Friday, July 29, 2011

Smack talkin'

Ah, sports fans, the world is right again, isn't it? Labor peace in the NFL. Fantasy Football commissioners readying for annual drafts. College football media days this week. And, Big 12 schools are still bickering.

It's all good and can only mean that fall--and big-time smack talk--is right around the corner.

ESPN The Magazine recently published a story about college sports fans and what they are saying about their rival schools. The results, not surprisingly, tend to focus on the major programs and the most well-known rivalries, including our own local Kansas-Missouri "Border War."

Here you go--a summary of input from 3,000 online entrants and which smack talk phrase they cited most often:

"Liar, liar vest on fire." Ohio State Buckeyes, 16.2%.

"Trojans don't protect against the NCAA." USC Trojans, 11.6%.

"Around the bowl, down the hole, roll, Tide, roll." Alabama Crimson Tide, 8.6%.

"Hoosier Daddy?" Indiana Hoosiers, 6.4%.

Tigers Bleaux." LSU Tigers, 5.8%.

"Not smart enough for Cal, not pretty enough for USC." UCLA Bruins, 5.7%.

"You flop like it's your job." Duke Blue Devils, 5.2%.

"Rock chalk, chicken hawk." Kansas Jayhawks, 4.8%.

"Big House of disappointment." Michigan Wolverines, 4.8%.

"You're responsible for Ryan Leaf." Washington State Cougars, 3.7%.

"Eat more Bevo." Texas Longhorns, 3.1%.

"All you ever win is frequent-flyer points." Hawaii Warriors, 3.0%.

"M-I-Z-E-R-Y." Missouri Tigers, 2.5%.

"San Diego is not a state." San Diego State Aztecs, 2.4%.

"All dirt roads lead to Tech." Virginia Tech Hokies, 2.4%.

"One and done University." Kentucky Wildcats, 1.9%.

"Ted Bundy was a Husky." Washington Huskies, 1.7%.

"AFLAC." Oregon Ducks, 1.5%.

"Save a tree, kill a Beaver." Oregon State Beavers, 1.3%.

Other - 4.9%.

The power of a new stadium

How important has the move been for Sporting KC, Kansas City's MLS franchise, to their new stadium digs at Livestrong Sporting Park? The team's attendance jumped 81% after the team moved to its new home.

Sporting KC's season ticket sales increased from 2,200 to just over 11,000. And, the club is averaging 18,107 fans per game compared with just over 10,000 in 2010.

(Source: Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The rich are getting richer

Don't lament, Longhorn football fans--the University of Texas is currently on track to bring in the best recruiting class of high school football seniors in 2012.

The Sporting News listed out their "125 for 2012" and for all those who are hoping for Texas to continue to struggle in football, forget it--UT already has 18 commitments for next year and many are from this list. Texas A&M, another Big 12 school, is currently listed second by TSN with a whopping 22 commitments. The rest of the current top 10 are: Michigan, Miami, Alabama, LSU, Florida State, Florida, Auburn and Texas Tech.

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are mentioned on the lists of contending schools for some of the top 125 but, after that, only Missouri has made a dent--no other Big 12 schools are mentioned. (Missouri is in the running for #3 prospect Dorial Green-Beckham, a WR from Springfield, MO, and has a commitment from #125 Donavin Newsom, a LB from Parkway North in St. Louis.)

Recruiting lists are like preseason polls in college sports, yet they do provide a glimpse into where the power elite resides in college football. Clearly, in the Big 12, a championship run has to go through the state of Texas and those in the middle to back of the pack (Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State) are still hard-pressed to get the talent to compete.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Yellow flags and penalty kicks

- Kansas State, or should I say "K-State", is followineg the lead of its cousin, the University of Kansas, by attempting to consolidate its brand approach to be more consistent. In the 2007-2008 school year, KU underwent a stringent brand identity shift in order to more consistently align the school's visual identity across academics and athletics. The move included standardization of school colors and the use of one common font across all identity opportunities. Even the visual use of "KU" was standardized as was how the Jayhawk would be portrayed and used. KSU is attempting to do the same but with one notable exception--the use of "K-State" as the common moniker. The school feels the recent exposure gained via the more visible basketball program, e.g., the "K-State" used on the front of the jerseys, made the name decision a logical one. KSU also plans to standardize the use of the Powercat logo and PMS 268 purple. While I applaud the desire for consistency, I have a hard time understanding the rationale to use "K" instead of "Kansas"--I wonder if school officials truly have researched the equity in "Kansas State" among more than just the KSU alumni, student and fan base? The brand identity focus is not a new one in the college ranks--prior to Kansas' efforts of five years ago were similar exercises from schools like the University of North Carolina and the University of Oregon.

- I'm just asking--if the U.S. mens soccer team would have suffered a similar meltdown, like the women did Sunday against Japan, in a World Cup final, would they have been given a pass like the womens team is receiving this week? There is a lack of media criticism of how the women lost which I think does beg the question.

- With the NFL lockout seemingly about to end, all eyes will turn to the NBA and their labor situation. Don't look for a full schedule by the professional basketballers, even though the league released a full season schedule yesterday.

- This year's British Open had the lowest ever weekend television ratings.

- The peace in the Big 12 is tenuous at best. There are reports circulating that Texas A&M is threatening to bolt to the SEC should the NCAA allow the University of Texas to broadcast Texas high school football games on the Longhorn Network. The issue for the Aggies, and others in the conference, is the believed recruiting advantage this would create for UT in a state where all 10 Big 12 member institutions seek players. If the NCAA says "okay," then Friday Night Lights would become the real deal--not a television series focused on the fictional town of Dillon, TX.

- Steve Williams says that he lost respect for Tiger Woods as a result of Woods' firing of Williams as his caddie. Hmm--so Williams respected Woods after the recent off-course issues but now doesn't? Right...

- Speaking of firing a caddie, the crew chief of Juan Pablo Montoya has been replaced. Earnhardt Ganassi racing announced that Brian Pattie is being replaced by Jim Pohlman, who has been with the organization since 2006. The timing of the announcement was interesting given that it's right before the Brickyard 400 (July 31), the race which Montoya was leading last year before a caution came out with 21 laps to go. Pattie made the decision to take four tires when teammate and eventual winner Jamie McMurray took two, thus creating friction between crew chief and driver even after Pattie acknowledged that the mistake was his.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

U.S. women lose more than World Cup

The U.S. Womens World Cup soccer team was warmly welcomed back to U.S. soil yesterday, which was a very fitting tribute after their finals loss to Japan on Sunday. Unfortunately, the team will likely lose more than just the World Cup title as a consequence of their defeat.

After a month of heart-stopping victories and a growing storyline, complemented with the camera-friendliness of stars like Abby Wambach and Hope Solo, the U.S. women likely lost $10 million in endorsements, according to a column today on Wambach and Solo were the two who stood to gain the most from a World Cup championship with estimates ranging from $3 million-$4 million a year in potential marketing deals. The remaining members of the team would likely have made a collective $2 million per year.

While television rankings for the Womens World Cup paled to competitive TV offerings, the social media world was ablaze with action during the games--the Final had 7,196 tweets per second, according to Twitter, which is a new record for the site.

The good news is that the team built a following which, hopefully, they can capitalize on in 2012 as they chase an Olympic soccer gold medal. You can be sure that Solo and Wambach will be front-and-center for Olympic sponsors' activation activities, as will Alex Morgan, the young star who scored a goal and assisted on another in Sunday's loss to Japan.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Comings and goings

- I don't think you need to be a Yankees or Derek Jeter fan to feel something special about his 3,000th hit. The fact that Jeter went five-for-five and homered for his 3,000th was like something out of The Natural.

- The Big 12 and Big Ten are taking some heat given that the Big 12 has 10 teams and the Big Ten has 12. Yet, is it really worth it to take on a new naming strategy? The Big Ten has decades of equity built with its name and the suggestion to change the Big 12 brand, in a time when more conference re-alignment will surely happen, makes no sense.

- Speaking of the Big 12, The Sporting News preseason 150 has conference teams ranked as follows: Oklahoma, #2; Oklahoma State, #8; Texas A&M, #12; Missouri, #26; Texas, #42; Texas Tech, #56; Baylor, #58; Kansas State, #76; Iowa State, #87, and Kansas, #92. Former Big 12 teams Nebraska and Colorado were ranked #9 and #72, respectively. LSU was ranked #1.

- Isn't it amazing that in the storied history of the Yankees, no player from that franchise has ever achieved 3,000 hits?

- Both "local" NASCAR drivers, Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer, are free agents after this race season. Speculation is that Edwards will stay with Roush Racing or will go to Joe Gibbs Racing as part of a fourth team or as a replacement for Joey Logano in the #20 Home Depot Toyota. Bowyer could end up at Roush, potentially in the #6 car currently piloted by David Ragan, who also is a free agent.

- If the U.S. women win the World Cup on Sunday, look for Abby Wambach to follow in the successful post-playing career footsteps of Brandi Chastain and Julie Foudy.

- There's something very special about seeing Tom Watson at the British Open. And, today's hole-in-one by Watson was one more terrific moment in a long line of his British Open highlights.

- An Illinois girl, age 6, made a hole-in-one from 85 yards out. Yet, she hardly uttered a sound. Why the quiet? It seems her dad told her not to make a lot of noise while playing.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Review: Branson Creek Golf Club, Hollister, MO

I have a hard time understanding why more golfers in the Midwest don't know about Branson Creek Golf Club. The course, located just south of Branson in Hollister, MO, is a gem--one of the best, if not the best, public course in the state.

The challenging track, designed by Tom Fazio, starts with a long, scenic, downhill par five, measuring 578 yards from the tips. This tough first hole is tempting as it's wider than most holes on the course and offers a chance to get on in two with a well-struck drive. From there you progress to a par four, one handicap hole and the round truly gets serious.

Each hole on this 7,100 yard course is named and is linked to the region and terrain. On our visit yesterday, we saw wild turkeys frolicking on one of the greens and marveled at the rock outcroppings, meandering streams and lengthy vistas. The views are breathtaking.

Branson Creek has been rated #1 by Golf magazine and Golf Digest as "The Top Public Course in Missouri" for 11 consecutive years, 2000-2010.

The thing I like about Branson Creek is that it is a true golf test. It's a course where you'll end up using every club in your bag given the variety of hole designs and topography changes. Many tees are elevated and each green requires a careful read.

Our foursome played at 8:30 a.m. on a Sunday and had a threesome in front of us and a foursome behind us. We got around the front nine in two hours and finished the round in 4:20. The marshall is good about keeping groups teeing off in a timely manner and maintaining speed of play.

For my money, you can't find a better public course in Kansas/Missouri. The twosome we played with hailed from Pawnee, OK and compared it as good or better than Karsten Creek, the well-known course in Stillwater.

If you're looking for a downside, it's that Branson Creek still doesn't have a true clubhouse--the pro shop and snack bar are situated in a double-wide trailer. But, as my playing partner reminded me, it's about the golf at Branson Creek.

Course data:

71 par; 7,036 yards; 133 slope/73.0 rating; zoysia grass


It's hard to dispute Branson Creek's status as the #1 public course in Missouri. The practice facilities are first-rate and the course is simply one of the best. Don't expect a nice burger at the turn as the clubhouse is a double-wide trailer.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Review: Payne Stewart Golf Club, Branson, MO

Amidst the music show venues, souvenir stands, go-kart tracks and miniature golf courses in Branson, you'll also find several places where you can tee it up, regulation style. One of the best is the Payne Stewart Golf Club--a newer entry on Branson's list of golf courses.

Located on the north side of Branson off of Branson Hills Parkway, I played the Stewart course for the third time today. And, as before, I walked away thinking that this is a terrific course and club with a few things keeping it from being the best in Ozark/Southwest Missouri country.

The Stewart course, named of course after the late golfer and U.S. Open winner who hailed from Springfield, MO, is cut into the natural terrain of the Branson area. It's up and down with plenty of uneven lies--if you can't handle balls below or above your feet, you're in trouble on this track.

The course is long, by Branson standards, measuring 7,324 yards from the tips. There are five tee markers which provides opportunity for the single digit handicapper, the recreational player, seniors and women. The other lengths measure in at 5,323 yards; 6,299; 6,741 and 7,046. And, if the length wasn't difficult enough, the course is also pretty tight--a ball not kept in the fairway will find the plentiful woods. Many of the tees are elevated and the areas around the green offer plenty of swales, bunkers and tough chips--make sure your short game is in good shape before teeing off.

The clubhouse at Payne Stewart Golf Club is first-rate--dark wood, a spacious grill area, a well-appointed pro shop and a large entryway which is also a display area for Stewart's various trophies, colorful outfits and Ryder Cup memorabilia.

One of the areas where the course is deficient is the practice range--it's about 500 yards from the clubhouse, accessed via a gravel path, and offers up an area where one hits into a valley, making it difficult to gauge distance.

The course was not crowded at all on a Saturday morning in July--we had a threesome in front of us which we didn't catch up to until hole 12. The course meanders away from the clubhouse and does not return back until hole 18--not a problem except for a hot day like today where the refreshment stand at the turn isn't open.

Each hole of the course has a sign at the tee box which provides a story from Payne Stewart's golf career and life. It's a fitting tribute to a player who delighted fans with his colorful golf outfits, engaging manner, and major championship victories. The course designer was Chuck Smith with counsel and assistance from PGA pro Bobby Clampett.

The Payne Stewart Golf Club is a destination course--a place that makes a golf weekend in Branson fun and challenging. And, as much as I like this course, I think that Branson Creek, where we'll play tomorrow, is the better track in this area of southwest Missouri.

PSGC stats:

Orange = 71.1/123; 5,323 yards
Silver = 70.0/130; 6,299 yards
Blue = 72.4/130; 6,741 yards
Green = 73.9/132; 7,046 yards
Gold = 75.1/135; 7,324 yards

Summary: Potentially the prettiest course in Missouri, the Payne Stewart Golf Club is a tough challenge for any level golfer.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Big 12 football: preseason prognostications

The magazine rack at booksellers is filled with them--football magazines which follow the many year tradition of predicting NCAA football top 20 teams, conference champions, All-America teams and potential bowl matchups.

This is the first year for the newly reconfigured Big 12 (i.e., the merry band of 10 minus Nebraska and Colorado) which means a true round-robin schedule where every school faces another, and the non-conference schedule moves from four games to three.

I checked out the usual mags--The Sporting News, Athlon, Phil Steele--and there are several key themes heading into pre-season practice next month, and the season openers in September:

- Oklahoma will win the Big 12. Every magazine predicted that the Sooners would win the conference title. Phil Steele wrote, "The Sooners have the most talent of any team in the nation."

- Kansas will finish last in the Big 12. Just as OU was universally picked number one, Kansas was unanimously picked last. Most figure that the Jayhawks will be better this year but will suffer from the new round-robin schedule coupled a non-conference road game at Georgia Tech. KU's best chance for a conference win is Kansas State at home.

- Missouri will win the Big 12 North. Oh, wait...there is no Big 12 North. So, let's frame it differently--MU will finish highest among former Big 12 North schools. The Tigers are picked to finish behind OU, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Texas.

- Kansas State is picked 8th and 9th by The Sporting News and Athlon but Steele predicts the 'Cats will finish 6th in the league.

- Nationally, TSN's top 10 is LSU, Oklahoma, Alabama, Stanford, Oregon, Boise State, Florida State, Ohio State, Texas A&M and Nebraska. Steele has Alabama first followed by OU, Boise State, Oregon, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia and Florida State. Athlon's top 10 is Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon, Florida State, Boise State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, LSU, Ohio State and Nebraska.

- Big things are expected at Texas A&M. The Aggies are picked 8th nationally by Steele, 9th by The Sporting News and 11th by Athlon. A&M's momentum coming out of last season (they won their last six games before losing to LSU in the bowl game) is the cause for optimism in College Station. They will struggle to win at OU but get Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma State at home.

Look for more to come in this space as we get into practice timing in August.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The best in sports business

The Sports Business Journal recently announced its annual winners across a wide array of categories in sports business for 2010. Here are some of the highlights.

Executive: George Bodenheimer, ESPN/ABC Sports. It's no surprise that the leader of the "worldwide leader" was the pick here. ESPN's 2010 World Cup coverage played a big part in helping Bodenheimer be selected as Executive of the Year.

Athletic Director: DeLoss Dodds, University of Texas. The Longhorns came out a winner in the conference realignment wars and Dodds lords over the richest athletics department in the country.

Team: San Francisco Giants.

Facility: Target Field.

Talent Representation and Management: CAA Sports.

Corporate Consulting: GMR Marketing.

Event Marketing: The Marketing Arm.

Pro Sports League of the Year: National Hockey League. The viewership numbers are still small when compared to other professional sports, but the NHL is definitely on the way back.

Property Consulting, Sales & Client Services: AEG Global Partnerships.

Sponsor of the Year: Subway. The sandwich franchise has done a good job at leveraging their sports sponsorships and sports media buys.

Lifetime Achievement: Billie Jean King. The list of what King has accomplished is incredibly lengthy--founder of the Women's Tennis Association (1973), Founder of the Women's Sports Foundation (1974), Founder of World Team Tennis (1974), the first tennis player and first female athlete to be named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year (1972), recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award (1999), one of the "100 Most Important Americans of the 20th Century" (LIFE magazine-1990), and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama (2009.) In addition, the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, NY now bears King's name.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hoops recruiting

July is a critical month for college basketball coaches as they visit several AAU events this month, across the U.S., evaluating talent for the recruiting class of 2012. Here's a rundown on some prospects being pursued by Kansas, as well as other Big 12 schools:

- Perry Ellis, 6-8, 220, forward, Wichita. Lists Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Wichita State, as well as Duke, Kentucky and Memphis. He has attended several KU games on unofficial visits. Ranked #19 by

- Kaleb Tarczewski, 7-0, 220, center, Southborough, MA. Kansas, Arizona and North Carolina are at the top of the list of this #12 rated player (

- Nino Jackson, 6-2, 175, point guard, Ardmore, OK. Jackson is being recruited by Oklahoma, Texas, Baylor and Kansas, as well as North Carolina. He's rated #45 by Rivals.

- Willie Cauley, 6-10, 220, Olathe, KS. Cauley is on the radar of Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, among others. He's rated #41 by Rivals.

- Winston Shepard, 6-8, 205, small forward, Henderson, NV. The #44 rated player by Rivals is being recruited by Kansas, Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma. He also lists Kentucky, Memphis and UNLV.

- Shabazz Muhammad, 6-5, 190, guard, Las Vegas, NV. The country's top-rated prospect lists Kansas, Arizona, North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke, Texas, UCLA, and others.

- Marcus Smart, 6-4, 205, small forward, Flower Mound, TX. Smart is being recruited by Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma, plus North Carolina. He's rated #24 by Rivals.

- J'Mychal Reese, 6-1, 170, point guard, Bryan, TX. Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas are after this guard, as is Memphis. His father is rumored to be a potential new assistant coach at Texas A&M or Texas Tech, which could send Reese to one of those schools. He's rated #59 by Rivals.

- Mitch McGary, 6-10, 250, power forward, Wolfeboro, NH. The #5 rated player has a large group of schools pursuing him, including Kansas.

Other ranked players listing Kansas include:

- Archie Goodwin, 6-4, 180, SG, Little Rock, AR. Ranked #11. (Also lists Baylor and Texas, among Big 12 schools.)

- Brandon Ashley, 6-8, 225, PF, Henderson, NV. Ranked #14.

- Danuel House, 6-7, 195, SF, Missouri City, TX. Ranked #26. (Also lists Missouri of Big 12.)

- Shaquille Cleare, 6-9, 285, C, Houston, TX. Ranked #29. (Also lists Texas, Baylor and Texas A&M of Big 12.)

- Robert Upshaw, 6-11, 235, Fresno, CA. Ranked #32.

- T.J. Warren, 6-7, 200, SF, Wolfeboro, NH. Ranked #36.

- Gabe York, 6-2, 170, SG, Orange, CA. Ranked #47.

- Adam Woodbury, 7-0, 230, Sioux City, IA. Ranked #50. (Also lists Texas of Big 12.)

- Rosco Allen, 6-7, 205, PF, Las Vegas, NV. Ranked #75.

- Landen Lucas, 6-8, 240, PF, Henderson, NV. Ranked #134.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Coffee and the sports page

Is there anything better than sitting down with the Sunday paper sports page and a cup of coffee? long as it's in the midst of football and/or basketball season--the sports page fare in the summer, at least here in Kansas City, leaves a bit to be desired.

- NASCAR's super-speedway races have become very predictable. Drivers pair up with a teammate or other driver, push or drag one another along, try to avoid wrecks, and wait until the last 30 laps or so to make a move. Invariably, the final five laps become 12-14 cars vying for position with the inevitable "big one" wreck. Those who stay out of harms way then get to try to safely maneuver through a green-and-white checkered finish like David Ragan did last night in winning the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.

- Nebraska's official entrance into the Big Ten wasn't quite as dramatic as their departure from the Big 12 a year ago but there still were parting shots lobbed by NU officials. Nebraska Athletics Director Tom Osborne said, "The emphasis is on the Big Ten doing well, as opposed to individual schools doing well." For a guy long held up as a standard for humility and class, Osborne has done his fair share of acting defiant with this decision to change conferences.

- This flew under the radar a bit last week--Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS, met with antritrust officials from the Department of Justice. Hancock's meeting was to address questions, raised by this group, about major college football's postseason bowl system.

- What has happened to U.S. singles tennis? The Williams sisters are on the backside of their careers and no men have risen to take the place of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

- Who should be the Kansas City Royals required member of the American League All-Star team? How about Alex Gordon? Gordon is batting .301 with a .368 on-base percentage and 46 RBIs, and has thrived in the lead-off spot. He started the season red-hot at the plate, slumped, and then regained his confidence from the number one spot in the order, hitting .284 since the switch in mid-May. Gordon's play in the field has been consistently good throughout the first half of the season.

- Interested in a career in golf? According to Sports Illustrated, golf accounts for about two million jobs and $60 billion in salaries. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem has the job you probably want--he makes $5.2 million per year. If your desire is to be the next Carl Spackler, you'll likely make about $10 per hour.

- Speculation out of Lawrence, KS is that Brock Berglund, the quarterback who changed his commitment from Colorado to Kansas, won't suit up for the Jayhawks. Berglund has apparently been missing "voluntary" summer workouts at KU. (Source: