Saturday, August 25, 2012

Getting Crazy with NBA Expansion

It seems like these days that just about everyone wants an NBA franchise so why not throw all caution to the wind and do some dramatic expansion.  For my modest proposal I'd like to keep the divisions all even so I'd say go from 30 franchises to 36--effectively adding one team to every division.

Seattle Super Sonics--Bringing the Sonics back is a no brainer.  Seattle is currently the 2nd largest media market without an NBA franchise.  The city had its team stolen from them by David Stern and Clay Bennett in one of the shadiest deals in NBA history.  Giving them a new team is simply the right thing to do and the energetic and enthusiastic ownership group led by Chris Hansen seems ready to take on the task of running a franchise.

Kansas City--While I'd love to return the Kings to Kansas City they currently have a home and if the NBA could pry the franchise away from the Maloof kids a stadium deal could be worked out for a new stadium thus insuring the Kings' success.  Kansas City would be perfect because an arena, the Sprint Center, is already in place.  The viability of the Kansas City franchise could also be enhanced by having them play a "Plains City Series"--let's say 10 home games a year, at Century Link Arena in Omaha, Nebraska.  At first glance, this seems like a set up destined to fail but I think its a winner: playing games in Omaha gives the franchise more of a regional appeal--two cities and much of the Great Plains Region would be behind this team.  As only a limited number of games are going to be played in Omaha they'd all likely be sell outs.  Furthermore, it makes the supply of tickets for games in KC smaller and scarcity would drive up demand.  The Sprint Center would see larger crowds and more sell outs by only hosting 31 of the 41 games.  Not to mention season ticket packages would become far more affordable for the rabid new fanbase.

Virginia Beach--Personally I'm not a real fan of giving the Hampton Roads area its own team.  I think it dilutes the fan pool of two of the league's weaker franchises: the Charlotte Bobcats and Washington Wizards.  However the folks down there seem pretty determined to get a team and they are using hotel taxes to build an arena so if they have the means to have a team why not give them one?  While the television market is modest 43rd in the US (only the Thunder, Grizzlies, and Hornets are smaller), the market would be all theirs as there are no other pro teams vying for fan loyalty and dollars.

San Diego--Much like with the Kings, I would really rather move the Clippers back to San Diego where they started but Los Angeles is far more lucrative and the area has demonstrated that it can support two teams.  San Diego is a modest sized market, 28th, and would have no professional sports to compete with during the winter season.

For the last two cities I think we have to consider a full out assault on the NHL by going after cities where support for their NHL franchise is weak but a NBA ready arena is already in place.  Cities that come to mind here are Columbus and Tampa.  A lot of folks would be inclined to pursue franchises in larger media markets like St Louis and Pittsburgh but those cities are steadfastly loyal to their hockey teams at the moment.  Mayor Coleman of Columbus has all but concluded that his city isn't supporting the Blue Jackets and the team will eventually move to a more hockey-friendly locale so he wants a new tenant for Nationwide Arena, hence his vocal appeals to Commissioner Stern for a team.  Tampa on the other hand is the largest media market without the NBA and while it could certainly cut into the Orlando Magic's fan base the state of Florida is only going to continue to grow and thus I believe that all three Florida franchises are safe in the future.  My alternate picks, for those who are not allured by Columbus, or perhaps Virginia Beach are Vancouver and Las Vegas.  Vancouver is certainly big enough to host a team.  The reason they lost the Grizzlies was because the NBA purposely sabotaged the Canadian expansion franchises by not giving them access to the top lottery picks and allowing the other teams to protect too many players in the expansion draft.  Stern should have learned his lesson--those early teams were just so awful I can understand why Vancouver residents would rather watch the Canucks.  Vegas is on the list purely because lots of other people think its a good idea--I do not--it's a town full of people from somewhere else who root for the teams they did growing up.

Here is how I'd realign the NBA with the 6 new franchises:

Northeast: Boston, New York, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Washington (from SE), Toronto
Southeast: Virginia Beach*, Charlotte, Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa*, Miami
Midwest: Cleveland, Columbus*, Detroit, Indiana, Chicago, Milwaukee

Northwest: Minnesota, Kansas City*, Denver, Utah, Portland, Seattle*
Southwest: Oklahoma City (from NW), Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, New Orleans, Memphis
Pacific: Phoenix, San Diego*, LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Golden State, Sacramento

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Olympics 2020 Columbus, OH

Like many Americans, I got completely caught up in the Olympic games this summer.  It had me longing to see the games come back to the states and disappointed that Chicago lost its bid to host the 2016 games to Rio.  However, this got me thinking: What if Columbus, Ohio could host a games?  How sweet would it be if my hometown could have a games of their own?! Fellow blogger Brock Hutchison and I got to thinking and we concluded that it wouldn't be that unrealistic:

Columbus is a rapidly growing city that's forward thinking and very cosmopolitan. Something like 70% of the US population are within a day's drive of the city so we can expect a huge turn out from fans of the host nation. We don't necessarily have the public transit system in place but Columbus's freeway system is very efficient--what if we just created a massive bus system to handle the traffic?  After the games some of the extra buses could just be sold off.   We can also probably figure out where to house all the extra tourists but we will cross the road when we get there.

As for venues and the Olympic Village I think I have an answer for that.  Ohio Stadium, home of my near and dear the Ohio State University Buckeyes football program would make a perfect venue.  At it's current capacity it seats 102,329 spectators which would be way bigger than London's Olympic Stadium.The old girl was built in 1922 however and she is showing her age.  She could however use a major facelift and modernization to get her ready for the games.   This update would be well worth the investment as the Buckeyes would be able to benefit from the upgrades long after the Olympic flame is extinguished.

For the indoor events Columbus has Value City Arena, Nationwide Arena, Saint John Arena, and the Columbus Convention Center all as potential venues.  The Jesse Owens Track and Field Facility right by the Horseshoe could also be used for the games.  Even if the Columbus bid cannot get baseball and softball returned to the Olympic games Huntington Park, the 10,100 seat home of the Columbus Clippers Triple-A baseball team, down in the Arena District could also be called upon to host some events, maybe beach volleyball.  Crew Stadium, which holds 20,145, would be another ideal Olympic venue and could easily be expanded to seat more.  The nearby Celeste Center at the Ohio State Fairgrounds could also be renovated/replaced to serve as yet another venue for some of the lesser events.

Typically, Olympic soccer utilizes large stadiums in nearby cities.  Columbus has so many nearby venues that could be host--Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, and Heinz Field in Pittsburgh would all be great.  If the indoor stadiums in Indianapolis and Detroit (Lucas Oil and Ford Fields respectively) were big enough to accommodate the field they would be great too.  Smaller venues that currently host American football at a collegiate level exist all over the state at University of Cincinnati, Miami University, Ohio University, Kent State University, University Of Akron, Youngstown State University, Bowling Green State University, and University of Toledo.  If additional indoor arenas are needed there are a multitude of those within a short drive of Columbus--Unversity of Dayton, University of Cincinnati, and Xavier University all have basketball venues that would work and they are all relatively close.  Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland would also be great.  The games could really become an Ohio affair.

Sure we would have to build a new Aquatics Center because Columbus doesn't have anything that could handle Olympic swimming and water polo but with so many other stadia already in place this doesn't seem too bad.  This venue would be a great legacy for the games and would allow Columbus to host future world class swimming events.  For the canoeing and 10K swim  the Hoover Reservoir would be a great place to have it.  I Have no idea how much space is needed for the sailing events but just north of Ohio is one of the world's largest bodies of fresh water--I think we could host it there either somewhere near Cleveland or perhaps Put-in-Bay.

Building an Olympic Village to accommodate all of the athletes is a prerequisite for hosting the games.  Why not partner with the Ohio State University and have the Olympic Village there near the campus and all the university's facilities being used for the games and have the university assume control of the Olympic Village after the games so that they can be used as dormitories in much the same way that Georgia State University, then a commuter school, did with the Olympic Village in Atlanta in 1996.  In the process, much the slummy areas around campus could be revitalized by replacing run down houses with the new Olympic Village.

If Columbus got the 2020, or a future Summer Olympic Games, it would be huge for Ohioans and Americans in general.  It would launch the city onto a global stage and for two weeks all the world's eyes would be on us.  But how could Columbus convince the International Olympic Committee to pick us?  We're not a huge metropolis by any means, nor do we have a storied history.  The IOC loves a warm fuzzy story, particularly one with a progressive, open-minded flavor, and I think Columbus has one that we can use to steer the games our way.  I think we make this games all about Ohio State alumnus Jesse Owens, who in 1936 at the Berlin Games defied Hitler and his theories of Aryan supremacy when he won 4 gold medals in track and field.  If we make the games about celebrating diversity and combating racism and prejudice I think we can land these games.    

Thursday, August 9, 2012

CAA expansion has arrived!

The Stony Brook Seawolves and Albany Great Danes are coming the CAA in 2013---but they are only bringing their football teams.  Their other sports will stay in the America East Conference.  This is good news  for CAA football.  It gives this league 10 members for football and they will be able to play either an 8 or 9 game conference schedule.  It also means that their are still 3 spots open in the CAA for non-football schools.  The CAA is also reportedly in talks with Rhode Island about staying around for football instead of following through on their plans to depart for the NEC.

Let's break this down:

The desire to keep Rhode Island, an 11th program, surely means they have a 12th in mind.  My money is on a cooperation with the America East and the CAA to bring Central Connecticut St--a lone state school in the private school NEC--to the America East for all-sports and to the CAA for football.

This would give a depleted AmEast a much needed 9th member and, should the CAA keep the Rhode Island Rams football program, a northern division of 4 New England schools and the 2 New York schools and a southern division that includes the Midatlantic and Virginia schools.

Another possibility is that one of the three all-sports members that the CAA has their eyes on has a football program they would need to bring with them and that is football member #12.  I think this possibility is doubtful because most every school they would be going after would rather be moving to the SoCon and the SoCon will surely have some openings coming open should Charleston and Davidson (and possibly UNC-Greensboro as well) defect to the CAA.

The Ripples:

The NEC takes a huge hit but not a deathblow.  The loss of Albany, Rhode Island, and Central Connecticut State leaves them with just 7 football schools.  Picking up Marist would be a good option for them.

The Big South is in even bigger trouble--Stony Brook drops them to 6 football members and I see the SoCon taking another 2 maybe even 3.  Their only hope, as I've said before, is to get the non-scholarship and emerging programs in the South to join them in a non-scholarship/low scholarship league.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Is CAA expansion finally coming? What ripples will it create?

The latest internet rumor is that Stony Brook and Albany are both on the verge of making football only moves to the Colonial Athletic Association.  This would give the CAA 4 full members who play football and 6 football affiliates:

New Hampshire*
Stony Brook*
James Madison
William and Mary

What this expansion doesn't tell us is who they are going to take to fill the league's three all-sports membership vacancies.  My best guess is that it will be Davidson, College of Charleston, and a third school somewhere in the south that wont be sponsoring CAA football.  It also probably means that Hofstra wont allow Stony Brook to be an all-sports member.

If we follow the logical cascade that follows I imagine that the SoCon will raid the Big South of its best football schools--Coastal Carolina and Liberty, and/or grab Jacksonville St. from the OVC.

These leaves the Big South's football ranks fairly depleted with likely Gardner-Webb, Charleston Southern, Presbyterian, and VMI around.  In my opinion the best move for these schools is to create a non-scholarship/low scholarship southern football only league and persuade programs like Davidson, Campbell, Stetson, Mercer, Jacksonville, and Kennesaw St to join them.  It would make for a 10 team league that has fairly nice geography and while the Pioneer Football League will likely not be thrilled about the southern defections they could arrange a nice post-season "bowl" between the champions of the two leagues similar to what they did with the NEC prior to the NEC getting an autobid to the FCS playoffs.

BYU and football scheduling

As I explained in a previous post, BYU is going to face some real scheduling challenges in the coming years as an independent.  I've been a proponent of the Cougars becoming a football only member of the Big East at least until a more attractive all sports invitation from the Big 12 avails itself.  However, if independence is truly that critical to the Cougars I think they should enter into some long-term scheduling deals with the western members of the Big East to fill up their schedule in late October and throughout November.  Playing Boise St, San Diego St, Houston, and Southern Methodist on an annual basis (or at least getting 3 of those 4 each year) would be a great move for all of the parties involved.  I think it elevates the stature of all those schools and helps to cement BYU's position as the Notre Dame of the West in that they would have annual match ups against established rivals.  Perhaps this arrangement to could be parlayed into getting access to Big East bowl tie ins which, with the lure of of BYU, would hopefully include a high profile game such as the Fiesta Bowl or at least a high mid-level bowl like the Las Vegas Bowl (which these days fancies itself as the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas).