The Big 16

Ten years after their last expansion that left the Big Ten Conference with fourteen teams, the league grew again this week when news broke that USC and UCLA, formerly of the PAC-12, would join the conference on August 1, 2024.  The move extends the reach of the Big Ten from the Atlantic to the Pacific and follows the expansion of the SEC last year by adding Texas and Oklahoma.

For the Big Ten, the benefits are obvious.  First, in keeping up with the SEC, they show they are serious about competing for championships in a future of super-conferences.  Adding traditional powerhouses in high revenue sports, USC for football and UCLA for basketball, also gives the conference an added boost in media rights, with their next deal expected to surpass $1 billion.  Another bonus, and huge revenue generator, is the opportunity to expand the reach of the Big Ten Network into southern California and the nation’s second-largest market.

For USC and UCLA, the benefit is mostly money.  In 2019, the last pre-pandemic season, the PAC-12 dispersed approximately $33.58 million to its member schools.  The Big Ten schools, however, took in $54.29 million.  By the end of this decade, that number is expected to be $100 million.  In that regard, the PAC-12 just could not keep up.

The downsides for both sides include increased travel times and costs, though that is expected to hit the two Los Angeles-based schools harder as they will have more frequent travel to the far reaches of the conference.  With the additional time comes increased time missed in the classroom, which will impact the non-revenue generating sports harder.  The biggest loser in this agreement may end up being the Rose Bowl, the traditional New Year’s Day meeting ground between the Big Ten and the PAC-12.

Logistically, this means Purdue will most likely move to the East division in football, helping to maintain their yearly battles against Indiana but also ensuring more games against Michigan and Ohio State, making their road to a bowl game more difficult.  Sixteen teams may also force the introduction of divisions into the basketball ranks as well.

Is this the end?  It seems unlikely, as this move will cause ripples throughout the NCAA.  With more consolidation into fewer elite conferences, good schools in the remaining conferences, like the rest of the PAC-12 and the ACC, for example, may start looking for new landing spots.  Notre Dame may see that, with many of their traditional rivals now located in one conference, their desire to stay independent will start to wane.  Only time will tell where this eventually ends up.

Gone Too Soon

Word broke yesterday morning that former Purdue basketball standout Caleb Swanigan, who was just 25, had died.  Swanigan, who had an unstable childhood before being adopted by former Boilermaker Roosevelt Barnes, spent two seasons at Purdue, declaring for the NBA draft following his sophomore year in 2017.  His NBA career ended in 2020 when he declined to enter the NBA Bubble due to personal reasons.

Swanigan, who struggled with his weight as a child, had started putting on weight again following his departure from the NBA.  At just 25 years old, he died of natural causes yesterday in a Fort Wayne hospital.  Hopefully he can find some peace now that seemingly eluded his life on Earth.

Down To Sixteen And Still Dancing

The Sweet 16 kicks off today following an opening weekend with upsets galore, but, thankfully, with my champion pick still alive.  Unfortunately, half of my Final Four was wiped out, but, hey, that’s the fun part.

Only a couple of Xs in this region, though one of them I had going to the regional final.  Michigan State allowed Coach K’s last go-around to continue and helped contribute to the Big 10’s supposed flameout during the first weekend.

Well, this side of the bracket is where my Final Four picks have flamed out, so nothing here really matters.  Continue reading →

It’s Dancing Time

The NCAA tournament returns in full force after a year break in 2020 and a bubble tournament centered in Indianapolis in 2021 due to the pandemic.  I’m not in any pools this year, so these selections have no ultimate bearing on my life, aside from personal pride.  So, without further ado, let’s take a look at this year’s selections.

Gonzaga is the overall #1 and my pick to come out of this region and moving on to the Final Four.  I did throw the occasional upset in the earlier rounds, so we’ll see how those pay off.

A bit of an upset here, as I have #3 Tennessee advancing. Continue reading →

By The Numbers – 23 Bonus!

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees. By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues. Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Sunday, we continued our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #23.  Today, we take a special bonus look at player who famously wore #23 for other Chicago teams, making it possibly the most successful jersey number in town.

Michael Jordan was selected by the Chicago Bulls with the third overall pick in the 1984 NBA draft.  He would go on to become the greatest player in the history of the NBA, leading the Bulls to six titles, nabbing six Finals MVP awards, five MVP awards, three All Star Game MVPs, one Defensive Player of the Year award, and the 1985 Rookie of the Year award.  He was a 14-time All Star, 10-time first team All NBA, 9-time first team All-Defensive, 10-time scoring champion, 3-time steals leader, and 2-time Slam Dunk Contest champion.  A member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th Anniversary teams, his #23 has been retired by both the Bulls and the Miami Heat, for whom he never played.

Selected by the Bears him in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft, Devin Hester quickly became one of, if not the, greatest return specialists in NFL history.  In his first 13 weeks as a professional, Hester recorded six return touchdowns, including three punt returns, two kickoff returns, and a then-record tying 108-yard touchdown from a missed field goal against the New York Giants.  As the Bears advanced to the Super Bowl, Hester became the first and only person to return the opening kick of the Super Bowl back for a touchdown.  2007 added an additional 6 touchdowns, followed by 2 quieter seasons.  In 2010, he added an additional 3 punt returns for touchdowns, followed by 2 punt returns and 1 kickoff return in 2011.  He added an additional punt return in 2013, his final season with the Bears.  This past September, in his first year of eligibility, Hester was nominated for the induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

We’re #1

For the first time in the history of man kind, the #1 ranked men’s college basketball team in the country calls Mackey Arena home.  The 8-0 Boilermakers were a unanimous No. 1 in the poll released earlier today, moving up #2 last week following victories over Florida State and Iowa and a Duke loss to Ohio State.  Prior to this week, Purdue had the second-most appearances in the AP poll, 379 weeks, for a school that had never been ranked #1, behind  Maryland with 434 weeks.  Purdue goes on the road this week with a Big 10 game at Rutgers on Thursday and the Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational against North Carolina State on Sunday in Brooklyn.

College Basketball Tipoff

The Purdue Boilermakers kick of the 2021-2022 season tonight, meaning it’s time to take our fourth look at the results of the now whopping 17 college basketball games I have attended in my lifetime. You’d think it would be more, since I was a big fan and we had a great team while I was in school, but for some reason I only made it to 2 games while enrolled in college. The other 15 have been post-graduation, including one new game last season, an upsetting appearance in the NCAA tournament against North Texas.  With Danny now at Purdue, this number may go up with a bit more regularity, at least for the next 3 years.  Anyway, without further ado, here are the standings for those 17 games.

All-Time Team Records
Team Won Loss Winning Pctg
Virginia Commonwealth Rams 1 0 1.000
North Texas Mean Green 1 0 1.000
Butler Bulldogs 1 0 1.000
Purdue Boilermakers 10 6 0.625
Northwestern Wildcats 2 3 0.400
Illinois Fighting Illini 2 3 0.400
Vermont Catamounts 0 1 0.000
Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 0 1 0.000
Long Beach State 49ers 0 1 0.000
Iowa State Cyclones 0 1 0.000
Houston Cougars 0 1 0.000

By The Numbers – 45 Bonus!

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees. By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues. Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Sunday, we continued our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #45.  Today, we take a special bonus look at someone who wore #45 during a Windy City Classic exhibition game in 1994.

After winning his third NBA championship in the summer of 1993, Michael Jordan retired from basketball.  He signed a contract with the White Sox in February of 1994, “I chose to try to play baseball just to see if I could,” Jordan said when he signed the contract.  “I’m not doing it as a distraction and I’m not doing it as a media hog or looking for the media exposure from it. It’s one of the wishes my father had and I had as a kid.”  Jordan’s father had been murdered the previous July and Jordan’s memories of his father played a large role in his deciding what he should do next.

Jordan, who hadn’t played baseball since high school, had a difficult spring training, hitting .152 in 46 at bats, and he was assigned to Double-A Birmingham.  First, though, was the annual exhibition game between the two Chicago teams on April 7 at Wrigley Field.  Jordan was penciled in to the starting lineup, batting sixth.  In the sixth inning, Jordan hit an RBI single off veteran Dave Otto, and in the seventh, he bounced a Chuck Crim pitch down the third-base line for a game-tying double.  The crowd, White Sox and Cubs fans alike, rose to their feet and roared, as Jordan smiled, stuck out his tongue, and tipped his helmet at second base.

Jordan finished the day 2 for 5, with 2 RBIs, an error, and base running gaffe.  “Who would ever think I would be out there playing in Wrigley Field?” Jordan said.  “It was a great feeling just to come out there and do well.”  Jordan reported to Birmingham the following day and, after the labor strife that ended the 1994 season early spread in to 1995, Jordan left baseball, returned to the Bulls, and won another three NBA championships.