"Roughing the Passer - A PK Frazier Novel"

My new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" is the follow-up to "Illegal Procedure" and "Roughing the Passer" and is now available in print and in e-formats at amazon.com, smashwords.com and iBooks. Follow me on twitter @kevinkrest.

Friday, December 30, 2016

PLAYOFF FOR COLLEGE FOOTBALL GROUP OF FIVE? I DON'T THINK SO

There were reports this week by ESPN and others that the Group of Five college football schools were contemplating staging their own playoff. The reason is that the American, Conference USA, Sun Belt, Mid-American and Mountain West conferences, along with a handful of independents, including Army and BYU, don't believe they'll ever get a fair shot at making the college football playoffs in their current format. We need to look no further than undefeated Western Michigan out of the MAC, who despite defeating two Big Ten teams, couldn't even crack the top ten in the final CFP rankings. Currently, the highest ranked Group of Five conference champion gets a bid to one of the New Year's Day bowls. The last two seasons, the representative from that group has defeated a Power Five team. It's still difficult, however, to use that as justification for inclusion in the playoff. With only four teams qualifying, there's really no way for a Group of Five team to justify getting there, primarily because of the weakness of their conference schedules. Houston, had they remained undefeated this season, might have had about as good a case as anyone in recent memory, with big wins over Oklahoma and Louisville. But losses to Navy, SMU and Memphis illustrated just how far a team like that needs to climb to have a legitimate shot.

While an eight-team Group of Five playoff might seem compelling, it would in effect be creating a new classification within college football. What would it be called? Perhaps the FNGEFTPS, for the Football Not Good Enough For The Playoff Subdivision. Or how about the FOLIS for the Football Outside Looking In Subdivision? In all seriousness, I believe a more likely and realistic approach is simply to expand the current Power Five FBS conferences to include more schools that are serious about their football programs. Schools such as the aforementioned Houston, BYU (the last non-Power Five national champion in 1984), South Florida and East Carolina come to mind. If Rutgers can continually stink up the Big Ten, it's easy to make a case for some expansion, especially by the Big 12, which currently has only ten schools. Another change that should be made, especially since football tends to fund entire athletic programs, is to create football only conferences that don't necessarily impact other sports. One of the issues with expanding the Big 12 is that it makes it very expensive for non-revenue sports teams to travel to far flung conference opponents. The old Big East, which included Virginia Tech, Miami, Syracuse and West Virginia, among others, was an early example of that concept, which might make sense to revisit going forward.

Another approach would be for the NCAA, or another group, to actually develop guidelines and conferences that would more effectively level the playing field (no pun intended) when it comes to scheduling, number of conference games, etc. that currently makes it difficult to adequately compare teams. Some teams had ridiculously bad out of conference schedules. Boston College became bowl eligible with a six win season primarily because they played UMass, Wagner, Buffalo and UConn. Really? What were they playing for, the New England High School championship? Or how about Washington, who made the playoffs by defeating Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State to start the season. I understand the rationale to play a lower subdivision team that can spread the wealth a little bit, but when Oklahoma opened the season with games against Houston and Ohio State and then runs the table in the Big 12 and gets left out of the playoff seems a bit unfair to me. I believe every Power Five team should have to schedule at least one non-conference game with another Power Five team.

I've digressed a bit from the Group of Five playoff discussion, but all of these governance issues actually are related. What if Houston had gone undefeated this season? Is that accomplishment any less significant than Washington playing a bunch of patsies in the non-conference and failing to run the table in the Pac-12? So my solution is actually three-fold,  because I also believe the playoffs should be expanded to at least six teams, which would allow for all Power Five conference champions a spot, along with an at large team that could include another Power Five team or the occasional Group of Five team that has a particularly strong season. So in summary, I think the Power Five conferences should expand (or add a football only conference), there should be more uniformity in scheduling and the playoffs should add at least two more teams. Would that solve all the flaws in the system? Probably not, but it would help get closer to an ideal system.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Wednesday, December 21, 2016

NFL-BOUND COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYERS SITTING OUT BOWL GAMES: OKAY OR NOT?

As an increasing number of potential professional football players are choosing to sit out their teams' bowl games, the question has arisen about whether the practice is acceptable. I'll cut to the chase here and state that "of course it is". Last season, the promising career of Notre Dame's All-American linebacker Jaylon Smith took a serious hit when he suffered a nasty knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State that sent his draft stock plummeting, and with it, a significant amount of potential income. To listen to some analysts, the trend could kill college football and result in a plethora of players opting to stay on the sidelines for their team's bowl game. First of all, let's take a look at the numbers. There are currently 128 FBS teams, with 85 scholarship players on each team. That's a total of 10,880, and it doesn't count any FCS or Division II schools. So if we assume roughly 25% of them are eligible for the draft in any one season, that's 2,720. Thirty-two teams have seven draft picks, totaling 224, meaning that roughly 8% of eligible players will get drafted, and once again, that only includes FBS totals. So my point is that the numbers alone indicate that very few players, realistically no more than a couple per school, would be in a position to benefit from sitting out the bowl game, especially if a good performance could enhance their draft position. Many of these players are looking to take time to prepare for the combine as well, so an additional month of preparation could definitely help. If they're fourth or fifth year players, they will have more than earned their scholarship and helped their team on the field. Besides, many programs would prefer to use the bowl game to prepare for the following season, and having players in the lineup that won't be there doesn't necessarily make a lot of sense.

In the BCS era, preseason rankings were very important because they were used to determine the two best teams. But with a committee that doesn't even meet until mid-season, winning a bowl game to position themselves for the following season's polls isn't necessary. It's probably more important to get practice and game time for the replacements for the departing players, especially for units like the offensive line that thrive on cohesiveness and consistency. Some schools even go as far to excuse seniors from some of the early practices in order to concentrate on the future. Do you believe most schools, especially the ones that are in the lower payout range, want a bowl bid for the money or publicity? Probably not, as many don't have much money left over after paying for transportation, food and lodging for the players, coaches and other staff members. The driving factor is to get those extra 15 practices to get a head start for the following season.

Another key point is that while there seems to be some level of controversy over the student - athletes' decisions to sit out a game, no one seems to be critical of the coaches that take a job at another school between the end of the season and the bowl games. Last season, Justin Fuente of Memphis State committed to the head coaching job at Virginia Tech, while Tom Herman at Houston did the same with Texas this year. I've heard very little criticism of them, while you would think Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffery committed some type of mortal sin. I don't see it as a big deal either way, it's just the way the sport and business works. Besides, I believe there a lot more important issues facing the world than whether current millionaires switch jobs or future ones decide to skip a bowl game.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Thursday, December 15, 2016

A TRIBUTE TO CRAIG SAGER

The NBA reported earlier today that Craig Sager, longtime sports analyst, most notably for Turner Sports'  NBA coverage, has died of leukemia. Sager had been valiantly battling the disease over the past couple of years. His death is of particular interest to me, as my father died of the same disease a little over twenty-two years ago. I was very moved at the news and wish the Sager family my condolences and peace in dealing with their loss.

What was inspirational about Craig Sager during this time was how publicly hopeful and upbeat he was. Despite the grim prognoses and multiple setbacks, he continued to return to the air in his signature colorful sport coats, his preparation and professionalism never wavering. In a Yahoo! article that I've provided a link to below, he demonstrated an immense faith and thankfulness by his words and actions. As a Christian myself, it is truly inspirational to hear someone going through the battle of a terminal disease talk about how they are uplifted by the experience and made more aware of the value of living every day to the fullest.

Just like Jim Valvano twenty three years ago, Craig Sager's was a message of perseverance, grit and inspiration in the face of adversity. As a sports fan, commentator and analyst, my wish is that those involved in athletics, whether it be high school, college or the professional ranks, look at someone like Craig Sager and gain perspective about their place in the entire scheme of human endeavor. While Sager wasn't playing between the lines, he certainly was part of the industry that brings the games to life during broadcasts. What's really important, lasting and eternal? Is it that tantrum that's thrown over a questionable call at a crucial time? How about accepting a playbook from an opposing team's radio analyst? Or maybe it's resting players when kids in an opposing city waited months to see the best in the game compete against your team?

No, I can truly say none of those things is eternal. They last about as long as it takes for the next petty and childish act to get blown out of proportion by a media that's all too willing to dramatize the insignificant instead of praising the multitude of gracious and unselfish acts taking place right in front of them. Craig Sager represented a lot of what was and is good in sports specifically, and in people in general. His presence will surely be missed, but the courage he demonstrated and feelings he inspired will persist forever.

Read more about Sager's battle at Yahoo! Sports https://www.yahoo.com/sports/news/longtime-nba-broadcaster-craig-sager-dies-at-65-after-battle-with-cancer-202559560.html

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Wednesday, December 7, 2016

TIGER WOODS: STILL MOVING THE RATINGS NEEDLE

In a tournament with only 18 players and no official money or FedEx Cup points on the line, Time Inc. reported that Tiger Woods' return to competitive golf resulted in the highest opening round television ratings since the British Open in July, excluding the Ryder Cup. Thursday's ratings were 190% higher than last year's and Friday's increased by over 200% over 2015. The higher ratings continued over the weekend, despite Woods falling from contention. For anyone that thinks the 40 year-old former world number one is no longer relevant, those numbers should speak for themselves. Those increases literally mean that Tiger, by himself, can outdraw the rest of the field, one that included Jordan Spieth, U.S. Open champ Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, red hot Hidecki Matsuyama, PGA champion Jimmy Walker and Ricky Fowler, among others. Those ratings are staggering in light of Tiger's 15 month absence from the PGA Tour. And from what I saw of his play, there was nothing other than a little rust and some fatigue by Sunday that indicated he isn't fully ready to compete for tournaments and majors in 2017. Sure, he struggled to a 4-over 76 on Sunday, but he still led the field in birdies for the week, undone by just a few errant shots that resulted in double bogeys.

With the two biggest draws in American golf in their forties, I guess it's both refreshing that 46 year-old Phil Mickelson and Woods are still energizing fans. However, it's also a bit distressing that despite great young stars in the game, it takes those older guys to be in the hunt to generate significant viewership. Perhaps, and I haven't really heard this point of view, although it might have been expressed, we have too many great, young players. Besides the ones I mentioned above, you can add Rory McIlroy and Jason Day to the list. Is it better television when you have just a small handful of players capable of capturing majors and captivating audiences? Arnold Palmer, who we sadly lost earlier this year, was singularly mesmerizing, especially when he was battling the few players that were competing at the top of leaderboard, like Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Billy Casper. In the late 60's and early 70's we saw Nicklaus emerge, taking on Tom Weiskopf, Johnny Miller and of course Tom Watson and Lee Trevino. Tiger's run from 1997 to 2008 will always be one of the most dominant in golf, or any individual sport, for that matter. Interest in golf skyrocketed, ratings were at all time highs and sponsorship money poured in, creating mammoth purses on the PGA Tour.

The recent Ryder Cup, despite some fan issues and the lack of Tiger Woods, at least as a player, generated a lot of interest. That's probably due more to the format and nationalism, so it will be interesting to see if it translates to ratings and attendance increases on the PGA Tour.  But back to Tiger and his prospects for 2017. I've previously written that a lot will depend on his health, and from what he showed in the Bahamas, that doesn't appear to be an issue at the moment. His swing was impressive, but clearly a little slower and slightly less violent than previous versions. The most impressive aspect of his game was his distance control, something that has always set him apart, and what he had struggled with the last couple of years that he was somewhat active on tour. One reason he made so many birdies, 24 over four rounds, was that he left himself makeable birdie putts. The other reason was that he made the putts.

Can Tiger win again on tour? Absolutely. Will he win another major? From what I saw this week, and if he stays healthy, I don't see any reason why he can't contend, and if he can contend, he can win. He might have finished 15th out of 18 golfers this past weekend, but when you look beyond the scores, there was a lot to like and look forward to.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




Tuesday, December 6, 2016

COLEGE FOOTBALL: WHAT'S IN A BOWL GAME NAME?

It's no secret that the college football bowl games are nothing more than programming content for the ESPN family of networks, with a game or two thrown in for Fox and CBS. With 41 games and 82 teams (not counting the national championship game), it's a pretty watered down field of contests. It isn't surprising that the sponsors and the names of the games have gone far beyond  the Rose, Sugar, Orange, Cotton, Fiesta, Peach, Gator, Liberty and Sun, the bowls that started all of this needless frenzy to get into the postseason. There are 128 teams in the FBS, so 64% of them will get to play in a bowl. Really? How does that happen? Most will be played in front of sparse crowds in cold stadiums with very little interest in the outcome, except for those crazy sports addicts that will take the time to enter a bowl pool or bet on meaningless games. Sure, there are the BIG games, like the Rose with Penn State traveling to play USC in UCLA's home stadium, or Auburn taking on an Oklahoma team in the Sugar bowl, with the Sooners looking to let everyone know they should have been in the playoffs, and Michigan playing Florida State in the Orange Bowl, an odd matchup considering the 'Noles were generally thought to be the third best team in the ACC Atlantic for most of the season. Oh wait, Michigan finished third in the Big Ten East. Nevermind!

It all kicks off on December 17, with something called the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl. Are we supposed to be reserved in our celebration? That's a pretty difficult task given the energy displayed by Grambling's entertaining marching band. Or later that day, Camping World Stadium is the site for the AutoNation Cure Bowl, and then the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28, and finally the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl on New Years Eve. Will people be sleeping in tents in the parking lot until their cars somehow get cured of whatever ails them by the AutoNation? Is that something out of a Cars movie? Or will there be more outdoors lovers at the Camping World Independence Bowl, formerly the Poulan-Weedeater Bowl, the Sanford Bowl, the Mainstay bowl, the PetroSun Bowl, the AdvoCare V100 Bowl and the Duck Commander Bowl. A couple of days later, we get treated to the Miami Beach Bowl, not to be confused with a Miami Beach ball, however it is a bit odd to play a football game in the Marlins' baseball stadium. My biggest disappointment is that they chose not to make the the Famous Idaho Potato and Popeyes Bahamas Bowls a double header, because fried chicken and french fries go together like, well, the aforementioned Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl and the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl (but without the fries).

If you can somehow watch, in succession, on Dec. 30, the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl and the Capital One Orange Bowl without taking a significant hit to your credit rating, then you deserve that cash back credit card and a new house payment. Leading up to that trio, the AutoZone Liberty Bowl will remind you how many new parts your old car needs, after which the Hyundai Sun Bowl will show you how nice it is to have a shiny new one, which brings us back to getting all the advice you need on where to get the money to pay for it. Thank goodness you had the foresight to tune into the Dollar General Bowl earlier in the week, so it's possible to pay less for everything else, even if it's stacked to the ceiling or kept outside on the sidewalk.

If you'd rather watch what I call the Steve Miller bowls (okay, it's an obscure reference to his Rockin' Me tune), check out the Las Vegas, Miami Beach, Boca Raton, Hawaii, St. Petersburg and Birmingham Bowls. If you decide to take the trip to see the games in person, then Motel 6 is your place to stay, as they have what must be the greatest bowl tie-in of all time for a hotel chain: The Cactus Bowl in Phoenix. Seriously, I can't make this stuff up.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.




 




Thursday, December 1, 2016

THURSDAY THOUGHTS: COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL'S LABOR DEAL, SI RECOGNIZES LEBRON JAMES

Are We Looking at Three Big Ten Teams? Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Washington currently sit atop the college football playoff rankings, and deservedly so. Should the three teams in action this weekend win their conference championship games, it would make sense that there will be little change in the final ranking. No problem when it comes to Alabama, Clemson and Washington, which will all be conference titlists in that scenario. But Ohio State, losers to Penn State, didn't even win the Big Ten East. The committee has placed an emphasis on a conference championship as a selection criteria, but clearly indicate the intention to include the Buckeyes anyway. Don't get me wrong, I agree with their inclusion, especially with wins over Tulsa, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan. Their only blemish was a fourth quarter letdown against Penn State, which is the source of whatever controversy exists. If Penn State soundly defeats Wisconsin in the same fashion Ohio State did two years ago, can the Nittany Lions make a case to be the Big Ten representative in the playoffs, especially with their head to head win over the Buckeyes? Apparently not in the eyes of the committee, who have Penn State down in the seventh position, behind Wisconsin at six and Michigan at five, potentially creating a situation where the two teams that finished behind Penn State in the Big Ten East both advance to the playoff. I happen to believe that Wisconsin and Penn State were placed behind the Wolverines because the committee was well aware that only one of those teams can win this weekend and intend to move the winner ahead of Michigan, despite head to head losses for both of them. Or the committee has already determined that the winner, because of that loss to Michigan, and in Penn State's case, in a blowout, trumps the championship criteria in this very special case. But unless Washington or Clemson lose, it really doesn't matter.  Now let's look at the chances of a loss by one of the top four. Washington, with the exception of their loss to USC, was dominant for much of the season. However, a Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State non-conference slate puts the Huskies in a precarious situation. A close win against Colorado coupled with an impressive win by the Big Ten champ could move them out of the top four. Of course a loss and Washington is out. Given the Buffaloes stingy defense, it's a very real possibility. Moving on to Clemson, it's hard to see them surviving a loss to 23rd ranked Virginia Tech. Despite a good schedule that includes two wins over SEC teams, plus close victories over division challengers Louisville and Florida State, the Tigers have looked a bit uneven at times and a second loss would solidify that impression with the committee. Can it happen? The Hokies have outscored their opposition 72 - 17 since trailing Notre Dame by ten at the half in their next to last game. New coach Justin Fuente was named his conference's top coach this week and Tech really has nothing to lose in this game. So of course it can happen. But for the Hokies to pull the upset (they're currently ten point underdogs), they'll need to protect the football and keep Clemson from making some big early plays. Tech can't afford to get down by 17 to the Tigers the way they did to Notre Dame. Pittsburgh showed that Clemson is vulnerable late, so if the Hokies can keep it close into the fourth quarter, the committee might be looking at a chaotic situation. Finally, in a game no one seems to be talking about, Alabama will try to stay undefeated against a Florida team that really only played three potent offenses all season, and lost all three games by giving up more than thirty points to Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida State. I see Alabama as just a grown up version of the Gators, and even with a loss, the Tide is probably a lock for the playoffs. As far as I'm concerned, we need to get to a six or eight team field, which would probably allow for a team like USC to squeak in, but that's the subject for another day. For now, the committee has to chose the top four, and if the past is any indication, it won't be all that easy.

No Baseball Strike: It's pretty obvious that when Rob Manfred took over the Major League Baseball Commissioner reigns from Bud Selig a couple of years ago, that labor peace was at the top of his agenda. In one of the quietest transitions from one labor agreement to another, there were very few substantive changes to the agreement that was set to expire Wednesday at midnight. From the fans' perspective, the biggest change will be that the team with the better record will have home field advantage in the World Series, replacing the over decade-old practice of rewarding that to the league that wins the All Star Game. I applaud the move, particularly with the advent of interleague play, which makes the schedules more comparable. In addition, the season will include four additional off-days, which hopefully will increase the quality of play down the stretch. I would like to have seen a cut in the number of games, but that's a hard sell to owners who don't want to give up that revenue. It's now been 21 years since baseball experienced a work stoppage, and after what was arguably the most captivation World Series in generation, baseball really couldn't have afforded the step back a strike would have risked. I applaud Manfred, the owners and the players' association in recognizing that they have a good thing going and that there is plenty of money to go around.

Sports Illustrated Names Lebron James Sportsperson of the Year: Anyone that reads this blog on a regular basis knows that I have a lot of respect for Cleveland Cavaliers forward and superstar Lebron James. I've never understood the petty hatred for a guy that has pretty much done nothing but put teams on his back since he entered the league at the age of eighteen. Seven NBA Finals appearances and three titles speak for themselves. Now the premier weekly sports magazine has  recognized his accomplishments, and he's completely deserving of the honor. The story that accompanied the announcement at http://www.si.com/sportsperson/2016/12/01/lebron-james-sportsperson-of-the-year-sports-illustrated/?xid=nl_siextra is poignant in the way it gives us a glimpse into what drives Lebron James and portrays him in a balanced, yet favorable light. All I can say is for all of the Lebron haters, after reading the article, and you should definitely take the time to do so, it will be a bit harder to keep that hatred alive.

Don't forget to check out my new book, "Offsetting Penalties - A PK Frazier Novel" at  Amazon.com and listen to me Friday's at 8:40 am EDT/ 7:40 am CDT on Lou in the Morning, streaming live on www.WPFLradio.com, 105.1 FM. I can also be reached via email at kevin@pkfrazier.com.