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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Rare free kick leads to huge, last-minute win in Miami - Report: NBA has laid off 400 since lockout start -

Biggest potential obstacle to a UConn repeat? The NCAA

Connecticut’s talented enough to repeat as NCAA tournament champions. But it may not get the chance.
NCAA president Mark Emmert said Monday that among the proposals the D-I Board of Directors is voting on Friday includes academic requirements for postseason play, namely a basic Academic Progress Rate (APR) minimum of 900. As reported by USA Today, the minimum would likely apply to the 2012-13 season, but directors have the option of adding it this season. (Read more about the APR changes here.)
That means the Huskies – who had a four-year rolling APR of 893 last spring – wouldn’t be able to meet the new standard and defend their title. The Hartford Courant reports UConn would need multiple years of high APR scores to improve its four-year APR average.
As expected, UConn officials aren’t happy about this.
“I am strongly in favor of holding colleges and universities responsible for meeting APR standards,” UConn President Susan Herbst told the paper. “There are many reasonable penalties for failing to meet these standards, and a postseason ban is one of them. My only addition to the conversation is that institutions need time to prepare, to make sure that all of their academic supports are in place, so that players and coaches are ready to meet the expectations of presidents and the NCAA. … I don’t know that the ramp-up time is settled yet, in the discussions.”
It’s not time for Husky fans to panic. Not only does the Board need to approve the change (which is probable), it also needs to implement it immediately, which is pretty much the opposite of how the NCAA handles things.
Still, given how UConn coach Jim Calhoun has butted heads with the NCAA recently, the NCAA’s vote is prime material for conspiracy theories and a tense time for any Husky fan. It’s not often a rules change KO’s a potential repeat champion.

Rare free kick leads to huge, last-minute win in Miami

That's when things got interesting. According to the Miami Herald, rather than take a few shots down the field, Belen coach Rich Stuart made one of the rarest calls in all of football: He had his team attempt a free kick.
"It's unusual, but it is completely legal," Greater Miami Athletic Conference head of football officials Joe Underwood told the Herald. "It is a free kick that can be taken following a fair catch, and it doesn't matter if it is off a kicking tee or not."
Hardly ever used outside of high school football (you can see former Arizona Cardinals turned Houston Texans kicker Neil Rackers attempt a free kick -- and miss horribly -- in an NFL game here), a free kick allows a team to attempt a field goal off a tee or held by a holder, just like a kickoff, after it fair catches a punt. Only the opposing team can return a miss (since a block is made impossible) and the opposing team must stand a full 10 yards away from the line of scrimmage. The kick is worth three points, just as any other field goal is.
For Belen's kick, the placing at the 39-yard line made the free kick a 49-yard attempt by placekicker Sergio Sroka, who had missed a potential go-ahead field goal just moments before.
This time Sroka drilled the kick, giving the Wolverines an unlikely 30-28 lead, an edge which was padded by an interception return for a touchdown by Michael Ugarte to complete the 36-28 final score.
If you haven't heard about the free kick rule before, don't worry, you're hardly alone. In fact, even Sroka himself didn't know about the rule until he lined up to try the game-winning kick.
"I didn't think I'd get another shot after I missed. I never knew about that kick or that we could do that. It was a lot of pressure off my shoulders."
According to Stuart, the program was only made aware of its ability to try a free kick by Julio Fortay, a math teacher at the school who is a retired official and once served as the head of GMAC football officials.

Report: NBA has laid off 400 since lockout start
You can't make a golden omelette without breaking a few eggs that just want to do their jobs and have nothing to do with your cooking.

The NBA obviously is in a bit of a bind with the lockout putting a clamp down on revenues since it's a sports league that doesn't actually have a sport. And on the whole, the league and its teams are managing the downturn in creative ways. For instance, not only are they not paying the players, they're also laying off lots and lots of people. From Sports Business Journal:

The NBA has lost about 400 jobs as part of the collateral damage inflicted on the league and its teams during the four-month-old lockout.The job losses are estimated to number roughly 200 at the NBA’s headquarters and its international offices and about 200 across its 30 teams since last season and over the course of the lockout, said a source familiar with the league’s business dealings.
via SBJ: NBA job losses near 400 since end of season - NBA - Sporting News.

The NBA has said that most of its layoffs were not tied to the lockout, that they simply were part of a cost-saving initiative. Here's the bind. It's hard to criticize the NBA for implementing the lockout as the only viable way to cut down on costs, and then criticize them for layoffs which is another way to cut down on costs.

If the league wanted to shift the perception of victimizing labor in multiple spots, they should release a review of the other ways they've saved costs. The NBA operates in a luxury industry. As such, they'll often overspend on meals, perks, and intiatives. Showing that those various expenses have also been curtailed would paint a more complete picture. Because the image that's been painted publicly is just that the owners think the only way to get their finances in order is to either sacrifice the game through a lockout or fire people.

And that doesn't help with the whole "cold-hearted, blood-sucking corporate monster" thing, which isn't accurate. All employers go through cutbacks in personnel, especially in this economy. You can argue that with things like a $930 million media deal and the other assorted revenue streams, they shouldn't have to enact such measures, or that if they ran their teams better, they would be more popular and drive more revenue (which are decisions from the top-down), but there's a line to walk in regards to the reality of the situation.

That will likely be of no comfort to the 400 people who have found themselves out of work in such an opulent industry.

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