Our long national nightmare of the time between Game 7 of the NHL Western Conference Finals and Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals is almost over, but our longer national nightmare of waiting for the NBA Finals to begin is still a couple of days away. Regardless, there is a lot going on in the sports world that merits attention and analysis and that’s why the Daily Six Pack brings you the information that you need to know every weekday.
Here are the top stories for June 2:
Blazing a New Trail
After university president Ray Watts killed the UAB football program citing financial issues as the chief reason, the Blazers will once again be part of FBS beginning in 2016 or 2017. It seems unlikely that the Blazers would be ready to play by 2016. Most of the players that had talent and upside were able to transfer to other Division-I schools and other players are likely finishing out their careers at junior colleges.
Athletic director Mark Ingram’s stated goal is to “play as soon as possible”. The Blazers may be a school without a conference, since Conference USA is uncertain on whether or not their future plans include UAB football.
Locals and others rallied to support the football program when Watts dropped the bombshell last December. Two other sports, bowling and rifle, were also disbanded at the December news conference, but they were also reinstated on Monday. The original decision was made due to major budget concerns down the line. There was a massive chasm between expenses and revenue, so the football team basically needed donations and more boosters.
The Blazers won six games last season, but no bowl game was willing to touch them with the program literally crumbling right before their eyes. UAB had not been bowl eligible since 2004.
It’s great for the city of Birmingham and for the future players to have Blazers football back, but this situation could not have been handled more poorly by the university. They faced financial hardships but never seemed to reach out to the public to help raise additional funding. Perhaps it took the darkest day in UAB sports history for people to step forward and contribute, but Watts was skewered for how the entire thing was handled at the start and the fact that the program now has to build from the ground up and try to be competitive in Division I with no groundwork is almost depressing. The big picture outlook is that football is back. In the short term, however, it will be very hard for UAB to do anything of significance in the near future.
Peterson Returns to Vikings
As expected, Adrian Peterson has reported to Minnesota for team OTAs. This is a big story because Peterson is one of the league’s top players, when healthy, and his addition to the Vikings offense is going to make the team a dark horse contender for a playoff spot in the NFC. Ultimately, Peterson is coming back because he wants his money. Peterson did what all athletes do and expressed the desire to be back with his teammates and to get ready for the season, but this is a long-term financial decision for Peterson. Peterson is set to make $12.75M in 2015, but there is no guaranteed money left on his contract, which runs through 2017.
If Peterson is healthy, the Vikings may make an offer. If not, Peterson will get his wish to move on to another organization and start fresh. There was no doubt that Peterson would return to work. His motivation level should be off the charts this season. There were a lot of naysayers and angry people about his disciplinary methods with his son that got him suspended. Playing well will make people forget about those transgressions because sports are a results business. Also, he needs to play well to keep making money.
The new Vikings stadium will be finished in 2016, so it may behoove them to keep their star running back. Peterson has been mostly quiet throughout the offseason. During that time, agent Ben Dogra has made a fool of himself by flip-flopping more times than a politician during a presidential race. It hasn’t been a good look for Peterson and his representation but, again, all that matters is if he can run the rock and help the Vikings to wins.
Good Day on Clay
The French Open is rolling right along and it was a good day to be a top player on the men’s side. As mentioned yesterday, Roger Federer beat Gael Monfils, but Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Stan Wawrinka, and Novak Djokovic were all successful in their matches. Nadal faced a stiff test from the unfortunately-named Jack Sock, but Nadal prevailed in four sets. A third set 7-5 win for Sock seemed to take the wind out of his sails as Nadal held him to two set points in the fourth. Andy Murray needed four sets to knock off Jeremy Chardy. Novak Djokovic was dominant over Richard Gasquet with a straight-set victory in which he only lost six games.
On the women’s side, as mentioned yesterday, Maria Sharapova lost in straight sets to Lucie Safarova, who was in play against Garbine Muguruza at time of writing. Serena Williams dropped the first set to Sloane Stephens but rebounded for a tough win over the scrappy American. Petra Kvitova, who entered the tournament ranked #4, lost to Timera Bacsinszky in three sets, including a second-set shutout loss. Ana Ivanovic downed Ekaterina Makarova in three sets and followed that win up with a straight-set win over Elina Svitolina on Tuesday.
Serena Williams will face Italian Sara Errani in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. In Tuesday’s men’s matchups, it should be a great day of tennis. Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer face off in the quarterfinals. In other quarters matchups, Andy Murray takes on David Ferrer and the Roland Garros crowd should be treated to a brilliant match between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are reportedly close to a contract extension that would lock up the quarterback for a long time. Newton will make $14,666,666 during the option year of his rookie deal, which he signed back in 2011 after being the first overall pick. Sources say that the extension will run through the 2020 season.
Not that the Panthers really have a choice, but it’s fair to wonder if this is the right thing for the organization to do. Newton has led the Panthers to back-to-back NFC South Division titles, but Newton is 30-31-1 as a starter with a 59.5 percent completion percentage and an 82/54 TD/INT ratio. In fairness, Newton has been a good runner in his career with 33 rushing touchdowns and 5.5 yards per carry, but his rushing touchdown output has dropped in each of the last three seasons.
The deal is expected to be somewhere around $20M per season. The money is irrelevant. The talking point is whether or not the Panthers should commit to Newton long-term given his performance. Newton turned 26 this month, so maybe he’s simply entering the prime of his career right now. It will be interesting to see how this extension works out.
While we await the start of the NHL Finals, other stories were making news yesterday and this morning. Mats Zuccarello spoke for the first time since leaving the New York Rangers series against the Pittsburgh Penguins with an injury. He was hit in the head by a Ryan McDonagh shot, so it was a non-contact injury. The aftermath, however, was severe.
Zuccarello never suffered a concussion, but he did suffer a fractured skull and a bruised brain. He told the media that he lost the ability to speak and lost feeling in his right arm. Zuccarello is expected to make a full recovery and should be able to play next season, but it was a terrifying experience for all involved.
In the latest example of why hockey players are the biggest bad asses in sports, it came out on Monday that Dan Girardi was playing with an MCL sprain and Marc Staal was playing with a hairline fracture. Ryan McDonagh, who was limited in the Game 7 loss to Tampa Bay, was playing with a broken foot. Those are three of the Rangers top six defensemen, so it’s no wonder that they struggled with the fast-paced Lightning.
The New Jersey Devils are expected to name John Hynes their new head coach. Hynes had been the coach of the wildly successful Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the American Hockey League. Hynes will be the youngest active head coach at 40 years old and will take over a team that had its worst season since 1988-89.
It was never mentioned here, but it’s worthy of mentioning that Dan Bylsma is the new head coach of the Buffalo Sabres. After being the runner-up in the Mike Babcock sweepstakes, the Sabres acted quickly to get Bylsma, who was relieved of his duties with the Pittsburgh Penguins prior to this past season.
MLB Around the Horn
Some big news came across the wire on Monday as the Texas Rangers called up power-hitting prospect Joey Gallo to fill in at third base with Adrian Beltre on the disabled list. It’s about that time where the Super Two deadline becomes irrelevant and teams start calling up their prospects. Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros is likely to be the next big name.
Andrew Cashner had an interesting performance on Monday night. He struck out 12 batters in just 4.2 innings, but allowed 11 hits and five earned runs, six total. The Padres are a horrible defensive team and Monday night’s game was a good illustration of that.
Diamondbacks catcher Tuffy Gosewich is out for the season with a torn ACL. Fortunately, the Diamondbacks snatched up Jarrod Saltalamacchia when the Miami Marlins let him go last month. Saltalamacchia is a decent hitter, but a horrible defensive catcher, so keep that in mind with the Diamondbacks going forward.
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