April 21, 2022

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Today's word count: 1,726 words (7 minutes).

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1 big thing: 💵 The advertising invasion

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Jersey advertisements have long evaded the Big Four leagues, but that valuable real estate has become too tempting to ignore, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

Driving the news: The Padres on Tuesday became the first MLB team to announce a jersey patch sponsor, signing a multi-year deal with Motorola reportedly worth $10 million annually.

  • The deal includes a Motorola patch on the right sleeve and branding throughout Petco Park.
  • The Dodgers also enlisted a marketing firm on Tuesday to help strike a jersey sponsorship deal.

The big picture: Five years ago, no Big Four sports leagues had jersey sponsors. By 2023, three of them will.

  • NBA: Jersey patches debuted in 2017, and this season the program is expected to generate $225 million in revenue, per Boardroom.
  • NHL: Helmet ads debuted in 2020 to offset pandemic losses and stuck around after generating $15 million total in the first year. Jersey ads — expected to generate $5–10 million per team — will debut next season.
  • MLB: Last month's CBA gave teams the right to sell sleeve patches beginning in 2023, which could generate $8–10 million per team, per SBJ. Helmet decals could debut as soon as this postseason.
  • NFL: Teams began selling ads on practice jerseys in 2009. There's no word yet on game day jerseys, but it feels somewhat inevitable.

By the numbers: The change is already bearing fruit for MLB. The average team is worth 5% more now than last year, per Sportico (subscription), thanks in part to the promise of jersey patches.

Zoom out: Jersey sponsorships stateside still pale in comparison to those in European soccer, where some clubs make as much in a year as entire leagues do here.

  • Manchester United, for example, make $185 million annually on their jerseys alone.
  • Breakdown: $98 million from Adidas (kit supplier), $61 million from TeamViewer (jersey sponsor), $26 million from Kohler (sleeve sponsor).

The bottom line: What was once jarring — like a "bibigo" logo on the iconic Lakers jersey or a Nike swoosh atop the Yankees pinstripes — now feels normal. And it's only the beginning.

2. 🏀 Stunner: Jay Wright retires

Jay Wright cuts down the net after beating Houston in the Elite Eight last month. Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Jay Wright stunned the college basketball world on Wednesday, announcing his retirement after 21 seasons, 520 wins, two national championships and four Final Fours at Villanova.

"Over the past 21 seasons, I have had the opportunity to live out a professional dream as the head coach at Villanova. Patty and I have been blessed to work with incredible, gifted young men who allowed us to coach them and brought us unmatched joy."
— Wright, via Twitter

Why it matters: Wright leaves at the top of his profession. He was the fifth-highest paid coach this past season ($6+ million) and guided the Wildcats to the Final Four just three weeks ago.

  • Villanova has won 20 NCAA tournament games since 2016, the most of any school. Since 2009, they've earned a No. 1 or 2 seed seven times, a rock of consistency.
  • They've won 30+ games in five of the last eight seasons, and two of the years they didn't were either postponed or shortened by COVID-19.

The big picture: Wright is the third high-profile D-I men's basketball coach to retire in the past 13 months, following Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and UNC's Roy Williams. Wright, 60, is by far the youngest. Krzyzewski is 75 and Williams was 70 when he retired.

  • Their departures leave college basketball without three powerful voices as the sport navigates the brave new world of NIL, the transfer portal and a revamped NCAA structure.
  • "Wright ... was considered among the leaders in position to help college hoops define its future, largely because his program has somehow managed to fly above the storm clouds," writes The Athletic's Dana O'Neil (subscription).

What's next: Kyle Neptune, 37, will be Villanova's next head coach. He was a longtime Wright assistant before leaving to coach Fordham, where he went 16-16 last season.

  • "He was always the guy I could rely on for some out-of-the-box thinking, a really bright X's and O's guy," Wright said of Neptune last September.
  • With the additions of Neptune and Shaheen Holloway (Seton Hall), the Big East has seven Black head coaches among its 11 teams, by far the most among major conferences.

🎥 Watch: There's cool, and then there's Jay Wright (Twitter)

3. 🪂 Whoops: False alarm at Nats Park

Photo: Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The U.S. Capitol complex was briefly evacuated Wednesday after what police said was a "probable" aircraft intrusion, Axios' Andrew Solender and Shawna Chen report.

Turns out, the plane was carrying members of the U.S. Army Golden Knights, who parachuted into Nationals Park for Military Appreciation Night.

  • Nancy Pelosi called the Federal Aviation Committee's "apparent failure to notify Capitol Police ... outrageous and inexcusable."
  • The FAA and U.S. Army are both launching reviews of the incident.

Why it matters: The sky above downtown D.C. is restricted airspace, and the Capitol Police are on a hair-trigger for security threats. Wednesday's evacuation suggests a concerning lapse in communications.

4. ⚡️ Lightning round

Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

🏈 Deebo drama: 49ers stud WR/RB Deebo Samuel has requested a trade out of San Francisco. That doesn't mean he'll get one, but here's where he might end up if he does.

⚽️ New United boss: Manchester United have appointed Erik ten Hag as their new manager. He'll be the fifth permanent boss since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.

🍿 Good Phil Hunting: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are teaming up on a movie about Nike landing Michael Jordan. Affleck plays Nike founder Phil Knight, while Damon plays former exec Sonny Vaccarro.

⛳️ More Pebble: Pebble Beach has joined Pinehurst No. 2 and Oakmont as USGA anchor sites, meaning it will host the U.S. Open more frequently. Love to see it.

⚾️ You can't do that: A college baseball pitcher is facing possible expulsion for attacking an opponent as he rounded the bases on a home run trot. Wild video.

5. ⛳️ This weekend, golf's a team sport

Step Brothers Ryan GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Source: Giphy

The Zurich Classic tees off today in New Orleans, offering a change of pace as the normally solo endeavor becomes a team sport, Jeff writes.

How it works: 80 pairs of golfers will play two team-based formats — best ball and foursomes — with the top 35 teams making the cut.

  • Best ball (Rounds 1 and 3): Everyone plays their own ball. Your team's score each hole is the better of the two.
  • Foursomes (Round 2 and 4): Teams play just one ball, alternating every shot. They also alternate teeing off each hole.

The intrigue: Players pick their own teams, and trying to solve for team chemistry in a game that's traditionally so isolating adds an intriguing variable with differing strategies.

  • Friends: Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele normally "want to beat each other more than anyone else," says Schauffele, but are excited for the chance to win together. It helps that they're ranked No. 4 and No. 12, respectively, and thus are co-favorites.
  • Family: Bill Haas and his father Jay, 68, hope blood is thicker than water this weekend. But more than anything, "It's just a special week [that] I'll remember forever," Bill told Yahoo.
  • Ringers: Ryan Palmer has played twice each with Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm when they were at the top of their games. His partner this year? No. 1 Scottie Scheffler.

The bottom line: It's not quite the Ryder Cup, but bringing the team element to golf for a weekend should be a blast for fans and competitors alike.

5. 🏈 Coming this fall: NFL in VR

Screenshot courtest of StatusPro

The NFL's first officially licensed game for virtual reality platforms is coming this fall.

Driving the news: StatusPro has released the first trailer for its upcoming game, "NFL Pro Era," which puts players inside the helmets of NFL QBs, giving them a chance to see and hear what signal-callers would — then try to complete the pass.

My take: We needed VR more than ever during the pandemic, and all we got were cardboard cutouts. So while I remain skeptical about the space, it's exciting to see experiences like this hit the market. QBs have been training in VR for years.

7. 🌎 The world in photos

Joel Embiid celebrating
Photo: Cole Burston/Getty Images

TORONTO — Joel Embiid hit a turnaround three with less than a second left in OT to lift the 76ers past the Raptors, 104-101, and get some revenge for Kawhi Leonard's 2019 buzzer-beater. Philadelphia leads 3-0.

  • Elsewhere: The Celtics beat the Nets, 114-107, to take a 2-0 lead. The Bulls beat the Bucks, 114–110, to pull even.
Alex Ovechkin
Photo: Zak Krill/NHLI via Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — Alex Ovechkin is now the oldest player in NHL history to score 50 goals in a season, and tied Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky for most 50-goal seasons ever with nine.

Shohei Ohtani
Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images

HOUSTON — Shohei Ohtani on Wednesday in a 6-0 win over the Astros: 6 IP, 1 H, 12 K (tied career high); 2-4, 2 RBI.

8. 📺 Watchlist: The third Splash Brother

Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Nuggets host the Warriors tonight (10pm ET, TNT), and if Denver wants to avoid a 3-0 hole, they'll need to stop one of the hottest shooters on the planet: Jordan Poole.

  • The third-year guard out of Michigan leveled up this year in a big way, and his first two career playoff games have been lights out: 59 points on 66% shooting, including 10 threes.
  • "This guy who was still in college when the Warriors made five straight Finals appearances now appears to be essential to their chances of getting back," writes WSJ's Ben Cohen (subscription).

More to watch:

9. ⚾️ MLB trivia

Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Miguel Cabrera (2,999 hits) is one hit away from becoming just the third player in MLB history with 3,000 hits, 500 HR and a .300+ batting average.

  • Question: Name the other two.
  • Hint: Played in the same era.

Answer at the bottom.

10. 🏈 1 fun thing: All-name team

Sauce Gardner. Photo: James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL draft is a week from today. To celebrate, here are our 10 favorite names among the crop of potential draftees:

  • Ty Fryfogle (WR, Indiana)
  • Shocky Jacques-Louis (WR, Pitt)
  • Snoop Conner (RB, Ole Miss)
  • Coby Bryant (CB, Cincinnati)
  • Sauce Gardner (CB, Cincinnati) ... Not his legal name, but couldn't not include.
  • Decobie Durant (CB, South Carolina St.)
  • Skyy Moore (WR, Western Michigan)
  • Charleston Rambo (WR, Miami)
  • Smoke Monday (S, Auburn)
  • Darrian Beavers (LB, Cincinnati)

Food for thought ... If Oklahoma is Quarterback U and Georgia is Linebacker U, Cincinnati is clearly Cool Name U.

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Hope crying piccolo girl is OK" Baker

Trivia answer: Hank Aaron and Willie Mays

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