3 hours ago

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

👋 Good morning! Let's sports.

Today's word count: 1,767 words (7 minutes).

1 big thing: 🎓 Alumni fight to save college sports
Data: Mat Talk Online; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

242 collegiate athletic programs have been cut amid the pandemic, altering the careers and lives of thousands of student-athletes, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

Yes, but: Some passionate alumni groups have opted to fight, banding together in hopes of saving the programs they helped build and continue to love.

  • Already saved: Alumni from Bowling Green State University raised $1.5 million to save its baseball team, and donors gave Alabama-Huntsville $750,000 to save its hockey team.
  • Work in progress: Dartmouth men's and women's Swimming & Diving — among the most recent programs to be cut — jumped into action immediately with fundraising efforts and a petition to save the team.

What they're saying: Hayley Winter ('18), former captain of the Dartmouth Women's Swimming & Diving team, tells Axios that "the posture of the administration is that this is an irrevocable decision," and that "no amount of fundraising could change their position."

  • But the program was cut once before, in 2002. Winter's predecessors fought and won then, and she's hopeful that the team can be saved a second time.
  • "We are committed to working with the administration to find a creative solution that meets their goals without cutting our programs," said Winter.
  • "The swim team had a tremendous impact on my Dartmouth experience. It instilled in me an unwavering work ethic and allowed me to tap into an expansive and wonderfully supportive alumni network."
  • "I'm genuinely devastated, especially for the existing members of the team. I'm hoping we can turn this around, if for anyone, just for them."

Zoom out:

  • Tennis hit hard: Nearly 20% of all cuts have been tennis programs. That's partly due to steep facility costs, but tennis also has the largest foreign participation of any sport (~60% of rosters are not native to the U.S). "There have been some ADs saying, 'Can't have a program of all international students,'" Tim Russell, CEO of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, told SI.
  • Topping the list: Stanford (11), Brown (8), Dartmouth (5), UConn (4) and East Carolina (4) represent 32 of the 61 shuttered D-I programs.
  • Gender breakdown: There's a near-even split of men's (121) and women's (118) programs, with three co-ed programs also being cut.
  • It's not just the NCAA: They lead the way with 176 cuts, but the NJCAA (38), NAIA (16), CCCAA (8) and NCCAA (4) have also been impacted.

Go deeper: Donors to eliminated sports find colleges still keep the money (Sportico)

2. ⛳️ The numbers behind Bryson's bombs

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio

Bryson DeChambeau's radical transformation of his body has been the biggest storyline in golf this summer, and he's the betting favorite at this weekend's Memorial Tournament after winning in Detroit earlier this month.

By the numbers: Just how insane has DeChambeau been off the tee since golf returned? Consider these stats, per ESPN:

  • DeChambeau has hit 29 drives at least 350 yards, which is more than the next two players combined.
  • He's averaging 323 yards per drive, a 20.5 yard increase over his 2019 average (302.5). The next-largest jump in the last 15 years was Tiger Woods, who increased his distance by 14.2 yards from 2004 to 2005.
  • The massive distance has left DeChambeau just 149.2 yards to the hole on average, which is on pace to pass Bubba Watson (149.8 in 2014-15) for the shortest distance in a season since 2005.

Go deeper:

3. 🎓 St. Thomas jumps from D-III to D-I

The St. Thomas football team takes the field in 2019. Photo: Jack Rodgers/St. Paul Pioneer Press via Getty Images

The University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minn.) has been granted permission by the NCAA to jump directly from Division III to Division I after the school was booted from its conference for ... being too good at sports.

  • Beginning in the 2021-22 academic year, the Tommies will join the Summit League for most sports.
  • The school's football team — which routed three conference opponents by a combined score of 244-0 two years ago and made the D-III national championship game twice last decade — will join the Pioneer League.

Why it matters: St. Thomas is the first school to make the two-level jump since the current rules were put in place in 2010, which typically mandate a 12-year process with a five-year stop in D-II, but were waived in this unique scenario.

  • Buffalo made the two-level jump in 1993 before the rules were put in place and so did Dayton, though they were already D-I in basketball at the time.

The backdrop: St. Thomas announced last spring that it was leaving the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, its home since 1920, because conference members were preparing to kick them out for being too dominant.

  • The Tommies' success was not a surprise, given they spent more on athletics and had twice as many undergrads (6,200) as any other MIAC school.

What they're saying: "When you look back at the evolution of our school over the last 40 or 50 years, it's been very entrepreneurial in spirit — whether that's going co-ed, moving from college to university, expanding to a second campus or adding a law school," St. Thomas athletic director Phil Esten tells Axios.

  • "We feel this is the next step for us, and we're hopeful that making the move to D-I will expand our reach nationally and extend the St. Thomas brand beyond what has been a strong regional market."

🎥 Watch: St. Thomas campus tour (YouTube)

4. ⚡️ Catch up quick
Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
  • 🏁 NASCAR: Up to 30,000 fans were allowed to attend Wednesday night's All-Star race at Bristol Motor Speedway, and roughly 20,000 showed up — likely making it the largest sporting event in the U.S. since winter.
  • 🏀 NBA: Dwyane Wade tweeted his support of TV host Nick Cannon, who was recently fired for making anti-Semitic remarks. Wade then deleted the tweet and tried to explain himself, but it wasn't an actual apology.
Photo: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
  • 🏀 Recruiting: The nation's No. 4 overall prospect Jonathan Kuminga will bypass college and join the G League. He becomes the fifth top-100 prospect in the 2020 class to do so, joining Jalen Green (No. 1), Isaiah Todd (No. 15), Daishen Nix (No. 21) and Kai Sotto (No. 65).
  • 🏈 NFL: Texans WR Kenny Stills was arrested Tuesday in Louisville while protesting the police shooting death of Breonna Taylor outside the home of Kentucky's attorney general. He is among 87 protestors who face felony charges for intimidating a participant in the legal process.
Photo: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images
  • ⚽️ Premier League: Liverpool lost 2-1 to Arsenal, falling for just the third time this season (30-3-3 record). They now have 93 points with two matches left, meaning they can no longer match Manchester City's 100-point record.
  • ⚽️ MLS: Shea Salinas scored in the eighth minute of stoppage time, and the Earthquakes rallied from a late two-goal deficit to stun the Whitecaps, 4-3. Maybe the craziest MLS game I've ever seen. Watch the full highlights.
5. 🏀 Ranking the NBA's all-time rosters (No. 13)
Expand chart
Player data: Basketball Reference; Graphic: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

We're ranking the all-time rosters for all 30 NBA teams. Note: Rosters and stats based only on time spent with this specific team. Thoughts? Email me at jeff@axios.com.

13. Portland Trail Blazers

This team's "what-if" factor is off the charts. Brandon Roy was an ascendant superstar before chronic knee injuries forced him to retire at 28; Bill Walton was one of the best college players ever, but foot injuries held him back as a pro; and Arvydas Sabonis made his NBA debut at age 31, having spent his prime playing in Europe.

  • Year established: 1970
  • All-time record: 2,163-1,873 (.536)
  • NBA Championships: 1
  • Hall of Famers (indicated by *): 3

Starters:

  • Damian Lillard, G (24.0 pts, 4.2 reb, 6.5 ast, 21.9 PER/79.9 WS)
  • Clyde Drexler*, G (20.8 pts, 6.2 reb, 5.7 ast, 21.3 PER/108.7 WS)
  • Brandon Roy, G (19.0 pts, 4.3 reb, 4.7 ast, 20.1 PER/37.5 WS)
  • LaMarcus Aldridge, F (19.4 pts, 8.4 reb, 1.9 ast, 20.3 PER/69.4 WS)
  • Bill Walton*, C (17.1 pts, 13.5 reb, 4.4 ast, 22.1 PER/26.0 WS)

Sixth man: Terry Porter, G (14.9 pts, 3.5 reb, 7.0 ast, 17.9 PER/79.3 WS)

Bench:

  • Arvydas Sabonis*, C (12.0 pts, 7.3 reb, 2.1 ast, 21.2 PER/47.3 WS)
  • C.J. McCollum, G (18.4 pts, 3.3 reb, 3.1 ast, 17.2 PER/31.5 WS)
  • Rasheed Wallace, F (16.8 pts, 7.0 reb, 2.0 ast, 18.2 PER/61.3 WS)
  • Sidney Wicks, F (22.3 pts, 10.3 reb, 4.1 ast, 18.9 PER/30.2 WS)
  • Maurice Lucas, F (15.6 pts, 8.7 reb, 2.5 ast, 16.7 PER/23.6 WS)
  • Geoff Petrie, G (21.8 pts, 2.8 reb, 4.6 ast, 15.8 PER/26.1 WS)

Notes:

  • Lillard has (thus far, knock on wood) broken free from the what-if curse. Since entering the league in 2012, he's one of just two players (James Harden) with 600 games, 2,500 rebounds, 3,900 assists and 1,500 made threes.
  • Drexler was one of just five players during his career (1983-98) with multiple 20/6/6 seasons (Larry Bird, Grant Hill, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan).

ICYMI ... 30. Grizzlies, 29. Timberwolves, 28. Hornets, 27. Raptors, 26. Pelicans, 25. Pacers, 24. Clippers, 23. Mavericks, 22. Nets, 21. Cavaliers, 20. Bucks, 19. Hawks, 18. Wizards, 17. Suns, 16. Kings, 15. Magic, 14. Nuggets

Stats, explained: Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is a measure of a player's per-minute productivity (20+ is elite); Win Shares (WS) attempts to divvy up individual credit for team success (6 per season is elite).

6. July 16, 1995: ⛳️ Annika's first major

Annika Sörenstam hits out of the bunker during the 1995 U.S. Women's Open. Photo: J.D. Cuban/Getty Images

25 years ago today, Swedish golfer Annika Sörenstam won the U.S. Women's Open at The Broadmoor Golf Club in Colorado Springs, claiming her first major.

  • Why it matters: In the ensuing decade-plus, Sörenstam became arguably the greatest female golfer ever.
  • By the numbers: Her 72 LPGA victories rank third all-time behind Americans Kathy Whitworth (88) and Mickey Wright (82), her 10 majors are tied for fourth, and the 59 she shot at Moon Valley Country Club in 2001 remains the only sub-60 round in LPGA history.

A lasting legacy: When the LPGA established a new annual award in 2014 to recognize that year's best golfer, they named it after Sörenstam (Rolex Annika Major Award).

🎥 Watch: 15 years later, Annika Sörenstam Remembers 59 (YouTube)

7. 📚 Good reads
Courtesy: Elena Delle Donne

🏀 An open letter about my health (Elena Delle Donne, The Players' Tribune)

"I take 64 pills a day, and I feel like it's slowly killing me. ... I regret not having done more in the past to speak up about Lyme disease. It's a terrifying thing to live with, yet not many people know much about it."

✍️ Sports are coming back. Is sports media coming back with it? (Bryan Curtis, The Ringer)

"How will reporters criticize a sports restart they desperately need to work? Well, it turns out sportswriters are masters of cognitive dissonance: at recognizing that sports can be both rotten and a great way to make a career."

💨 Bongs, blunts and balms — The secret to surviving the NBA bubble (Marcus Thompson II, The Athletic)

"One of the most pressing questions entering the bubble in Orlando didn't get asked publicly. But it was asked [and] some players will need the answer. ... 'How long will a pound last?'"
8. The Ocho: 🏓 H-shaped ping pong
Source: Pongfinity (YouTube)

This is my new favorite thing. I might build a table.

Please enjoy.

9. 🏈 Heisman trivia
Giphy

Derrick Henry, who signed a four-year, $50 million contract with the Titans on Wednesday, is one of seven RBs to win the Heisman Trophy since 1990.

  • Question: Can you name the other six?
  • Hint: Only two of them won the award this century.

Answer at the bottom.

10. ❤️ Why we love sports
Richard and his father, Dick, after a race in 1981. Photo: Richard R.

Richard R. (Chicago) writes:

"During my first days as a sports fan in the late 1950s, my father, Dick Rothschild, took me to a variety of athletic events in and around New York City.
"But my favorite was our only overnighter, our one real road trip: The 1959 U.S. vs. Soviet Union track meet at Philadelphia's Franklin Field — the first time a full team of Soviet athletes were to compete in America.
"We took the train to Philly and arrived at the swank Warwick Hotel, which was where the U.S. and Soviet athletes were staying. Even better, the L.A. Dodgers, who would win the World Series that fall, were also staying at the Warwick.
Duke Snider (L), Don Bessent and Gil Hodges in 1956. Photo: William Greene/Sports Studio Photos/Getty Images
"As a nine-year-old autograph hound, this was finding the mother lode. Seeing Duke Snider and Gil Hodges eating breakfast was like Christmas in July. They graciously signed autographs before going out to split a doubleheader with the Phillies.
"I remember getting the signatures of a number of track athletes, too, but I was still a newcomer to the sport. In fact, this road trip was my father's way of introducing me to one of his lifelong passions (he would later run the Boston Marathon and the first New York City Marathon).
"After visiting Independence Hall and the iconic Liberty Bell in the morning, we arrived at Franklin Field, which was full of current and future Olympians.
Franklin Field circa 1950. Photo: Kean Collection/Archive Photos/Getty Images
"I remember the U.S. dominated the shorter events, while the Soviets ruled the distances. And when the races ended, I remember wishing there were more. This was fun.
"Dad's been gone more than 30 years now, but that weekend will never leave me. It was my first exposure to big-time track and field and made me a fan for life — just like him."

✍️ Submit your story: Do you have a fondest sports memory? Or an example of sports having a positive impact on your life? If you'd like to share, simply reply to this email. We'll be telling your stories until they run out.

Kendall Baker

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Brandon Roy was incredible" Baker

Trivia answer: Rashaan Salaam (1994), Eddie George (1995), Ricky Williams (1998), Ron Dayne (1999), Reggie Bush (2005; vacated), Mark Ingram (2009)