Alabama’s revenues outpaced expenses to net a $13.9 million in profit. That includes the $5.2 million that the university contributed to the athletics budget. Only seven schools operated without a subsidy from their respective universities including Texas and Ohio State.
ALL ABOARD THE J-TRAIN TO OKC: Considering the gap that exists between ace Jackie Traina and the rest of the Alabama pitching staff, Amanda Locke's stellar performance in the circle in the Crimson Tide's 10-1 win over Florida in the SEC Tournament championship game Saturday was encouraging to say the least. But can skipper Patrick Murphy count on that kind of effort from his No. 2 against elite competition in the postseason? Beyond UA's regional opener against Tennessee-Martin on Friday night, probably not. For the Crimson Tide to win the SEC's first national championship in softball, Traina will need to do something Texas' Cat Osterman and Tennessee's Monica Abbott could not: pitch her team to Super Regional AND Women's College World Series titles. Traina, the 2012 SEC Pitcher of the Year, may not be as talented as Osterman or Abbott, but her competitive spirit is unsurpassed. More so than the physical demands that come with the load she'll be asked to take on, Traina's mental toughness will be on full display over the next few weeks. Based on what we've seen to date, the sophomore has that part of the job covered.
The new No. 1 is starting to look a lot like the old No. 1. Kayla Braud, who hits atop the University of Alabama's batting order and wears a No. 1 jersey that reinforces the spot, came into collegiate softball with a national-record 103-game hitting streak. She batted .505 as a freshman and .436 last year as a sophomore and was cruising along with a .500 batting average 14 games into this season. After that, her production steadily fell, with 12 hitless games and just 10 multihit games over the next 33 contests. Her average fell as low as .347, a number most hitters would covet. For Braud, it felt like a disaster. "I've never struggled, but it was a really good opportunity for me to put in the extra work and be a better player than I was before," the Eugene, Ore., native said.
In short: relegation is the stick to the carrot of promotion between hierarchical leagues. In the English Premier League, you've got 20 spots in the lifeboat. Three of those seats are ejector seats and will be reserved for the three teams caught at the bottom each year. Those three teams will be replaced by three others fit enough to climb into the boat and try their luck in one of the world's most profitable game of musical chairs, and thus reap the carrot end of the bargain: EPL revenues. This is determined mostly -- but not solely -- by the team's performance on the field. EPL fans will now bore the living daylights out of you by explaining the arcana of soccer politics to you, but the general thrust is this: the system does a lot to protect the big four and little to ensure the upward mobility of teams like the lowly Blackpools and Wolverhamptons of the world. Then you, as an American, can giggle at an Englishman being shocked at a system favoring a hereditary aristocracy and rev off in a donked-up pickup truck while blasting "Proud To Be An American." If you happen to be a college football fan, you cannot do this too hard, though. This phenomenon already reigns in our fair sport, a tilted playing field of 20 or so aristocrats passing national titles and conference titles around. The last true surprise in the national championship picture came in 1990 when Georgia Tech and Colorado split a title. Since then, the national title and subsequent BCS titles have been shared between 14 teams, and none of them a surprise in the least in terms of money spent on football, talent available or national name recognition.
One of the loudest arguments from major college playoff opponents contends, once you start down that road, you can't stop. You may start with a four-team playoff, but that'll be nothing more than a starting point for a format that's sure to grow over time. It's hard to argue with that logic. Playoffs are like the waistlines of former linemen once they retire. They're far more likely to expand than remain constant or contract. The FCS playoff is a perfect example. According to the NCAA, it started with four teams in 1978 and quickly grew to eight teams in 1981 and 12 in 1982. From there, it expanded to 16 teams in 1986 and 20 teams in 2010. The current format issues 10 automatic bids to conference champions and 10 at-large bids as determined by the Division I Football Championship Committee.
"He is exceptionally strong, he’s instinctive, he makes plays in a great conference, the SEC, and he’s wired the way that, I believe, Chuck (Pagano) wants a nose tackle to be wired and play in terms of his strength, his natural leverage and the way he plays the game," Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson said following the draft. "We have high expectations for him."
"He plays with a sense of nastiness about him," Newsome said with a smile. "At some point, our players got to win the one-on-one battles and he wins the one-on-one battles when he's up against tackles or tight ends. He can win that one-on-one battle like Ngata can, like Suggs can, and eventually it's going to come down to you vs. him. We want more guys that can win more of the battles." Upshaw wanted to go to the Ravens, and he prayed about it after he was bypassed in the first round. When No. 35 came, his ecstasy was obvious. He can play the same position he played in college in a similar scheme. Upshaw is a physical player, and he joins a team full of them. He's soft-spoken, but a heavy hitter on the field.
"Just look at him," said quarterback Brandon Weeden, whom the Browns drafted 22nd overall. "Whatever he is – 5-10, 275 pounds and he’s 2 percent body fat – he’s a freak. He’s got a special ability when the ball’s in his hands. You can tell when you hand it to him, he takes it from you. He runs hard, and I’m really anxious to see him when he puts the pads on."
The Alabama Crimson Tide already hold a commitment from the top-rated inside linebacker in the nation in Auburn High School star Reuben Foster, and now the Tide may be close to landing a pledge from the top outside linebacker in the nation as well. Miami-native Matthew Thomas, rated by ESPN as the nation's top outside linebacker, told 247Sports that he will choose between five finalists, with the Crimson Tide currently in the lead. "I can say Alabama is my leader then Miami, Florida State, Florida and then Georgia," Thomas said.
That’s the title, and it’s by me. It will be available in paperback and eBook (Kindle, as well as hopefully Nook and iTunes/iBooks) sometime next week, but you can order a paperback copy today, here. Loyal readers may use the coupon code "KD3MBZGV" for a discount; the code will expire once the title has formally launched next week. At that time I will post additional details on the book and my process in putting it together, but it is a collection of pieces, roughly two-thirds of which consist of older works that have been expanded and professionally edited, and another one-third of which are new.
Forget about money for a moment. Forget about brands and television markets and geographical footprints. Forget about rumors and speculation, and non-denial denials and multiple voices saying multiple things, and just focus on this: The pig gets slaughtered. We’re missing the point on this whole Florida State to the Big 12 story, a whirlwind weekend of FSU officials who can’t get their stories straight. There’s something critical we’re all overlooking while rummaging through pure speculation. FSU leaving the ACC for the Big 12 means FSU—all together, now—will actually play in the Big 12. I know, the obvious statement sounds a little loony, but someone has to stand up and knock some sense into the folks from Tallahassee. Apparently we’ve all forgotten that the ’Noles built their now diminished football reputation—or as TV execs like to say, brand—on the backs of a conference that put up as much resistance as a bag of cats headed to the river.