👋 Good morning! Jam-packed edition today. Let's sports.
Today's word count: 2,178 words (8 minutes).
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
COVID-19 has shut down college sports, forcing athletic departments to search for any cost-cutting measures they can find.
The big picture: In addition to dealing with the challenges of the present, athletic directors and conference commissioners are also looking ahead and weighing how they can save money whenever sports do resume. Two prime examples:
"There's a lot of criticisms [about] what's happened to athletic budgets, and frankly some of it is fair. This gives us a chance to all take a good look at ourselves and say what do we really need here?"— Vince Tyra, Louisville athletic director, via The Athletic
Yes, but: "There remains, however, a reluctance even to touch where the real fat sits: in the football budget," writes The Athletic's Dana O'Neil (subscription).
By the numbers:
Parting thought: Football is the only sport that generates a profit at most schools, which explains why the prevailing thought is to slash the budgets of non-revenue sports (or discontinue them) rather than impede the football operation.
In related news: Furman University is discontinuing its baseball and men's lacrosse programs.
New York, California and Texas say professional sports could begin in the next few weeks without fans, writes Axios' Marisa Fernandez.
Driving the news: State governors who have been encouraged by the lower amounts of hospitalizations and coronavirus cases said Monday that the kick-start of pro sports without spectators could be something to look forward to if these trends continue.
The bottom line: Whether due to social distancing efforts or summer weather, infection rates will eventually go down. But this early in the pandemic's cycle, that reality might act as a false positive of sorts if pro sports moves too quickly, endangering players and others.
Go deeper: Coronavirus dashboard (Axios)
The NFL is expanding the Rooney Rule, effective immediately, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports.
Why it matters: While doubling the number of required minority head-coaching candidates is significant, adding a requirement for coordinator jobs could have an even greater impact, as it addresses the pipeline problem that the previous iteration of the Rooney Rule never did.
By the numbers: 70.1% of NFL players are non-white, but only 12.5% of regular-season games in 2019 were coached by people of color — and the same four head coaches are in place for 2020: Brian Flores (Dolphins), Ron Rivera (Redskins), Anthony Lynn (Chargers) and Mike Tomlin (Steelers).
The big picture: The NFL is not alone in its struggles to diversify its most senior positions. As of January, there were just four black CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, per NYT.
Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren. Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and for the Big Ten, it began with the announcement of the Mental Health and Wellness Cabinet, writes Axios' Jeff Tracy.
Why it matters: This is the first major initiative in Kevin Warren's young tenure as the new Big Ten commissioner, and it will help elevate the mental wellbeing of athletes at a time when so much of the focus is on physical health.
Details: The cabinet is composed of 31 experts represented by each of the 14 Big Ten schools plus two affiliates — Notre Dame (hockey) and Johns Hopkins (lacrosse).
"This was one of my key pillars, even when I interviewed for the job. This is all about the student-athletes, to tell how much we love, admire, respect, appreciate them, to give them the resources, that we're here, they can talk about it."— Kevin Warren, Big Ten commissioner
The bottom line: The pandemic has pushed mental illness to the background in favor of the more easily-digestible physical aspect of the virus, and in that way, Mental Health Awareness Month has come just in the nick of time.
We're ranking the all-time rosters for all 30 MLB teams. Note: Rosters based only on time spent with this specific team. Thoughts? Email me at email@example.com.
David Wright was the best. Right up there with the Penny Hardaways and Brandon Roys of the world as an all-time "what if?" He made 40 doubles, 30 homers, 20 steals and a .300 average happen like clockwork, and then spinal stenosis came and wiped it all out in an instant. It's really just not fair.
On the mound: SP Tom Seaver* (78.7)
Huge thanks to Tom Stone, whose book "Now Taking the Field: Baseball's All-Time Dream Teams for All 30 Franchises," provided the inspiration for these rosters.
36 years ago today, Wayne Gretzky won his first Stanley Cup, leading the Edmonton Oilers past the New York Islanders, four games to one.
The big picture: Gretzky and fellow Hall of Fame teammate Mark Messier would go on to win three more titles together in the '80s, but mere hours after the fourth one in 1988, Gretzky learned he would be traded to the L.A. Kings.
P.S. ... Always loved this quote from Gretzky, describing his own playing style:
"I don't care if you're Carl Lewis, you can't outskate that little black thing. Just move the puck: give it up, get it back, give it up. It's like Larry Bird. The hardest work he does is getting open. The jumpshot is cake. That's all hockey is: open ice. That's my whole strategy: Find Open Ice."
⛳️ We're out of toilet paper, hand sanitizer — and golf pushcarts? (Andrew Beaton, WSJ)
"Google has documented changes in consumer behavior during the pandemic, and this month it found that golf-bag accessories were the No. 1 top-trending retail category. The most popular subtopics within that category were golf pushcarts, golf pull carts and the Clicgear 4.0."
❤️ What I want to know of kindness (Devin Kelly, Longreads)
"Men are not taught to suffer openly, and they learn their response to suffering from those who suffer openly, so often, at the hands and words of men. This is a destructive paradox."
⚾️ Reopening MLB will take a lot more than dollars and tests (Michael Baumann, The Ringer)
"MLB presented a proposal to the players on Friday that detailed the health and safety measures necessary to get back on the field. But that's just where the complications begin."
SAN FRANCISCO — Olympic fencer Alexander Massialas (right) trains with his father and coach, Greg Massialas, on their back porch.
MELBOURNE, Australia — Climber Oceana Mackenzie trains in isolation at her home, while her dog keeps her company. Good boy.
NORTHAMPTON, England — Rugby player Tom Wood works out in his back garden using a homemade barbell.
Bartolo Colon, 46, thinks he's got one more year left in him.
Answer at the bottom.
Russell L. (New Jersey) writes:
"Why do sports matter to me? For many reasons, but none more important than this: Sports are where I found my connection to my son, who is on the autism spectrum.
"I grew up with a love of almost all sports, especially hockey. I started playing at age four, and have now worked in hockey for 20-plus years. Naturally, my kids were going to get an early start on becoming hockey players and fans.
"But when my son was born, those plans gave way to our new reality: an autism spectrum diagnosis, early intervention, behavioral, speech and occupational therapy.
"We were advised to avoid team sports. We tried taekwondo instead, but he showed only a passing interest. One season of rec soccer was met with similar indifference.
"Everything changed on Feb. 24, 2008 when we attended a Devils-Capitals game in Washington, D.C. Something clicked for my son that day. He latched onto the game, and to the Capitals (and later, the Sharks). He began talking to his younger sister — already an involved Devils fan — about the action on the ice.
"For whatever reason, that experience lit a spark. He began following the game and memorizing statistics. Later that year, he expressed a desire to play — an idea we had dropped years earlier when he balked at the sensory challenges of wearing tightly laced skates and a helmet with a mask.
"But now he was determined. He took skating lessons. He began attending hockey clinics. He eventually joined a house league team. As a family, we started to go to more games together.
"Fast-forward 12 years, and my son moved on from house league to travel hockey. He played four years in high school, and he was on his college's club team as a freshman. His sister remains a huge fan of the Devils, and she served as the manager of his high school team.
"Hockey has given him confidence. It makes him feel accomplished. It helped him make friends and conquer the social challenges of college — daunting for anyone, but particularly a student on the autism spectrum thrown into this new experience.
"Hockey is still the thread that binds our family together. My son is anxious for the NHL to return and to get back on the ice. My daughter is anxious to start her own college career at a hockey-crazed school. Even in a world turned upside down, we still share our hockey bond."
✍️ 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 "You're a great dad, Russell" Baker
Trivia answer: Ichiro Suzuki, Omar Vizquel, Tim Wakefield, Jamie Moyer