Check out FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions. SESSIONLOWER SEATSUPPER SEATSTICKETS SOLD Friday evening186.25107.952,375 Thursday evening163.0087.552,235 Sunday233.70130.752,760 Saturday248.45136.402,825 There are eight cities hosting March Madness games this weekend, but none with ticket sales hotter than Louisville, Ky.; Omaha, Neb.; and Seattle. That’s what happens when NCAA tournament games are basically home games.The demand for tickets there shows how valuable ostensible home games are to ticket sellers, if not to fairness lovers. Kentucky, Kansas and Gonzaga — the first or second highest-ranked teams facing off in the hot-ticket cities — all play their home games less than 300 miles from their tournament host cities. Omaha gets a double dip of local teams, with No. 7 Wichita State playing there as well.To get the list, I used data provided by two online ticket marketplaces, ScoreBig and SeatGeek. Connor Gregoire, a SeatGeek spokesman, sent data based on sales made via the site’s ticket search engine. Alison Burnham, vice president of pricing and analytics for ScoreBig, sent data for tickets available on her site and elsewhere on the secondary market.I compared average prices for top-tier seats, and, separately, for the cheap seats. Also, some sessions are more attractive than others — people would rather go to a weekend session than one during the week, probably both because of the convenience and because weekend sessions tend to feature tighter games. In addition, weeknights beat weekdays, and Fridays beat Thursdays, perhaps because it’s easier to travel without taking two days off work. Since 2011, Friday afternoon sessions have averaged 19 percent higher prices for the best seats, 30 percent higher prices for the cheaper seats and 26 percent more sales on SeatGeek. Thursday afternoon$131.95$67.802,175 So I compared apples to apples: How did Thursday afternoon sessions, for instance, compare to average prices for that session this year?After controlling for variables unrelated to which teams were playing, Louisville was clearly the hottest ticket among the four cities holding Thursday/Saturday sessions. Omaha and Seattle were the Friday/Sunday winners.1Venues sell four types of tickets: For each of the two round-of-64 sessions, for the single round-of-32 session, and for all three sessions combined. In each host city, I looked at ticket demand for each of the four ticket types in three ways: prices of more-expensive seats, prices of cheap seats and volume of ticket sales. That’s 12 points of comparison in all. Louisville and Omaha were above average in 11 of the 12 categories for their sessions. Seattle was above average in every ticket-price category, though below average in three of the four ticket-sale-volume categories. The ScoreBig data, used as a reality check, was similar, with Pittsburgh also making a strong showing.From a last-minute ticket-buyer’s perspective, the main question might be, how much is the least I can pay to get in? To answer that question, SeatGeek sent along daily figures for the ticket at the fifth percentile of listing prices for each session. Even these seats, some of the cheapest available, have stayed expensive for the round-of-64 sessions that feature quasi-home teams in Louisville, Omaha and Seattle. But for other sessions, prices have fallen. For instance, on Wednesday, tickets to the Thursday afternoon session in Louisville — the one that featured four teams not named Kentucky — could be had for just $14. Friday afternoon156.7588.052,740
A house party in San Jose turned chaotic over the weekend and San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was stabbed multiple times in the mayhem.His injuries are considered minor, according The Associated Press.“(We) are aware that Aldon Smith incurred minor injuries during an incident last night,” the 49ers said in a statement. “We are in contact with Aldon and thankful that his injuries were not more serious and that he is recovering comfortably. The 49ers are also in communication with local authorities as they gather information regarding the incident, and will reserve further comment at this time.”According to The Sacramento Bee, deputies from the Santa Clara County sheriff’s office were called to a house party at about 2 a.m. on Saturday after receiving reports of gunshots. When police arrived, they found two people shot and another stabbed.The Bee reported that all three were taken to the hospital with what were believed to be non-life-threatening injuries.A source told the Bee the stabbing victim was Smith. A spokesman for the Santa Clara County sheriff’s department, meanwhile, would not comment on the identity of the victims.The party was so large — more than 100 people were estimated to be there — that deputies called for backup from the San Jose police and the California Highway Patrol, Sgt. Jose Cardoza told the Bee.“It was a chaotic scene,” Cardoza said. “There was a lot of commotion, and no one knows where the gunshots came from.”
In a move that shakes up the college football landscape, LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu – perhaps the most dynamic player in college football – has been dismissed from the preseason No. 1-ranked team for violating school and team rules.“We extended ourselves personally and professionally to him,” LSU coach Les Miles said at a news conference Friday. “He has really improved and has a chance to take some steps as a person.“We extended ourselves to the full length of the policy.”Miles would not specify the reason Mathieu, who was suspended for a game last year for failing a drug test, was kicked off the team.“We’ll miss the guy,” Miles said. “The football team’s got to go on. We’ll have to fill the void.”A source told ESPN that Mathieu has been looking for a new school to play for this season. Mathieu has two years of eligibility left and could transfer, but he would have to sit out this season if he went to another school in major college football. If he moved down a level, to FCS, he could play right away.“I can’t imagine he would be here and not want to transfer and go play football,” Miles said. “We will help him in every way we can.”Last season Mathieu was a finalist for the Heisman and won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s best defensive player.The junior defensive back nicknamed “Honey Badger” was the surprising Heisman Trophy candidate last season as the Tigers won the Southeastern Conference championship and reached the BCS title game. LSU lost the championship 21-0 to Alabama.LSU enters this season ranked No. 1 in the USA Today coaches’ poll.The AP college football poll will be released Aug. 18. The Tigers opened preseason camp last week as one of the favorites to reach the national championship game again.Mathieu was the team’s big-play machine at cornerback and on special teams. The All-American scored four touchdowns — two on punt returns and two on fumble returns — intercepted two passes and caused six fumbles and recovered four.
College Football Things That Caught My EyeAwful year to be a quarterbackBased on Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Games Lost metric, the NFL’s quarterback corps are at 77.8 adjusted games lost in 2017 ahead of this past weekend. Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Tannehill, Sam Bradford, Carson Palmer, Deshaun Watson, Jameis Winston, Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, and Jay Cutler all were or are injured, and 2017 is already the eighth highest AGL since 2000, and we have several weeks left in the NFL season. [FiveThirtyEight]I’m sorry, MississippiThe New York Times dove deep on who watches what NFL games on every Sunday. It’s part of a serpentine series of rules blacking out or making constant or flagged for mandatory pullout when it comes to what goes on CBS where. Thanks to rules saying no team’s home market can have a competing game on air, 9 percent of the country’s population didn’t get an NFL game on CBS at 1 p.m., and 86 percent of the country watched New England and Oakland play in Mexico. The fun part is that when deciding where to air a game, sometimes the players come up: Eli Manning plays well in Mississippi, where he went to college, just as Carson Wentz plays well in North Dakota and Marcus Mariota play well in his home state of Hawaii. [The New York Times]They blew it!Washington had a 99.7 percent chance of beating the Saints about six minutes before the end of regulation Sunday, and the Saints even had just a 0.2 percent chance of victory with 4:42 into the fourth quarter. Hilariously, Washington blew a 15 point lead and lost 34-31 in overtime. [ESPN]New recordKatie Ledecky broke her own American record in the 1,650 freestyle at a meet in Texas. The Olympic superstar swam the distance in 15:03.31. [Swim Swam]Nigeria is going to PyeongChang!Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere, and Akuoma Omeoga will makeup the first African bobsled team to qualify for the Olympics. They’re also Nigeria’s first ever qualifying team for the games. Canada has won the past two gold medals in women’s bobsledding. [Deadspin]No major CFB upsets mean no major changesRight now, Alabama has a 83 percent chance of finishing with a top four strength of record, followed by Miami, Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia. Wisconsin will be a very interesting case for this season: They’ve got a 32 percent chance of finishing with a top-4 record, are currently undefeated, but as it stands according to ESPN’s FPI there are eight teams that look better than them on paper. [ESPN, ESPN]Make sure to try your hand at our fun NFL can you beat the FiveThirtyEight predictions? game!Big Number11 completions, 6 of which were to the correct teamRookie quarterback Nathan Peterman started for the Buffalo Bills on Sunday after the team benched Tyrod Taylor. He completed six passes out of fourteen attempts. He also completed five passes to the other team. The five interceptions in fewer than 15 passes in a single game is up there with the worst ever performances by a quarterback at the professional level, and only four other people have matched the achievement, three of whom did so in the 1930s. [ESPN]Leaks from Slack: neil:This Tyrod thing must be the most catastrophic QB switch everheynawl-enten:SeriouslyIDK what this even istchow:Eagles should always go for two rest of the season…even if Elliot comes back finePredictions NFL All newsletters See more NBA predictions Oh, and don’t forgettake a chance We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆 Join the squad. Subscribe See more college football predictions NBA See more NFL predictions
950%21.00 Total164.22 113610.41 SEEDEXPECTED UPSET RATEGAMESEXPECTED UPSETSACTUAL UPSETS OPENING DAY 2017 103910.40 The first day of March Madness was anything but mad. Better-seeded teams went 14-2 on the day, and even the “surprises” were relatively easy to see coming: The higher-seeded teams’ two losses came at the hands of Middle Tennessee State (the South’s No. 12 seed) and Xavier (No. 11 in the West), both of which were among the most popular upset picks of the first round. (Our March Madness predictions had each game as a toss-up.) All told, the NCAA hadn’t seen a chalkier opening day since 2000, when the superior seeds went 15-1 after the tournament launched.VIDEO: A No. 16 seed will win, but don’t bet on it 141610.20 15610.10 16020.00 132040.80 Expected upset rates are based on winning percentage in all first-round games for each seed from 1985-2016.Source: Sports-Reference.com 123641.41 March Madness tipped off with a dose of sanity That kind of normalcy is not why we tune in to the tournament! Annoyed that I watched 12 consecutive hours of basketball with so little chaos to show for it, I started to wonder whether we have overblown expectations of unpredictability in March Madness. Are most days actually like Thursday, but we only remember the last-second shots and the scrappy Cinderellas?No — Thursday really was different. This year featured 2.2 fewer upsets than expected, which makes it second only to 2000 in terms of uneventful opening days during the tournament’s 64-team era. To get those numbers, I looked at the historical upset rates for each seed,1Starting in 1985, when the NCAA tournament expanded to a 64-team bracket, and going through 2016. taking into account which games were played on Thursday.But despite their disappointing record, underdogs kept the score relatively close in 2017’s opening-day games. In terms of average scoring margin, this year tied for the ninth-most-respectable showing by worse-seeded teams on an opening day of the tournament — on par with days where fans saw six or seven upsets.In other words, a lucky bounce here or there could have made all the difference for Thursday’s long shots. Maybe that means good, old-fashioned madness will be restored to its rightful place on Day 2 of the tourney. Then again, analyzing other second-day games using the same method as above suggests that Friday should be less upset-y (3.9 expected upsets) than Thursday was supposed to be. Somebody free us from this prison of predictability!
Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group 32,67245.0+0.12 Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group Play-action is more effective, especially with fewer receiversExpected points added (EPA) by the number of eligible receivers in route, for play-action plays vs. all other dropbacks, 2017-18 regular seasons If your goal is to fool your opponent into thinking you’re going to run the ball, bringing in a bunch of players who look like blockers is probably a good idea. That’s an intuitive finding that makes sense. Meanwhile, it’s also heartening to see that adding eligible receivers to the route design of a non-play-action passing play leads to greater passing efficiency. That’s also a finding that we’d expect — the more passing options the better!It’s no surprise that play-action continues to show up as one of the most efficient play types in football. Analysts have been calling it the NFL’s corner three for years. But it’s still somewhat shocking to see just how pervasive and massive an effect a little deception can have on the success of an offense. It will be interesting to see how much play-action the Cardinals incorporate into their attack moving forward. With a healthy dose, along with the ability to successfully flood the field with wide receivers over the course of 16 games, Arizona shouldn’t stay near the bottom of our Elo rankings for long.Check out our latest NFL predictions. 42,78350.6+0.216,17142.5+0.01 2 or fewer1,20139.0-0.03 Based on success rate2The share of those plays with a positive EPA. and EPA per play, the optimum number of receivers to send out into routes is three. NFL rules dictate that five receivers at most can report as eligible to catch a pass on any given play,3The sixth non-lineman must pass the ball and is normally referred to as the quarterback. so this finding would appear to support passing out of heavy sets with big tight ends staying home to help shore up the pass blocking. Or perhaps teams should keep a running back in the backfield to help chip rushing defenders. But it also could be that those heavier sets are effective because of the deception they afford via the play-action pass.To find out, we broke out all plays by the number of receivers and then split the plays by play-action and non-play-action. When we look at the plays this way, we find that play-action accounts for all the efficiency we see from the plays with three or fewer receivers. When play-action snaps are removed, passes with three or fewer receivers have a negative expected value leaguewide. 31,43848.8+0.221,13040.3-0.01 New Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury and Arizona have brought a variant of the Hal Mumme Air Raid to the NFL, and while the Cardinals didn’t earn a Week 1 win — they tied the Detroit Lions in their home opener — the system lived up to its billing. Known for its spread concepts and heavy use of the forward pass, the Air Raid relies on a smart, accurate passer to distribute the ball to a bevy of playmakers sent into routes that attack all areas of the field. And spread they did. With first overall pick Kyler Murray running the offense, the Cardinals trotted out more four wide receiver sets (45) on Sunday than the rest of the NFL combined (36).Clearly Kingsbury isn’t afraid to be different, but it comes with risks. Going four-wide is an approach that hasn’t typically paid off for NFL offenses. In the 2017 and 2018 seasons, NFL teams ran 1,185 plays from four-WR sets and ended up stubbing their toes. Over that fairly large sample, the expected points added per play across the league was negative, at -0.03 EPA per play. Meanwhile, teams found success featuring fewer wideouts, averaging positive EPA per play numbers with their personnel groups of two and three wide receivers.1Two-WR formations earned 0.04 EPA play, while three-WR formations earned 0.02 EPA play.[/footnote.That pattern continued in Week 1: Teams averaged -0.03 EPA per play on passes with four wide receivers — right in line with the two-year average.[footnote]On 86 dropbacks. As we saw, the Cardinals were responsible for the majority of those plays, though, so it’s encouraging they performed slightly better than the league mean, earning -0.01 EPA per play.The Air Raid encompasses a set of passing concepts that many teams have integrated into their schemes, so it’s not completely new. Andy Reid of the Chiefs incorporated parts of the Air Raid into his system to suit the specific strengths of Patrick Mahomes, Kingsbury’s former QB at Texas Tech. But the difference for the Cardinals may be in the details. Kingsbury used wide splits and 3×1 wide receiver sets often to stress the Lions defense with his four wideouts, and Murray improved as the game went on. Perhaps they have what it takes to make four-wide in the NFL successful.But we also wondered: Wide receivers aside, does a team having more eligible receivers running routes lead to more production in the NFL? Or do offenses benefit when players stay in to protect their QB? Is adding more receivers to a play ineffective?Expected points added (EPA) per play by number of eligible receivers running routes, for 2017-18 regular-season plays ≤ 242353.6+0.4276438.3-0.05 Number of RoutesDropbacksSuccess RateEPA per play 49,41944.9+0.07 525,73944.8%+0.04 Routesdropbackssuccess rateepa per playdropbackssuccess rateepa per play 52,75349.0+0.1522,48244.3%+0.03 play-actionnon-play-action
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh watches the action against Penn State on Saturday, Nov. 21 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. Michigan won 28-16.Credit: Courtesy of TNSThe rivalry between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines is about to get a lot more interesting on Saturday.This will be the first game in which Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh will face off in what many would consider the most intriguing meeting between the two teams since 2006. Harbaugh has been a successful head coach on both the college and professional level. In stops with the University of San Diego and Stanford, Harbaugh posted a 58-27 record with two conference championships at San Diego in 2005 and 2006, respectively. After Stanford finished 12-1 with an Orange Bowl win over Virginia Tech in 2011, Harbaugh left the collegiate ranks for the NFL, becoming the head coach for the San Francisco 49ers. He posted a 44-19 record, including a loss to his brother’s team, the Baltimore Ravens, in Super Bowl XLVII in 2013. After a rift between Harbaugh and the 49ers front office following an 8-8 finish in 2014, Harbaugh left San Francisco to go back to his alma mater and coach the team he onced quarterbacked: Michigan. Both Michigan and OSU have been teams to be reckoned with in the Big Ten this season, and part of that is due to the job that both Meyer and Harbaugh are doing at their respective schools. ESPN College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit said this game will be different because of what Harbaugh brings to the table as the man in charge at Michigan. “Spice. Intensity. For me, even when Ohio State was winning with Jim Tressel, the fan in me liked Woody (Hayes) and Bo (Schembechler). I like the angst, the emotion, the, ‘I’m not going to cross midfield to shake his hand,’” Herbstreit said. “I don’t know if we are going to get to that level with (Meyer) and (Harbaugh), but it’s going to be different. It’s going to be different just because of the personality of (Harbaugh). I’m one of these guys that starting Sunday morning, I don’t know if I’ll sleep because of what could be at stake this weekend. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”Despite much of the focus being on the two successful coaches, Harbaugh said in a Monday press conference that the focus should not be on them but on their players.“My reaction to the coach vs. coach build-up is he’s not going to be blocking anybody; he’s not going to be tackling anybody,” Harbaugh said. “I’m going to be on the sideline blocking and tackling nobody.”OSU coach Urban Meyer stands on the sideline during a game against Michigan State on Nov. 21 at Ohio Stadium. OSU lost 17-14.Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorEven so, it’s hard to ignore the impact the coaches have had on their respective programs and in turn, the rivalry in general. When each coach took the helm, the program finished under .500 the year prior. In Meyer’s first season in Columbus in 2012 and Harbaugh’s first one this year, the teams made major strides. Based on the first-year improvement, it’s completely reasonable to assume that the programs will maintain a level of success for years to come. That is the reason why these two teams have the potential to re-establish arguably the biggest rivalry in all of sports. With these two premier coaches leading the programs, the recruiting classes for these two teams should be among the best in the country, so the talent pool should be overflowing. With all of the eventual talent coming to these schools, the rivalry will only grow. And with that, the prominence of one of college football’s biggest rivalries will be restored.
Traditionally, a Cincinnati Reds offseason includes the signing of an overpriced free agent, i.e. Eric Milton or Willy Taveras, and misplaced hope for the upcoming season.Furthermore, the men of the Queen City usually attempt to fill major holes in their roster by acquiring “has-beens” and hoping that these players miraculously have career years.This offseason has been a bit different, and the upcoming season may merit a hint of optimism.The last major acquisition the Reds have made in recent memory was the Ken Griffey Jr. trade after the 1999 season. When rumors began to float around that the Reds were in the Aroldis Chapman sweepstakes, no one gave them a chance to sign the 21-year-old, left-handed Cuban and free agent pitcher armed with a 100 mph fastball.Pundits predicted Chapman would sign with one of the big-market teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets or Phillies. However, the Reds ended up on top by giving Chapman a six-year, $30.25 million contract on Jan. 12.Clearly, the Reds are taking a huge gamble. Chapman is a classic example of a pitcher with a big, live arm, but one who is also dogged by control issues. In 327 career innings for Holguin, his Cuban team, Chapman struck out 365 batters but walked 203.Coming into the offseason, the Reds had a gaping hole at shortstop. As the winter months wore on, popular opinion was that the Reds were going to spring training with Paul Janish, a slick-fielding but offensively-challenged shortstop, as the starter.Then, way out of left field, the Reds signed veteran shortstop Orlando Cabrera to a $3.02 million, one-year contract. The 35-year-old Cabrera has lost a step or two defensively, but is a significant upgrade offensively over Janish.Also, by trading outfielder Willy Taveras, who was due $4 million next year, to Oakland along with infielder Adam Rosales, the Reds opened up enough money to sign Cabrera.The last objective on the Reds’ offseason list would be bringing back outfielder Jonny Gomes. As a platoon player last year, Gomes hit 20 home runs in 281 at-bats and brought much-needed right-handed power to the lineup. Re-signing Gomes would also add experience to a young outfield that includes Chris Dickerson, Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce.Without a doubt, the 2010 season is a make or break year for manager Dusty Baker. The Cincinnati Reds manager enters the last year of his contract having gone 74-88 and 78-84 in his first two seasons. Considering Baker was hired by General Manager Walt Jocketty’s predecessor Wayne Krivsky, it’s hard to see Baker returning if Cincinnati has another disappointing season.In Baker’s first two seasons, he has had a significantly different roster to manage each year. In 2008, the Reds still had sluggers Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn, whose personalities dominated the clubhouse. In 2009, the Reds were an extremely young team led by Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips.However, the offensive problems that have plagued the Reds for much of the past decade still ring true today. Their mantra a few years ago was to rely on the home run ball to win games. Last year, with a precocious but young ball club, the team relied on small ball. Yet, they ranked No. 11 in the National League in runs scored and No. 15 in batting average.Since the Reds did not make a big trade to acquire a power bat, Baker will fill his lineup card everyday hoping to get increased production from his young players. First baseman Joey Votto and second baseman Brandon Phillips are entrenched in the three and four spots, while third baseman Scott Rolen will likely bat fifth.Baker would be wise to utilize center fielder Stubbs’ speed and Cabrera’s contact skills at the top of the lineup. The Reds have not had a legitimate table-setter since Barry Larkin, and Stubbs’ blazing speed and bunt skills have the potential to make some noise in the leadoff spot.The biggest question mark in the Reds’ line-up surrounds Bruce. After bursting onto the big league scene in 2008, the right fielder suffered a sophomore slump in 2009, batting .223 with 22 home runs and 58 RBIs. However, there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel for Bruce. He batted .326 over his last 18 games, in part due to a stance adjustment following a stint on the disabled list.The Reds’ clear strength is their pitching staff, specifically the bullpen. Closer Francisco Cordero anchors a bullpen that ranked near the top of the NL. Cordero is joined by flame-throwing right-hander Nick Masset and screw-ball lefty Daniel Ray Herrera.The first four spots in the Reds starting rotation appear to be set in stone with Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Aaron Harang and Homer Bailey, while the fifth spot is up for grabs between a cast of characters including Matt Maloney and Micah Owings.The Reds appear to be heading in the right direction. For the most part, their young stars have taken their major league lumps. They have proven veterans looking to rebound from injury-plagued seasons. Jocketty is an aggressive GM with a track record of success.However, the fact remains the Reds have not been to the playoffs since 1995. Come August, if the Reds can stay healthy and get production from all 25 guys on the roster, they just may be able to keep Cincinnati fans focused on a pennant race instead of Bengals training camp.
As the 2010 World Cup in South Africa approaches, one of U.S. Soccer’s all-time greats looks back on his career and looks forward to the summer event.Columbus Crew’s Frankie Hejduk has had ups and downs while cementing himself as one of U.S. soccer’s most accomplished player.“It came with hard work,” Hejduk said. “I’m a believer that you create your own luck.”Hejduk’s resume speaks for itself: two World Cup appearances, two Olympic games, part of the German team Bayer Leverkusen that played in the 2002 UEFA Champions League final, five-time Major League Soccer all-star and 2008 MLS champion with the Columbus Crew.Hejduk, born in La Mesa, Calif., a suburb of San Diego, grew up surfing and playing soccer. He was more passionate about surfing, and many of his friends did go pro in surfing. Despite that, he decided to attend UCLA on a scholarship to play soccer.His first international cap came in 1996 in El Salvador during a World Cup qualifer. He scored a goal in his international debut.“Scoring a goal was icing on the cake,” Hejduk said.Hejduk made his World Cup debut in 1998, playing in the second game of the first round against Iran. That day is something he will remember for the rest of his life, he said.“Absolutely incredible experience,” Hejduk remembers. “During the National Anthem, thinking of all the past coaches I played for, my family, what they have sacrificed, what I sacrificed, all of that comes together at one moment. I got the chills, teary-eyed. And this is all before the game even starts.”The summer of 2002 is one that stands out to Hejduk and US soccer fans. That summer in Korea and Japan, the team made an unexpected run all the way to the quarterfinals. To get there, they defeated rival Mexico 2-0 in the round of 16.“It was for bragging rights. Who was going to step up?” Hejduk said. “We knew we were going to win.”USA fell to Germany 1-0 in the quarters, a match many felt the US should have won. “The German press told us ‘We got a lot of respect for you guys. We lucked out,’” Hejduk said of the aftermath.“We were proud of ourselves. We gave everything we had,” Hejduk said.After that great World Cup run, Hejduk looked forward to another one four years later. Unfortunately, two days after being named to the 2006 World Cup roster, Hejduk tore his ACL.“Pretty much a buzz kill,” Hejduk said. “A lot of mental stuff you go through when you have those injuries. That’s why you have friends and family to help you get by it.”Despite not being able to participate, U.S. Soccer paid for Hejduk and his family to go to Germany and be at the World Cup with the team.“It was a great experience, I got to be a fan,” Hejduk said. “I was able to bring my son. He got to experience the World Cup with me. I got a different perspective and it was simply amazing.”Hejduk has taken that experience and used it for motivation.“It actually motivated me to try to make this next World Cup because after 2006 a lot of people wrote me off because I was 32 at the time with a torn ACL,” Hejduk said. “I made it a goal of mine to prove those people wrong.”The motivation seemed to work, as Hejduk helped team USA qualify for this year’s World Cup and helped lead the Crew to the 2008 MLS Cup.“Nothing better than picking up that trophy after the 9 years I gave to the MLS,” Hejduk said.As for U.S. Soccer’s chances in South Africa, Hejduk believes they should make it out of the first round. After that, he feels anything can happen.“I think on any given day the US can beat any team in the world,” Hejduk said. “I think teams are starting to have a lot more respect for the US.”
The Big Ten is finished with expansion — for now. In an exclusive interview with The Lantern earlier this month, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said the conference would only consider adding schools that contacted the league, not vice versa. “We’re done with it,” Smith said. “We’re finished. The only thing that would cause us to look at it further is if someone contacted us. So, we’re not going to go out and say we’re thinking about expansion.” Although the Big Ten won’t aggressively pursue potential additions, Smith said he expects other universities to seek inclusion into the conference. “We think there are some schools that are going to try to talk to some conferences,” he said. “But we’re not actively out looking at expansion. After our October meetings, that’s going to be the last we talk about it.” In October 2009, the league announced its intentions to explore expansion during a 12- to 18-month period. Nebraska left the Big 12 to join the Big Ten on June 12, 2010. Smith said the league will continue to operate under its original timeline, and once details about scheduling and the conference-title game are hammered out in next week’s meetings, expansion will be a topic of the past. That is, unless another school wants in. The right schools could add to the quality of the Big Ten Network, which Smith said has driven the conference’s pursuit of expansion. According to a report by the Associated Press earlier this month, the network turned a 30 percent profit last year. “The growth of the Big Ten Network was significantly faster than any of us projected,” Smith said. “It’s highly profitable, beyond what we thought at this particular time. We knew it was going to be successful. … But with that growth you have to sit back and say, ‘OK, how do we continue that growth? What things can we add to it?’” With the advent of 3-D TV and incessant improvements being made to high-definition quality, the TV market has emerged as college football’s most lucrative outlet. Smith said athletic directors and presidents are channeling their efforts toward maximizing TV’s role in their respective conferences. Adding a 12th team allowed the Big Ten to institute a conference championship game beginning next year, a national spectacle that should generate about $15 million to $20 million, Smith said. “As television changes, and all the mediums change for communication, the conferences have to shift in order to maximize revenue opportunities off of them,” Smith said. “When you get down to it, it’s about more inventory, more games, so that you can provide the television carrier with more product.”