🎉 Happy Friday! Quick shoutout to my new wingman, Jeff Tracy, for coming on board at the strangest possible time and crushing it so far. Great first two weeks, my friend.
💬 Got feedback for us? A story to pitch? Just want to say hey? To contact me, reply directly to this newsletter or message me on Twitter. To contact Jeff, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or message him on Twitter.
Today's word count: 1,784 (7 minutes).
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
The NCAA men's basketball tournament makes up more than 75% of the organization's annual revenue, so ever since March Madness was canceled, college administrators have been bracing for an economic gut punch.
Driving the news: The NCAA delivered the blow yesterday, announcing that it will distribute just $225 million to Division I conferences and schools for 2020 — less than half of the $600 million that had originally been budgeted.
Between the lines: Lower divisions will also be taking a substantial hit, with D-II schools projected to receive $30 million less than last year (~$13.9 million), and D-III schools projected to receive $22 million less than last year (~$10.7 million).
Why it matters: This massive slashing of revenue distribution will affect athletic departments big and small, "likely starting with staffing reductions or salary freezes and eventually causing schools to reduce scholarships and potentially cut sports entirely," writes The Athletic's Nicole Auerbach (subscription).
The big picture: Many schools are already refunding student fees for the semester, and with spring (and potentially winter) athletes expected to be granted an extra year of eligibility, rosters and costs could balloon next year.
The bottom line: The college sports world was already living in a new financial reality before yesterday's announcement, but now that they know the extent of the damage, "it feels more real," says NC State athletic director Boo Corrigan.
Photo: Sergei Gapon/AFP via Getty Images
Belarus is the only European country that is still playing soccer. Why? Because President Alexander Lukashenko, a man often referred to as "Europe's last dictator," said so.
What he's saying: "[The coronavirus] is just another psychosis, which will benefit some people and harm others," Lukashenko said last week. "The civilized world is going nuts. It is absolute stupidity to close state borders."
The state of play: The 2020 Belarusian Premier League season began last Thursday as planned and games are scheduled to be played this weekend.
Between the lines: Some players are concerned about their health, but the lack of confirmed coronavirus cases in Belarus (86 in a country of 10 million) appears to have kept fears at a minimum.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred speaks with MLBPA head Tony Clark. Photo: LG Patterson/MLB via Getty Images
On the day the 2020 season would have started, MLB players and owners struck a deal on salary and service-time issues as they prepare for a delayed, and potentially canceled, season, ESPN's Jeff Passan reports.
Between the lines: As part of the deal, MLB now has the right to shorten the 2020 draft to five rounds and the 2021 draft to 20 rounds, down from the usual 40. And undrafted players would have their signing bonus capped at $20,000, per MLB insider Jon Heyman.
The bat flip heard 'round the world. Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
In lieu of Opening Day, MLB programmed a day of 30 classic games — one for each team. Here are the scores and highlights:
What does a sports bettor do without sports? If you're David Hill, you bet on an NBA 2K simulation, then write about it for The Ringer.
After seeing NBA betting lines on his bookie's website, Hill clicked a link that took him to a broadcast of an NBA 2K game on Twitch, where the voice of a teenager was addressing the chatroom.
"The kid explained that they simulated an entire NBA season and had been doing it for a while. They would let the game take control of each team and play itself, letting the game's internal algorithm ... dictate the results."
Hill placed two bets — $80 on the Rockets and $20 on the Knicks — and settled in to watch some virtual hoops. But that's not quite what happened.
"Once the game tipped, I couldn't believe my eyes. ... A clock began to rapidly tick down. Where were the simulated players? Where was the virtual game? Within seconds the entire box score, all four quarters, was filled with numbers. The Knicks had been crushed. I had lost $20."
Confused by the lack of gameplay, Hill asked the kid running the chat if they were going to get to watch video game basketball at any point, rather than just seeing simulated box scores.
"'Nah, bro. If we actually watched the games we'd be here all night,' the teen responded. By the time he had finished speaking, the Rockets had lost by 40 points to the Cavaliers, and I was $100 in the hole."
FLUSHING, N.Y. — A father and daughter play catch with a softball outside an empty Citi Field, home of the Mets.
TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wears his stress on his sleeve during a budget committee session at parliament on Friday morning.
BROOKMONT, Md. — Despite the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Team USA kayakers continued their training in the Potomac River. "The dream never dies," said kayaker Joshua Joseph. "Another year to push ... another year to get better." Hell yeah.
81 years ago today, the Oregon Webfoots beat the Ohio State Buckeyes, 46-33 (!!!), to win the inaugural NCAA men's basketball tournament. Yup, there's footage.
Details: It was technically the first March Madness, but the tournament bore little resemblance to what we know and love today.
Fun fact: Webfoots didn't actually refer to ducks, but rather the group of Massachusetts fishermen that helped George Washington and his troops cross the Delaware River before the famous battle of 1776.
Screenshot: National Film Board (YouTube)
While browsing the internet yesterday, I somehow stumbled upon a 2008 documentary called "Carts of Darkness" about homeless men in Vancouver who race shopping carts.
Five of the 10 players who were drafted No. 1 overall last decade are not currently signed to an NFL team.
Answer at the bottom.
10. Field of Dreams (1989) An absolute classic that can, and should, be watched over and over again. Still holding out hope we'll get to see this year's Field of Dreams game between the Yankees and White Sox.
9. Love & Basketball (2000) Sanaa Lathan (who had never picked up a basketball before filming) and Omar Epps are perfect as Monica and Quincy, and put the age-old game of strip basketball firmly back on the map.
8. Creed (2015) Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan may just be the modern-day equivalent to Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro ("Fruitvale Station," "Creed," "Black Panther"). Can't wait to see their next joint project.
7. Bull Durham (1988) Tell me how it's possible that in consecutive years Kevin Costner made "Bull Durham" and "Field of Dreams?"
6. Friday Night Lights (2004) Boobie Miles flashing his signature bravado as he cleans out his locker; Boobie Miles breaking down in the car minutes later, a once-exciting future seemingly all but dashed. Sometimes, life isn't fair.
5. The Sandlot (1993) Heroes are remembered, but legends never die.
4. Rocky (1976) I'm cheating a bit here and rolling up the entire Rocky series into this slot. But if I had to pick just one, give me the first; give me the best.
3. Major League (1989) "Well then I guess there's only one thing left to do ... win the whole f---ing thing." Not sure what this movie has more of: unbelievable lines, or curse words.
2. Remember the Titans (2000) "YOU BLITZ ALL NIGHT!!! If they cross the line of scrimmage, I'll take every last one of you out! You make sure they remember FOREVER the night they played the Titans."
1. Moneyball (2011) How can you not be romantic about baseball?
Enjoy the weekend,
Kendall "Gives me chills every time" Baker
Trivia answer: Sam Bradford (2010) Cam Newton (2011), Andrew Luck (2012), Jadeveon Clowney (2014) and Jameis Winston (2015)