A Fate Worse Than Death

This morning, NCAA officials struck down Penn State University with “unprecedented sanctions” as the Freeh Report’s gruesome findings still weigh heavily in mind. In order to avoid logistical nightmares throughout the Big 10, officials opted against the well-known “death penalty” that afflicted Southern Methodist University in the ’80s. Instead, Penn State was hit with a barrage of punishments that will effectively cripple their football program for years to come.

First and foremost, the NCAA levied a $60 million fine, equivalent to roughly one year in football revenue. According to the NCAA, the penalty must be “paid into an endowment for external programs preventing child sexual abuse or assisting victims and may not be used to fund such programs at the university.”

In addition, the program had to forfeit all victories since 1998, the year allegations against Jerry Sandusky first arose. Consequently, the decision posthumously drops former head football coach Joe Paterno from atop the all-time wins list to fifth overall.

Penn State also faces a five-year probation, a four-year bowl game ban, and a scholarship reduction that will reduce the Nittany Lions’ total to twenty below the FBS limit.

As the Jerry Sandusky scandal begins to near an end, NCAA president Mark Emmert publicly stated that the committee still possesses the right to levy individual sanctions, but was quick remark “There’s nothing in this situation that anyone should feel good about. This is an awful place to be in. It’s not good for anyone.”

What do you think? Anything we missed? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of ESPN, Newsweek, Bleacher Report

Top 5 Tuesday: Most Polarizing Athletes

Athletes have long transcended sports. As cultural icons, they are loved and hated, idolized and vilified. Many fit this description, but we here at THE SPORTS DISPENCER scoured the records to compile five of sports history’s most polarizing figures.

5. Tim Tebow

As a college standout at Florida, Tebow was a member of two national title teams and became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. As a pro, he has proven his ability to win. Rooted in his strong evangelical faith, Tebow seems to do everything right.  However, many sports fans simply cannot stand him. Overexposure has led many spectators to detract from his accomplishments. His atypical throwing motion and exuberant personality may deter common sports fans, but until he falters, we are left to conclude that Tebow is indeed God’s quarterback.

4. Shoeless Joe Jackson

With a .356 career batting average, Shoeless Joe’s career accomplishments rank him among the best of the early twentieth century. His talented play puts him in the same conversation as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and the other greats of baseball’s infancy, yet one of history’s finest will never have his name read at Cooperstown. Because of his involvement in the 1919 Black Sox scandal, Shoeless Joe was banned from baseball. Jackson admits to early involvement but has refuted the idea that he helped throw the 1919 World Series. Many point to his twelve hits and .375 average as proof, but his poor fielding performance does not help his case. Even if he is acquitted by the MLB, it will be difficult for Jackson’s legacy to become disassociated with the scandal with which its long been intertwined.

3. Barry Bonds

With one swing of the bat, Barry Bonds launched a ball over the right-center field wall. The home run was his 756th, breaking Hank Aaron’s record for the most homers in baseball history. A fierce debate started soon thereafter. Many believed the Giants’ slugger had not broken the home record — he stole it. Bonds’ reported steroid use is up for heated discussion. He is a central figure in baseball’s steroid scandal, and his alleged involvement leaves many unwilling to recognize his accomplishments. In addition, his brash, insolent personality when dealing with both the media and his teammates leave few rooting for Bonds outside of the Bay area.

2. O.J. Simpson

At his peak, O.J. was a near unstoppable running back. At USC, Simpson won the Heisman by one of the largest margins in the award’s storied history. In the NFL, O.J. garnered six Pro Bowl selections and four NFL rushing titles, but perhaps his greatest feat was in 1983 when the Buffalo Bills back rushed for over 2,000 yards in a fourteen-game season. After he retired from football,  Simpson remained in the public eye. He delighted audiences with his appearances on The Naked Gun and Monday Night Football, but in the summer of 1994, public perception quickly changed. O.J. was charged with deaths of his Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman but was later acquitted in part due to his marquee defense counsel anchored by Robert Kardashian. Since his acquittal, many have questioned O.J.’s innocence until  2007 when he was sentenced up to thirty-three years for his involvement in a Las Vegas robbery case.

1. Muhammad Ali

Perhaps the greatest athlete of the twentieth century, Muhammad Ali is a true cultural icon. Long know for his unorthodox fighting style, Ali floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee en route to becoming the first and only three-time lineal World Heavyweight Champion. In 1967, however, the man formerly known as Cassius Clay made headlines with his refusal to be drafted into the United States military. His refusal to serve in Vietnam was well-documented. He notably remarked, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. No Viet Cong ever called me n*****.” His statement echoed the sentiment of many at the time but his remark came before widespread Vietnam protests had begun. Ali’s stance on Vietnam exemplified his willingness to voice his mind. As a boxer, Ali was known for his profuse trash talk and unwillingness to back down from a challenge.

Now in his seventies, “The Louisville Lip” has picked up a different fight. After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1984, Ali turned to the role of activist, spreading awareness of the affliction while remaining one of America’s most notable public figures.

* Photos Courtesy of Red Clear Sports, ESPNInquistr

What do you think? Anything we missed? Who would you choose? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

Top 5 Tuesday: Most Unbreakable Records

The record books are constantly rewritten, but several marks have managed to stand the test of time. The sports world has provided us countless examples, but we here at THE SPORTS DISPENCER have scoured the records to compile five of history’s most unbreakable records.

5. MLB’s Most Career Steals

Long-regarded as the top baserunner in history, first-ballot hall of famer Rickey Henderson holds one of baseball’s most coveted records. On May 1, 1991, Henderson passed Lou Brock to become the all-time leader. Twelve years later, Rickey concluded his four-decade career with an unbelievable total of 1,406 stolen bases. Players may possess the skills and longevity to near a 1,000, but it would take over 70 seventy steals for 20 consecutive seasons in order to challenge Henderson’s untouchable mark.

4. MLB’s Most Complete Games

Since Cy Young threw his final pitch, baseball has drastically changed. Gone are the days of pitchers throwing 20-plus complete games a season, and present are the days of pitch counts, bullpens, and managers limiting innings. Few pitchers in the modern game bear the talent to make a run at Cy Young’s mark, but no manager would allow a season’s pitch count to rise that high. So for now, Young’s 749 complete games remain a testament to baseball’s rugged stars of the early twentieth century.

3. MLB’s Most Consecutive Starts

Durability is a valuable trait in sports. An athlete’s ability to perform day in and day out is crucial for a team’s short and long term success. In his 20-year career, Cal Ripken, Jr. embodied unrelenting durability. While garnering two MVPs and 19 All-Star nods, the Baltimore Orioles star passed Lou Gehrig en route to 2,632 consecutive games. His 17-year streak surpasses any in American professional sports and will keep Ripken in record books for years to come.

2. NBA’s Highest PPG Average in a Season

Scoring fifty points in an NBA game is difficult. Averaging 50 points for a week is very difficult. Averaging 50 points for a season is ridiculous. In the 1961-62 season, NBA great Wilt Chamberlain averaged a mind-boggling 50.4 points per game. Since his record-shattering season, many of basketball’s best have passed through the league, but between Magic, Bird and Jordan, a 37.1 average was the closest effort put forth. If MJ cannot match it, who can?

1. College Football’s Most Lopsided Victory

After Cumberland defeated Georgia Tech’s baseball team 22-0, legendary coach John Heisman wanted to make a statement. On October 7, 1916, Georgia Tech crushed Cumberland by the unbelievable score of 222-0. The Ramblin’ Wreck pounded the ragtag Bulldogs team with an unrelenting might. Many believe Heisman’s true reasoning for running up the score was to send a message to voters. At the time, teams were ranked by the number of points scored. Heisman vehemently disagreed with this process. He unleashed Georgia Tech’s full forces, who scored on every set of downs. Regardless of the reasoning, Georgia Tech’s unfathomable win has remained uncontested, earning it a place atop history’s finest.

What do you think? Anything we missed? What would you choose? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

* Photos Courtesy of Sportige, SouthernMemories.com

What If Wednesday: College Football Playoff

The prayers of college football fans everywhere have now been answered. Beginning in 2014, an annual four-team playoff will determine college football’s national champion. The playoff is a drastic improvement over the controversial BCS system, but what if it had been agreed upon a decade earlier? THE SPORTS DISPENCER analyzes what could have been in this week’s edition of What If.

Playoff Picture

Using the final AP Poll of the regular season, we have predicted the playoff pictures of the past ten years:

2002 Semifinals: 1 Miami vs 4 Georgia     2 Ohio St. vs 3 Iowa

Final: 1 Miami vs 2 Ohio St.

Outcome: The playoff produces a similar result, but controversy is raised over the exclusion of the Pac-10 champion USC Trojans.

2003 Semifinals: 1 Oklahoma vs 4 Michigan     2 USC vs 3 LSU

Final: 1 Oklahoma vs 2 USC Trojans

Outcome: After a marquee semifinal matchup, USC’s potent offense emerges victorious, eliminating 2003’s split national title.

2004 Semifinals: 1 USC vs 4 California     2 Oklahoma vs 3 Auburn

Final: 1 USC  vs 3 Auburn

Outcome: The undefeated Auburn Tigers earn the postseason opportunity they rightfully deserved, but controversy is raised over the exclusion of undefeated Utah.

2005 Semifinals: 1 USC vs 4 Ohio St.     2 Texas vs 3 Penn St.

Final: 1 USC vs 2 Texas

Outcome: Fans are rewarded as the playoff still produces the decade’s most memorable title game.

2006 Semifinals: 1 Ohio St. vs 4 LSU     2 Florids vs 3 Michigan

Final: 1 Ohio St. vs 2 Florida

Outcome: The Chris Leak-led Gators dominate the Buckeyes to give Urban Meyer his first national title.

2007 Semifinals: 1 Ohio St. vs 4 Georgia     2 LSU vs 3 Oklahoma

Final: 1 Ohio St. vs 2 LSU

Outcome: With only one one-loss team, the committee faces difficult decisions to round out the top four, but LSU ultimately emerges victorious.

2008 Semifinals: 1 Oklahoma vs 4 Alabama     2 Florida vs 3 Texas

Final: 1 Oklahoma vs 2 Florida

Outcome: Tebow leads Florida over Oklahoma for his second national title, but undefeated Utah is snubbed yet again.

2009 Semifinals: 1 Alabama vs 4 Cincinnati     2 Texas vs 3 TCU 

Final: 1 Alabama vs 2 Texas

Outcome: Alabama emerges victorious, and TCU becomes the first mid-major to qualify, but the committee struggles to decide between five undefeated squads and one-loss Florida.

2010 Semifinals: 1 Auburn vs 4 Wisconsin     2 Oregon vs 3 TCU

Final: 1 Auburn vs 3 TCU

Outcome: With one year’s experience behind them, TCU makes a run to the finals before falling to Cam Newton’s Auburn Tigers.

2011 Semifinals: 1 Alabama vs 4 Oregon     2 LSU vs 3 Oklahoma St.

Final: 1 Alabama  vs 2 LSU

Outcome: In their third encounter this season, Alabama knocks off LSU to become the SEC’s sixth straight national champ.

* Photos Courtesy of The Smoking Section, CBS Sports, Zimbio, Arizona Foothills Magazine

What do you think? Anything we missed? Any other What If Wednesday suggestions? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

What If Wednesday: Matt Barkley Went Pro

On December 22, 2011, USC Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley announced his intentions to return for his senior season. A sure top-five pick, Barkley’s return sets up a promising 2012 campaign for the Trojans, and he still remains the projected top prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft, but what if he had opted to forgo his senior season? THE SPORTS DISPENCER analyzes what could have been in this week’s edition of What If.

Top Five Shakeup

Matt Barkley’s entrance would add a third elite QB prospect to an already deep quarterback class. The Colts would be left to decide between Matt Barkley, Andrew Luck, and Robert Griffin III. All three prospects provide their own unique skill sets and would leave analysts scrambling to assemble an accurate mock draft. Here is ours:

1. QB Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts)

The Colts find it hard to choose anyone other than the prospect dubbed the best since Manning.

2. QB Matt Barkley (Washington Redskins via St. Louis Rams)

Washington still trades up to the two slot but opts for a more traditional quarterback in Barkley.

3. QB Robert Griffin III (Cleveland Browns via Minnesota Vikings)

The Vikings auction their pick off to the highest bidder, and the Browns’ two first-round picks are difficult to overlook.

4. OT Matt Khalil (Minnesota Vikings via Cleveland Browns)

The Vikings pick up an extra first-round pick and still get their man.

5. RB Trent Richardson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

With RG3 heading to Cleveland, the Alabama star finds a home in Tampa.

Resurgence of the Browns

Unwilling to shell out three first-round picks, Cleveland lost out in their pursuit of Robert Griffin III, but with Matt Barkley’s arrival, the Browns would receive the franchise quarterback they have long coveted. The Heisman winner’s presence would make an instant impact in Cleveland. His playmaking ability and star status would revitalize the Browns and give fans the franchise star they have long deserved.

USC Plummets

In 2012, Matt Barkley’s return positions himself as Heisman frontrunner and leaves the Trojans poised to contend for a Pac-12 and BCS title. His connection with All-American wide receiver Robert Woods spells trouble to opposing defenses and will land both in the top five in next year’s draft. Had Barkley chosen not to return, his loss combined with the loss of offensive tackle Matt Khalil would have proven too difficult to overcome and likely have knocked the Trojans out of title contention.

* Photos Courtesy of CBS Sports, Waiting for Next Year, Inside So Cal

What do you think? Anything we missed? Any other What If Wednesday suggestions? Comment below and let the discussion begin.

Bill Stewart Dies at 59

Former West Virginia head football coach Bill Stewart passed away Monday afternoon at the age of 59 due to an apparent heart attack.  A longtime assistant, Stewart took the helm in December 2007 after Rich Rodriguez bolted to Michigan.

After a heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh in the Backyard Brawl, West Virgina was out of the national title picture. In what was perhaps his pinnacle moment, Stewart rallied the team to soundly defeat Oklahoma 48-28 in the Fiesta Bowl. The game served as Stewart’s audition, and he was hired as head coach the following year.

At the time of his unexpected death, Bill Stewart was working as a college football analyst for ESPN.

Our thoughts go out to Bill Stewart’s friends and family. He will be missed.

* Photos Courtesy Hail WV, ESPN

Top 5 Tuesday: College Football’s Greatest Hail Marys

Trailing as the clock runs down, college teams flip through their playbooks to football’s most electrifying play, the Hail Mary. Most end in failure, but we here at THE SPORTS DISPENCER scoured the records to compile five of college history’s finest.

5. Miracle Bowl

After trailing SMU 45-25 with four minutes remaining, BYU quarterback Jim McMahon led an improbable 21-point comeback to secure a 1980 Holliday Bowl victory. The comeback was capped off with a 41-yard pass to Clay Brown as time expired.

 

4. Big Ben

Before he was winning Super Bowls quarterbacking the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ben Rothlisberger was a college star at the University of Miami (OH). Down with time running out, Big Ben completed a 70-yard tipped pass to beat Akron 30-27 on the final play of the game.

 

3. The Bluegrass Miracle

When the defending SEC champion LSU Tigers traveled to Lexington to take on the unranked Kentucky Wildcats, they were expected to cruise to vistory, but with only a few ticks remaining, the upstart Wildcats led. As fans lined the field, LSU quarterback Marcus Randall threw a 74-yard tipped pass to Devery Henderson as time elapsed. Fans stormed the field before realizing that the Tigers had pulled out the heartwrenching victory.

2. Hail Flutie

In a game that pitted two ranked opponents, Boston College trailed Miami by four with six seconds left on the clock. Undersized quarterback Doug Flutie scrambled right and launched a desperation chuck into the endzone. The ball fell into the arms of Boston College wide receiver Gerard Phelan giving the Golden Eagles a two-point victory.

1. The Miracle in Michigan

An early season matchup pitted No. 7 ranked Colorado against No. 4 ranked Michigan. The Wolverines lead by five with six seconds remaining. Colorado quarterback Kordell Stewart threw a 70-yard bomb to the front of the endzone. A deflection redirected the ball into the arms of a diving Michael Westbrook completing a miraculous comeback and one of college football’s finest plays.

What do you think? Anything we missed? Who would you choose? Comment below and let the discussion begin.