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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Pac-12 implosion amplifies the danger to all but football and basketball
2. France and Colombia complete quarters for Women’s World Cup
3. U.S.-Sweden match drew 2.5 million at 5 a.m. Eastern!
4. USA Track & Field names massive 139-member Worlds team
5. Somalia Athletics head booted for WUG “sprinter” entry
● LANE ONE: The implosion of the Pacific-12 Conference confirms that only football matters now in college sports and that the future could well include the end of an increasingly professionalized sport by universities. If so, what happens to all the other sports?
● At the Women’s World Cup, France and Colombia filled out the quarterfinals, with Europe taking five of the eight spots, a historically high number, but down from 2019.
● The U.S. women’s Round-of-16 match against Sweden drew 2.515 million U.S. viewers on FOX, despite starting at 5 a.m. Eastern time last Sunday.
● USA Track & Field named a 139-member team for the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest; media attending the meet will also be subject to clothing “neutrality” checks!
● Turns out the extra-slow Somali “sprinter” at the World University Games is the niece of the head of the country’s athletics federation; she has been dismissed and may be sued!
● World Championships: Cycling (2: Dutch sprinters dominate on track;
Swiss win road mixed relay again) ●
● Panorama: Pan American Sports Organization (celebrates 75th anniversary!) = World University Games (China dominates at home in Chengdu) = Russia (strong testing numbers for RUSADA in 2023) = Boxing (IBA visits Russian allies Venezuela and Nicaragua) = Triathlon (plan in place for next week’s Paris test event) ●
Pac-12 implosion amplifies the danger
to all but football and basketball
Only football matters.
That’s the undeniable conclusion of last week’s stunning collapse of the Pacific-12 Conference, with Oregon and Washington joining USC and UCLA in the Big Ten and Arizona, Arizona State and Utah moving to the Big 12 to re-join Colorado, all based on the size of the television payouts available from each conference.
That leaves an unsustainable quartet of just Cal, Stanford, Oregon State and Washington State.
For all the glory of Stanford’s 134 NCAA team titles – the most of any school – it is nowhere. Los Angeles-based UCLA (no. 2: 121) and no. 3 USC (112) are off to play in a midwestern league after the 2023-24 seasons conclude.
Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, one of the best observers of the Pac-12 for decades, wrote in two separate articles in the past week:
“In July 2018, following a disastrous bowl season for the Pac-12, [then-Pac-12 Commissioner Larry] Scott addressed reporters and brushed aside the results on the field. ‘The scorecard we think matters … is academic and athletic success across all sports,’ he said. The comment exemplifies the ethos, shared by Scott and the presidents, that Olympic sports were as important as football. However inspiring and high-minded, the approach had zero basis in reality on the front lines of college athletics. Scott should have been all about football, all the time.”
“Loser: West Coast Olympic sports. Combine the increased travel for athletes at schools joining the Big Ten and the uncertainty looming for those at the four schools left behind and there is no way to cast the future in a bright light. In case there was any doubt that every available cent should be plowed into football, the past 72 hours provided it. Stanford has 134 NCAA titles and a nebulous existence to show for it.”
Chris Vannini, writing in The Athletic, noted ruefully:
“But college sports is about to learn, if it hasn’t already, that when you’ve sacrificed everything at the altar of money, you no longer control where things go, and you might not like where it ends. The big brands will be fine, but a lot of fans will be left behind, and this isn’t the end of it.”
There is no immediate danger of the college sports universe collapsing, as these conference changes will take place in a year and a lot can happen in a year. But what we see now is that television money controls football and therefore football controls collegiate sport.
But what is there is no more college football?
This is a possibility, with the consolidation of conferences continuing – it’s not over by a long shot – and the question of whether and how to pay the football players, and to a lesser extent, basketball players, whose sports are popular enough to command billion-dollar rights fees from television networks.
Inevitably, in my opinion:
● The forthcoming forced, direct payments to football and basketball players will create huge inequities on campuses, with major (negative) ramifications for all sports other the revenue-producers, and significant Title IX issues that are sure to be litigated.
● The pressure to perform will cause schools to begin dropping other programs if they want to compete in football, which will become more and more expensive.
● The most successful of these fully-professionalized sports teams will outgrow their campuses, just as European football clubs have international fan bases today. That will require the construction of whole new groups of staff to support off-the-field money-making activities, further changing the dynamic of college athletic departments into football, basketball and everything else.
● A backlash against this could lead to suddenly foreseeable consequences, such as:
(1) University leaders looking for an out, either to drop football (or go to a lower NCAA division), or to remove it from the school’s purview, by leasing its name and stadium to an outside entity, perhaps from private equity, and letting the outside entity run the program for profit.
(2) The NFL being coerced into creating – as the NBA has done with the G League – a U-23 league with as many as 64 teams to absorb all of the “name brands” in college football. Let’s remember the NBA started in 2001 with its National Basketball Development League of eight teams; there are 30 in the G League now.
Colleges and universities are supposed to prepare students for their professional lives, not be their employers. This diversion is not lost on many academic leaders who are watching the tail (football) now wagging the dog (the university).
And, for Olympic sport in the U.S., an end to football – and the money it brings – within the context of university athletic departments, is an existential catastrophe. Football and basketball revenues are the bedrock on which baseball, gymnastics, softball, soccer, swimming, track & field, volleyball and all the rest exist.
Without football, what happens?
No one knows.
The NCAA, as an organization, is not impacted much, since it gets almost all of its funding from the television rights for its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. But its members in Division I are mostly dependent on football money to even come close to balancing their costs to operate an athletic department.
The folks at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee are well aware of these issues, but there are no easy answers and no crystal ball on what the right next move is. The American team for Paris 2024 will not be affected, but could be by the time the Los Angeles 2028 Games come around.
France and Colombia complete quarters for Women’s World Cup
The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup quarterfinals are set, with Europe still in charge, although not as dominant as in 2019, with five of the last eight. Historically, that’s still a lot:
● 2003: 4 of 8 from Europe (hosted by U.S.)
● 2007: 3 of 8 from Europe (China)
● 2011: 4 of 8 from Europe (Germany)
● 2015: 3 of 8 from Europe (Canada)
● 2019: 7 of 8 from Europe (France)
● 2023: 5 of 8 from Europe (Australia & New Zealand)
The quarterfinals schedule (with FIFA World Rankings):
● Aug. 11: Spain (6) vs. Netherlands (9) in Wellington
● Aug. 11: Japan (11) vs. Sweden (3) in Auckland
● Aug. 12: Australia (10) vs. France (5) in Brisbane
● Aug. 12: England (4) vs. Colombia (25) in Sydney
On Tuesday, France had its best game of the tournament so far and Colombia scored just once, but it was enough to advance:
● France 4, Morocco 0 ● After scoring one goal in its first two games, France scored six in its group-stage finale against Panama and now four against Morocco, which had given up just one score in its last two games after getting trounced, 6-0, by Germany in its opener.
In Adelaide, the French – eliminated in the round-of-16 as the favored hosts in 2019 – got on top quickly and never let up, taking a 3-0 lead halfway through the first half. A perfect cross from the left side to the center of the box by defender Sakina Karchaoui found striker Kadidiatou Diani for a header in the 15th for a 1-0 lead and then midfielder Kenza Dali sent a through-ball to Diani down the right side, and the striker moved into the box and passed back to Dali for a right-footed laser from the top of the box that jetted in at the left side of the net for a 2-0 lead in the 20th.
The issue was completely decided in the 23rd, as Diani scrambled with Moroccan defender Nesryne El Chad for the ball at the endline, deflected her clearance and the ball rolled to the oncoming forward Eugenie Le Sommer, who smashed it into the goal for a 3-0 advantage.
The French controlled the game, with 70% of possession and a 15-1 edge on shots. Le Sommer concluded the scoring in the 70th, as sub midfielder Vicky Becho sent a rainbow cross from the right side all the way across the goal and Le Sommer headed it in for the 4-0 final.
● Colombia 1, Jamaica 0 ● A long cross from the left side of the field all the way to beyond the far post by defender Ana Guzman found striker Catalina Usme, who brought it down and popped into the far side of the net for the only goal in Melbourne.
The Jamaicans had not given up a score in the tournament, with 0-0, 1-0 and 0-0 results in the group stage, but Usme’s drop shot in the 51st minute was well clear of advancing Jamaican keeper Rebecca Spencer.
The Reggae Girlz almost tied it in the 54th as a free kick from defender Deneisha Blackwood at the right side of the pitch was batted by Colombian keeper Catalina Perez, but went right to midfielder Jody Brown, whose header hit the left post and bounced away.
The game was physical and even in possession. There weren’t a lot of good chances, but Jamaican midfielder Drew Spence’s header in the 82nd went wide, and Colombian midfielder Leicy Santos hit the right post with a header in the 86th.
Colombia had an 11-6 edge on shots, but being able to solve the Jamaican defense for the first time in the tournament moved them on to their first-ever World Cup quarterfinal.
The semis will be played on 15-16 August and the championship game on the 20th.
U.S.-Sweden match drew 2.5 million at 5 a.m. Eastern!
Match viewing peaked at 4.072 million from 7:30 to 7:45 a.m. Eastern, during the penalty shoot-out. The top markets were Washington D.C., Austin, Baltimore, Detroit and West Palm Beach.
The FOX audiences for the U.S. games (with U.S. start times), all on FOX Sports:
● July 21: 5.261 million vs. Vietnam at 9:00 p.m. Eastern
● July 26: 6.429 million vs. Netherlands at 9:00 p.m. Eastern
● Aug. 1: 1.354 million vs. Portugal at 3:00 a.m. Eastern
● Aug. 6: 2.515 million vs. Sweden at 5:00 a.m. Eastern
That’s an average of 3.890 million per game, up from the 3.726 million average for the U.S. team’s first four matches from the 2019 Women’s World Cup, played in a much more favorable time zone in France.
USA Track & Field names massive 139-member Worlds team
A massive team of 139 men and women will represent the United States at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest (HUN), as announced by USA Track & Field on Tuesday.
In addition to its regular qualifiers, the U.S. has 10 wild-card entries into the Worlds this year thanks to defending champion status (9) or as a Diamond League winner (1). That includes Fred Kerley (men’s 100 m), Noah Lyles (200 m), Michael Norman (400 m), Grant Holloway (110 m hurdles) and Ryan Crouser (shot), plus Athing Mu in the women’s 800 m, Katie Moon (vault), Chase Ealey (shot), Valarie Allman (discus – Diamond League winner) and Brooke Andersen (hammer).
While Mu is entered, whether she will run or not is still unknown.
With World Athletics going to a two-lane qualification system of (a) very stringent time or distance standards and (b) invitations based on its World Rankings – in order to get athletes to compete in its favored Diamond League and Continental Tour meets – the U.S. has 87 entries on qualification standards and 34 on world rankings, an impressive show of depth:
● Men: 38 met qualifying standards (24 running, 14 field)
● Men: 22 selected on world rankings (9 running, 13 field + multis)
● Women: 49 met qualifying standards (32 running + 35 km walk, 17 field)
● Women: 12 selected on world ranking (4 running, 8 field + multis)
The only events in which the U.S. is not sending at least three athletes are the men’s walks, women’s 20 km walks, high jump and javelin.
At 139, the U.S. will undoubtedly be the largest delegation in Budapest, but it’s slightly smaller than the 151-strong group that attended the 2022 Worlds in Eugene, Oregon.
There are rules for news media, too. The Russian news agency TASS asked World Athletics if media wearing clothing with flags or other national symbols would be allowed at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest (HUN) that begins on 19 August. The answer:
“The wearing of national team jerseys by journalists or clothing worn by active fans is inappropriate in designated media areas in sports arenas.
“Accredited media representatives (with the exception of team media relations representatives) who do not comply with this requirement will be asked to remove such clothing.
“The consumption of alcohol in work areas is prohibited. Any media representative found under the influence of alcohol or drugs will have their accreditation revoked and will be escorted out of the working area.”
Somalia Athletics head booted for WUG “sprinter” entry
Remember the furor over Somali “sprinter” Nasra Abubakar Ali, who finished last in her heat of the women’s 100 m in a ridiculous 21.81 at the just-completed World University Games in Chengdu (CHN)?
On Tuesday, an AIPSmedia.com story noted the blowback:
“The president of the Somalian Athletics Federation Mrs. Khadija Dahir has finally left the office hanging her head in shame after the federation’s executive committee voted for her removal over charges of misconduct including nepotism and power abuse.
“In a statement released to communicate this decision, it’s said that the 1st vice president of the federation Mr. Farah Moallim is authorised to act as a caretaker of the overall leadership duties of the federation until the next elections. …
“After a meticulous probe into the case, the federation’s executive committee has declared that Mrs. Khadiija has unlawfully dispatched a delegation made of her family members to the World University Games including her sister as the head of the delegation and her niece disguised as a sprinter to compete in 100m race.”
Discussions are now underway to determine whether a lawsuit by the Ministry of Youth and Sports is in order “for her complicity in a set of administrative wrongdoings that led to the scandalous participation of her incompetent, non-athlete and never-trained niece in the race in China.”
Dahir has apparently been deeply involved in athletics in Somalia for three decades, and the National Olympic Committee also backed her removal.
So much for sending the family on a paid vacation to China!
≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ≡
● Cycling ● Dutch sprinters continued their control of the track portion of the 2023 World Cycling Championships in Glasgow (GBR), as Jeffrey Hoogland defended his title in the men’s 1,000 m Time Trial.
Already a winner in Glasgow with the Dutch Team Sprint, Hoogland timed 58.222 to edge Australians Matthew Glaetzer (58.526) and Thomas Cornish (58.822). It’s Glaetzer’s second Worlds silver in the event, also in 2018.
Hoogland has now won this event at the 2018-21-22-23 Worlds and between this event and the Team Sprint, owns a career total of nine Worlds golds.
The Dutch got another win in the men’s Madison, as Jan Willem van Schip and Yoeri Havik piled up 37 sprint points to edge Oliver Wood and Mark Stewart (GBR: 35) and New Zealand’s 2020 silver medalists Aaron Gate and Campbell Stewart (34).
It’s the second career Worlds gold for van Schip, but first in the Madison, and second also for Havik, who won the 2022 Worlds Elimination race. The U.S. pair of Gavin Hoover and Colby Lange did not finish.
Belgian road star Lotte Kopecky won her second gold in Glasgow, this time in the women’s Points Race, scoring 20 lap points and 19 on sprints to edge Georgia Baker (AUS), 39 to 31. Japan’s Tsuyaka Uchino was third (14) with American Lily Williams (9) fourth.
For Kopecky, she regained the Points title she won in 2021 and now owns eight career Worlds track medals (6-2-0).
In road cycling, the odd Mixed Team Relay was held, with three men’s riders and three women’s riders racing as teams over the same, 20.15 km Time Trial course, with the times combined for the final result.
Defending champs Switzerland won in 54:16.20 for the 40.3 km combined result, despite a crash on the women’s course from which they recovered. France was second at 54:23.28 and Germany third at 55:07.51. The U.S. was eighth in 56:02.05.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Pan American Sports Organization ● The Pan American Sports Organization, known as PASO for many years, but now as PanAm Sports, celebrated the 75th anniversary of its founding on 8 August 1948.
The first President was American Avery Brundage, still four years away from becoming President of the International Olympic Committee. The first Pan American Games came in 1951 in Buenos Aires (ARG), with 2,513 athletes from 21 countries; the 19th Pan Am Games is coming on 20 October to Santiago (CHI), with 6,909 entries expected from 41 National Olympic Committees.
● World University Games ● The 2023 Universiade in Chengdu (CHN) concluded on Tuesday, with China dominating the event as expected, winning 178 medals (103-40-35), way ahead of Japan (93: 21-29-43) and South Korea (58: 17-18-23).
The U.S. won 23 medals (1-9-13), which tied for tenth-most in the event. The lone gold medalist was Jackson Jones in the men’s 200 m Backstroke.
A total of 53 countries won medals, out of a reported 120 that competed. The 2023 WUG was open to athletes in college or one year removed, aged 18-27, two years older than usually allowed, but changed this time to accommodate those who would have competed in Chengdu in 2021 – its original date – but for the Covid pandemic.
● Russia ● The Russian Anti-Doping Agency has been busy, with a report of 6,014 samples taken through the end of July.
In comparison to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, RUSADA took 5,280 samples from January to June this year vs. 4,889 for USADA.
● Boxing ● International Boxing Association President Umar Kremlev (RUS) continued using the federation as a tool of Russian foreign policy, visiting Russian allies Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Kremlev promised IBA tournaments to be held in Venezuela, and equipment and money for the Nicaraguan boxing federation.
● Triathlon ● With the Paris 2024 test event coming up on 17-20 August, there is understandable concern over the suitability of the Seine for swimming after World Aquatics canceled its test event last week over pollution concerns.
World Triathlon issued a statement on Sunday (6th) that included:
“Prior to and even during the recent rainy period in Paris, water quality in the Seine has regularly achieved the levels required for healthy public swimming, demonstrating the progress that continues to be made. In early July, swimmers took to the Seine at the Bras Marie, one of the three Paris city-centre sites earmarked for public swimming facilities from 2025.
“For Paris 2024 and World Triathlon, the health and safety of athletes is our top priority. We will therefore, together with the relevant authorities, continue to carefully monitor water quality over the coming days, in the confident expectation – based on the current weather forecast – that elite athletes will compete in the Seine later this month, at the World Triathlon and Para Triathlon Test Event Paris scheduled for 17-20 August.
“In the unlikely event that water quality does not meet the requirement of World Triathlon and public health authorities, a contingency plan is in place which would see the race(s) shifted to a duathlon format.”
For our updated, 787-event International Sports Calendar (no. 3) for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!