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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”

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. 


Formula 1: Austin Podium


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.






Tour De France 2015: General Classification Preview

And in a flash, it’s that time of year again, the Tour De France is just around the corner. And this year we have a juicy line up.

Last year, the General Classification landscape was ravaged by injuries and was absent one of cycling’s brightest young stars. Nairo Quintana, who had been the only rider in sight of Froome on the climbs in the 2013 Tour, opted for the 2014 Giro d’Italia over the 2014 Tour de France. And the marquee matchup between Chris Froome and Alberto Contador never materialized as both crashed out early in the Tour. All of this was no fault of Vincenzo Nibali who took the opportunity to emerge as a top class Grand Tour rider and left the rest of the field far behind, adding his name to the once in a decade group of top tier riders that will do battle this July.

Between them they have 12 Grand Tour Victories! and a hand full of additional podiums; it is perhaps the most accomplished short list of contenders that has ever been assembled at the Tour de France.  The riders are:

Chris Froome:

Chris Froome


Age: 30

Grand Tour Accomplishments: Winner 2013 Tour de France

Chris Froome was the class of the field in the 2013 Tour de France gaining time on his rivals in both the individual time trials and the high mountain stages. Froome is many people’s pick to win this year’s Tour and for good reason. He was the odds on favorite in the 2014 Tour before he crashed out AND he is surrounded by perhaps the strongest team in the race. The strength of his team will not only help to support him throughout the tours stages and peril, but will also provide a quantifiable benefit in the team time trial (TTT). An event that is included once again in this year’s race.

Look for Team Sky to be all hands on deck during the Stage 9 TTT to try to squeeze out a slight advantage for Froome over his rivals. And for Froome to establish himself as the best time trialist of the contenders.

Alberto Contador:

Alberto Contador

Age: 32

Grand Tour Accomplishments: Winner 2007 & 09 Tour De France; Winner 2008, 2015 Giro D’Italia; Winner 2008, 2012, 2014 Vuelta a Espana

The oldest and by far the most accomplished rider of the group. Contador began his dominant Grand Tour run in 2007 a year in which he won the race after Rabobank’s Michael Rasmussen was sent home. Contador then received his own potential knock on Tour de France victory count when his team, Astana, was banned from the Tour De France in 2008 for past doping violations. Violations that didn’t involve Contador or then current management. After the ban, he was back in 2009 to battle his own teammate Lance Armstrong as well as strong Schleck Brothers, a battle which he won, garnering his second Tour de France win.

Contador is nearing the end of his prime and his could be his last chance at a Tour de France victory. A feat made even more difficult by the stiff competition and the fact that he is coming off a Giro D’Italia victory. A strong Giro performance is usually and indication that the rider will be unable to successfully peak twice with such a short turnaround between the two events. The last rider to accomplish the Giro- Tour double was Marco Pantani in 1998.

Contador is a crafty, experienced rider with explosive uphill speed. Look for him to use those skills to stay close or gain time on his rivals. The real barometer of his ability to win the Tour will come in the race of truth, the individual time trial. If he can limit his loses to a rider like Froome in the ITT, look for Contador to be a handful in the mountains of the Tour.

Vincenzo Nibali:

Vincenzo in yellow 2014

Age: 30

Grand Tour Accomplishments: Winner 2014 Tour de France; Winner 2013 Giro D’Italia; Winner 2010 Vuelta a Espana

As mentioned before, the 2014 Tour de France was all Nibali’s. He won the race by over seven and a half minutes. Part of that margin was the absence of Froome and Contador, surely, but part of it was Nibali’s improvement in the individual time trial. His improvement there has made him a top tier all-around Grand Tour rider.

Another thing in the favor of Nibali, is that, like Froome, he will have a very strong team for the team trial.

Look for Nibali to try to gain time over his rivals in the TTT and to attack in the mountains.

Nairo Quintana:

nairo quintana

Age: 25

Grand Tour Accomplishments: 2nd place 2013 Tour De France; Winner 2014 Giro D’Italia

At just twenty five years of age, Quintana has speed and accomplishments beyond his age. In the 2013 Tour de France, he was the only rider that could stay near Froome on the long uphill finishes. In 2014, he opted to skip the Tour De France in order to focus on the Giro d’Italia, a race he won handily. Now in 2015 he is back and not as young as the time before. His major weakness compared to his rivals is the time trial.

Look for Quintana to try to limit his loses in the time trials and attack relentlessly in the mountains.

Orlando City Vs Houston Dynamo Preview

MLS Match Preview 




Houston Dynamo VS. Orlando City FC

Time: 6PM CT

Place: BBVA Compass Stadium


Week 2 in Major League Soccer kicks off on Thursday with Orlando facing its first road test.

Historically Houston has been a tough place to earn 3 points, but before the summer heat sets on Houston, Orlando will have their sight set on a win.


Houston started their season off with a surprise win over Columbus. Still, the goal was well deserved; a clinical finish from Giles Barnes, after a beautiful, penetrating run down the right-wing from Kofi Sarkodie. Houston absorbed multiple attacks from Columbus, and found themselves defending the majority of the game.

barnes goal


The brightest spot on the field that night was dynamo keeper Tyler Deric, who had 6 saves and caught 7 crosses as well. Houston was outshot 8-18, and Deric had to lay out to save a couple.

This isnt the first time a relatively unknown has had a breakout preformance in goal, but he certainly will need to maintain his form while this dynamo defense learns to protect the net more.


In attack, when the dynamo did get a chance, they seemed to attack with purpose, and ultimately walked away with a quality 3 points because of it.


For Orlando, this Houston match may almost feel like an afterthought after months of buildup for the inaugural match against New York City FC last week. Orlando was able to save the draw, after a deflected Kaka free kick rolled into the net. The most viewed match of the weekend, with the highest attendance, the energy was electric, and Orlando seemed to come out guns blazing.


By halftime, with the score 0-0, Orlando had to have felt disappointed, They dominated nearly every aspect of the game, and NYCFC looked lifeless. It only took a 15 minute span of good soccer from NYCFC to take the lead after a Mix Diskerud wonderstrike. Until the dying embers of the match, it looked like a devastating result for Orlando, that feeling was even stronger once Aurelian Collin received a red card for an unnecessary challenge on David Villa. Until fortune favored the deflection, and Kaka was able to celebrate with 60,000 strong.



This weekend, don’t expect houston to change too much. Columbus may have presented a larger offensive threat than Orlando did, so we may see Houston come out with a similar game plan to last weekend, and try to exploit an Orlando defense that will be without Collin.

Houston should look the same offensively. Giles Barnes will be looking to add to his tally and will be slotted alongside Will Bruin. With Ricardo Clark and Brad Davis highlighting the Dynamo midfield, they won’t be looking to sit back all game, look for attacks forward, down the wing, and dangerous set pieces from the hosts.


Orlando will undoubtedly try and take it to Houston as the away side. The area we will see some shuffling is at center back. With Collin out, look for Sean St. Ledger to take his place. This will be an important player to watch, as he may end up slotting in next to Collin when he returns. Brek Shea will continue flying up the left side, and will surely be looking to take on Sarkodie in what will be an interesting wing battle on the same side of the field. Whoever can shut down the other defensively will have an upper hand on the outside.


There still are questions as to where Orlando Cities goals are really going to come from. Obviously, with someone like Kaka spearheading the attack, he will be the primary focus for Houston’s defense. Carlos Rivas may be a little more raw than Orlando fans would have hoped. The pacey forward was able to run at NYCFCs back line, but was caught offsides 5 times, and wasn’t able to land a shot on target. Expect Bryan Rochez to get more time in this game, as either a starter or coming on a bit earlier as a sub. If Orlando is going to produce goals this match, the most likely culprits will be Kaka and Kevin Molino, who both had a great showing .




With Houston taking 3 points they may not have gotten if they didn’t catch Columbus at the beginning of the season, they may be content to try and sit back again, and counter a team that may pile on the pressure. Look for Orlando to be as aggressive if not more than they were against NYCFC, and to try different build up play going forward. This time, they won’t be as unlucky. I see Orlando taking it to Houston at home.


Final Score

2-0 Orlando City

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.

Daily Athlete on the Rise: Miralem Pjanic

pjanic pic

The position in football that always seems to be oozing with young and upcoming talent is central midfield. Miralem Pjanic may be leading the bunch. Pjanic, a Bosnia and Herzegovina international, is getting ready to suit up for his fourth season at A.S. Roma.

Miralem Pjanic was brought up through the youth program of FC Metz, a french side, and found himself playing for the defending champions, Olympique Lyonnias, in 2008. He even represented this club the following year in the Champions League semi-final. He was an electrifying prospect even then, boasting a wonderful repertoire of passes, and one of the best players with the ball at his feet.

In 2011, Pjanic found himself at A.S. Roma, and his ability really started to show. He became a much more versatile defender, playing many positions through the midfield for the Italian side. His reputation has grown to that of an elite player in Serie A. Roma took notice, and signed him through 2018 this offseason. Look for Miralem Pjanic to rise to the top of Serie A this season. We may even be talking a move to a premier club in europe when all is said and done.

pjanic gif

Daily Athlete on the Rise: Rory Mcilroy

Wells Fargo Championship - Round One
It may seem that an athlete with three major victories and a world ranking of No.1 would be considered ‘on the rise’ and not ‘there.’ But when you rewind to WGC Bridgestone 2007, it is apparent there is still room for him to rise.

WGC Bridgestone from 2007: a dominant Tiger Woods. The large crowds followed him around the course. Aerial shots showed large portions of the course nearly empty and a massive crowd around Tiger’s putting green. Several stewards tagged along with Tiger taking cell phones if necessary and signaling to the crowd when they were to be quite and when they could cheer… And when they could cheer, they did cheer; wildly. Tiger blasted past Formula legend Michael Schumacher’s annual earnings record for an athlete. Pushing that number form $84 million to over $100 million. No athlete has a career earnings greater than Tiger… In any sport.  And there still exist many, many casual golf fans who only tune in if Tiger is in contention.

Now, Mcilroy joins Tiger and Jack Nichlaus as the only golfers to have three major championship victories by the time they were 25. The newscasters are starting to say ‘Tiger and Rory,’ ‘Rory and Tiger.’ They are both Nike athletes, and the shoemaker has realized that they are becoming the two biggest names in golf, running commercial campaigns starring both. And now with Tiger’s fortunes seemingly to deteriorate at a consistency and seriousness that suggests we may never see him at his beast again, can Rory take over? There may never be another Tiger, but can Rory bring the casual fans back, and put the big corporate dollars front and center? That remains to be seen but with his 2014 Bridgestone victory Rory Mcilroy is certainly and athlete on the rise.


Daily Athlete on the Rise: Peter Sagan

Stage winner, Slovakia's Peter Sagan (C)

‘The Hulk’ Peter Sagan once again dominated the Green jersey competition at this year’s Tour de France. He was frustratingly consistent not winning a single stage but, finishing in the top five on the first seven stages! His team surely had holes in it, but he also seemed to mistime his sprints, seemingly leaving the all-out assault too late.

But he also has the ‘Hulk’ strength to climb hills and small mountains that are too tough for the other sprint contenders to stay in the front of the peloton. This strength allows him to take points on stages that most sprinters would consider to be stages for the climbers or all-arounders. It also allows him to do a sprint for intermediate sprint marks… Making him nearly impossible to beat in the points competition. He has a change to go on win this Green Jersey for another five years.

He’s only 24 and with a huge personality…

peter sagan butt pinch

What will the future bring? All I can say is I can’t wait.. No Matter what team he is on next year? Cannondale-Tinkoff?

Oh he can do wheelies too…

peter sagan wheelie 2



2014 Vuelta a Espana Contenders

joaquim rodriguez

Joaquim Rodriguez

‘El Purito’ at 35 yrs old he’s no youngster. But he has done some of the best riding of his career over the past few years. Twice third in this race, look for him to have a strong showing following an impressive second half to the Tour de France

Chris Froome

chris froome
After crashing out of the this year’s Tour de France on Stage 5. Froome has had some time recover and train in California. Look for a rider of his caliber to rebound well in the Vuelta.

Nairo Quintana

nairo quintana
This 2014 Giro d’Italia winner sat out of this year’s Tour de France; a race where he surely would have been an overall favorite. Known for being the best pure climber in the peloton look for him to dish out the pain in the mountains.

Frank Schleck 

frank schleck
Nearing the end of his career the 34 year old had a stellar 2014 Tour de France. As Trek factory racing is rumored to be looking for new leaders in 2015, it may Frank’s last chance to show that he can still make it to the podium of a grand tour. Look for him to race like it.

Chris Horner

chris horner
At 42 years of age! Chris Horner comes into the race as defending champion. And after showing signs of fitness late in this Tour de France, it’s safe to say that his early season crash wounds are healed up. Look for him to chug eight cokes a stage and attack in the mountains.