👋 Happy Friday! Let's sports.
Today's word count: 2,006 words (8 minutes).
👋 Happy Friday! Let's sports.
Today's word count: 2,006 words (8 minutes).
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
As universities scramble to survive the financial fallout of the coronavirus, sports teams are being cut, abruptly ending thousands of student-athletes' careers and exposing a collegiate sports model that many believe is broken.
By the numbers: 43 Division I teams have been eliminated in the last 12 weeks, and more than 130 programs have been cut across all NCAA levels. By comparison, just 57 programs were cut in the previous three years, combined.
The big picture: While schools claim these are money-saving decisions, many point to the reluctance to touch where the real fat sits — in the football budget — as proof that the NCAA model has been corrupted and lost its original purpose of providing broad-based opportunities.
The state of play: No Power 5 schools (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, Notre Dame) have eliminated a sports team yet. But that will change if the football season is affected and they lose out on lucrative TV deals, which comprise roughly a third of their revenue.
Between the lines: A fact rarely acknowledged by athletic departments looking to make cuts is that when you factor in tuition payments, many "non-revenue" sports actually generate millions for universities.
The last word:
"Broad-based programming is easy to talk about and expensive to do. But all of our programs will be poorer for not having those student-athletes around."— Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, per AP
The National Women's Soccer League will become the first U.S. team sport back in action when it kicks off its 25-game "Challenge Cup" tomorrow.
The intrigue: While leagues like the NBA, MLS and WNBA chose coronavirus-riddled Florida to host their "bubble" operations, the NWSL and two other leagues chose Utah, which has one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the U.S.
Utah's summer residents: The NWSL and the Premier Lacrosse League will follow similar health-and-safety protocols in Utah this summer. Supercross, a motorcycle racing series, just wrapped up its season using similar guidelines.
The backdrop: "Since the 2002 Winter Olympics were held in Utah, the state has used sports as a branding and marketing tool to enhance its economy and image [and] the strategy has gone into overdrive during the pandemic," writes Forbes' Kurt Badenhausen.
The big picture: The Utah Sports Commission estimates the economic impact of hosting the three leagues — plus the PGA's developmental Korn Ferry Tour, which is in action this week near Salt Lake City — is roughly $40 million. And the media exposure of nearly 100 hours of live sports is worth another $40 million.
Go deeper: NWSL Challenge Cup preview (FiveThirtyEight)
LIVERPOOL, England — Liverpool were crowned Premier League champions following Manchester City's 2-1 loss at Chelsea, ending a 30-year wait for a topflight title. They now have 19 titles to their name, one behind Manchester United.
"A long, sultry day, the hottest of the year, had given way to a warm, quiet evening. The fireworks broke the peace ... Then came the car horns, blaring and echoing around empty streets, a joyous Morse code in their short, sharp blasts, summoning people from their homes, confirming that the moment had arrived."— Rory Smith, NYT
LONDON — Christian Pulisic's second goal in two games lifted Chelsea past Manchester City, 2-1. Such a beautiful finish by the young American, who is somehow still only 21 years old.
SYDNEY — Soccer highlights were projected on the Sydney Opera House in celebration of Australia and New Zealand beating out Colombia to win the bid to host the 2023 Women's World Cup, which is being expanded to 32 teams.
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 email@example.com.
Reminder of what I explained in the Hornets write-up on Wednesday: Though the Pelicans are a direct descendant of the original Charlotte Hornets, their history in the eyes of the NBA begins only in 2002, when the Hornets relocated to New Orleans. Also, given who the guards are, I feel pretty comfortable trotting out a three-guard starting lineup.
Sixth man: David West, F (16.4 pts, 7.3 reb, 2.0 ast, 19.0 PER/47.0 WS)
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).
18 years ago today, the Rockets selected Yao Ming first overall in the NBA Draft, bringing the 22-year-old, 7-foot-6-inch center over from China.
The backdrop: Yao, whose parents had both played professionally, weighed 11 pounds at birth — more than twice as much as the average Chinese newborn.
NBA career: Lest we forget, though his career was sadly injury-riddled, Yao was so much more than just a really tall dude — a fact his Hall of Fame entry will attest to.
Post-playing career: In 2009, Yao purchased the Sharks and has spent much of the past decade deeply involved in wildlife conservation efforts. In 2017, he was elected chairman of the CBA, hoping to make the league more globally relevant.
🎥 Watch: Top 10 plays (YouTube)
LeBron James and his business partner Maverick Carter have raised $100 million to form their new media venture, SpringHill Co., which is billed as a platform to give people of color the creative control that's long eluded them.
Between the lines: SpringHill Co., named for the Akron apartment complex where James and his mom moved when he was in sixth grade, consolidates three businesses into one:
What he's saying: James tells Bloomberg Businessweek:
"I'm OK having that pressure of my community and other Black communities across America that look up to me and look to me for inspiration or for guidance.
"It's just my responsibility, and I completely understand that. And so every day I leave my home, or I wake up out of my bed, I understand that it’s not just about me. I'm representing so many people."
Happy belated Hump Day! Please enjoy.
Photo: Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images
Alex Ovechkin has led the NHL in goals in nine of the past 13 seasons, including this year when he and David Pastrnak tied with 48 goals each.
Answer at the bottom.
Tom D. (High Point, N.C.) writes:
"One of the many things you were required to memorize as a Plebe at West Point were the names of every captain of every sport. Well, guess who was captain of the basketball team? Mike Krzyzewski.
"It didn't take long for the upperclassmen to learn that this small-town, North Carolina boy didn't have a prayer of saying his name correctly. So, it seemed like every time I encountered one, they would invariably say 'Dayvault, who's captain of the basketball team?'
"After they rolled around laughing at my many and varied attempts to pronounce his name, it always ended with 'stop and give me 20.' At least at a spelling bee, you don't have to do pushups if you get it wrong.
"My daughter is a North Carolina grad, and several years ago, Coach K was the keynote speaker at her company's annual gala. In typical Duke-UNC fashion, she shared with me that she would be escorting Satan that evening.
"When she arrived back home after the gala, she told me that she'd shared my Plebe story with Coach K and that he was one of the nicest and most honorable people she'd ever met.
"Some things transcend bitter rivalries, and some names — like Krzyzewski — transcend generations."
✍️ 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.
Enjoy the weekend,
Kendall "How can you not love LeBron, I don't get it" Baker
Trivia answer: Sidney Crosby (Penguins), Steven Stamkos (Lightning) and Corey Perry (Ducks)