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ESPN Used Fake Names To Secure Emmy's For College GameDay Stars


January 11, 2024 by The Athletic

In March 2023, Shelley Smith, who worked 26 years as an on-air reporter for ESPN, received a call from Stephanie Druley, then the network’s head of studio and event production. Druley said she wanted to talk about something “serious” that needed to stay between the two of them, Smith recalled. She then told Smith that Smith needed to return two sports Emmy statuettes that she had been given more than a decade earlier.


That request was one of many ESPN made of some of its biggest stars last year after the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS), the organization that administers the Emmys, uncovered a scheme that the network used to acquire more than 30 of the coveted statuettes for on-air talent ineligible to receive them. Since at least 2010, ESPN inserted fake names in Emmy entries, then took the awards won by some of those imaginary individuals, had them re-engraved and gave them to on-air personalities.


Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Chris Fowler, Desmond Howard and Samantha Ponder, among others, were given the ill-gotten Emmys, according to a source briefed on the matter, who was granted anonymity because the individual is not authorized to discuss it publicly. There is no evidence that the on-air individuals were aware the Emmys given to them were improperly obtained.


“I think it was really crummy what they did to me and others,” said Smith, who worked at ESPN from 1997 until her contract expired last July.


The fraud was discovered by a NATAS employee, which prompted an investigation by that organization and later by ESPN. Those probes resulted in sanctions beyond the return of the trophies. While it is not known who orchestrated the scheme, Craig Lazarus, vice president and executive producer of original content and features, and Lee Fitting, a senior vice president of production who oversaw “College GameDay” and other properties, were among the ESPN employees NATAS ruled ineligible from future participation in the Emmys.


In a statement, ESPN said: “Some members of our team were clearly wrong in submitting certain names that may go back to 1997 in Emmy categories where they were not eligible for recognition or statuettes. This was a misguided attempt to recognize on-air individuals who were important members of our production team. Once current leadership was made aware, we apologized to NATAS for violating guidelines and worked closely with them to completely overhaul our submission process to safeguard against anything like this happening again.

“We brought in outside counsel to conduct a full and thorough investigation and individuals found to be responsible were disciplined by ESPN.”


Adam Sharp, of NATAS, said in an email: “NATAS identified a number of fictitious credits submitted by ESPN to multiple Sports Emmys competitions. When brought to the attention of ESPN senior management, the network took steps to take responsibility for the actions of its personnel, to investigate thoroughly, and to course correct. These steps have included the return by ESPN of statuettes issued to fictitious individuals and commitments to implement further internal accountability and procedural changes at the network.”


An ESPN spokesperson said Lazarus declined to comment, and Lazarus didn’t respond to an email seeking comment. Fitting was let go by ESPN in August after 25 years at the company. He did not respond to voice and text messages.


The nexus of the scheme was “College GameDay,” the show that Fitting helped turn into a cultural phenomenon and a revenue machine. From 2008-18, it nabbed eight Emmys for outstanding weekly studio show. But on-air talent was, until 2023, prohibited by NATAS guidelines from being included in a credit list in that category. Hosts, analysts and reporters on “College GameDay” could win individual awards, such as outstanding host, studio analyst or emerging on-air talent, and they could win for an individual feature. But they were not eligible to take home a trophy for a win by the show. That rule was meant to prevent front-facing talent from winning two awards for the same work (termed “double-dipping” in the NATAS rulebook).


ESPN circumvented the rule by inserting fake names into the credit list it submitted to NATAS for “College GameDay.” The Athletic reviewed the credit lists for the years the show won: 2010, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. In each one of those seven years, names similar to the names of on-air personalities – and with identical initials – were listed all under the title of “associate producers.”


Kirk Henry (Kirk Herbstreit), Lee Clark (Lee Corso), Dirk Howard (Desmond Howard), and Tim Richard (Tom Rinaldi) appeared in all seven years. Steven Ponder (Sam Ponder) and Gene Wilson (Gene Wojciechowski) appeared in five from 2014-18. Chris Fulton (Chris Fowler) appeared in 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2015. Shelley Saunders (Shelley Smith) appeared in the 2010 credit list. Smith was also given an Emmy for the show’s win in 2008, though it is unclear how that statuette was obtained; Shelley Saunders was not listed in the 2008 credit list viewed by The Athletic. However, networks are allowed to modify a credit list after a show is announced as a winner.


While reviewing the 2010 and 2011 credit lists, The Athletic found three additional names that could not be verified that also closely resemble the names of “College GameDay” talent: Erik Andrews (Erin Andrews) in 2011; Wendy Nickson (Wendi Nix) and Jenn Brownsmith (Jenn Brown) in 2010. Nix confirmed that she was given an Emmy around 2010 and said she had no idea it was improperly obtained; it just arrived in the mail one day. She was not contacted about returning it before or after she left ESPN in August 2023. Brown, who left ESPN in 2013, confirmed she also was given one and didn’t know it was ill-gotten. She said: “This is all news to me and kind of unfortunate because you’ve got people who believe they rightfully had one. There are rules for a reason … it’s unfortunate (those were) abused and for so many years, too.” Brown said she has not been contacted by ESPN about returning it. Andrews, who left ESPN in 2012, declined to comment through a spokesperson.


When asked why people at the network would scheme to secure trophies for on-air talent, one person involved in the ESPN Emmy submission process in recent years said: “You have to remember that those personalities are so important, and they have egos.” Smith, for one, pushed back at that and remarked how some executives lined their office shelves with statuettes. One executive interviewed during ESPN’s probe said that some company leaders were obsessed with the Emmys, using the numbers of wins each year to prove their dominance over competitors: “It’s very important to the people who go (to the ceremony) and the old-school television guys.” Additionally, many at ESPN thought the rule preventing on-air personalities from getting statuettes for a win by the show was stupid. They may have just decided to do something about it, the rules be damned.


NATAS strengthened its credit verification process in 2022, and sometime in that year ESPN was asked to verify certain names. The network eventually admitted they were bogus. In its 2022 transparency report, NATAS referenced the scheme: During credit vetting, Sports Administration identified one network’s use of fabricated identities in association with one or more submissions. The matter was referred to counsel and remains pending.

Fake names appeared in ESPN’s Emmy submission for “College GameDay” as recently as 2020 – a year the show did not win – but were not in the 2022 entry.


(The Athletic does not have access to the show’s 2021 credit list.)


“College GameDay” on-air-personalities may not have been the only ones to have been given statuettes they were ineligible to receive. In May 2023, Linda Cohn, a “SportsCenter” anchor since 1992, posted a photo on Instagram of four Emmy awards and wrote: “My Fab 4. The latest delivered today. Still grateful.” In the foreground of the photo is an Emmy for outstanding daily studio show from 2023. Because of the rule change, Cohn was eligible to receive that award. She is listed under “host” in the credit list and that word is engraved on the statuette’s base. As for the three Emmys in the background of the photo, one reads:




The two others read:




Under NATAS rules, Cohn was ineligible to receive a statuette as an on-air personality for any “SportsCenter” wins in the category of daily studio show before 2023, and NATAS confirmed Cohn has won only one Emmy. Cohn referred all questions to an ESPN spokesperson.


According to a recent version of the Emmys rulebook, credit fabrication can result in a disqualification and the required return of trophies. According to NATAS, 37 ill-gotten trophies have been returned thus far. Smith gave back the 2008 award but not the one from 2010, which she had gifted to a relative. Wojciechowski, who exited ESPN last summer, declined an interview request. Rinaldi, who left ESPN for Fox in 2020, was contacted on Wednesday but said he did not have time to talk. He then didn’t respond to multiple text messages.


Fitting, Lazarus and Drew Gallagher, a coordinating producer on “College GameDay,” were ruled ineligible from future Emmy participation. Druley was not ruled ineligible for future Emmys; she won a 2023 Emmy as an executive producer for “Monday Night Football.” But she was replaced on an Emmy steering committee by another ESPN executive.


Gallagher and Druley declined to comment through an ESPN spokesperson.


The names of Lazarus, Fitting and Gallagher were absent from the credit lists published in the program for the 44th Annual Sports Emmys ceremony, held on May 22, 2023 in New York. A year earlier, Lazarus’ name had appeared in various show credits, as an executive producer eight times and as a supervising producer once. Fitting was listed as an executive producer nominee six times. Drew Gallagher was listed as a coordinating producer twice. One year later, they were not listed at all.


“College GameDay’s” credit list for the 2023 awards also did not include credits for executive producers, senior coordinating producers or coordinating producers. “Among the sanctions resulting from the investigation was a one-year disqualification from statuette eligibility for the senior leadership of ‘College GameDay,'” NATAS said in an email.


Shortly after Smith’s call with Druley last March, a courier arrived at her California home, wrapped the 2008 statuette in a white plastic bag and took it away. But Smith still has the Emmy she won in 2018 for a story for the program “E:60.”


“I was happy to win the (2018) one,” Smith said. “But the other times (the trophy) would just show up and I wouldn’t even know I was supposed to get one.”

12-Team College Football Playoff Starts In 2024


November 26, 2023 by KSE Staff


For years, we heard that the current four-team football system was just not enough and that the NCAA should move to a larger playoff field to determine a “real champion.” What was it really that prompted this change? Is it the estimated additional two billion in media rights for each conference or the “more inclusive” notion that mediocre teams, who play a cupcake schedule all season and wonder why they can’t get ranked in the top ten, have the same shot as those teams who truly compete every weekend?


Regardless, starting in 2024, the champion will no longer be picked by a poll, a sports writer, or a couple games. The new playoff system will include more teams and somewhat align with much of the other organized NCAA sports in that it will be “more inclusive” and move from two rounds of games to four rounds of games.


The new format was originally proposed to start in the 2026 season due to certain contracts involving ESPN and the bowl games. But, an amendment to the contract made it possible for it to start in 2024-2025. With that amendment, ESPN will become the exclusive broadcaster, there’s’ the money aspect of it, following an agreement with certain bowl committees.


In order to go from 4 teams to 12 teams, it meant starting a round of playoff games earlier. It has been announced that the first round, with byes to the top four teams/conference champions, will be played on or about December 19-20 each year. These four first round games will take place on the campus of the higher ranked team.


Six bowls will then be involved in the quarterfinal and semifinal games. Those bowls include the Fiesta, Peach, Cotton, and Orange with the Fiesta and Peach being the quarterfinal games in 2024 and the Cotton and Orange bowl games being the semifinal games. This will rotate each year so in 2025, the Fiesta and Peach will be the semifinal games while the Cotton and Orange will be the quarterfinal games. The Rose and Sugar bowls will keep their traditional New Year’s Day games by hosting quarterfinal games as well.


In 2024 for example, the Fiesta, Peach, Rose, and Sugar Bowls will host the quarterfinals. In 2025, the Cotton, Orange, Rose, and Sugar bowls will host the quarterfinals. In 2024, the Orange and Cotton will host the semifinals while in 2025, the Fiesta and Peach will host the semifinal games.


How will the teams be picked? The top four conference champions (SEC, Big 10, Big 12, and Pac 10) will automatically be in as the one thru four teams, followed by six at large bids and two of the next highest ranked teams from other conferences such as the ACC. The way it stands right now, independent teams like Notre Dame or Army will never be among the top four teams because they can never win a conference championship. It also means they could never have a bye in the playoffs as only the top four conference champions get a first-round bye.


Of interesting note, the top three teams will decide, based on rank, where they want to play their quarterfinal bowl game, with the 4th ranked team playing in the bowl game which is left. In the semifinals, once again, the higher ranked team will pick its desired bowl game. The championship game will continue to be played in mid-January at a neutral site decided by the NCAA.

Lehigh Valley...Iron Pigs - One of the Best Places to See a Game

"Discover Lehigh Valley"

Since debuting in 2008, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs have led Minor League Baseball in per game attendance at Coca-Cola Park which has a 10,100 capacity. They have become the Lehigh Valley’s place for affordable family entertainment.


The IronPigs have quickly built a fun-for-all reputation with their quirky in-game contests and giveaways with every pork pun imaginable, ranging from racing pork product characters, a kid’s piglet race, ketchup and mustard t-shirt launchers, the crazy antics of fan-favorite mascots FeRROUS and FeFe (Fe is the atomic symbol for Iron), and a dancing grounds crew, just to name a few.


Its proximity to Philadelphia is not the only thing that the IronPigs have in common with their parent club, the Philadelphia Phillies. Since the 2008 inaugural season, dozens of IronPigs players have been called up to the Phillies, or have appeared at Coca-Cola Park for an assigned rehab appearance. 


The food. Did you know that there are 334 food items available at Coca-Cola Park? That's right, 334! And many of them are bacon related. Right again, bacon. The jerseys. Red, white, black, and bacon! 


Notable players who’ve worn a ‘Pigs Uniform include: Pedro Martinez, Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz, Raul Ibanez, Maikel Franco, Rhys Hoskins, J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, and recently Bryce Harper.


For schedules, tickets and seating charts, click here. Parking is $5 per vehicle and several lots can accommodate.


So, get ready for home runs, hot dogs and, of course, Ferrous and FeFe. See you at the ball game!


Here are what fans can expect when they come to Coca-Cola Park: 


Cashless Environment: The IronPigs will be operating Coca-Cola Park as a fully cashless facility, including the areas of food/beverage, ticketing, and merchandise. In the rapidly growing number of sporting venues that have gone cashless, there has been a demonstrated reduction in health risks by limiting contact in addition to providing for shorter and faster-moving lines.  Both credit cards and mobile contactless tap-to-pay applications will be accepted throughout Coca-Cola Park.


Digital Ticketing: As previously announced, all tickets will be digital eliminating additional touch points for the safety of fans and employees alike and to allow for contactless entry.


Gate Entrances and Security Screening: As fans enter the park the IronPigs will be enforcing social distancing guidelines. There will be stanchions that will separate and social distance each entrance. For fans who wish to bring bags into Coca-Cola Park, the bag must be clear. Exceptions will be made for medical and diaper bags. Additionally, bags may enter which are not clear if the guest consents to a physical search of the bag. Security will wear masks and gloves and use probing tools at bag check.


The IronPigs will be providing a Know Before You Go email to all fans with tickets for their specific game prior to each date in collaboration with St. Luke’s University Health Network so that fans will have all the up-to-date guidance all season long. 


About Coca-Cola Park:


What once was an industrial landscape is now a beautiful $50 million ballpark with a capacity of 10,100 people. Coca-Cola Park has been among the most progressive venues in professional sports since its highly-acclaimed debut in 2008, receiving numerous honors and distinctions, including Ballpark Digest's "Ballpark of the Year" award and "Best Game Operations and Presentation" award as chosen by It has also drawn rave reviews for its intimacy, fan-friendly atmosphere and architectural design. Furthermore, ranked Lehigh Valley IronPigs fans as the best fans in all of Minor League Baseball.

For the 2023 season, the Iron Pigs were crowned the MiLB attendance champions!

Penn State's James Franklin Talks 2023 Football

The Nittany Lions are heading into the 2023-2024 football season with a ton of momentum after coming off a convincing Rose Bowl victory against Pac-12 Conference Champion Utah. They will have a good number of returning starters on both sides of the ball, as well as promising young players who saw a lot of action throughout last season. One big change will be at quarterback, where 5-star recruit Drew Allar will take over the team from Sean Clifford. There is a lot to be excited about in Happy Valley and there is a quiet fervor that the Blue and White may surprise a few people. Recently, Head Coach James Franklin sat down with 247's Sports' Josh Pate for a wide-ranging interview in which he had the following to say:

On leveraging momentum to take the next step as a program:


"I think in today's day and age, you had better be aggressive 24/7, and I think one of the things that we're going to be able to do now after this Rose Bowl win is take advantage of some momentum. One of the things I've been talking about really since coming to Penn State is alignment, and I think for the first time since I've been here we have true alignment from the chair of the board to the university president to the athletic director. That's exciting for me, because the reality is all those little yes's that you get in the offseason, they add up just like all those little no's add up as well. Right now we're getting more yes's than I can ever remember. Probably to most people, I would tell you what the yes's were and you wouldn't think much of it, but they add up."

On having improved support from the university more comparable to what Alabama receives:


"What I've tried to say really since coming to Penn State is if you can do a really good job with the other 364 days of year, the Saturdays should take care of themselves, those days. But that's easier said than done, and that's when I talk about the alignment. It takes buy-in. It's really hard to get inside the top 25 if you're not there. It's really hard once you get inside of the top 25 to get inside the top 15. Once you get inside the top 15, it's really hard to get inside the top 10.

"But I would say that gap between outside the top 25 and in, or even from 25 to 15 — the gap from the top 10 to those top four I think is a wider gap than any other area probably No. 1 through 31. That's where, when you can get those little wins and you're fighting and scratching and clawing for that one more recruit or whatever it may be, that's gonna allow you to be more efficient and more successful. It's challenging, and we're doing a better job of that right now across the campus."

On how much harder it is these days to be a head coach:


"Yeah, I think it's very different. I say to people all the time in today's college football as an assistant or as a coordinator, you can make a really good living and still stay true to what you loved about the game. That's coaching ball and that's being with the players. In this role, you're doing so many things other than football at most places. There's a few places across the country where you don't have to be, but at most places, the head coach responsibility, you're taking on so many things other than scheme, fundamentals and coaching. I tell people all the time, you could make an argument right now, if you're (Penn State DC) Manny Diaz, and you can just be a great coordinator and coach ball and be around the guys and leave all the drama to me, there's a lot of value in that." 

"I think a lot of coaches maybe in my seat now, if they look back at the way things have changed, you're responsible for these kids 24 hours a day. That didn't used to be the case. I'm responsible for 125 18-to-22-year-old males, the most unpredictable group of people on the planet, and you're responsible for them 24 hours a day. Again, at a lot of places, there's so many things that are outside of your control that really can impact the job you're doing and how you're able to compete on Saturdays. That's where it can be frustrating at times."

On the reality-show nature of coaching movement in college football:


"I think it's really wild. I think people like yourself kind of really understand what's going on behind the scenes. I think most people don't. It's interesting. As soon as I see that a guy that has a current job and the next job that's after him becomes public, it's almost impossible for that guy to get the job or take the job. That happened this year. I kind of watched it closely with a coach, and he kind of really had to come out at some point. It drug on. His name kind of getting mentioned, and it kind of drug on to the point where the team finally is like, 'What's the deal? Are you in or you're not?' And the fans get tired of it and the media gets tired of it."

"The problem is I think most guys are good guys and they want to do it the right way. But what people don't understand is sometimes you're put in a very difficult position. You want to be honest, but the other thing is sometimes something changes. You felt like during the negotiation, you were gonna get 'this.' You didn't get it, and now that changes the lens on how you're looking at the job. I try to be as transparent as I possibly can with the guys here, because the other reality is sometimes that conversation is going on to help the players and to help the program because maybe this place is resistant to doing some things that they need to do to move the needle. And sometimes this helps."

On potentially having used interest from USC to help improve Penn State's commitment and resources:


"I think what happens too a lot of times — and it obviously depends on the guy, and I know this is probably gonna sound weird coming from where I'm sitting — I think if you're trying to be the highest-paid coach in college football or your own conference or those types of things, and that's what drives you, then yeah, that's going to be one of the boxes you check. But really for me, it has always been how can I put myself, my family, my team, my coaches in the best position to be successful? I remember being at Vanderbilt with David Williams, who was the athletic director who I've got a ton of respect for. David was like a father in some ways professionally to me and passed away a few years ago."


"But I remember working with David and he was happy that this [interest from other schools] was happening, because things that he knew we needed, it allowed him to go to the board and have conversations. So it was kind of like we were working together with it. I think it's a compliment, right? I think it's a compliment to the current coach. It's a compliment to the program. Obviously the program is healthy and thriving. So hopefully you're in a position where you can have honest conversations with people and dialogue, but I do think during the season, more times than not, guys are focused on the job. Now maybe their representatives are having conversations, but you are focused on the job and I think more times than not, that's an honest answer."

On how often coaches talk to their agents during the season:


"I think every situation is different. I think some coaches and agents have had conversations in the offseason: 'Hey, I do not want to have these conversations. You manage it, and if it's something where you can't manage it any longer and you gotta come to me about something, then we'll do it.' But I think more times than not literally during the season you're letting somebody handle that. Now, I think when you get into that bowl season, and it's getting later in the year and decisions have to be made, then I think maybe a conversation at least is had. But I think more often than not, like for myself, I want to be laser-focused on the season and I want somebody else handling those conversations. And hopefully, those conversations are happening not only with the schools that are calling about you, but with the current administration from where you're at — again, if it's a healthy situation."

On NIL and the transfer portal era:


"It's interesting. I'll kind of lead with this: The first thing I think is interesting, fascinating, frustrating is that people that have always been giving money, they were way ahead, because all they did was take a way that was viewed as illegal under the old NCAA rules and they just said, 'Look, you have a culture of giving already, and we're just going to transfer it now.' ... My point is literally these people are used to giving to the players. Well, you're going to do it, and now you're just going to do it this way. So those programs were way ahead." 

"I would also say programs like Penn State, historical programs, I think a lot of them have struggled. You've spent so much time educating your fan base and your donors on what you can do and can't do that it's hard. I think most people start off, including myself, being uncomfortable with it. Then you have to change. It's no different than any other industry. The rules change. You had better change with them. You had better embrace the new change. You had better be bold and aggressive. Or you're no longer going to be competitive and you're no longer going to exist, and that's any industry."

On his conversations with other coaches about NIL:


"Well, one of the things that probably frustrates me is people say, 'Well, this has had unforeseen consequences. We didn't know.' Yeah, everybody within the business knew exactly where this was going. I think at the end of the day, the NCAA was getting sued in every direction. They knew this was coming. That's really what we're going through now. We've kind of dug into the rule book, the NCAA has, and says, 'OK, what are the rules that we're most at risk for getting sued on? And let's try to get rid of those rules.' And the rules that, let's be honest, are not enforceable anyway. They're in the rule book, but nobody can really enforce them. So I think that's what you see happening. I think at first there was frustration within coaches." 

"I think there's still, to this day, a fear and a reality of a lot of really good coaches in college football that are leaving to go to the NFL. I think that is a real thing. And I also think there's a sense now with coaches and athletic directors that we all recognize that some form of collective bargaining agreement or something is inevitable for the sport — that the players are going to get paid. I think now, people would rather that happen than what we're living in right now, because there's no guardrails. There's no guardrails for the recruits. There's no guardrails for the coaches and the administration. Everything's verbal deals. And I don't think it's in the game's best interest. I don't think it's in the student-athletes' best interest. Again, I'm on the side that I think the players should be getting paid. So I don't want that to be misinterpreted, what I'm saying. I just think there's got to be some type of guardrails to protect the student-athletes. You saw examples of guys signing with a school or committing to a school because they thought they were going to get X, and the conversations that I've had is a lot of times those things aren't panning out the way they thought they would."

On the importance of replacing last year's captains for Penn State to make the CFP:


"So that's probably our biggest challenge, and we spent a lot of time this offseason talking amongst the coaches about this, but also the players, from a leadership standpoint. Last year, the leadership was as good as we've ever had. Part of that was fifth-year guys that were returning captains. Some of those were sixth-year COVID guys. With Sean Clifford, it was his 12th year at Penn State it felt like. So what I tried to explain to the coaches and try to explain to the players is, in our minds, trying to replicate the leadership we had last year." 


"It's not going to look like that. It's going to look different. It's going to sound different. It's going to feel different. That doesn't mean our leadership can't be just as strong or stronger this year. But it's going to be different. You're not going to have a Ji'Ayir Brown, who was one of the more natural leaders that I've ever been around, or PJ Mustipher or Sean Clifford. So it's going to look different, and more people are probably going to have to take responsibility for that spread that out. But that's probably our biggest challenge. We were an older team last year. We're going to be young and talented this year. We're going to need some of these guys to step up at maybe an earlier stage of their career."

Thank you 247 Sports.

Excitement And Unforgettable Moments Make March Madness America's Signature Sporting Event


By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr. - March 16, 2023

The month of March signals that spring is on the way and the flowers will begin to bloom. We will be able to leave our homes without our boots and gloves. The term “wind chill” will be in our rearview mirror.

March also begins a truly American tradition called “March Madness.” Basketballs will be bouncing non-stop as we the fans enjoy all the tournament action.


According to well-documented reports, the term March Madness was first used in reference to basketball in 1939 by Henry V. Porter, an Illinois high school official. The NCAA didn’t use March Madness until legendary sportscaster Brent Musburger used it during the 1982 tournament. I was honored to have taken a picture with him some years ago.


No other sporting event rises to the level of March Madness. To compare it to something else, in my opinion, is quite debatable. Some will opine that the Super Bowl is a big event, while others will say that the NBA Finals top their list. Both events, along with the World Series for baseball and Wimbledon for tennis, certainly have a place on everyone’s scoreboard. But March Madness has a different ring to it. 


It even has a set of terms that go along with the event. On the bubble, bracketology, buzzer-beaters are all terms that you hear associated with March Madness. Others include going to the big dance, the last four in, and the last four out. 


Part of the March Madness vocabulary is the term Final Four. Ed Chay, a sportswriter, coined the term in 1975. Of course, the NCAA has now trademarked the term.


Get familiar with these terms because for the next three weeks, you will be hearing them a lot.

ESPN has Joe Lunardi who, again in my opinion, has become a March Madness guru and somewhat of a sports prophet. In a funny and humorous way, he only comes out during this time of year. During March Madness, he is on ESPN every day, talking about the selections or other media personalities are quoting him.

A little-known fact about him is that he is credited with creating the term bracketology.


There will be 68 men’s and women’s teams playing in the NCAA Division I basketball tournament. The selection shows were held on Sunday, Mar. 12, and televised on CBS and ESPN. I have watched the selection shows for many years, and I don’t grow weary of them.


Happiness is just spontaneous when you see young student-athletes going bananas when they know they are going “dancing.” I would guess these moments of joy will be etched in their hearts and minds forever. Some moments are so wonderful in a college athlete’s career that they will always be cherished. I humbly submit that I have had a few of those moments.


The 12-person NCAA-appointed committee has made its selections. The number 1 overall seed for men is Alabama and the overall number 1 seed for women is South Carolina.


Sports shows will dissect each team, with coaches and players being interviewed for their perspectives. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.


Critics will say that if your team made it to March Madness, then you are a pretty good coach. I agree.

The season is over for some teams and just beginning for other teams. That is the ecstasy and agony of March.

Bobby Hurley, one-time guard for Duke and now the coach of Arizona State, said recently that he had never gone to the National Invitational Tournament and doesn’t want to start now. The committee must have heard him. Arizona State is a part of March Madness.


Have you gotten your bracket completed yet? Some folks have two or three of them.


Now it’s time to enjoy the drama and the upsets. Upsets are what make March Madness so much fun to watch because, at the beginning, every team has a chance.


Who will be the last team standing? That is the question on the court.

Ohio State's Jaxon Smith-Njigba Shows How College Football's Opt-Outrage Is Overblown In Both Directions

By Jimmy Watkins

By deciding not to play, the Ohio State receiver is hurting his draft stock, his college teammates and the sanctity of college football, according to pundits both professional and self-appointed. According to the opposite (but equally aggressive) conglomerate, he’s securing his future, averting disastrous injury risk and ensuring that college football can’t exploit him anymore.


Welcome to bowl season, also known as opt-out season in some circles, where opinions are only served strong and without nuance.


Over the last few seasons, fans and media have drawn clear boundaries for an unwinnable argument. If your logic tree tells you that opting out means abandoning your team, you will always believe Smith-Njigba is wrong. If you believe his decision means protecting his family’s future, you will always believe he’s right.


Time to pick a side. By refusing to play in Ohio State’s playoff game against Georgia, Smith-Njigba is … one small part of an insignificant sample size.


Eight days out from the first bowl game, 13 players have opted out of their team’s bowl game, according to Covers, a betting website. That’s .007% of all starters that will play in a bowl game this season (assuming all opt-outs are starters). Feel silly yet? When we argue over opt-outs, we’re arguing over a fraction of a fraction. The players who opt out tend to be draft prospects, so it’s big news (and a big blow) when they decide to stay home. But this trend is not the epidemic its surrounding rhetoric would suggest.


Last season, Sporting News counted 29 opt-outs, or 1.5% of starters. None of those players played for College Football Playoff qualifiers. Smith-Njigba would be the only opt-out on a qualifier this season – if in fact that’s what he’s doing. And only four of the combined 42 opt-outs (.095%) from this year and last have been quarterbacks – Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett (2021), Nevada’s Carson Strong (2021), Florida’s Anthony Richardson (2022) and Kentucky’s Will Levis (2022) – the only position where one absence sinks a team.


Beyond that, isn’t football the ultimate team sport? Ohio State has proven all season that it can win without Smith-Njigba, just like Smith-Njigba helped the Buckeyes prove that they could win last year’s Rose Bowl without Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.


Why can’t they do something similar again? And even if they don’t, why must one player’s decision lead to a commentary on an entire player base?


We’re talking about fewer than one player per team on average. Only 18 of 84 bowl-eligible teams had players opt out last season. We’re up to seven out of 84 this season. In total, 42 players on 25 teams did or will not play. You know who did and will? The rest of them, which constitute the overwhelming majority.


Maybe that will change one day, and our artificial boundaries will carry authentic weight. Maybe our sharp-tongued takes –I’d never draft him! What if he tears his knee? – will hold more merit.


But until then, take a breath. You’re wasting it on an opt-out conversation that feels more serious than it is.

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect


By Daniel Goleman –


The “10,000-hour rule” – that this level of practice holds the secret to great success in any field – has become sacrosanct gospel, echoed on websites and recited as litany in high-performance workshops. The problem: it’s only half-true.


Ten thousand hours of practice may or may not bring you to the top of your game, and the reason is this: if you are a so-so golfer and you have a so-so golf stroke and you practice that golf stroke in a so-so way, in 10,000 hours you are still going to have the same poor golf stroke.


A psychologist named Dr. Anders Ericsson from Florida State University came up with the 10,000-hour rule. He first discovered it with violinists. He found that the first violin had practiced 10,000 hours, second violin 7,500 hours, and so on.


However, he also said that it’s not enough just to practice that sheer number of hours; you must do it in a smart way. The smart way is to have an expert eye, a coach, look at how you perform and give you feedback on what you should practice next to improve. This is what a fantastic executive coach would do, for example.


People who are only amateur, Ericsson found, will practice about 50 hours and, however good they are at the point, they stabilize. They don’t have that extra feedback that gives you the continuous improvement you need.

One of the things executive coaches often tell me is that a large percentage of leaders fail to give feedback to their team. That’s a missed leadership opportunity. A good coach will offer a leader some extra feedback on how to give feedback to their team.


Learning how to improve any skill also requires top-down focus. Neuroplasticity, the strengthening of old brain circuits and building of new ones for a skill we are practicing, requires our paying attention. When practice occurs while we are focusing elsewhere, the brain does not rewire the relevant circuitry for that particular routine.


Daydreaming defeats practice. Those of us who browse TV while working out will never reach the top ranks. Paying full attention seems to boost the mind’s processing speed, strengthen synaptic connections, and expand or create neural networks for what we are practicing.


At least at first. But as you master how to execute the new routine, repeated practice transfers control of that skill from the top-down system for intentional focus to bottom-up circuits that eventually make its execution effortless. At that point you don’t need to think about it – you can do the routine well enough on automatic.

Tips For Developing The Confidence Of A Champion


By Dr. Alan Goldberg,


If you want to reach your potential as an athlete and go as far as you can in your sport, then you’ll need self-confidence to help you get there.


Physical talent, strength, great reflexes, coordination and endurance are not enough. You must believe in yourself and your abilities. You must develop that inner knowing on what self-confidence is all about. It’s what you see and hear in every great athlete. Inside they know they are good. They feel it, believe it, walk it and sometimes even talk it. In a way, it comes down to what you tell yourself.


Note that this is not the same as the overly confident athlete who talks a big game and brags about how great they are with little to back it up. Real self-confidence is always accompanied by the willingness to put in the work necessary to show what you’re capable of.


Most people think that confidence is something that comes with success. First you have success, then naturally your self-confidence will follow. Right? Wrong! I’ve seen athletes who experience tremendous success yet have very little self-confidence, chalking their success up to luck or some other external factor while continuing to be filled with worry about the next competition. I’ve also seen athletes who don’t perform very well, yet believe in themselves with full conviction and ultimately improve over time to pull their skills up to the level of the confidence they’ve had all along.


If you want to start to grow your self-confidence, then you must give credit where credit is due and celebrate your successes – no matter how small – and likewise stay positive when failure or setback knocks you off your feet.


You must act like your own biggest fan, someone who believes in you no matter what, especially when obstacles are plenty and the going gets tough.


So here are some exercises to help you do just that!


1. Use positive affirmations - You become what you think about most of the time, so find an area where you have little confidence and deliberately begin to change your negative self-statements. Come up with a statement that neutralizes any negativity and motivates or relaxes you instead, such as “I am cool and calm under pressure” or “I am completely here and now, ready to flow with whatever comes next.” Affirmations should be positive “I” statements and cast in the present tense.


2. Self-advertising - Take one or more of the affirmations you’re working on and print or write them down on small cards, then place those in your room, locker, changing bag, schoolbooks, wallet, car, and anywhere else you’re sure to see them every day. Focus on these self-advertisements as frequently as possible, making sure they’re the first and last thing you see daily.


3. Pre-sleep technique - Take one affirmation and work on it for at least a week in the following way. After you turn off your light and are lying in bed ready to go to sleep, begin to slowly repeat the affirmation twenty times. Keep count with your fingers on both hands and be sure to get through all 20 before allowing yourself to drift off to sleep. As you repeat each affirmation, see if you can create images in your mind to go with your words. Try to see, hear, and feel in your mind’s eye the reality of your words.


4. Victory log - Keep a journal or log of all your successes. You can include newspaper clippings, letters, comments from coaches or anything else that represents the things you’ve done well and the obstacles that you’ve overcome – big or small, anything that lifted your confidence. Be sure to only log the positive. Reread your log often, and especially when your self-confidence has been shaken by a rash of errors or setbacks.


5. Wall of fame - Make a wall in your room as a motivational guide. Include memorabilia from your successes, pictures of your heroes, slogans or statements that make you feel inspired, and anything else that will constantly remind you of where you are going and the fact that you can get there. Be creative and remember that you want to keep your victories directly in front of you, while also learning from failures and setbacks and letting those go.


You want to work on developing a long-term memory of your success and a short-term memory of your failures. Additionally, learn to improve your overall self-talk so you can get your head off autopilot and be in control of what you think, and therefore how you act.

Southeast Conference Football Dominance

January 11, 2022 by KSE Staff

Anyone who follows college football has seen the Southeast Conference (SEC) dominate the sport in recent years. Some fans and writers don’t like it, especially those fans who watch their favorite team get steamrolled by SEC teams each year and the writers who get frustrated writing about the same team, or now even a team from the same conference, win it all the time.


One must wonder if there was this sentiment when the Ivy League schools were dominating in the early years, particularly Yale, Princeton and Harvard who won a combined 41 national titles. What about when Notre Dame, Michigan, Minnesota, and USC had their championship title runs, a combined 37 national titles. If you don’t have time to do the research and get the correct data (, the SEC has won 33 national titles. These numbers are taking into consideration that for many years there were multiple teams named champions by different associations.


After last night’s College Football Playoff (CFP) game, which saw Georgia defeat Alabama 33-18 to win only their third national championship, there were many people calling for an expanded playoff system so that other college football teams “have a chance to win” (Georgia won titles in 1942, 1980 & 2021 and it should be noted that listed Ohio State as the champion for 1942 but there were several other polls who named Georgia as well). One writer very recently called the CFP system “stupid” and said, “college football is in the dark ages” and “everyone would make a bucket of money” if they changed to a 12-team playoff. The “money” wins games? How degrading to the athletes.


As with many sports’ teams, there are cycles, ups and downs. Last night, we saw two SEC teams go head-to-head for the championship. The SEC is clearly on a roll right now but will it last? History shows us, just look at the championship history data at, that nothing lasts forever. Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban is certainly running a well-oiled machine and he is probably one of the best, if not the best, college football coaches of all time. Let’s give Coach Saban and his entire staff credit for doing a good job. Eventually the streak will end because every machine gets rehauled or is replaced by a new one, to start all over.


Today, high school athletes dream about playing for one of the 14 SEC teams. Football coaches, looking to make a move, look to the SEC for vacancies. Why did Coach Brian Kelly leave a very nice job at Notre Dame for LSU? Yes, there are the facilities, the recruiting pool, and the “admin” backing at LSU but there is an old adage that says: “iron sharpens iron.”


This saying makes a good case for the SEC teams who play a difficult schedule week in and week out. Some coaches want to be the best and to be the best, you must routinely work among or play the best. A very good coach once told a recruit that if you want to be a shark, you must swim with them. Likewise, a single win against any top opponent doesn’t define your program or team, consistency defines your program/team. Two dull objects going against each other don’t become sharper.


The SEC attracts many of the top high school recruits in the country and the best coaches leave for the SEC for several other contributing reasons as well, no doubt. The huge SEC fan base, the best coaching salaries, especially for assistant coaches, phenomenal facilities, and a revenue that by far is greater than any other conference. The revenue is, however, a result of their winning. No 12 or even 20 team playoff system is going to help you win.


On top of all that, the SEC consistently has the most college draft picks and therefore represents the most players in the pros. It’s every recruit’s dream to work hard toward playing football on Sunday in the fall. It’s an overall total package in the SEC that is flourishing right now. It’s not that the other conferences lack the funding for the NCAA set number of scholarships per sport.


The SEC wasn’t always so dominant in football. Alabama won, or was declared at the time by polls, a national champion for the first time in 1925. This is important because the CFP system has evolved, just not fast enough for those frustrated fans/writers who don’t have the patience for their favorites teams to build a top program in order to compete with the SEC.


The NCAA ( notes that the first team or teams to win a national championship in 1869 were Princeton and Rutgers, Northeast teams. Then, as mentioned, the Ivy League schools, also Northeast teams, dominated the national championship scene, just like the SEC today, from the 1870’s all the way through the 1890’s.


After the Ivy League teams’ dominance, they continued to dot the top of the polls at various times until about 1915 when teams such as Michigan, Penn State, and California won titles as well. After 1925, Minnesota and Notre Dame had championship runs and many of the championship teams hailed from the northern part of the country, the Great Lakes, Northeast, and New England regions. In the 1960’s and 70’s, we saw USC crowned with 5 national titles, and their “dominance” was evident.


In 1978 to 1980, we saw Alabama’s resurgence when they won 2 titles followed by Georgia with one (Alabama and Georgia had previously combined to win 11 titles, 9 for Alabama and 2 for Georgia). The back-to-back wins by Alabama, followed by the win by Georgia, was a glimpse of things to come for the SEC, or was it? It wasn’t until 1992, twelve years later, that an SEC team, Alabama, won its next national title. And from 1993 to 2005, the SEC won only 3 national titles, and that’s counting one in which LSU was named co-champ with USC.


The SEC would claim its next title in 2006 (Florida) and Alabama would claim its next in 2009 as this seemed to really be the start of their dominance leading up to today. It was also a time when many college teams/conferences seemed to be shifting and there were many changes coming to various conferences.


The last Big12 school to win a title was Texas in 2005 and the last Pac12 team to win one was USC in 2004. The Big10 had two recent wins, both by Ohio State, in the last 10 years. Yet, the SEC has won 13 titles in the last 20 years, including a stretch of 7 in a row between 2006-2021. The way it looks right now, with new coaches such as Kirby Smart, Jimbo Fisher, and Lane Kiffin, who were all assistants at Alabama, and after watching Georgia dominate this season, it doesn’t seem a change is imminent.


What has made the SEC so dominant? Yes, the strength of their schedule, but the insurgence of “southeast” football is one other thought and it’s an interesting one. Former TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson said in a CBS interview in 2012 that the size of the players in the southeast is a main factor of their dominance. “Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi put out more NFL players than anywhere else in the country,” Patterson said. He continued: “It’s the body types in the regions of the United States that make a difference…the size of bodies of offensive and defensive linemen.” Where are football games won, in the trenches, among those huge frames.


Getting back to the big push by some for playoff expansion and a way to “level the playing field,” comments are being made that if the SEC continues to dominate the way they are right now, and there are only 4 teams making the playoffs and playing in the big money bowl games, the wealth gap will continue to grow between the SEC and the other conferences. It’s hard to believe some are arguing it’s about the money and simply not the talent or hard work. Are there not just better coaches, coaching staffs, school administrator support systems, etc. to build dominant programs? Spreading the money around will equal out the talent?


This is a main argument by fans, some writers, and even some coaches to why a playoff expansion, to up to 12 teams, must take place soon, not to mention the expansion is a way for many teams to stay motivated and keep a better or more tangible grasp of competing for a national title, among making more money in those bowl games because they now matter. The problem is just one thing, the talent is going to keep going to winners and teams led by winners who know how to work hard and earn a national championship. For right now, the SEC is landing most of that top talent.


Eventually the CFP will cave and go to an expanded playoff system of 6 or 8 teams, 12 is too many in our opinion, as it only becomes more about the money than the game, but that change will not come soon. The CFP has an obligation to a contract until 2026 unless all parties agree to a change. After the last CFP meeting this past weekend, that doesn’t seem likely.


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