BOZICH | Monday Muse: Questions loom for Louisville, Kentucky at conference media days
SEC Media Days are underway -- and the ACC takes the stage Thursday. What are the major questions facing Louisville and Kentucky in 2017?
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- There's a break in the inaction this week -- and I'm not talking about the Major League Baseball All-Star game, which will air Tuesday night on WDRB.
Real football talk is here. An entire week of it.
Four days of Southeastern Conference conversation. It started Monday in Hoover, Alabama. John Lewis and I will be there Wednesday when Kentucky coach Mark Stoops (and some fella from Alabama) answers questions.
The conversation starts in Charlotte Thursday and Friday for Atlantic Coast Conference media days. Katie George and Eric Crawford will handle the Louisville, Florida State and Clemson scrum from North Carolina.
You have questions you want asked? Send them to me and Eric at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'll start the conversation with three about each team here at the Monday Muse.
1. Three U of L Questions for ACC Media Days
The Cardinals bat leadoff in the ACC order, represented by quarterback Lamar Jackson, defensive back Jaire Alexander and coach Bobby Petrino.
What happened during the Cards' three-game slide to end last season and how do they fix it?
What did Jackson learn at the Manning Passing Academy that will help him add to the 51 touchdowns he accounted for last season?
How will Petrino correct Louisville's problem with turnovers from last season?
2. Three UK Questions for SEC Media Days
The Wildcats join the party in suburban Birmingham Wednesday, sharing the stage with Texas A&M during the afternoon session.
Stoops will take two defensive players -- linebacker Courtney Love and defensive back Mike Edwards -- as well as quarterback Stephen Johnson.
How can the Wildcats transform their strong 2016 finishing kick (five wins in their final eight games) into a stronger 2017?
Some depth charts show only two sophomores -- running back Benny Snell and guard Logan Stenberg -- among the 22 starters. Does Stoops finally have the talent and depth to compete for the SEC East title?
Is this the season the Wildcats finally A) beat Florida or B) overtake Tennessee?
3. What's Going on at Vandy?
Vanderbilt appeared on the brink of no longer being Vanderbilt during the James Franklin Era. The Commodores won nine games in 2012 and backed it up with nine more in 2013.
Franklin left for Penn State -- as any fast-track coaching candidate would. Vandy recruited Derek Mason from Stanford. There hasn't been another winning season in Nashville.
There are signs that change is coming to Vandy football. Not improved recruiting or upgraded facilities.
More player arrests. Some argue (somewhat facetiously) that you need a few troublemakers to win big in major college football.
Several weeks ago Mason suspended three players for a botched incident that involved recovering a cell phone. Two players were shot. That was followed by an incident last week that resulted in another Vanderbilt player being charged with one count of reckless endangerment for landing a drone in a Fourth of July crowd of 240,000 in downtown Nashville. (The link.)
Go ahead and bump Vandy up in your SEC predictions.
4. Nashville Tops Louisville Again
Louisville will not be getting an NFL franchise, even though Nashville plucked the Houston Oilers about 20 years ago.
Louisville is unlikely to form a layer of ice at the KFC Yum! Center and push for the NHL, even though Nashville just celebrated the Predators' march to the Stanley Cup finals.
Nashville also has a headlock on the SEC men's basketball tournament and several other goodies.
What is the next move Nashville can make to keep making its sports footprint larger than Louisville? (As it should with a metro population of about 1.8 million, roughly 500,000 than metro Louisville.)
How about an MLS franchise?
As Louisville tries to settle on a site and size for a new soccer stadium for a minor-league franchise, Nashville is thinking bolder thoughts. After putting more than 47,000 fans in Nissan Stadium Saturday night for match that featured the U.S. National Team and Panama, reports crackled that Nashville had moved to the head of the line for one of at least four MLS expansion slots that will be filled by 2019.
According to this story in the Washington Post, Sacramento is the leader. But Nashville has a place in the next tier of contenders with two other area cities -- Cincinnati and Indianapolis.
The Post story reports that Nashville has a key ingredient -- a billionaire owner, John Ingram. A city can never have enough of those.
Nashville went big after the NHL and NFL. It's ready to gamble on professional soccer, too.
5. MLB in Florida: Why?
If Nashville ever decides to pursue a baseball franchise, here is the first place the city should look: Florida.
With the MLB all-star game booked for Miami Tuesday night, it's reasonable to wonder about the game's future in the Sunshine State.
Tampa Bay ranks last in American League attendance, averaging less than 16,000 per game. Two spots ahead (but last in the National League) is Miami at 20,904 per game, despite one of the most glamorous stadiums in the game.
Players from both teams grouse that they are often overlooked in the national media story lines. Fans of visiting teams often inflate home crowds. Tampa needs a new facility. Miami has a new facility but South Florida fans apparently need a winning team to go gaga.
6. NFL Player Wants NBA Money
This item was predictable. I'm surprised there has not been a larger drumbeat. With NBA shaking money from the sky like Parmesan cheese, at least one NFL player wants to know why good but hardly great pro football players are not earning $23 million per season. (Beyond the explanation that NFL rosters are a bit bigger than NBA rosters.)
Chris Baker plays defensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Good player. But no Mean Joe Greene, Randy White or Ted Washington.
Baker signed a three-year deal worth $15.75 million with $9 million guaranteed.
In other words, his guarantee is worth less than 40 percent of J.J. Redick's guarantee of 23 large.
Baker isn't happy. In fact, he appears to be advocating a work stoppage so NFL players can correct the salary imbalance between the two sports.
Good luck with that one, Mr. Baker.
7. Big 3 vs. A Real NBA Big 3
This item was also predictable, and it certainly didn’t take long to percolate into the news cycle. Just three weekends of basketball.
Ice Cub's Big 3 basketball league is three weeks into existence. About 25 seconds of highlights works for me, but there appears to be a market for basketball fans who need one more fix of Allen Iverson, Kenyon Martin and Gary Payton.
Former NBA star Stephen Jackson, 39, joined the league -- and came out firing in promoting the quality of the product.
Jackson said he could put together a team with the 10 best Big3 players and defeat an actual NBA team.
If you consider the Brooklyn Nets and Sacramento Kings actual NBA teams and you play half-court games to 7 points, perhaps.
Otherwise? I'll have what Stephen Jackson is having.
8. Houston, Rondo Together With the Knicks
Phil Jackson no longer has the keys to the New York Knicks but two Louisvillians remain the talk of Madison Square Garden.
The news broke over the weekend that former Cavaliers' general manager David Griffin withdrew from consideration for the job of Knicks' GM. According to this story, one issue was Griffin did not want to retain former Ballard star Allan Houston as assistant general manager, insisting on selecting his staff.
Houston, a former Knicks' all-star, attended the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago and is considered a guy who will run a team one day.
Another Louisvillian, Eastern High’s Rajon Rondo, is looking for NBA work after bouncing from Boston to Dallas to Sacramento to Chicago. The latest rumored landing spot for Rondo is the Knicks. They’re looking for a mentor for young players. Rondo was considered a great teammate in Sacramento and Chicago.
Ballard and Eastern teaming up at Madison Square Garden.
9. Beware The Tip Police
Here's something to remember the next time you're the one who picks up the check: Tip like you’re taking care of your Aunt Sonia.
You never know who is watching.
Ask Andre Roberson of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
TMZ is everywhere. Somebody tipped TMZ that Roberson left a tip of about $14 on a $500 tab not long after he signed a contract worth $30 million.
Even Roberson knew that because several days later he treated another group to dinner at Texas Roadhouse Restaurant in Live Oak, Texas -- and left a 30 percent tip on his tab and also posed for post-dinner picture.
10. Poll Results
Who is Lamar Jackson's top challenger for the 2017 Heisman Trophy?
Sam Darnold, USC QB 41.2 percent
Jalen Hurts, Alabama QB 22.6 percent
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB 18.9 percent
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State QB 10.3 percent
Saquon Barkley, Penn State RB 4.6 percent
Shane Buechele, Texas QB 2.5 percent
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