Friday mailbag: UTC's future, Tiger's present, the Braves' tomorrow

Friday mailbag: UTC's future, Tiger's present, the Braves' tomorrow

March 29th, 2013 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

From JMC

So here's my question. The key factors pointed out for why the Sun Belt has interest in us is sound but one contributing factor is the fact that unlike GSU and ASU, UTC has a lot of boosters both past and present (i.e. Lookout Mountain and Cleveland) with very, deep pockets. Not to bird dog both institutions, but as Spy addressed (and App's history is the same), both schools are technically teacher academies and not known for churning out Fortune 500 CEOs.

I know that in the past, the belief of the new AD is to generate $$$ as the prime directive. Is UTC qualified to make such a move the Sun Belt in the here and now? The answer is no given what Ms. Herron said. But I do feel that once a new AD is established with plans to be here a while, there should be some sort of an "X" plan to the side to sell the idea of investing "seed money" from the Mountain and Cleveland folk for potential move to FBS. Your thoughts? (Again, this is for the mailbag).

JMC,

We think the UTC athletic department as a whole is as healthy as it has ever been. Rick Hart did a slew of good things to reconnect with the community before leaving and his support staff of Laura Herron and Matt Pope are top-notch. That said, it is not flush with cash. The big boosters of yesterday are gone or have cut back greatly - and that's not just UTC, that's all of college sports from the top down.

Any move - at any time - in conferences would be a massive undertaking that will strain any program in the financial constraints that UTC has. That's simple and constant.

Without a full-time AD, there's little-to-no way UTC could make that move right now. There are multiple layers to that of course, some of them being quite clear, but it also would cripple the hiring process of a new AD to make that kind of decision in the weeks leading up to hiring someone. A new AD handed the challenges of leading UTC athletics and generating the funds to do so would and should expect to participate in a decision of that magnitude.

As for the future, it will be interesting to see what kind of additions the Southern Conference makes. As Jomo and others have alluded to, the names being bounced around include ETSU, Kennesaw State and Mercer. The name that could be very profitable in that group is Kennesaw State, which has an enrollment of 23,000-plus, and being right outside of Atlanta, could be a bargaining chip in TV discussions.

Here's how we see the college sports model playing out in football, and bare with us, because this will get a little long (the other sports will remain relatively similar since they fall under the NCAA negotiation umbrella in terms of championships broadcast rights):

The four or five big football conferences will expand to at least 14 teams and possibly 16 teams.

The college football playoff will expand from four teams to eight sooner rather than later. (And it could go to 16 just as quickly.)

The eight-team model will be dictated by the big schools, and we could see it being a stipulation that the big conferences get to split seven bids (each of the conference champs get one; the rest at large) and everyone else gets to compete for that one wild-card spot. While that seems out of balance, do not expect the SEC, the Big Ten, the Pac 12, the Big 12 and the ACC to want to share more than that. And if they are forced to share more than that, they may form their own thing and no one wants that because that will rework the entire structure.

So the other schools will work out a split for that last spot. And while it sounds like just one spot, an eight-team college football playoff would be a TV deal worth something like $5 billion over 10 years. So if there are 60 big-boy schools and 60 mid-major schools in the pot, the 60 mid-majors could be splitting $62.5 million ($500 million divided by the eight spots). Plus the ability to get into the football title dance would make the TV rights of the smaller conferences a great deal more marketable.

It's hard to see a long-term financial model that works for the FCS, especially since the one niche it has was being the only Division I football subdivision that decided its champion on the field, and that will no longer be true in 21 months.

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From New reader

How do you explain something like FGCU? And could UTC hire that guy?

Thanks for the column, I just started reading and I am enjoying it.

New reader,

Thanks for swinging by and feel free to stay a while, as Bluto said, "don't cost nothing."

It's impossible to explain. It's catching lightning in a bottle and exploiting matchups and making the most of your chance. We asked Coach Mack McCarthy this time last year about his memories of the Mocs trip to the Sweet 16 in 1997, and he was great about how the timing of the team and the opponents and the moment is every bit as crucial as the talent. It's a special situation, no doubt.

Kudos to all of the FGCU crew, and be ready for them to be back - the Eagles start but one senior.

And, Andy Enfield at UTC? Uh, nope. He's going to be a touch expense after this little run, and who's to say someone like Minnesota may come calling.

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From Chas9

Florida now leads all SEC teams in NCAA tourney wins over the last decade with 20. Kentucky has 19 and Tennessee is a very distant third. Question for The Bag: Over the next ten years, will The Vols continue as a distant third in the SEC? Hint: Mizzou and A&M are in the mix now.

Chas9,

Third behind those two is nothing to sneeze at, considering each has at least one title in the last decade. Texas A&M not so much, but Missouri definitely could be a contender.

That said, if all of the Vols re-up for one more run and UT does not make a run next year, well, holding even a distant third could be a tough proposition. (And Cuonzo "The Conz" Martin holding on to his gig may be in the discussion, too.)

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Tiger Woods

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

From multiple folks

What are your thoughts about Tiger Woods' new commercial? You know the "Winning Cures Everything" spot?

Thanks.

Gang,

My fundamental thought is - he's 100 percent right. At least in sports, that's the bottom line.

Did you lose sleep because Tiger and Elin got divorced?

If you think Tiger is a sum bag, that's well within your right, as is never buying any Nike products and never wearing red on Sundays. If you think he's a misunderstood genius that is a human like the rest of us, that's OK too and you can drape yourself in velvet with swooshes everywhere.

Fundamentally dude is a golfer. An elite, once-in-a-lifetime talent, so the basic truth of his professional life is - winning cures everything. Period. It's how he has measured himself (How do you measure yourself against other golfers? By Height.) and how we measure the best in all sports.

Is Jordan the best ever? Probably. Why, because dude did everything to win.

What's the knock on LeBron or Phil? They have not won enough considering their great gifts.

What's the difference between Peyton and Tom Brady? Two Super Bowls, right? Are you telling me you think Joe Montana has more skills than Dan Marino? Nope, but winning overcomes and compensates and balances and wipes clean the irregularities of reality.

In short, Winning Cures Everything in sports.

(As for Tiger's personal life, well, there's something to be said that winning caused a large chunk of his personal troubles. And, who gives a rip? While controversial and somewhat pompous at least this line of marketing is not the family values crud he pitched while he was dating half the East Coast. At least this is honest - both in its presentation and its message.)

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From JL

Dude, love the 5@10. Seriously.

I was going to ask about SEC spring football (War Eagle!) but just have to ask something else. How scary is that dentist story from Tulsa -- the guy that reused needles and may have infected 7,000 patients with HIV? Wow. And let's say you caught HIV or hepatitis from that guy, would anyone buy it?

JL,

Thanks for the kind words and for the question. This is tragic and dude deserves to be put under the jail. This is a level of sick that's hard to comprehend.

That said, anyone in that area would surely buy it because this story is so well known.

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From Ms. Banks (via regular mail)

I love the Braves and watch them every chance I get. Thanks for the schedules and what do you think their chances are this year? I know without Chipper there could be some rough spots.

Thanks again and I love the Times Free Press sports section.

Ms. Banks,

You're most welcome and thanks for the kind words. It's a long shot that Ms. Banks is a) going to to see this on the interweb (so we'll mail her our reply) and b) under the age of 60. There is some sort of constitutional amendment that says elderly Southern women follow the Braves through the summer time. Maybe it's because their TV "stories" (what our Nanny called soap operas) have hit the reruns in the summer months. Maybe it's the pace or the familiar sound of the announcers' voices. Whatever.

Ms. Banks, the Braves' concerns are multiple. We think they have a lot of talent, but you can't bring in that many new faces and not have questions. Let's look at a few of them, shall we:

1) Who will lead?

Point guards and quarterbacks are the de facto leaders in basketball and football because they have the ball in their hands so much. It's natural, and even gave birth to the "Take my ball and go home" mentaility.

For baseball teams, leadership is as much about the clubhouse as it is on the field. Who's the guy in the locker room that answers the tough questions when they lose five straight? Who's the guy that can joke on anybody for whatever reason?

Chipper Jones was that guy for the Braves for the last decade. Now, he's just some cat named Larry who's watching from the stands with a pinch between his cheek and gum. With Brian McCann battling injuries, that's another name off the list. Starting pitchers are in a world all to themselves most of the time, so that limits Tim Hudson's leadership chances. Plus, the leadership role needs to be someone that at least is among the upper echelon of players on the roster. No matter how good a guy Eric "King of Queens" Hinske may be, no one's turning to a pinch-hitter/fifth outfielder for counsel or a quote.

We think it falls to Freddie Freeman first, and from their it could be interesting.

2) Will the offense be a dichotomy of records?

The franchise record for strikeouts is 1,169 set in 2006. The franchise record for home runs is 235 set in 2003, and the club mark for runs is 907 also set in '03.

All of those numbers are in danger with the Braves' projected lineup. Question whether this team can manufacture runs - this lineup will run but will not draw a lot of walks - but do not question it's power and ability to score.

That said, the number of strikeouts could be staggering.

3) Is there an ace on this staff?

Kris Medlen looked the part of an ace last year, going 10-1 overall and 9-0 as a starter with a sub-2.00 ERA. He was rock solid down the stretch as the Braves pushed into the one-game postseason playoff against the Cardinals.

Still, his stuff is more solid than spectacular and this spring his pitches have been as flat as the bill of his cap.

Tim Hudson will get the ball for the Braves on Monday's opening day, but his days as a legitimate top-of-the-line starter seem past.

There is not a ace, per se, but Medlen, Hudson, Mike Minor and Paul Maholm give the Braves several reliable options. Maybe there's not a true No. 1 in the bunch, but there are several 2s and high 3s.

4) What's the biggest strength?

Again, it's Craig Kimbrel, who is the best closer in baseball. Plus, the Braves have become quite efficient at getting to Kimbrel, especially since Fredi Gonzalez managed the work load a great deal better last year.

Everyday Jonny Venters' arm soreness aside, the Braves bullpen is top-notch.

After that, we'll say the overall power 2-8 in this lineup. If Andrelton Simmons hits first, the rest of the order - which has been projected to be Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman, B.J. Upton, Dan Uggla, Juan Francisco/Chris Johnson and Gerald Laird (who will become Brian McCann in a month and the order will adjust) - has 20-plus homer potential.

Also, there's a fair chance that this will be the best defensive outfield Atlanta has put on the field since Andruw Jones was young and had not consumed half of Hixson.

Atlanta Braves' Dan Uggla connects for a three-run home run in the ninth inning of the Braves' 10-1 victory over the San Diego Padres in a baseball game on Saturday, June 25, 2011, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

5) Is this the year Dan Uggla delivers?

Hard to know, and it's getting harder and harder to be able to remember when all Braves fans were super excited about the deal to bring Uggla to Atlanta. That was after the 2010 season when Uggla hit 33 homers and .286 for the Marlins. He has hit .227 in 1,123 at-bats with the Braves - and a huge part of that was his 33-game hitting streak after the all-star break in 2011 - and has struck out 324 times in 315 games with Atlanta.

His spring has been brutal - .200 with 25 strikeouts and just two extra base hits in 75 at-bats - and he is a notoriously slow starter, which does not bode well for April. How much time he gets to find his stroke will be interesting considering the lack of production we have seen from him

Thanks for the question and for reading the paper.

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Feel free to discuss.

And if you need a talking point, and playing off one of the questions above, if we gave you Tiger or the field in the Masters in two weeks, who you got?