Today in sports: The Indianapolis Colts make their intentions clear regarding Andrew Luck, building an NFL schedule involves lots of grids and special requests, and Ivan Rodriguez hangs up the catcher's mask after 21 seasons.
The Indianapolis Colts have reportedly informed former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck that they will select him with the first overall pick in this month's NFL draft. This isn't hugely surprising, since owner Jim Irsay very publicly backed the unproven Luck over Peyton Manning this past offseason, albeit a Peyton Manning who didn't play a down last season and is recovering from multiple neck surgeries. But Peyton Manning all the same. With Luck headed to Indianapolis, fans of the Washington Redskins no longer have to consider painful hypotheticals in which the Colts -- on a whim or for very well-thought-out reasons-- pass on Luck to select Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, thus ruining a coronation Washington has been planning for the better part of two months. [ESPN]
Putting together a 17-week NFL schedule is hard work. To begin with, a full 17-week grid is full of lots of tiny boxes. That's always a sign that things are going to get complicated. There are also travel considerations (you don't want to send Minnesota to Miami and then up to Seattle the very next week), bye weeks, the NFL's new plan to stack divisional games in the second half of the season, and conflicts with other weekend jamborees. The league office uses a computer For the last eight years, the first step has been consulting a computer capable of "spitting out 400,000 complete or partial schedules from a possible 824 trillion game combinations." After sorting through 14,000 potential schedules, NFL "scheduling czar" Howard Katz sent commissioner Roger Goodell an email at 12:33 a.m. on Monday that the 2012 slate was finally set. The entie process "gets serious in January, when teams submit lists of requests detailing stadium availability and preferences for scheduling order. This year, teams submitted more than 70 blocked-out dates for stadiums," for various reasons. Bruce Springsteen is playing MetLife Stadium September 19, 21, and 22 so both the Giants and Jets are playing road games in Week 3. Then there are the preferences. So many preferences, per The New York Times' Judy Battista:
Florida teams often ask not to play 1 p.m. games in September and October, believing it is more difficult to sell tickets in broiling heat; sometimes the same organization will submit different requests because coaches believe the heat provides a competitive advantage. Southern teams do not want to go north late in the season. Teams that struggle to sell tickets worry especially about their late-season schedule.the N.F.L.’s expanded Thursday night package, which gives each team a game in a short week, to potential baseball playoff situations that could impact the availability of stadiums and parking lots in October.
The initial glut of 14,000 schedules was "reduced to 150 with an eyeball test. Then the scheduling department reviewed those 150 by hand, scoring them for each team and each network." Katz thought he engineered the perfect schedule weeks ago until he rechecked the matchups and "realized one team had a three-game trip heading into a Thursday night game." Back to the drawing board. [The New York Times]
The University of Arkansas apparently "reached out" to Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who won five Rose Bowls in nine seasons coaching at USC, about replacing recently defrocked head football coach Bobby Petrino. Carroll said no, because it's much too late in the off-season for him to make a move like that, and besides, he's not exactly an Arkansas-kind-of-guy. (Carroll likes surfing metaphors.) He did endorse Steve Mariucci, the former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions who went 6-6 in one season as head coach at Cal, for the job. The always enthusiastic Mariucci said he'd definitely be interested in interviewing for the prestigious, high-paying position despite being out of coaching for the last six seasons and having limited experience at the college level. Arkansas seems more interested in pursuing former Tennessee Volunteers coach Philip Fullmer who, to be fair, assembled some of the greatest 7-5 football teams in SEC history. [KFSM/KXNW]
The state of Minnesota's inability to secure funds to build the Minnesota Vikings a new stadium -- or even just a hastily assembled football field-length carport with some poles and maybe a tarp from when it starts to spritz -- has prompted commissioner Roger Goodell to warn Governor Mark Dayton that there will be "serious consequences" if the state legislature fails to finalize a stadium bill by the end of the current session. Goodell's holding a conference call today with Dayton and Steelers owner Art Rooney II, chairman of the league’s stadium committee. What kind of serious consequences might be offing? “I don’t know if that means a sale," says Eric Grubman, the NFL's executive vice president for ventures and business operations. "I don’t know if that means a move. You have a very dejected ownership." That would be Zygi Wilf, who has offered to put up as much $427 million in private funds to get the project moving. But the inability to even get a vote on the publicly funded portion of any facility has left Wilf "dejected," according to Grubman, who adds conditions are "getting ripe" for the team to relocate altogether. [The Star Tribune]
Catcher Ivan Rodriguez is retiring today after 21 MLB seasons, the best of which came when he was a member of the Texas Rangers, though he won a World Series in 2003 with the Florida Marlins and was a invaluable wily veteran clubhouse type even when his hitting declined in later years. Rodriguez leaves with 311 home runs, 2,8444 hits and a .296 career batting average. He was also a 14-time All-Star and 13-time Gold Glove Award winner. Numbers like those would make him a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer, but again, the specter of steroids clouds how voters will treat his accomplishments. In his 2005 memoir Juiced, Jose Canseco claimed to have injected Rodriguez with anabolic steroids when they played together on the Rangers. Rodriguez denied the claim, but even The New York Times noticed back in 2005 when the physique of a player nicknamed Pudge began looking decidedly unpudgy. We shall see. [AP]
Former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who managed the team to two World Series championships in eight seasons before having to serve as fall guy for last season's historic September implosion, has changed his mind and will attend the birthday party the team is throwing tomorrow for the almost-century old Fenway Park. Francona initially said the invitation was delivered "five months too late," which makes sense because it was about five months ago the team declined to pick up his option and unnamed team sources began leaking nasty stuff about his marriage and purported painkiller addiction to the media when he was already on his way out of town. Rough stuff, but it's not every day a cramped baseball venue turns one hundred. [Boston Herald]
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