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One region that should actually play NCAA Football in 2020

Where can the NCAA play football?

As some conferences are canceling games, there is one region of these United States that is in the best position to play college football this fall.  You guessed it – the Northeast.

As I am sure you’re aware, the Northeast has the least lingering effects of COVID entering fall 2020.  Also, it is the smallest geographic region, providing lessened risk exposure during travel between games.

In addition, playing games without fans in attendance wouldn’t affect the bottom-lines of many of the teams in the region as much as, shall we say, some of our more established Southern and Mid-Western brethren. 

If any region should be playing college football in 2020, it should be the Northeast with stringent testing, social distancing/team isolation, mini-bubbles, and minimal travel exposure. 

Besides, college football fans have to admit there are too many buy/cupcake/tune-up games or games in which the teams are just not evenly matched.  When you strip away the less than competitive games, we’re usually left with four or five games that matter for each team.

Theoretically, each team in low COVID transmission regions could play a small number of competitive or meaningful (rival/local) games.

Apart from this, a collaboration of safety protocols (as previously mentioned) will be needed. Also, voluntary and compensated participation by all involved. 

The proposal

If I were in charge of college sports (say as the Chancellor of College Sports – a totally made-up position) I would enact the following:

  • Each team in a low COVID transmission area could play a condensed, 5-game schedule among nearby teams and select rivals from other regions. (Conference play would be suspended nationwide but teams could and should play games against typical conference foes).
  • New Year’s 6 bowl games and the CFP will still be played at the end of the season. Not that there is any motivational need, but realistically these generate a ton of money. (More on that for the players later). 
  • Each team would only play every other Saturday in order to give 14 days between games for COVID detection. 
  • Team schedules will have to be approved by myself (as Chancellor of College Sports) with extreme preference given to local, competitive, and rivalry games. 
  • Stringent testing, social distancing/team isolation, mini-bubbles, and minimal travel exposure would have to be practiced by every team. 
  • Any player or coach could opt out of this season without penalty: financial, NCAA eligibility, scholarship, or otherwise. 
  • All players would immediately be allowed to profit from their names, images, and likenesses and each school will pay the players a small, even cut of the TV proceeds (this is an entirely separate matter, but if I am the chancellor I am throwing that in there). 

Schedule proposals

I have taken the liberty of creating a 5 game schedule for each of the 13 Northeast FBS teams with brief explanations below.  I have incorporated each team’s 2019 year-end Sagarin rating (think Football Power Rating for both FBS & FCS if you’re not familiar).  If this rating is not wholly predictive of the 2020 performance, it should be somewhat indicative. 

RutgersB1GNJ135
#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1U BuffaloMACWestern NY75Regional game, 6 hr. drive
2TempleAACPhilly76Regional game
3PrincetonFCSNJ144Rivalry game, NJ state game
4MonmouthFCSNJ134NJ state game, 6th ranked 2020 FCS preseason team.
5MarylandB1GMD97Conference game, semi-rival
105 avg.
Rutgers Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

The Scarlet Knights get to play the battle of NJ against both Princeton and Monmouth in what should be competitive games.  The other local foes would be favored over RU, but I think that Coach Schiano, in his first year back, would have RU looking quite a bit better than 2019. 

MarylandB1GMD97
#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1TowsonFCSMD131MD state game
2WVUB12WV53Rival
3UVAACCNorth VA34Rival
4NavyAACMD24Rival, MD state game
5RutgersB1GNJ135Conference game, semi-rival
75 avg.
Maryland Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

In this case, Maryland has several local rivals, so this was an easy slate to pick.  Towson is typically a solid FCS team and would be geeked out of their minds to come in and play UMD in a nationally televised game.  UVA is outside of the region and in a relatively higher COVID area, but the opportunity of rekindling this rivalry is worth taking extensive preventative measures for both teams.

Penn StateB1GCentral PA8
#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1NavyAACMD24Regional
2MichiganB1GMI12Conference game, semi-rival, 6 hr. drive
3TempleAACPhilly76PA state game, little brother rival
4PittACCPitt62PA state game, rival
5Ohio StateB1GOhio2Conference game, semi-rival
35 avg.
Penn State Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

The Nittany Lions play a mix of local FBS teams and B1G foes.  The series between Penn State-Ohio State-Michigan is essentially the B1G championship, so it is worthwhile to extend the schedule outside of Penn State’s local area.  With that, Ann Arbor is a mere 6 hr. drive from State College, so the travel is not extensive. Navy isn’t really a rival per se but it was the other best team in the Northeast region last year and could be again in 2020. Pitt is the other team in the region that could lay claim to the best team title and should finish 2020 ranked much higher than 62. All this combines to give PSU (the best college football team in the Northeast) a very challenging 5 games.

TempleAACPhilly76
#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1Penn StateB1GCentral PA8PA state & rivalry game
2VillanovaFCSPhilly130Rival. In-City. 17th ranked preseason 2020 FCS Team
3RutgersB1GNJ135Regional
4BuffaloMACWest NY75Regional. 5.5 hr. drive
5PittACCPitt62PA state game
82 avg.
Temple Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

Temple plays some nearby teams in what should be competitive games.  The Philly classic against Nova should be played every year as Nova is usually highly ranked in the FCS.  Temple and Buffalo have a lot in common in that they are both city programs and geographical outliers in their respective conferences. They are also fairly evenly matched and do have a bit of history against each other from their MAC days – plenty to build a rivalry on.

NavyAACMD24
#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1ArmyIndDownstate NY108RIVAL
2Air ForceMWCO29RIVAL
3Penn StateB1GCentral PA8Regional
4MarylandB1GMD97Rival, MD state game
5Notre DameInd/ACCIndiana11Rival, 10 hr. drive
50 avg.
Navy Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

Navy has 5 true rivals, maybe more.  Notre Dame and Air Force are longer trips but, as Chancellor of College Sports, I would call upon the power of the US military to get our service academy football teams to the appropriate sites to play their games.  I’m sure they could get the job done. Penn State is not a true rival but, as mentioned, the 2 best teams in the Northeast region should play each other if at all possible.

ArmyIndDownstate NY108
#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1NavyAACMD24RIVAL
2Air ForceMWCO29RIVAL
3CuseACCUpstate NY65NY state game
4U AlbanyFCSUpstate NY139NY state game, 22nd ranked FCS Team
5BuffaloMACWest NY74NY state game. 5.5 hr. drive
66 avg.
Army Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

Army gets a couple of NY state games here, but won’t be favored in any of their games except for U Albany.  That being said, Army will be amped for their rivalry games and I would not count them out for the NY state championship either.

 WVUB12WV53 
#TeamConfRegionSag Rating
2019
Notes
1PittACCPitt62RIVAL
2LouisvilleACCKY48Rival, 6 hr. drive
3MarylandB1GMD97Rival
4MarshallFCSWV84Rival, WV state game
5VA TechACCVA44Rival, 4.25 hr. drive
    67 avg. 
WVU Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

WVU is another team that has a lot of rivals, and many of them are at around the same level to make for competitive games.  Marshall and the state of WV would be out of their minds excited coming into Morgantown to play that in-state rivalry game (which also should also be played more often).  Louisville and VA Tech are out of the region but (again) these rivalries warrant extra precautions to be taken.  I would have loved for WVU to play Penn State, but there wasn’t room on either of their schedules.

PittACCPitt62
#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1Penn StateB1GPA8Rival, PA state game
2WVUB12WV53RIVAL
3TempleAACPhilly76PA state game
4CuseACCUpstate NY65Rival, Conference game. 5.5 hr. drive
5BCACCBoston66Semi-rival, Conference game. 9 hr. drive.
54 avg.
Pitt Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

Pitt has a fair number of rivals and has had a good series going with its fellow Northeast ACC compatriots, Cuse and BC, as of late.  It just made too much sense to keep them together even though the trip from Pitt to BC is the furthest distance among the Northeast teams.  Perhaps they could play at a neutral site or some big money donor will be willing to shell out for private flights.  Even if not, it is still a drive-able distance.

 CuseACCUpstate NY65 
#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1U BuffaloMACWest NY75NY state game
2PittACCPitt62Rival, Conference game
3ArmyIndDownstate NY108NY state game
4BCACCBoston66Rival, Conference game. 4.75 hr. drive
5DartmouthFCSNH113Regional. #21 2020 FCS team. 4.75 hr. drive.
    85 avg. 
Cuse Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

Cuse has a mix of its Northeast ACC and NY state foes. I added Dartmouth as they are a really solid FCS team and looked like they would continue the domination of the Ivy in 2020.  U Albany was the other choice here but they already had several games scheduled against Northeast FBS teams.


 
BCACCBoston66 
#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1CuseACCUpstate NY65Rival, Conference game
2UMassIndMass232Rival, MA state game
3BuffaloMACWest NY75Regional, 7.5 hr. drive.
4PittACCBoston62Semi-rival, Conference game, 9 hr. drive
5Notre DameACC/IndIndiana11Rival
    89 avg. 
BC Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

BC continues on with the Northeast ACC contingent and its’ rivalry games.  I put Buffalo in here instead of more local teams like UConn, Harvard, etc. as they are just not quite ready for the BC smoke yet.  UMass isn’t either but it is an in-state rival and this is a game that I feel like the people in Mass would want to see (well those few that care about college football anyway). 

 UMassIndMass232 
#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1BCACCBoston66Rival, MA state game
2UConnINDConn180Rival
3Holy CrossFCSMass176MA state game
4HarvardFCSConn171MA state game
5URIFCSRI194Regional
    157 avg. 
UMass Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

UMass plays some rivals, MA state games, and dips down into Rhode Island.  This will be a really fun New England series for the Minutemen, and while they won’t likely be favored in any of these games, they should be competitive. 

 UConnIndConn180 
#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1Sacred HeartFCSConn198CT state game
2UMassACCMass232Rival
3YaleFCSConn120#15 ranked fcs school, CT state game
4Central CT StateFCSConn160#11 ranked fcs school, CT state game
5UNHFCSNH141Regional
    170 avg. 
UConn Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

On the other hand, UConn kind of gets the short end of the stick here in that they have a largely FCS slate, aside from UMass, but this slate will be fun as hell.  All these games will be competitive and they get to play essentially the CT state championship against some top-notch FCS teams.  What’s not to love?

 BuffaloMACWest NY75 
#TeamConfRegionSag Rating 2019Notes
1U AlbanyFCSUpstate NY139NY state game, #22 ranked FCS
2CuseACCUpstate NY65NY state game
3ArmyIndDownstate NY108NY state game
4RutgersB1GNJ135Regional
5TempleAACPhilly76Regional
    104.6 
Buffalo Proposed Condensed Football Schedule

Lastly, Buffalo is a bit of an anomaly in Western NY without a ton of rivals. However, they are building a solid program and provide a ton of depth in the region. The NY state and regional match-ups can help to build rivalries for the Bulls. As previously mentioned, Temple and Buffalo seem like they could be natural rivals.   

Should the NCAA decide against football in the Northeast, maybe the XFL can give us something?    

Listen to John Glowatz on the Big Northeast Podcast

Why the XFL needs to return this fall

Bring the XFL back this fall

With rumors swirling that the FBS college football conferences are planning to cancel their 2020 seasons, the XFL should plan to reboot and play in a bubble this fall.  More than that, the XFL should make a list of all rising seniors, juniors, and red-shirt sophomores (i.e. all 2021 NFL Draft-eligible players). They can invite the top-rated among them to play in the league should college football be canceled. 

Think about it, the XFL was always best as a supplemental league for the fans and, as we saw this past spring, as a feeder system for the NFL.  We are also staring at the possibility of no college football this fall and most high schools are also canceling, as they should.  (Btw, we are one or two major outbreaks on any given team away from no NFL football as well).  This is the XFL’s opportunity to supplement the college and high school football seasons and grasp a long-sought viewership foothold.  Many of the top players want to play (aside from a few projected NFL first-round picks who have already opted out) and would still have a route to the NFL draft without having to wait an extra season to showcase their skills. 

The scenarios of returning

I know it seems like a quick turnaround, but imagine this scenario: (1) the various FBS conferences cancel their seasons or postpone them until spring 2021.  (2) The XFL springs into action and organizes the league for an Oct start (this would involve signing players/coaches/staff; securing a bubble; securing a TV contract; testing/clearing players; and all the logistics of equipment, accommodations, etc.).  (3) The XFL is playing nationally televised games in prime-time on Saturdays and Friday nights Oct-Dec 2020 with some of college football’s biggest stars.   

The XFL only entertains this plan only if the point (1) is true so all of this is moot if college football is played in 2020 (which, unfortunately, seems increasingly unlikely).  However, the XFL does not have a ton to lose here and can make all these contingency plans without putting out a lot of capital or loss of public goodwill. 

Point (2) is the more labor-intensive piece by far, difficult but not impossible.  Signing the players in such a short time frame seems doable as there are many who want to play.  I don’t imagine that most of the current D1 stars would take the risk of playing for the $60 or $70k that they might get under the XFL’s previous salary structure.  However, the XFL might be able to get more funding if they’re going to be the only game in town on Saturdays and Friday nights.  In addition, they don’t need all of the college players to sign with them. I think 30-40 would do the trick and even 10-20 would be enough to be of interest to the average college fan. 

Players to consider

Stars like Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields would be huge boons for the XFL this year. Although, they would be a super unlikely sign.  However, both players have said they want to play football in 2020. If the college season will not be played, maybe there is a chance that they would suit up for the XFL.  Even if they didn’t, there are plenty of guys to take their place that both need to put more film up for NFL teams and have big enough profiles to move the needle.  

Guys like Sean Clifford (Penn State) Patrick Jones (Pitt), or Andre Cisco (Cuse) are NFL hopefuls who might see their stock jump with a productive XFL season and would help bring in viewers.  

The XFL could draw in a ton of new fans who are used to watching these players on Saturdays.  Kenny Robinson (former WVU and XFL Safety) has proven that there is a path to the NFL draft through the XFL last season.  (IIRC, the XFL even agreed to pay for Kenny’s additional credit hours through graduation; they could work out a similar deal with all of the currently enrolled student-athletes)

Where to play?

Securing a bubble would be another tough aspect of this, but with only eight teams and roughly 416 players. This would be doable.  There are many hotel complexes that are sitting idle these days. I am sure that one would jump at the chance of the added revenue.  

Vegas was considered for the NBA bubble and Columbus worked for TBT bubble. I would propose Mohegan Sun, CT as the COVID-19 numbers are low in the region.  

With a short schedule like the one the XFL already has, the bubble would only need to be intact for 2.5-3 months. This includes a full season, playoffs, and the championship.  They could even shorten it to 2 months or so if that was better for the league. 

Win-win for everyone:

With the above in place, a lucrative TV contract would practically fall into the XFL’s laps. ESPN is right there in Bristol, CT. Staff would be easy to come by as the country’s unemployment rate is abysmally high. I think they could scrounge up some coaches as they did this past year.  

College football cancels their season (which in this scenario they are doing anyway and they miss the liability they are trying to avoid).

For the fans, they will still get football on Saturdays while the XFL gets their foothold. The players get to play, and the NFL still has its feeder system. 

Of course, this is an unlikely and downright herculean task. If anyone is up to it, it is the baller himself. The new part-owner of the XFL – Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.  Come on Dwayne, be the best damn XFL owner there ever was!  

Latest from Baseline Times


Why Mac Dre’s ‘Thizzle Dance’ is the Perfect Theme Song for Last Chance U Season 5

Featured in the soundtrack for Episode 1, Mac Dre’s ‘Thizzle Dance’ perfectly embodies Laney College Football. [No Spoilers]

Let’s start with Head Coach John Beam.  Like Mac Dre, he is a Bay Area icon with roots in the area that go back to the ’80s. Beam is more zen-master Phil Jackson than he is hot-headed Bobby Knight or Rex Ryan – but make no mistake – he is an old-school coach who spits hellfire when a player steps out of line.  He provides the theme and tempo of the team, much like the funky, over-the-top, old-school, bouncing bass of ‘Thizzle Dance.’

Laney College departs from the last 2 seasons of Last Chance U in that the majority of the players come from the Bay Area with little national fanfare or major scholarship offers.  Much the same, Mac Dre never quite achieved national superstardom but was an absolute legend in the Bay. 

The series chiefly follows 4 players: RJ (WR), Dior (QB/WR), Rezjohn (DB), and Nu’u (OL).  In watching the series, you’ll find yourself rooting for all of these kids in different ways.  They all embody this part of the first verse of the ‘Thizzle Dance’:

… First, I do like this

Put a look on my face like I smelled some piss

Bounce to the beat till it start to hurt

Then I dust all the smirk off me shirt

Dip to the ground as I catch the bass

Then I wipe all the sweat off me face

Hop back up then I start to slide

Popping my collar as I glide…
All have had a hard lot in life, whether it be: abusive homes, violence taking a loved one, a tragic family history, trying to raise children as a teenager, or sometimes a mix of the above.  All of these guys have smelled some [proverbial] piss in their lives and bounced to the beat [or the grind] until it hurt. 

As you see in the series though, they don’t quit.  They dust off their shirt(s), catch the bass (football), wipe the sweat off their faces, and slide and glide on their way out of Oakland.  Each of these players grinds and push to try to get a D1 scholarship (and then to the NFL) or any way they can to get a better life for themselves and their families.  It looks like Coach Beam and the staff at Laney prepared them pretty well in their attempt to do so, but watch the series to find out.

Last Chance U Season 5 (and Season’s 1-4) are all available streaming on Netflix.

WNBA 2020 season successfully tips-off

While there is attention in Orlando inside the NBA Campus about 150 miles southwest of Orlando is Brandenton, Florida. The IMG Academy is hosting the WNBA’s version of a campus and successfully has tipped off their 2020 season on Saturday.

Storm too much for Sabrina Ionescu WNBA debut in 87-71 victory

The first game featured the New York Liberty as the home team hosting the Seattle Storm. The game would feature two special scenarios as the Liberty’s number one pick, Sabrina Ionescu made her WNBA debut. The Storm welcomed back Breanna Stewart, who returned from a torn Achilles injury.

The Storm comes out victorious on opening day with an 87-71 victory. Ionescu finished with 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting in her debut game. Stewart finished with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and shot 50-percent from the field. The Storm held the Liberty to 34-percent shooting from the field (and a miserable 21-percent from the three-point line. Layshia Clarendon led the Liberty with 20 points and only one of three Liberty players scoring double figures.

Sparks dominate Mercury 99-76

The Phoenix Mercury welcomed a new familiar face to their roster this season by signing Skylar Diggins-Smith. The well-known guard joins Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner in Phoenix to help the Mercury regain contender status. The Mercury finished 8th last season and easily bounced in the first round of the 2019 playoffs without Taruasi.

A poor second-half from Phoenix caused opening day to spiral out of control. The Mercury were outscored 30-8 in the third quarter and ran out of time to regain any chance at a comeback victory. The Sparks had a good balanced offensive attack with six players scoring in double figures.

Nneka Ogwumike led the way for the Sparks scoring 21 points and perfect from the field connecting on all 10 shots, two of them from three-point range. Diggins-Smith would finish with 14 points and 6 assists on 62-percent shooting in her Mercury debut.

Mystics flex why they are the defending champs with 101-76 win

The Mystics enter the season as the defending champs and playing without Elena Delle Donne. Saturday’s season opener didn’t phase the 2019 champs as they dominated the Indiana Fever.

Washington held the Fever to only nine points in the second and fourth quarter. Myisha Hines-Allen poured in 27 points and 10 rebounds on 65-percent shooting from the field for the Mystics. Four other Mystics were able to score double figures and chip in on the scoring outburst.

Delle Donne’s absence will continue on the season as the league refused to grant her a medical exemption to sit out the 2020 season for her COVID-19 related concerns because of her underlying health condition of Lyme disease.

The Mystics will also be without Point guard Natasha Cloud will be sitting out this season to work on social justice reform and Tina Charles is also seeking a medical exemption. LaToya Sanders is also sitting out due to health concerns.

Big Northeast Podcast – Episode 21: TBT Final Four with Sideline Cancer GM Billy Clapper

John Glowatz has a special guest in this episode! John interviews the GM of TBT’s Sideline Cancer, Billy Clapper, ahead of their final four matches up with Overseas Elite.

Views From The Baseline – Episode 26: The Sports Spouse

Chevall debuts a special episode by bringing in his significant other, Caroline for a discussion on dating a sports fanatic, being a sports mom, how female athletes inspired her, and what it’s like being a sports fan as a female. Tune in now to listen to this fun episode as the days of sports quarantine hopefully come to an end.

Views from the Baseline – Episode 25: Cam Newton is a Patriot & the NBA Return

Click to listen on your favorite platform now!

  • 0:00 – 33:00: Chevall is joined by the newest member of Baseline Times, Josh. These two chat about Cam Newton’s impact on joining the New England Patriots and what to expect for the NFL’s upcoming 2020 season.
  • 33:00 – 55:00: Gabe joins Chevall to discuss the NBA’s return and plan to play in the Orlando bubble. They share their insight on the pros and cons of playing in one location and if an NBA tournament can be drawn out of this for the future.

Views from the Baseline – Episode 23: Athletes & Activism

Chevall is joined by DeMario as the duo discuss the current events in America and the responsibilities of athletes. An open discussion generalizing if an athlete’s voice matter and should they have the same rights to share their opinions as a common person would. The second half of the show they discuss should the NBA and other sports hold out playing. Would any purpose be accomplished by just sitting out? Tune in to this episode to see if the fellas agree with Kyrie Irving and the best alternate option if professional athletes choose activism over their sport.

Views from the Baseline – Episode 22: UFC 250 Recap

Now streaming

Chevall is joined by Co-hosts Gabe and T.J. for another week. The trio recaps the UFC 250 card and gives their insight to Conner’s latest retirement announcement. Tune to now to hear some knockout commentary!

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