Jan 23, 2020

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

πŸ‘‹ Good morning! Mr. Peanut is dead, there's a warrant out for Antonio Brown's arrest and Gritty is under investigation for allegedly punching a 13-year-old boy. Just another day on Earth.

Today's word count: 1,622 words (6 minutes).

1 big thing: πŸŽ“ The NCAA's "predator pipeline"
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Reproduced from Jennifer F.A. Borresen/USA Today; Diagram: Axios Visuals

The NCAA routinely punishes student athletes for getting bad grades or accepting free meals, but nowhere in its 440-page rule book does it cite penalties for sexual violence.

Driving the news: Last month, USA Today published a wide-ranging investigation that examined how college athletes move from school to school and continue to play sports even after being found responsible for sexual assault.

Key findings:

1. Athletes are frequent offenders: Over the past five years, the nearly three dozen NCAA Division I universities that contributed data disciplined athletes for sexual misconduct at more than three times the rate of the general student population.

2. The transfer "loophole": Even when expelled from school, the NCAA allows athletes to transfer elsewhere and keep playing, "a pipeline that college athletes disciplined for sexual assault use regularly to resurrect their playing careers and leave sanctions behind," writes USA Today's Kenny Jacoby.

  • Crazy story: After a star University of Oregon football player was expelled for raping two women, the U.S. Department of Education helped facilitate a deal that got his disciplinary record changed from "expelled for sexual misconduct" to "expelled for student conduct," a change that helped him get recruited.

3. Schools won't comply: USA Today tried to collect disciplinary records from 226 Division I public schools across the country, but only 35 complied.

"People in higher education have come to regard their institutions as a brand and will do anything to protect the brand, even if that means putting people on campus at risk."
β€” Frank LoMonte, University of Florida professor

4. The push for change: Advocates continue to spread awareness about this cause, which has led some NCAA conferences to adopt their own sexual violence policies, with a handful of schools taking a zero-tolerance approach.

What to watch: The USA Today investigation caught the attention of Congress, which has since pressured the NCAA to review its sexual violence policies. Perhaps president Mark Emmert will address the topic in his "state-of-college-sports" address tonight at the organization's annual convention.

2. πŸ€ Zion erupts in 4th quarter of debut

Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Zion Williamson exploded in the fourth quarter of his NBA debut, scoring 17 consecutive points during a three-minute stretch that electrified the crowd (and Twitter) and helped turn a double-digit deficit into a brief Pelicans lead.

  • By the numbers: 22 points (8-11 FG, 4-4 3PT), seven rebounds, three assists in 18 minutes.
  • πŸŽ₯ Highlights: Here's the highlight reel everyone will be watching this morning, and here's Zion's most impressive play of the evening, in my opinion.

What they're saying: "Best thing I can say about Zion: months of anticipation for what amounted to an electric 3 minutes of basketball from him and ... it was totally worth it." (@damanr)

3. πŸ’ Ovechkin passing Gretzky? It could happen
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Data: Hockey Reference; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

At first, the idea that Alexander Ovechkin could break Wayne Gretzky's "untouchable" goal-scoring record seems crazy. But then you do the math, and ... it's really not.

By the numbers: With eight goals over a three-game stretch last week, Ovechkin moved into a tie for ninth place on the all-time goals list with 692 career goals, 202 shy of Gretzky's 894.

  • Assuming he finishes with 56 goals this year (that's his current pace), Ovechkin would start next season 180 goals shy of Gretzky's mark, meaning he'd need to average 36.2 goals over the next five seasons to break the record in year 20, which is the same number of years Gretzky played.
  • Worth noting: Ovechkin will turn 38 four seasons from now (2023-24). By comparison, Gretzky retired after his age-38 campaign (1998-99) and didn't score more than 25 goals in any of his final five seasons.

Side-by-side: Gretzky was a sniper who possessed one of the most accurate slap shots the world has ever seen, while Ovechkin is a volume shooter and the best power-play goal scorer of all time.

  • Gretzky: 894 goals on 5,088 shots (17.6%); 204 power play goals
  • Ovechkin: 692 goals on 5,458 shots (12.7%); 258 power play goals

The last word, courtesy of retired NHL player turned broadcaster Eddie Olczyk:

"10 years ago, I probably would have said, 'not happening, nobody's catching Gretzky ever.' But boy oh boy ... Can [Ovechkin] play another five years? Yeah, I think he can, so ... never say never."

🚨 Bonus: We're giving away an Ovechkin jersey! Scroll to the bottom for more details.

4. 🏈 Eli rides off into the sunset
Screenshot: @Giants (Twitter)

Eli Manning will hold a news conference at 11am ET tomorrow to formally announce his retirement from the NFL after 16 seasons as the face of the New York Giants.

What they're saying: "Eli is our only two-time Super Bowl MVP and one of the very best players in our franchise's history," Giants co-owner John Mara said in a statement.

  • "He represented our franchise as a consummate professional with dignity and accountability. It meant something to Eli to be the Giants quarterback, and it meant even more to us."

By the numbers: Manning, 39, is one of five players to win multiple Super Bowl MVPs (Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw) and he never missed a single game due to injury.

  • Completions: 4,895 (7th all-time)
  • Pass yards: 57,023 (7th)
  • Pass TD: 366 (7th)
  • INT: 244 (12th)
  • Career earnings: $252 million (1st)

What's next: SI's Ben Baskin wrote about "the final days of Eli" in October:

"There might not be another player in NFL history whose Hall of Fame candidacy fans and critics will argue about more fervidly. And, friends say, there might not be another player who will care less about the outcome.
"But everyone who knows Eli agrees he is perfectly suited to handle retirement. If they had to bet, he'll disappear entirely into domestic life, not join Peyton in TV ubiquity.
"They suggest, in fact, we may never see Eli again, not in the public eye. Instead, he'll be the dad who takes his kids to school every morning and proudly mows his lawn on Sunday afternoons."

Go deeper:

5. πŸ“Έ Yesterday in photos
Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

NEW YORK β€” A day after being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Derek Jeter and Larry Walker held a joint press conference at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan where they reminisced about their careers and slipped on their new threads.

  • Jeter: "My parents used to always tell me, look, you have to sit back and enjoy the moment. I was just never able to do it. I don't know if that's a character flaw or if it's part of the reason why I'm here. It was always just, what's next?"
  • Walker: "Pinch me."
Courtesy: 100 Thieves

LOS ANGELES β€” Esports organization 100 Thieves (I profiled them in July) unveiled the "100 Thieves Cash App Compound," which will house everything from practice facilities and streaming stations to a retail storefront featuring the brand's latest apparel.

Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA β€” "Some of the so-called true blue courts at the Australian Open were coated in red after a rain front that lashed Melbourne overnight pushed through a dust storm from the northwest and left its mark on the city and the tournament." (AP)

6. πŸ“Š By the numbers
Credit: @thecheckdown (Twitter)
  • 🏈 70 yards: Ravens kicker Justin Tucker casually made a 70-yard field goal yesterday. Makes you think: is there a limit on how far a football can realistically be kicked? Or will kickers just keep improving year-over-year until 70-yarders are the norm? It would completely change the sport.
  • 🏟 85% complete: SoFi Stadium, the upcoming 70,000-seat home of the Rams and Chargers, is on track for its July opening with over 85% of construction work complete. Take a peak.
  • πŸ† 3 new members: Former Penn State center John Urschel (who gave up football to get a Ph.D in math), Colorado AD Rick George and Wyoming AD Tom Burman have been added to the 13-member College Football Playoff selection committee.
7. Jan. 23, 2015: πŸ€ Klay catches fire in the third

Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Five years ago today, Klay Thompson went off against the Kings, scoring 37 points and draining nine threes (on nine attempts) in the third quarter alone, both NBA records.

  • By the numbers: 52 points (16-25 FG, 11-15 3PT), five assists, four steals in 33 minutes.
  • πŸŽ₯ Highlights: Please enjoy. Miss you, Klay.
8. The Ocho: πŸ›Ή Three action-sports brands in one

Courtesy: Thrill One Sports & Entertainment

In an attempt to transform the fragmented world of action sports, The Raine Group and Causeway Media Partners have taken three industry-leading brands β€” Nitro Circus, Street League Skateboard and SuperJacket Productions β€” and combined them into a single entity called Thrill One.

Meet the brands: A combination of live sports, events, production.

  • Nitro Circus: Action-sports touring group co-founded by stunt performer Travis Pastrana
  • Street League Skateboard: International skateboarding series
  • SuperJacket Productions: Rob Dyrdek's production company; behind shows like "Ridiculousness" and "The Dude Perfect Show."

Meet the investors:

The big picture: This move comes with action sports set to gain global exposure at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which will feature skateboarding and surfing for the first time, as well as BMX freestyle.

9. 🏈 Super Bowl trivia

This will be the first Super Bowl since 2013 (Super Bowl XLVII) that won't feature LeGarrette Blount or C.J. Anderson at running back.

  • Question: Which two teams played in Super Bowl XLVII?
  • Hint: The game was played in New Orleans.

Answer at the bottom.

10. πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž Best/worst
Screenshot: @florence_yalls (Twitter)
  • ⚾️ Best nickname: The Florence Freedom, an independent baseball team in northern Kentucky, are now the Florence Y'alls. Amazing.
  • πŸ€ Worst loss in 27 years: No. 20 Memphis lost to Tulsa 80-40 last night (box score), the largest loss by an AP-ranked team against an unranked opponent since 1993, when No. 12 Virginia lost to UConn.
  • πŸ”Š Best sound: Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour today at Torrey Pines. To celebrate, here's a video of him absolutely flushing shots on the range.
  • πŸ’ˆ Worst haircut: The Raiders officially became the "Las Vegas Raiders" yesterday. Here's owner Mark Davis, who continues to have the worst haircut in sports, formally announcing the franchise's new chapter.
  • πŸ€ Best human: WNBA superstar Maya Moore will sit out a second straight season and skip the Olympics so she can continue to push for the release of Jonathan Irons, a man she believes was wrongfully convicted. Respect.
Bonus: 🚨 Ovechkin jersey giveaway

Photo: Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

In honor of his greatness, we're giving away an Alexander Ovechkin jersey.

  • How to enter: Refer at least one friend to Axios Sports using your unique referral link (see bottom of the newsletter).
  • How to win: 1 referral = 1 raffle ticket, 2 referrals = 2 raffle tickets, etc. So whatever your "referral count" says at the bottom of the newsletter is your current number of raffle tickets.
Kendall Baker

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Need Y'alls merch ASAP" Baker

Trivia answer: Ravens and 49ers