Why The Red Sox Are So Likely To Win The AL East

More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed FiveThirtyEight Embed Code Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (Sept. 13, 2016) we talk to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell about the NFL’s opening weekend and ask him if Tom Brady is great because he has Bill Belichick as a coach. Then, it’s almost playoff time in Major League Baseball, so we take a look at some of the teams in contention as we head toward October. Finally, there were upsets in both the men’s and women’s tournament at this year’s U.S. Open. We welcome back FiveThirtyEight’s Carl Bialik, who tells us why the upsets ran counter to FiveThirtyEight’s forecast. Plus, a significant digit on Tim Tebow’s move to the New York Mets.Links to what we discuss:Bill Barnwell breaks down the first career starts of Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott and Jimmy Garoppolo.Neil Paine explains why the numbers probably aren’t the best way to evaluate Jack Del Rio’s decision to go for two points in Oakland’s game against the Saints.Robert Mays says at The Ringer that the old RGIII is never coming back and that should make us sad.Also at The Ringer, Ben Lindbergh says the race for the playoffs in the AL East is historically close.You can find FiveThirtyEight’s 2016 MLB playoff predictions here.Carl Bialik says the only reason Serena Williams’s exit from major tournaments is a big upset is that she is always a big favorite.FiveThirtyEight’s Ben Morris writes that breakthrough stars in tennis are all veterans these days.Significant Digit: 14.3 percent. That’s the percentage of players who moved from the NFL to professional baseball and ended up in the Major Leagues. Tim Tebow signed with the Mets last week and will play in the Instructional League in Florida this month. read more

Vernon Philander Wins SA Cricketer of the Year

After a record-breaking season in which he captured 51 wickets in his first seven test matches, Vernon Philander was the big winner at the Cricket South Africa awards gala in Johannesburg on Wednesday evening.The Cape Cobras’ seamer lifted the prestigious South African Cricketer of the Year Award, and also received awards as Test Cricketer of the Year and the Fans’ Cricketer of the Year.Only Australia’s Charlie Turner reached 50 test wickets faster than Philander, but he played way back in 1888, in a time when scores were far lower and bowlers far more favored by pitches than they are today.Despite playing just those seven tests, he ranks seventh in International Cricket Council’s test bowling rankings. His test average is a miserly 14.15.ODI Player of the YearAB de Villiers was named ODI Player of the Year for the second time in succession after tallying 475 runs in eight games, including two centuries, at an astonishing average of 158.33 and a strike rate of 116.13.He also picked up an award decided upon by his peers when he was announced as the Players’ Player of the Year.Richard Levi won the CSA International T20 Cricketer of the Year and the KFC “So Good” awards, thanks to his stunning innings against New Zealand in Hamilton in February in which he struck a world-record equaling 117 not out. His runs came off only 51 balls, with a world record 13 sixes and five fours.Fast bowler Marchant de Lange, who captured 7 for 81 against Sri Lanka in Durban on his test debut, was named the Newcomer of the Year.Domestic awards winnersThe SuperSport Series Cricketer of the Year award went the way of Alviro Petersen, who played his way into the Proteas’ test line-up, while Faf du Plessis was named the Domestic Players’ Player of the Year.Matthew Maynard of the Titans was named Coach of the Year after leading the franchise to victory in the SuperSport Series and Twenty20 competitions.Earlier in the day, Shandre Fritz was named the Women’s Cricketer of the Year.Ewie Cronje, the father of the late Hansie Cronje, received a special lifetime achievement award for his years of service to Free State cricket. Under Cronje’s guidance, the province became a leading cricketing power in the country after having been mired in B-division cricket for decades.World rankingsA quick check on the health of South African cricket by looking at the latest ICC Player Rankings indicates that the country’s cricketers are doing very well.Among test batsmen, De Villiers ranks second, just ahead of Jacques Kallis, with Hashim Amla in ninth place.Dale Steyn enjoys a healthy lead among test bowlers, with Philander in seventh spot.Amla and De Villiers are ranked one and two among ODI batsmen, while Lonwabo Tsotsobe is in first place among ODI bowlers, with Morne Morkel in third position.Source: Southafrica.info read more

Jamaican ShellyAnn FraserPryce Wins Gold Medal in Womens 100

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica won her second consecutive 100-meter Olympic gold medal by winning the final in 10.75 seconds. The last woman to win the dash twice in a row was Gail Devers of the U.S. in 1992 and 1996. Carmelita Jeter of the United States took the silver in 10.78. Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica earned the bronze.For Fraser-Pryce, the win was a comeback of sorts. She was fourth in the world championships in 2011 but, the Olympic title is never one that sprinters want to give up easily. Gail Devers, who repeated in 1992 and 1996, and Wyomia Tyus, who won in 1964 and 1968,  are the only other woman to repeat as Olympic 100-meter champion.Source: WSJ read more

Jets Have No Interest In Terrell Owens

Terrell Owens can continue to get his popcorn ready from his house because according to sources the New York Jets have no interest in signing the free agent wide receiver.During the fourth quarter of Monday night’s Jets and Houston Texans game, Owens tweeted, “Hey JETS!!! I’m available! I’m ready, willing & able! Call my agent @jordanwoy & let’s make it happen.”This tweet came after losing Clyde Gates to a shoulder injury and newly signed wide receiver Jason Hill dropped a big pass in the Jets’ 23-17 loss to the Texans.  Hill was signed after the Jets loss wideout Santonio Holmes for the season due to a torn ACL in his left knee.During a Tuesday morning conference call with reporters, Jets coach Rex Ryan did not reject of the idea of signing Owens, saying, “You never say never or anything. We’ll look at all options, like we always do.”Ryan’s statement to reporters compares in contrast to what Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum told the Star Ledger last week.  Tannenbaum stated he was looking for a player who was “speedy, younger than 30 and someone who took part in training camp,” to fill the role of Holmes’.The key phrase in Tannenbaum’s statement “younger than 30”, meant he was not looking in the direction of Owens, who is 38.Owens, a 14 year veteran, has been in a free-fall since being cut by Dallas Cowboys after 2008.  Owens last played in the NFL for the Bengals during the 2010-11 season and caught 72 receptions for a total of 983 yards.  This summer he tried out for the Seattle Seahawks, but was eventually cut.Owens has been in the media spot as of late for back child support.  He has four children that range between the ages of 5-12.  In July, he avoided jail time by paying $20,000 to the mother of his 7-year-old daughter.The six-time Pro Bowler receiver will continue to wait for that much needed phone call from a team, but it surely will not be from the Jets. read more

Dont Look Now Lakers Hot Beat Knicks For 5th

This was more like what was envisioned when the Los Angeles Lakers teamed Kobe Bryant with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. The Lakers looked formidable on Christmas Day, handling the scorching New York Knicks, 100-94 to pull to .500 on the season.Bryant had a jolly good time, scoring 34 points to lead L.A. to its fifth successive victory. They might not be where they hope to be by season’s end, but they sure are looking a lot better.Nash was a major factor, running the offense with aplomb and providing points at important late  stages of the fourth quarter. He had 16 points, 11 assists and six rebounds only his second game after  missing two months with a bad leg.Howard had 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Pau Gasol scored 13 with 8 boards. Carmelo Anthony had 34 for the Knicks and J.R. Smith scored 25 off the bench.New York led by as many as 10, but Bryant and Nash charged a fourth-quarter run the that pulled the Lakers to within one. Bryant’s basket with 7:38 left in the game put Los Angeles in front for good, as L.A. closed the game strongly for the second straight time.The Lakers came from 14 behind in the fourth quarter to defeat the Golden State Warriors in their last game. Tuesday, Gasol helped out in the fourth-quarter with a jumper and late driving dunk.The Lakers shot 48.1% from the field, but defensively they held New York to only 16 points in the fourth quarter.This was a much more fluid Lakers team than early in the season. Nash’s presence has made a significant difference. His ability to run the offense and hit shots makes for a more diverse offense.Also, Metta World Peace has been playing well. He had 16 points in the second quarter, including eight straight at one point.At .500 now with five straight wins, the Lakers seemed to have righted their early-season wrongs. At least for now. read more

How The Patriots And Rams Got To The Super Bowl

Before the season began, FiveThirtyEight’s NFL predictions gave the New England Patriots a 14 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl, while the Los Angeles Rams had just a 3 percent chance. Now, each is on the cusp of the championship. In the video above, Neil Paine walks us down the winding paths these two teams took to the big game and looks ahead to how they will match up in Atlanta on Sunday.

Baseball Is Finally Remembering How Good Albert Pujols Can Be

Fame can be fickle in sports, especially for the rare player skilled (and fortunate) enough to cash in big on his athletic talents. Five years ago, Albert Pujols was baseball’s most marketable superstar. But one massive contract and two disappointing seasons later, that goodwill had faded.Until this week, that is. Pujols belted his 499th and 500th career home runs Tuesday night, and the milestones seemed to remind fans of what he once was, and maybe still can be. Specifically, Pujols’s homers recalled the fearsome slugger who once made us seriously suspect he had been created by Cyberdyne Systems just to hit baseballs.Still, Pujols, now 34, is fighting an uphill battle against Father Time, as well as the backlash of unmet expectations. So amid the hyperbole and wild swings in public opinion — we loved Pujols, then turned on him, and have recently warmed to him once again — let’s survey the full arc of his career to date, even if, as we saw just this week, it’s still a work in progress.Pujols’s origin story begins with his 13th-round selection in the draft and ends somewhere during his express ride through the St. Louis Cardinals’ entire minor league system in one season. By the time he hit .329 with 37 home runs as a 21-year-old major league rookie in 2001, he had arrived. In his entire career, Pujols’s batting average has been below .300 for exactly four games. That’s it. He last finished a game with a sub-.300 lifetime average on April 6, 2001.In his prime, Pujols’s greatest strength at the plate was his ability to hit for power without sacrificing contact. From 2001 to 2010, he was tied with Ryan Howard for the major leagues’ third-highest rate of isolated power,1Isolated power (ISO) is a metric that subtracts batting average from slugging percentage, in essence capturing a player’s rate of extra base hits per at bat, weighted by his total bases. a .293 ISO that trailed only Barry Bonds’s .406 and Jim Thome’s .299. (Bonds’s stat is staggering, and mostly compiled during the performance enhancing drug-aided phase of his career, when he resembled more of a video game character than a baseball player.) Pujols struck out in only 9.5 percent of his plate appearances over that span. Among power hitters in the Late Steroid Era, a strikeout rate so low was unheard of. On the ISO list, you’d need to go down to Nomar Garciaparra at .183 (ranked 177th) to find anyone with a strikeout rate lower than Pujols’s.Pujols was also unusually disciplined about when he chose to swing, offering at only 42.3 percent of the pitches he saw (the average player swings at about 46 percent of pitches faced), and even swinging at balls in the strike zone 2.2 percent less often than the typical hitter.2According to Baseball Info Solutions data. He also swung at the first pitch less often than the norm (20 percent for Pujols versus 28 percent for the league), and constantly worked himself into hitter’s counts, seeing a 2-0 count 50 percent more often than the average hitter, and a 3-1 count 32 percent more often.Pujols could hit nearly everything. Among MLB batters from 2002 to 2010, only Pujols and his once-teammate Matt Holliday were at least one run above average per 100 pitches against every single pitch classification that hitters see with any regularity — i.e. the fastball, curveball, changeup, etc.3This excludes the knuckleball, which only makes up about 0.5 percent of all pitches seen by major leaguers. And when Pujols swung, he usually hit the ball hard. His hits went for extra bases 50 percent more often than the average player’s did. His fly balls left the yard twice as frequently as the norm. He hit home runs 2.4 times more often (on a per-at-bat basis) than the major league average.It was all of these elements working together — the combination of contact-hitting ability, patience and raw power — that made Pujols the most devastating hitter of his generation. And then there were the non-hitting skills. Despite very little speed, Pujols was a surprisingly good baserunner, adding somewhere between 15 and 20 runs above average on the basepaths over the first decade of his career, depending on which statistical estimation you look at. And he was also the game’s best fielding first baseman during his prime, likely deserving of more than the two Gold Gloves he won in 2006 and 2010.As dominant as Pujols was, by 2011 — the final season of a longterm deal he signed with St. Louis in 2004 — the cracks were starting to show. In his first 10 major league seasons, Pujols had never dropped below 5.5 wins above replacement (regardless of whether you look at Baseball-Reference’s or FanGraphs’ version of the statistic) and was often in the 7 to 9 WAR range. But In 2011, Pujols, then 31 years old, posted roughly 4.9 WAR4Splitting the difference between Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs. — easily a career low. His seasonal batting average fell below .300 for the first time ever, and his power was down. Plus, by FanGraphs’ estimation, he also had his worst baserunning and fielding performances in years.It was easy enough to write those numbers off, though. Pujols’s average was down largely because of a low .277 BABIP,5Batting Average on Balls in Play. which can vary from year to year due in no small measure to luck. His ISO matched his previous career lows, but in each prior case he’d bounced back to post monster power numbers within two seasons of the down year. Pujols turned in a great postseason performance for the Cardinals in 2011, culminating in a 1.064 OPS during the World Series. Why look for trouble with Pujols, baseball’s most automatic hitter?Then came The Contract.Star players leaving teams in free agency is nothing new, but Pujols’s move to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim struck a particular nerve with fans. Words like “greed” and “betrayal” were quickly thrown around. It didn’t help that Pujols had previously spoken about his desire to end his career in St. Louis. Money, he’d said, didn’t matter to him.After leaving St. Louis for Anaheim, Pujols invited the expectations that come with a $240 million deal — expectations that are rarely met. Take a look at the dollar-value returns on other notable MLB position-player contracts of the last decade-plus, according to FanGraphs data6FanGraphs’ dollar-value estimates for players only go back to 2002; dollars paid are not included for prior years. Also, Alfonso Soriano’s 2014 projected production is included.:Ironically, the only one of those contracts that ended up being a big bargain for the signing team was Pujols’s previous seven-year pact with the Cardinals, signed in February 2004.7The base term of the contract was seven years, but with a club option for an eighth season, which the Cardinals eventually exercised. Wikipedia’s list of the largest professional sports contracts doesn’t include extra terms like option years. But that deal was given to a 24-year-old Pujols, and would take him through age 30 (with a team option for his age-31 season). The next contract, with the Angels, was for a 32-year-old Pujols, and would run until the slugger was 41. That’s why some critics panned the Angels’ move before Pujols had ever played a game for the team.When Pujols did finally start playing for Los Angeles, the initial results were mixed at best. A miserable .570 OPS in April 2012 gave way to good — if not exactly Pujolsian — numbers over the rest of the season, but his overall value was down by about .5 WAR in 2012. Meanwhile, 2013 was a complete disaster: Pujols missed 63 games with a foot injury and posted the worst statistical rates of his career when he did take the field, likely a byproduct of playing through the ailment for four months before being placed on the disabled list in late July.The once great mix of power, patience and contact skills was disintegrating. Instead of rebounding after 2011, Pujols’s isolated power continued to plummet, bottoming out at .179 (still above the MLB average, but 100 points lower than his career rate) a year ago. Only 10.6 percent of his fly balls have left the ballpark since he became an Angel, a career low.Some of this is attributable to ballpark effects — Pujols played in hitter’s parks (both the second and third Busch Stadiums) during his prime, while Angel Stadium is one of the more pitcher-friendly parks in the majors. But it also reflects a change to Pujols’s underlying skills that we can detect by looking at his strike zone outcomes. Pujols’s strikeout rate immediately spiked to 11.3 percent upon arriving in Anaheim, followed by another increase to 12.4 percent in 2013 — his highest whiff rates since he was a rookie. He was showing uncharacteristic vulnerability to breaking pitches, and not punishing the fastball the way he used to. And, most alarming, he began swinging the bat far more often than he had in St. Louis. Cardinals Albert rarely chased balls outside the strike zone, but Angels Albert was suddenly going after bad pitches 3 to 5 percent more often than the average player.The little things were falling by the wayside as well. The smart, heady baserunner who, in his prime, made up for a lack of speed by capitalizing on 49 percent of his advancement opportunities was suddenly taking extra bases at only a 39 percent clip. And Pujols’s defense in 2013 was worse than it had been in a decade.The preseason narrative was that this year would be different. Every player claims health in spring training, so much so that it’s a running meme to mock stories about players coming to camp in “the best shape of their lives.” Pujols tried it in March, telling anyone who would listen that his painful plantar fascia injury was a thing of the past, and that he was ready to silence the doubters. You would have been forgiven for being skeptical, though, given that this was a 34-year-old slugger coming off four straight years of declining production.However, this season already seems promising. There’s the 500th home run, of course, but also an April that was reminiscent of Cardinals Albert. Pujols is hitting the ball with terrific power again — over 14 percent of his hits have gone for extra bases — and he’s mashing fly balls for home runs, instead of harmless flyouts. His strikeout rate is back down under 9 percent, where it was during his best seasons. And his per-inning rate of defensive runs saved at first base is back up where it was before last year’s collapse.All isn’t what it once was, though. Worryingly, Pujols is still swinging the bat more than he used to — and chasing more pitches outside the strike zone than the average hitter. In spite of his decreased strikeout rate, he’s also making less contact now than ever before, as a percentage of his swings. And his baserunning may never again be where it was in his prime.In other words, age is catching up to Albert Pujols, as it does to every ballplayer. But the early returns suggest his 2014 won’t be nearly as trying as his 2013, or even his 2012, was. And, perhaps more important, his reception this week suggests that fans may be ready to move past heaping scorn on his mega-contract with the Angels and the way he left St. Louis. Pujols probably won’t ever again be the same all-around superstar he was during his peak years as a Cardinal, but we should still enjoy what he is now: a future Hall of Famer who still has plenty of artistry left in his once-legendary bat. read more

Ohio State field hockey wraps up home schedule with 2 weekend matches

OSU sophomore midfield Morgan Kile (8) carries the ball for the on Oct. 2 against Maryland at Buckeye Varsity Field. Credit: Whitney Wilson / Lantern photographerTime and change will surely show this weekend for the four seniors of the Ohio State field hockey team as they play their last two home games at Buckeye Varsity Field for senior weekend. As the season quickly approaches the long awaited tournament time, energy will be high as OSU (8-6, 4-2) faces off against No. 16 Northwestern (10-6, 3-3) on Friday and nonconference opponent California (9-5, 4-1) on Sunday. Coming off of their first win against Iowa on Sunday since 2010, the Buckeyes are moving forward toward with their eye on the Big Ten prize — especially the graduating players. Co-captains and seniors Peanut Johnson and Emma Royce said they look forward to wrapping up on a good note and expect everyone to truly give it their all. “I just want to leave with a good feeling,” Johnson said. “It’s the last two home games so everything’s sinking in, and I just definitely want to play the absolute best that I can”.Royce agrees, recalling her early years on the team when she gave her all for her older teammates.“I just remember when I was a freshman, sophomore, junior, having the feeling of wanting to give everything for those people who are about to leave,” Royce said. “So hopefully we see that extra push from them.”Northwestern’s strong season is being seen as welcome competition from the Buckeyes. OSU coach Anne Wilkinson said she looks for her team to stand up to the challenge. “I like our matchup with Northwestern because we usually have a really competitive game,” Wilkinson said. “We both have a lot at stake, it’s the Big Ten. If we can maintain possession and  finish our chances we’ll be all right.”The 19th-ranked Wildcats are coming off a shutout 3-0 victory against Michigan State on Sunday, leading with shots 25-1, and penalty corners 19-0. Their trek to Columbus on Friday will be their final Big Ten game of the season. Royce said she has no doubt that the Buckeyes are fully prepared both mentally and physically to successfully take on both the Wildcats and the Golden Bears this weekend. “Northwestern has a strong season every year, we’re by no means underestimating them,” Royce said. “But at the same time we have every faith that we’re going to come out with two wins this weekend.”The Buckeyes are set to face off against Northwestern on Friday at 3:30 p.m. and California at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday.Senior spotlightPeanut Johnson, forward, Dayton, OhioTwo-time All-Big Ten selection Two-time second-team all-National Field Hockey Coaches Association West RegionHas started 56 of 69 career games with 33 goals and 20 assists for 86 pointsRanks ninth in the Big Ten in goals (nine)Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week (Sept. 16)Three times this year has had five points in a gameGoals in six games this year (OSU is 5-1 in those contests)Team captain in 2015Emma Royce, Back, London, England2013 Big Ten all-tournament teamTwo-time Big Ten preseason watch list choiceTwo-time team captainHas started 67 of 68 career gamesTeam leader this year with five assists13 goals and 12 assists in her career for 38 pointsFour multi-point games this year (OSU is 4-0 in those contests)Team captain in 2015Sydney Stype, goalkeeper, Upper Arlington, OhioThree-time Academic all-Big Ten (2012, 2013, 2014)Four-time NFHCA National Academic selection (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)Four-time OSU scholar athlete (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)Appeared in games during the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons.Annie VonderBrink, forward/midfield, Kettering, OhioAcademic all-Big Ten (2013)OSU scholar athlete (2012, 2013)NFHCA National Academic Squad (2012)Veteran of 40 career gamesTwo goals and two assists for six pointsScored this year in the season opener against Saint Louis. read more

Ohio State womens volleyball splits pair of weekend road games

OSU sophomore outside hitter Luisa Schirmer (5) during a game against Purdue on Oct. 16 at St. John Arena. Credit: Christopher Slack, Lantern PhotographerDespite going into two road matches as heavy favorites to win both, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team was able to come away with just one victory this weekend.On Friday, the No. 12 Buckeyes had their losing streak extended to three in a surprising upset loss to Maryland (13-15, 3-11) before rebounding against Rutgers (4-22, 1-12) on Saturday for their 20th win of the season.OSU’s loss to the Terrapins — just its second in program history — came by way of a three-set sweep, but the game was more closely contested than the final score indicated as each set was decided by only two points (25-23, 28-26, 27-25).The loss came despite the best efforts of senior outside hitter Katie Mitchell, who came off the bench to lead her team with 12 kills. Junior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe (nine kills, three blocks) and senior outside hitter Elizabeth Campbell (nine kills, two blocks) also broke the double-digit point barrier.In place of freshman Taylor Hughes, who sat out both weekend games as she continues to nurse a left elbow injury, senior setter Emily Ruetter contributed 35 assists. Maryland’s redshirt senior outside hitter Adreene Elliott was a thorn in the side of the Buckeyes all night, leading all players with 22.5 points on 18 kills, four service aces and one block assist.Serving proved to be an area of difficulty for the OSU once again, as it committed 12 service errors against only three aces.Defensively, the Scarlet and Gray weren’t as sharp as usual, allowing Maryland to hit at a .270 attack percentage, which is well above the .163 mark that OSU had allowed to opponents entering the game.OSU raced out to a 9-6 lead in the first set, but Maryland came charging back with a 6-0 run to take the lead. The Terrapins would extend their advantage to as much as five before the Buckeyes charged back to level things at 21. From there, the home team retook momentum, ultimately squeaking out the narrow win to take an early lead in the match, despite being out-attacked .216 to .114 in the opening set.Maryland led most of the way in the second set, but OSU grabbed multiple late leads at 22-20 and 24-23, threatening to even the match at one set apiece. The Buckeyes couldn’t finish the job, though, as they fell in extra points after several costly errors.In the final set, the Buckeyes were the ones who held the lead for most of the way, but much like set two, they couldn’t finish the deal even though they attacked at a .385 clip. With a 24-22 lead and a chance to extend the match, Maryland again forced extra points and overcame the late deficit to complete the upset.A date with last-place Rutgers proved to be what OSU needed to snap its three-game losing streak, as it ran away with a sweep (25-13, 25-16, 25-19). The three-set victory is the Buckeyes’ third in as many games over the Scarlet Knights since they joined the Big Ten last year.Mitchell again led the way with 12 kills, while freshman outside hitter Audra Appold added 10. OSU was able to get back on track from the service line, racking up eight aces — led by Campbell’s three — against five errors.After going down 3-2 early in the first set, the Buckeyes went on an 11-0 run to take a commanding lead and would not trail again for the remainder of the match, coming away with decisive victories in all three frames. Led by Ruetter’s 35 assists, the Buckeyes attacked consistently throughout the match, putting up at least a .360 attack percentage in each set en route to a .372 rate for the contest.Meanwhile, Rutgers’ offense was held to a .138 hitting percentage on the evening and hit above .100 in just one of three sets, partly thanks to five blocks by Sandbothe.With six games left in Big Ten play, OSU now has a 9-5 conference record, leaving them tied with Purdue for fifth place in the conference standings.The Buckeyes are set to return to their home court on Wednesday, looking to complete a season sweep of No. 18 Illinois. The match is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. read more

An hour with OSU athletic director Gene Smith

Lantern sports editor Zack Meisel sat down for an exclusive interview with Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith last week to discuss a number of topics, including Big Ten expansion and compliance issues in college athletics. The following is an excerpt from the interview. Check back with The Lantern all quarter for more from Meisel’s interview with Smith. The Lantern: Are you sick of the word ‘expansion’ yet? Smith: No, not really. It’s funny, because I’m watching everybody else. We’re basically done for now. I don’t know if we’ll expand any more, I really don’t. It’s a possibility, but what’s interesting is watching the rest of the landscape with the WAC and the Mountain West, and there’s rumors about the SEC. TL: When you see the turmoil at programs like USC and North Carolina, what goes through your mind? GS: I feel for them. I’ve been there, as an athletic director, when I first came to Ohio State and actually had it at Arizona State. I was on the NCAA infractions committee, so I heard cases, Michigan’s case, Utah’s case, a whole bunch of them. So I feel for them, because at the end of the day, everyone’s trying to do what’s right. And there’s some things you can’t control. I don’t know their particular situations. But do we have some bad people in the business? No doubt. But 99 percent of our people are trying to do it the right way, and outside influences take them to where they are. TL: In the case of Georgia receiver A.J. Green the report was that he sold his own jersey. Can you at least see where he’s coming from, maybe feel for the kid? He knew he was wrong, but some of these kids — maybe it’s the situation they’re in? GS: See, I don’t. My thing is, if one of our kids really needs money and they’re in dire straits, they should have a relationship with their coach where they can share that. Then we find a way to help them. … I could give you countless stories where our kids have come to us and said, ‘I’ve got this problem.’ And so then we find a way to solve it. And there are ways to solve it. Philosophically, going to your point, should we be able to allow kids to sell jerseys or their likenesses and make money? I believe that, but I believe that money should be saved in an account for them for when they graduate. If you open that door and you allow every kid to monetize their persona, holy smokes. So I’m good with it if we said, ‘Whatever a kid’s jersey value is, you sell it, but you take a portion of that money because you have expenditures, you take the profit from it and put it in an account, if the kid graduates.’ I wouldn’t give it to them unless they graduate, they get the money. I’ve always said that that’s the way to go. TL: What was it like being named athletic director of the year by the Sports Business Journal? GS: It was funny, I was supposed to go on a vacation with my wife and we had three other couples we were going with. We were leaving on a Wednesday night, and I remember getting a call and they saw that I wasn’t coming. They invite six ADs to come and one of the six wins, it’s kind of like the Oscars. So I wasn’t going to go because I didn’t think I was going to win. I told the guy, ‘Look, I’m going on vacation with my wife.’ And he said, ‘Mr. Smith, I can’t tell you that you should be here, but I want to tell you that Sean McManus from CBS is going to provide the award and it’s probably to your advantage to be here.’ And I said, ‘OK, I think I get what you’re saying, but here’s my deal: If I tell my wife I’m going to be a day late to this vacation spot, you’ve got my back, right?’ And he said, ‘No problem, she’ll be happy that you did this.’ That’s exactly how it went. One, I was moved in that moment. I was there in front of those people and I felt great that I was able to represent the department and get that award because I’m just standing on the shoulders of a whole lot of people who do a whole lot of work. TL: And it made the vacation even better. GS: It made the vacation a whole lot better because I was able to take the trophy with me. And I had my buddies down there, helping me, protecting my back. TL: What, if any, major flaws does the Ohio State athletic department still have that you’re working on? GS: A lot of our stuff is in facilities. My predecessor, Andy (Geiger), did an unbelievable job with the ‘Shoe, the Schott, Bill Davis Stadium, Jesse Owens. Now, we have to take all of those other sports and get their facilities up to par. We just finished field hockey. I remember our first game here in ’05, I was standing on the practice field with Tressel one evening, it was getting dark, and we didn’t have lights out there. So, that’s always been on my to-do list, is to get what we just completed done. So it’s a lot of little projects that are highly important. We’ve got the boathouse that’ll be done in December, tennis we have one of the top three tennis programs in the country, which most people are surprised at, and they have cracks on their court with water coming up the cracks. I hope to have all this done in a short period of time. Of all of those sports with facilities where we want our kids safe and they’re representative of the quality of that team, field hockey just got done and field hockey was playing on a compacted, 10-year-old artificial turf that I know was killing their knees. Anyway, that’s our biggest challenge is getting those facilities done. And then the other piece is staying on the cutting edge, that allows us to continue to communicate with our fans and recruit. This past year, we had 422,000 Facebook views, largest in the country, 51 million hits on our website. We’re setting up a training session for our coaches and some of our staff on Twitter on how to properly use Twitter and maximize our opportunities. That type of stuff is not a flaw as much as it is staying — keeping that focus — staying on the cutting edge. Our core leadership is in our coaching staff, and we have great coaches, so I don’t see many flaws. read more