCAA allows a program to have 9 coached plus the head coach, that’s ten. But there is no limit on paid consultants that can be on staff. This fact shines through at staffs of programs like Florida State, Ohio State, Alabama and Clemson. With a simple look along the sidelines or in the play calling booth, it is easy to see the evidence that these staffs have swelled to well over 40 members. In last night’s Oklahoma versus Ohio State game, the play calling booth for Ohio State was so packed full, it looked like a nigerian bus depot.

These consultants can’t coach on the field or directly meet with recruits in the recruiting process, but other than that they can help in anyway possible. And the list of titles is a creative exercise in permutations. With words like Director, player & Facility used in as many ways as possible: Director of player personnel, Assistant Director of Player Personnel, Director of Recruitment Facilitation, Advisor to Defensive Coordinator and… Graphic Designer.

ESPN reported that when Kirby Smart went to Georgia one of the first things he did was go to the athletic director to seek approval to create a graphic design position. People say defense wins championships be graphic design that actually wins championships.

According to ESPN, in 2012 there were 146 non coaches on payroll in the athletic department.

For perspective, around the same timeframe, The University of Memphis had 36 non coaches on payroll in the athletic department.

This influx of consultants has become another way, along with spend of facilities, that financially strong programs can gain competitive advantage over other schools though spending money. It seems obvious but maybe spending money is what wins championships. Like Tom Herman of Houston says, “If the budget were there, I’d take an army”

http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/17164115/alabama-crimson-tide-nick-saban-lead-revolution-size-college-football-coaching-staffs 

https://www.tbr.edu/hr/salaries?firstname=&lastname=&department=&jobtitle=&institution=University%20of%20Memphis&page=11&order=department&sort=asc

http://www.open.ua.edu/

Memphis not invited to Big 12. So what?

Now that the first Big 12 expansion list is posted and Memphis has been left off…What now?

Well, Memphis, better than anybody, should know being left out may not mean exactly what we think it means.

Go all the way back to 2011, a time when Memphis was a basketball school, not that its not  a basketball school now, but… anyway Memphis was a basketball school, and we were in the Conference USA. Conference USA in the recent years had been a place where we went to dominate, and take everyone’s best shot. (see photo below: Memphis UAB post game)

Dozier UAB

We played in the Grizzlies stadium (the beautiful Fedex forum), and others played in the… smaller stadiums and we were in the top 10 in national basketball attendance year after year and our coach was making the better part of 2 million dollars a year. This was Memphis.

Football, the main driver of any sports program, was searching for direction. We fired our perennial winning coach a few years earlier at the first sign of a losing season (because we were winning 7 games to 8 games instead of 9 games to national champions) and had hired the architect of recruiting from LSU who was now showing us that recruiting wasn’t everything.

The athletic facilities were steadily improving over the years.

And the buzz of the chance to move conferences was real and exciting. And it grew and grew until the announcement and this:

memphis times square billboard

We were ecstatic. And as a recent alumni and former student athlete myself this was the bees knees. The BIG EAST, THE Big east… It had a great ring to it and it seemed like it made sense for Memphis as a school.

Memphis was good at basketball and we would be able to compete against the best in the business multiple times per regular season. Louisville, Syracuse, Pitt, UCONN was just a list of who’s who in college basketball. And we COULD compete with them, after all we were a perennial top 25 team.

And as far as football, we may have had to take a few years to be able to compete, but playing against Louisville & Pitt could help recruiting.. and let’s be honest Big East football was not like the other major conferences football… and that became the problem.

Sensing this issue, and looking for the money that was promised in other conferences.. these major brands that we were so happy to partying with in the Big East began to flee to ACC. Syracuse & Pitt and then the following year Louisville. What was left UCONN…? This new look became evident to the TV stations and the other conferences and so a solution was drawn up.. Group the remnants of this new Big East together along with some others and call it the American Conference.. A repackaged and slightly upgraded C-USA, hence the app name.

Some teams remained in a vastly changed Big East and some teams remained in a changed C-USA. Many teams were winners of varying degrees. Syracuse and Pitt made it to the mighty ACC. Houston, Memphis & Temple moved to the stronger American Conference. But it wasn’t the Big East and it wasn’t what we all thought. We showed up to a party just in time to see the music being turned off. And I think, in some ways, the same applies here with the Big 12.

According to ESPN, Memphis came with too much financial backing in its Big 12 bid. (With most of that marginal comparative elevation in backing coming from Fedex) The University of Memphis president mentioned that this backing ‘would uniquely position the University of Memphis to request only a portion  of new revenue for several years until renegotiation of the conference media right agreement occurs.” Makes sense right? But, the Big 12s response is a curious one considering the makeup of the other candidates.  The Big 12 responded that is not considering Memphis because it is more interested in teams that can strengthen and add value to the league as to opposed to schools that need to be “propped up” by the league. But as Kristi Dosh of Forbes reported, Memphis ranks last among the candidates in received institutional subsidy. Although this is not a surefire gauge of financial contribution to athletics, this subsidy level combined with Fedex’s explicit support makes the Big 12’s response in these early rounds of elimination… Odd.

Only time will tell how this all plays out, but with $25 million per year per expanded team needing to be paid to the Big 12 teams, the negotiated media contract in 2024 may look a lot different than its predecessor. (Especially if Kansas and/or Oklahoma and/or Texas have gone on to greener pastures) Consequently, just as before, being left off the Big 12’s first 11 may not mean what we all think it means right now.

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/story/2012-03-28/ncaa-coaches-salary-database/53827374/1

http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/17451020/memphis-tigers-potential-big-12-expansion-candidate

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kristidosh/2016/09/03/memphis-being-cut-from-consideration-signals-big-12-expansion-may-not-happen/ 

 

Formula 1: Austin Podium

Hamilton

Post Race: Lewis Hamilton took off his helmet and knelt down at the green room table to take it all. All of it; the late stage fumble by teammate Nico Rosberg that allowed him to take the lead with only a handful of laps remaining, the radio transmission where he stated ‘this,’ winning his third individual drivers championship, was the greatest moment of his life, and finally the congratulatory hug from Nico.

Hamilton was excited and wanted to get out on the podium. “Can we go now, Can we go now?”

So he grabbed his embroidered Pirelli hat, the one with ‘1st’ stitched on the side and threw Nico his second place hat.

Nico threw it back in his face.

They headed out for celebratory podium.

Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel and Paddy Lowe (Mercedes Technical Director)

Hamilton had just clinched the driver’s championship, Mercedes had just clinched the constructor’s cup and Vettel looked like a four time champion over performing in an inferior car. Everybody was happy on the podium, except Nico.

Hamilton has three championships now and we all know who that puts him equal to; he is rarified air now and should be celebrated. But the podium in Austin may say more about the future than the past.

  1. Hamilton will continue to get the better of Rosberg. He has beaten him that last two seasons with basically the same car.
  2. Vettel will continue to beat an aging Raikkonen. There is no doubt that this season showed that Vettel still has the tools that brought him four championships at Red Bull. He performed far better than his teammate throughout the season and even jumped in between the Mercedes cars in the drivers championship.
  3. Vettel will challenge Hamilton next year. Hopefully! This is a hopefully as it is somewhat dependent on weather Ferrari can close the gap with Mercedes. But if ’13/14′ to 14’/15′ is any indication, they will. This is the battle everyone wants to see, including Bernie Eccelstone, so don’t expect big changes in the offseason that would potentially upset that and lead to more single team dominance whoever that team may be. We all like a good race and a three time versus four time race would be pretty damn good. Let’s hope it materializes.

There is still some good racing left in this season, but if the podium at Austin has anything to say next year will be tremendous.

 

 

 

 

 

Rose Returns to the United Center: Let the Basketball do the Talking

Derrick Rose returns to the United Center: Let the Basketball do the Talking
derrick Rose
Upon his return to the United Center, Derrick Rose served as the center piece to the night. When he took to center prior to the game, with Anderson Verejao, he received a standing ovation from his home crowd. The announcer put it well ‘There’s not a statue of him outside… yet.’His words were few, and quite like all his speech; understated. He thanked USA basketball, the fans and the told us all to think about the violence in Chicago.
It is possibly this understatedness, in the highest of highs and lowest of lows, that makes him so adorned by fans. Obviously, his play is a big part of it too. His athletic ability is second to none and his work ethic ranks about the same. He was the only athlete aside able to fit an MVP win in between Lebron’s four.

After a series of terrible and well documented knee injuries, the fans all over the world and concentrated in the United Center, were just happy to see him playing. It was only for 24 minutes and 7 points, but he was pain free and athletic as hell.
He has some impressive supporters waiting for him this season. The workhorse Noah, the refined Gasol and the uncanny scoring ability of rookie McDermott. And maybe it’s this polished set of tools waiting for him that’s adding to the excitement of his return. Or, maybe its the arsenal assembling in Cleveland or maybe a little bit of everything. Whatever it is, the East has stars and story lines this year. It’s going to be exciting to watch, it might steal the show from the dominant West and the reticent maestro will be at the center of it all.

Tour de France 2014: The Contenders

“The Emperor”

Alberto-Contador

Alberto Contador

In 2007, a 24 year old Contador shocked the world winning both the best young rider and the overall victory in the Tour de France. In 2008 he was on the banned Astana team and was not allowed to participate in the tour. Then in 2009, Lance Armstrong ended his retirement and returned to professional cycling. Landing with his old captain Johan Bruyneel on the Astana team. A battle royal ensued as the team wasn’t big enough for both Contador and Armstrong. Contador fought the battle most riders can only imagine; battling both his team AND the competition. He ultimately had to rip the tour out of anyone else’s hands with consistent, viscous attacking.

Then in 2010 a duel with another precocious youngster in, Andy Schleck, treated us all to some of the best mountain battles we had seen in over a decade. In 2011 he decided to go for the Giro- Tour double. He won the Giro but ran out of steam in the Tour and faded to fifth place.

After much attacking and a fourth place finish in 2013… Could this be the year?

“The Comeback Kid”

andy schleck the mask background

Andy Schleck

The young gun.. He pushed a strong Contador to the limit in 2009 and 2010. Then again emerged as a dominant force in 2011. Taking the yellow jersey on l’alpe d’huez only to have it ripped from his slender shoulders in the final time trial by the veteran Cadel Evans.

A devastating crash in 2011 left him unable to ride. And a quick assimilation back to the top of the peloton proved not to be. Instead, two years of struggling to find form and even to finish races emerged. Some of the struggle was physical and some of it was surely mental. Either way, it was hard to watch. The brightest young talent cycling had seen since Jan Ullrich struggling to finish one day races.

In the 2013 we saw glimpses of of form and a top 20 finish. But now after over a full year injury free what can he do?

“The Favorite”

chris froome

Chris Froome

In stark contrast to the 2012 Tour de France which saw non-climber Bradley Wiggins have to race the perfect race in order to win. Calculated and conservative he managed a victory even as his teammate Froome seemed the stronger rider.

Then in 2013 Froome was the undisputed leader of the team and his performance brought back shades of yesteryear. He dominated in a way only the greats do. Merckx, Hinault, Lemond, Armstrong. Besting his rivals in both the mountains and the time trials. It was as inspiring to those watching as it was crushing to those riding behind.

Now in 2014 he has a chance to show that he is the next great tour rider. Can he do it again?

“The Italian Hope”

vincenzo nibali

Vincenzo Nibali

He sat out of the 2013 Tour de France to pursue the giro d’Italia. A race which he won. He probably would have been Froome’s chief rival in the 2013 tour if he had participated. And now he’s back with a new team (he races 2012 Tour de France with Liquigas) and giving it another shot. A great all-rounder and hawkish descender he has several weapons that could be tough for others to tame. Will we see him use his classics strength as well as his stellar climbing ability to try to stay near the top… and launch a late attack in the final week of the tour?

My Time Speed Rally Pt.1

32 B Great Race

Auto Rally

 

“The Great Race” This was just a phrase to me a few years ago. I had heard about the great race, but I didn’t think much of it.. I thought “well it’s not real racing, it’s for old people, it’s not that exciting.” A time-speed rally, what does that even mean.. it can’t be that exciting…

 

Boy was I wrong!

 

In early May of 2010, my dad approached me and asked if I wanted to do a VCRA (Vintage Car Rally Association) event with him in Bowling Green Kentucky. The event was to take place in the final week of July. I could tell that he wanted to do it, and I thought it would be nice to spend some time together so I said, “Sure, I’ll do the race with you”

My dad told me that my job would be to navigate. He said I would be the one keeping us on course and monitoring the time. I still wasn’t exactly sure what was involved but from what I heard it seemed like something that I would enjoy doing.

 

Leading up to the event my dad was putting a lot of time in getting the car ready. We would be rallying in his bright red 32 Ford with a 4-cylinder model B engine. This car was technically built for a Great Race that took place in the 1980’s, long before we owned the car. From what we heard the owner didn’t like the car for the rallying and had another car built for the race the following year. We didn’t know anymore.. and honestly probably wouldn’t have understood, if someone had told us.

 

My Dad spent a lot of time reading the rules and the suggested pre-race check list. I was less involved,  kind of assuming, “how serious can this be? These people aren’t like athletes or anything.. It’ll prob just be like a car show. Of which, I have been to many. Probably nearly one hundred of them over my childhood.

 

We picked up one of the Timewise Speedometers that are necessary to read accurate speed, and we made the chart. The chart is the standard deceleration/ acceleration chart. On the road you, mark a static distance and then time yourself in your 0-30 mph acceleration, 0-50 mph, 0-10 mph and any increments you want (no less than 5 mph increments are necessary) and them the same with deceleration. We also met with a guy who had been a navigator on The Great Race before. He gave us a few pointers about how to read the instructions we would be given. So, we had a bit of knowledge going into this first rally. But still, I thought, its just for fun.. probably will be just like going to the NSRA nationals.

 

 

The Rally

 

The first day we had a technical inspection then a quick lecture on the do’s and don’ts of the rally. Then we were handed a thin set of instructions and headed out on the half day practice run.

We drove out of the parking lot and made our way to the beginning of the timed section. I’m flipping through instructions realizing that I can’t really make a mistake or we will get lost. Then we get to the 30mph sign that denotes the beginning of the timed section. OK.

Then, 15 seconds later, a stop sign.

“Oh, Shit!” I yell out and we completely botch the first stop sign.

 

After the half-day practice day was over, we assembled back in the lobby of Embassy Suites and Convention center in Bowling Green, KY. It was here that our scores would be posted for the days run. We were in our first time-speed precision rally of any kind and sat in the rookie class but still awaited anxiously to see where we placed.

There were free cocktails, chips and pretzels for the rallyers as we milled around and waited for the results.

Finally, after about 20 minutes, rally master John came into the room and posted two pieces of paper on the wall, they were the official results.

 

Dad and I walked over to the results and scanned down from the top to the bottom looking for our name; a practice I am most familiar with being a distance runner.

42nd place!

We sat second to last in the rookies and third to last over all. We had 48sec of cum error for the half day practice run.

The awe and confusion that I have felt since arriving to the rally 48 hours ago began to dissipate quickly. I think to myself “How did we finish so low? I know we are new but third to last? How did this happen?”

I sipped on coke in a melancholy state, I grabbed a bowl of pretzels and began to chew them down. The thoughts began to show themselves; How did we lose so much time? Was it the stop signs? The speed changes?

 

Im not having as much fun as I was having half and hour ago.

 

We need to fix this problem. My dad is milling around with the other rallyers, all more experienced, trying to get some advice for our obviously disillusioned tactics. After some questioning and answering back and fourth the consensus is… they don’t know. We seem to be doing everything correctly. Maybe a recalibration of our speedo is in order tomorrow. To me that doesn’t seem to account for 48 seconds worth of error.

 

The next morning I awake at 6:00 am. I wanted to get a few hours of work in before breakfast. I needed to find the problem. Speedo calibration can’t be all of it. It just can’t. I flipped open my sharpie-riddled sheet of instructions and began to pry through them.