Critics of the proposed 12-team College Football Playoff have been few. Maybe that’s the genius of the plan. It speaks to most constituents.
But there has been scrutiny, not from a philosophical viewpoint such as length of season or playing players, but from a practical standpoint, on the relatively few home games in the bracket.
The model hands out four home games, before the playoff reaches the quarterfinals and goes to neutral-site bowl games.
The top four seeds in the 12-team field receive byes to the quarterfinals, while seeds 5-8 host first-round games. That means some of the best programs rarely would host.
But two questions arise. First, is that a bad thing? And second, how truly shut out are the big-time programs from playoff home games?
The Tuesday ScissorTales repick the 2001 NBA Draft and share a feel-good story at Yankee Stadium 60 years in the making. But we start with the format of the College Football Playoff.
Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey, as a guest on ESPN’s Paul Finebaum Show last week, made the case for the quarterfinals to be in the bowls.
“Those destinations are part of the flavor and history of college football,” said Sankey, who joined with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick and fellow commissioners Bob Bowlsby (Big 12) and Craig Thompson (Mountain West) in developing the 12-team idea.
The proposal, Sankey said, “still respects the fact that bowl games do have a place. Does provide a special experience for student-athletes.”
Sankey said the goal is to retain the tradition bowl schedule of teams spending several days at the site of the game.
“Not just fly in, fly out, and play a game,” Sankey said. “We still want college football to be something bigger than just an extension of the regular season. Something different than just a home game like the NFL playoffs are.”
And while some said the plan ignores the fans, Sankey counters.
He said the four-man committee that produced the plan provided for “the ability for both teams’ fans to have access to those neutral-site bowl games.
“What’s seemingly lost is people criticized, saying, ‘Hey, you didn’t think about the fans.’ No, they actually did. They thought about fans from both teams at those sites, while trying to have a balance of access for fans…
“This is a balancing act. And there is plenty to observe and criticize. But as you’re trying to weigh and balance what we do in college football, I’m one who thinks, if we’re going to change from four, the 12-team format provides a lot of opportunity around the college football postseason that can be special in a whole new way and in a whole new level in the future.”
So where would the home games land under the 12-team model?
Using the playoff selection committee’s rankings in the seven years of the playoff, I drew up brackets for those seasons.
Almost every major power would have hosted at least one playoff game. Not Clemson. Not Louisiana State. Not Penn State.
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But Alabama in 2017. OU in 2016. Florida in 2020. Southern Cal in 2017.
Ohio State would have hosted twice (2015, 2016). Georgia would have hosted twice (2018, 2019). Michigan would have hosted twice (2016, 2018). Baylor would have hosted twice (2014, 2019).
Notre Dame would have hosted thrice (2015, 2018, 2020). Wisconsin, too (2016, 2017, 2019).
Mid-majors Central Florida (2018) and Cincinnati (2019) would have hosted once each.
Texas Christian, Oregon, Mississippi State, Iowa, Stanford, Michigan State and Auburn would have hosted once each.
Seems like a wide distribution of host sites.
And while yes, maybe the likes of Clemson, Alabama and OU wouldn’t host that often, the fruits of their assignment are mighty: a first-round bye and a likely geographically-advantageous bowl site.
I understand the arguments against potentially three straight neutral-site games. Most fans would not make consecutive trips to, say, New Orleans, Phoenix and Tampa.
But the same fans aren’t going to all the trips anyway. Ohio State, Alabama, OU, Georgia and Clemson have tens of thousands of fans; many would stagger their trips. Many already do, with conference championship games, bowl game and national title game.
I’m no longer a fan of the bowls. The players have spoken. They don’t care about the bowls, unless it’s a playoff game. If they don’t care, why should I?
The only way to preserve the bowls is to make them part of the playoff. Otherwise, they will die. This might be the last-ditch effort to keep them going.
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“I think certainly the history and the commitment bowls have made to the process” is why the bowls were given such status in the 12-team proposal. “Giving them an opportunity to continue to be relevant in the system.”
Bowlsby echoed Sankey’s comments about the tradition of the bowls and also pointed out that playing national quarterfinals on frozen fields isn’t necessarily a good idea.
Yes, the NFL does it in Green Bay and Chicago and Cleveland, but those stadiums have underground heating systems, and the NFL has domed stadiums in Minneapolis, Detroit and Indianapolis.
“I’m not sure that playing in East Lansing, Michigan, on January 7th is a really good idea,” Bowlsby said. “There has to be some accounting taken of stadiums that have to be winterized in the months of December and January.”
Of course, get the winterizing operations ready. Going back over the last seven years, 13 playoff games (almost half) would have been played in Big Ten territory.
So the 12-team proposal clearly was made with the bowls in mind. If that doesn’t work, you’ll get all the home games you can stand.
2001 NBA Re-Draft: More early-pick busts
The 2001 NBA Draft was much better than the 2000 NBA Draft, but really was just as volatile in terms of picks. The best players did not come in linear fashion.
We began our re-draft series Monday, looking at the woebegone 2000 draft. The 2001 draft was much deeper but no less accurate in terms of recognizing talent.
Two of the top four picks were busts. Five of the top 10 picks were no better than journeymen.
The best players out of the draft were found throughout the first round and into the second.
Here are the best 15 players from that draft, using basketball-reference.com’s wins-shares metric. That number tends to value longer careers moreso than condensed superiority – Richard Jefferson over Gilbert Arenas, for example – and perhaps I’ll start using VORP (value over replacement player) for the rankings, but the difference in 2001 would only change the order some. It wouldn’t identify different players being noteworthy:
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1. Pau Gasol (third to the Grizzlies, via trade): A star on Memphis’ first playoff team, then a cornerstone of two Laker title teams, Gasol was a great big man, playing 18 seasons and averaging 17.0 points and 9.2 rebounds. He’s headed for the Hall of Fame.
2. Tony Parker (28th to the Spurs): A late-round steal by San Antonio, Parker became the point guard on four Spur championship teams. Thunder czar Sam Presti, then a San Antonio underling, petitioned hard for the Spurs to take Parker, who also is headed for Springfield, Massachusetts.
3. Tyson Chandler (second to the Bulls, via trade): Chandler was so-so in five Chicago seasons. But Chandler came to the Hornets (and OKC) in 2006-07, and his career took off. Chandler connected with Chris Paul and became a big-time defender. In 2010-11, Chandler was the starting center on the Mavericks’ NBA title team. He played 18 seasons and made 886 NBA starts.
4. Richard Jefferson (13th to the Nets, via trade): Another long career (18 seasons). Jefferson made 809 career starts and averaged 12.6 points a game.
5. Joe Johnson (10th to the Celtics): Another long-timer with a good career, Johnson played 17 seasons and averaged 16.0 points a game, including five straight years averaging in the 20s for the Hawks.
6. Zach Randolph (19th to the TrailBlazers): Another 17-year career, Randolph averaged 16.6 points and 9.1 rebounds; he staged a renaissance with the Grizzlies in the back half of his career and had some playoff battle royales against the Thunder.
7. Shane Battier (sixth to the Grizzlies): Battier played 13 seasons and was a defensive master who made 38.4 percent of his career 3-pointers. Battier was the sixth man on back-to-back Miami championship teams.
8. Gerald Wallace (25th to the Kings): Wallace was a poor-man’s Battier, playing 14 years with tough defense. Wallace averaged 11.9 points a game.
9. Jason Richardson (fifth to the TrailBlazers): A good scorer who averaged 17.0 points a game, Richardson played 14 years in the league.
10. Mehmet Okur (38th to the Pistons): The Turkish center played 10 NBA seasons and made 460 starts, including five seasons as the starting center on some good Jazz teams.
11. Samuel Dalembert (26th to the 76ers): The shot-blocking specialist played 13 seasons and made 694 NBA starts. He averaged 7.8 points and 1.7 blocked shots per game.
12. Gilbert Arenas (31st to the Warriors): Arenas’ career was limited to 552 games, and he had some trouble off the court, but Arenas could score on the court, including back-to-back seasons of 29.3 and 28.4 points for the Wizards.
13. Troy Murphy (14th to the Warriors): One of the original stretch-4’s – power forwards who excelled at the 3-point shot – Murphy played 12 seasons and averaged 10.8 points a game.
14. Brendan Haywood (20th to the Cavaliers): The 7-foot center played 13 years and was solid, making 549 career starts.
15. Vladimir Radmanovic (12th to the Sonics): A decent bench player most of his 12-year career, Radmanovic averaged 8.0 points a game.
Here are some other notable picks and players:
► No. 1 pick Kwame Brown, taken by the Wizards, played 12 seasons but made just 281 career starts. He averaged 6.6 points and 5.5 rebounds a game.
► No. 4 pick Eddy Curry, taken by the Bulls, was like Brown, a big center coming straight out of high school. He played 11 seasons, appearing in 527 games and making 411 starts, with averages of 12.9 points and 5.2 rebounds.
► Picks 7-9 were not high-impact players – Eddie Griffin by the Rockets (via trade), DeSagana Diop by the Cavaliers, Rodney White by the Pistons.
► Earl Watson, the starting point guard in the Thunder’s first game in Oklahoma City, was the 40th overall pick. He had a solid career, playing 13 years and appearing in 878 games.
► Point guard Jamaal Tinsley, out of Iowa State, was the 27th pick, by the Pacers via trade, and had a decent career, making 404 starts in 11 seasons.
Yankee Stadium’s feel-good story
Baseball has had its share of bad press in recent times. The Astros’ sign-stealing. Pitchers doctoring baseballs. The home run/walk/strikeout nature of many major league at-bats.
Baseball needs all the feel-good stories it can get. It got one Monday.
At Yankee Stadium, Gwen Goldman got to be the Bronx Bombers’ batgirl. Gwen Goldman is 70 years old.
Sixty years ago, in the magical season of 1961, 10-year-old Gwen Goldman wrote a letter to the Yankees, asking if she could serve as a batgirl for her beloved baseball team.
Goldman received the kind of response you’d expect her to receive in 1961.
Then-Yankee general manager Roy Hamey wrote her back: “While we agree with you that girls are certainly as capable as boys, and no doubt would be an attractive addition on the playing field, I am sure you can understand that it is a game dominated by men. (A) young lady such as yourself would feel out of place in a dugout.”
We can only imagine the chutzpah it took for a 10-year-old girl to write that letter 60 years ago. That was a closed-door society in so many ways to females. And Hamey certainly offered no encouragement.
But what a spirit by Goldman, whose Yankee zeal never wavered, and the world changed.
Hamey’s letter was dated June 23, 1961. Sixty years to the day later, Yankee GM Brian Cashman, having been forwarded an email written by Goldman’s daughter, wrote to the lifelong Yankee fan: “It is not too late to reward and recognize the ambition you showed in writing that letter to us as a 10-year-old girl … some dreams take longer than they should to be realized, but a goal attained should not dim with the passage of time. I have a daughter myself, and it is my sincere hope that every little girl will be given the opportunity to follow her aspirations into the future.”
So Monday, in full Yankee uniform, Goldman had quite the day. The retired social worker threw out the ceremonial first pitch, then stood alongside manager Aaron Boone during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“I don’t know where to start, of which was the best, what did I enjoy the most?” Goldman said during a fourth-inning press conference. “The whole piece, from walking in the front door of the stadium at Gate 2, to coming up to a locker with my name on it that said ‘Gwen Goldman’ and suiting up, then walking out onto the field.
“It took my breath away. It’s obviously taking my words away also. It was a thrill of a lifetime — times a million. And I actually got to be out in the dugout too. I threw out a ball. I met the players. Yeah, it goes on and on. They had set up a day for me; that is something that I never would have expected.”
The Yankee Stadium crowd got to enjoy the celebration.
Goldman posed for a photo with the umpires when the lineup cards were brought out. The Yankee Stadium video board showed the letters and a Zoom session in which Yankee officials and pitcher Gerrit Cole informed Goldman of the invitation. Goldman was announced to the crowd and received an ovation as she walked onto the diamond.
Wow. The power of sports.
“I didn’t hold it against them; I loved the Yankees,” Goldman said.
The whole story made me smile – and wonder. What are our unfulfilled dreams? What have we held in our hearts for years and decades that didn’t come true? What dreams could we make reality?
Dreams still come true. They did for Gwen Goldman.
Mailbag: Chris Paul as the Thunder coach
Chris Paul’s popularity in Oklahoma remains strong.
Susan: “Hey Tram, has the Thunder given any thought to hiring Chris Paul to coach? With his basketball acumen, his energy and ability to relate to players of all ages, it seems his addition would be a critical advantage to the Thunder’s continued development. Just thinking??”
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Tramel: I think CP3 one day could make an excellent NBA coach. His attention to detail – knowing the tuck-in-your-shirt rule, for example, which led to a wild Thunder comeback victory over Minnesota last season – is legendary, and he indeed seems to connect with both young and veteran players.
But CP is a long way from coaching. Nobody quits playing to start coaching. They quit playing because they no longer can play. Then some look to coach. And CP still can play.
Good Eats: Cattlemen’s Cafe
At one of the NCAA basketball regionals a decade or so ago, a couple of Chicago writers asked me for a restaurant suggestion. Said they wanted something with an Oklahoma flair.
I thought for a minute and told them to go to Cattlemen’s. The next day at the Ford Center, I got a big thumbs-up from the Windy City writers.
Cafe bills itself as Oklahoma’s oldest continually-operational restaurant, and it’s more than just vintage. It’s still a great place to eat.
Excellent steakhouse. Good lunch spot, with all kinds of good deals at economical prices. The world’s best salad dressing (though the luscious creamy garlic barely beats out the Petroleum Club’s poblano ranch).
For decades or more, Cattlemen’s has been a destination for Oklahomans from outside the metro, tourists in town for rodeos or horse shows, and locals who know a good thing when they eat it.
I generally eat the steak salad, with strips of great steak atop a salad and all the creamy garlic dressing I want. We had a family celebration Monday at Cattlemen’s and had everything from strip sirloin to fried catfish to chicken-fried steak. No one was disappointed.
Cattlemen’s opened in 1910, when Stockyards City was ablaze with cattle haulers and hungry cowboys. By 1926, Stockyards City was home to two major meat-processing processors and was known as Packing Town.
Cattlemen’s today proudly embraces its shady past. Staying open after sundown, attracting a “colorful” clientele, known for its Prohibition-era “liquid delights.”
In 1945, Cattlemen’s was owned by Hank Frey, who then lost the restaurant to Gene Wade in a dice game at the old Biltmore Hotel. Those were the days.
The ambience of those times remain alive. The cafe on the north side is the original establishment, with the South Dining Room and the Hereford Room “a bit fancier,” Cattlemen’s claims, with the rustic feel of the cattle business. Murals cover the southern and western wall of the dining rooms; they are photos of Wade and his father, gentlemen ranchers rounding up cattle, both wearing jackets and ties.
Cattlemen’s sports drawings of its most distinguished visitors. Gene Autry, John Wayne, Reba McEntire, Ronald Reagan (before he was president) and George Herbert Walker Bush (while he was president).
Cattlemen’s is a great place for us non-dignitaries to visit, both to experience the past and enjoy the present.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.