At ESPN, cord-cutting leads to another sort of cutting.

It looks like we may be saying bye-bye to some familiar faces.

As more Americans cut the cable cord, ESPN has seen its subscriber numbers drop steadily, forcing Disney to demand cost-cutting from the “worldwide leader in sports.” It’s been widely reported since March that the next big round of ESPN layoffs will hit on-air talent, but now we know more on the timing: the cuts will begin on May 1, sources at ESPN tell Yahoo Finance.

ESPN will part ways with more than 40 people, all of them “talent,” a label that ESPN applies to radio hosts and writers (almost all of whom regularly do video or audio), not just traditional TV personalities. ESPN says it has 1,000 people in the category. Still, you can expect most of the people cut to be faces you’ve seen on TV. In some cases, ESPN may buy people out of existing long-term contracts—as Sports Illustrated points out, that is unusual.

The cuts will mostly be done by May 9, when Disney announces its quarterly earnings, but could extend until May 16, when ESPN presents its annual Upfronts in Manhattan.

As is typical, the spin for this isn’t that Mickey needs to save a few bucks.

In a statement, an ESPN spokesperson said the approaching cuts are about innovating to suit the needs of consumers: “Today’s fans consume content in many different ways and we are in a continuous process of adapting to change and improving what we do. Inevitably that has consequences for how we utilize our talent. We are confident that ESPN will continue to have a roster of talent that is unequaled in sports.”

If you’re trying to be innovative, WWL, you know what’s really innovative?  Silence.  Cost-effective, too.

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UPDATE:  More like 100 are being let go.

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil

The Missouri Way?

Here’s an interesting tale from Mizzou.  Apparently, head coach Barry Odom wants to flip the field, so to speak, because he sees a coaching advantage in that.

Missouri football coach Barry Odom wants to switch the team sidelines on Faurot Field, a move that would require some seating changes and has at least one student organization unhappy about the proposal.

Odom and members of Mizzou athletics department met with student leaders from nine different campus organizations last Thursday to discuss Odom’s proposed changes, MU athletics spokesman Nick Joos said. Odom wants the Tigers’ bench to be moved from the east sideline to the west sideline at Memorial Stadium and the visiting team moved to the east sideline.

Odom believes there are competitive advantages to having his team on the west side, Joos said. For one, during game days, the team on the west side is in the shade and not staring into the sun on the hotter side of the field. Also, Odom believes the opposing coaches in the west-side press box have a clearer view of coaches’ signals and personnel moves that come from the east sideline.

“There’s an opportunity from a signal standpoint and formation standpoint and even and players entering and exiting the game that it gives you a better (chance to) disguise, for the lack of a better word, when you’re on the press box side as opposed to being more open on the east side,” Joos said.

There are two obstacles, though.  The first — you can file this one under “Things I Did Not Know” — is a conference rule.

There’s a Southeastern Conference rule that states home student sections are prohibited between the 30-yard lines and up through 25 rows behind the visiting team’s bench. In the stadium’s current seating design, student seating takes up the sections directly behind the east team sideline. Under the proposal, those seats behind the visitor’s bench would be filled by fans from the visiting team.

“By SEC rule you have to give the visiting team 1,000 seats in the lower bowl,” Joos said. “They would fill in 1,000 of those (seats). Then we’d start a young alumni and recent grad ticket program for inexpensive season tickets over there (behind the visiting fans.) Player guests seating would be over there, too.”

The first obstacle leads to the second one.

That arrangement would displace some student sections to the outer margins of the front sections along the east side, outside the 30-yard lines.

Only one student group, Tiger’s Lair, was resistant to the proposal, Joos said. The Tiger’s Lair is the school’s “official student cheering section for the Missouri Tigers,” according to the organization’s web site. “The Tiger’s Lair promotes school spirit and excitement at all home football games through the performance of organized card stunts and cheers, and by providing a great environment for costumes and spirited signs,” the site states. “Members of the section are recognized as the wildest, most dedicated, and most enthusiastic at Mizzou football games.”

In a statement sent to the Post-Dispatch, the student organization declined comment, saying only, “Tiger’s Lair is examining the situation and refraining from comments at this time until we gather more information on this matter.”

The Tiger’s Lair later released a statement, saying the proposal will result in “a dramatic disinterest in Mizzou Football” and cited the section’s challenges related to lower enrollment numbers and “a reduced desire for season tickets from current students due to the performance of the team.”

Here’s the statement:

If that’s accurate, the change would move the student section from its current position near the action to the end zone.  If so, then, yeah, I can see how that would be a downer.

So what we have here, it appears, is a conflict between the kids who go to the school and want to support the team, the head coach who’s paid to win football games and an obscure SEC rule that exists to make sure good seats go to the paying public.  Sounds like college football, circa 2017, in a nutshell, doesn’t it?

When the people running college sports wake up in twenty or so years wondering where the paying customers went, this will just be chalked up as another minor moment of cluelessness.  Too late by then, of course.

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UPDATE:  Bill Connelly assumes this storm will blow over “if Mizzou puts a good product on the field again”.  Gee, that’s a familiar sounding tune.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, SEC Football

Does the NFL care about bowl game attendance?

Let’s just say that if, in fact, Fournette and McCaffrey are first-rounders tomorrow in the NFL draft, the odds that more star collegiate players skip minor bowls out of a sense of self-preservation are likely to be significantly enabled.  With the money at stake, who could blame them?

The interesting thing will be learning what kind of advice their college coaches give them about the decision.

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Filed under The NFL Is Your Friend.

Watching the G-Day replay

“Jake had really good composure and did a good job of going through the right reads and hitting his guys,” Eason said Saturday. “If you’re going to be good, it’s got to come from yourself, but I think Jake did a good job of coming in and pushing me. He pushes me and I push him, and our off-the-field relationship has grown because of that.

“We’re tight. We came in the same way, being highly regarded.”

Eason, who beat out Lambert after last season’s opening win over North Carolina, completed 204 of 370 passes (55.1 percent) as a freshman for 2,430 yards with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He had a four-game stretch against conference foes when he wasn’t picked off, but his efficiency rating for the season ranked just 13th in the league.

His efficiency rating for the first half of G-Day was even worse, but Eason regrouped somewhat to finish 16-of-36 for 311 yards with two second-half touchdowns.

“When the defense knows you’re throwing the ball, you’re going to throw it at a lesser percentage,” Smart said Saturday, referencing an offense with one combined carry from Chubb and Sony Michel. “Jacob understands our offense better now. He knows the checks. He knows where to go with the ball. He understands when to put us in the right play, and that part I’m pleased with.

“You can’t judge him based on today.”

When asked about Fromm’s performance, Smart said he still gets that “deer in the headlights look” when a defender gets free in the pocket, but he didn’t hide his excitement.

“Jake is a great competitor,” Smart said. “He’s in the huddle and has great spirit. I had to jump him in the second scrimmage because he threw a touchdown pass and started yelling at the defensive end. I told him that we don’t do that here, but I don’t want to take the fire out of the kid.

“He gets juiced in competition, but he’s got to control the emotions.”

Taken in all, that’s actually a pretty good summary of both quarterbacks’ day Saturday.

I may have come off sounding a bit more harsh about Fromm in my Observations post than he deserved.  As someone noted in the comments last night, many of the plays where he read only one side of the field were designed that way, and Fromm reminded me a bit of Hutson Mason in getting the pre-snap read down and throwing quickly based on that.  There were at least a couple of occasions where he went through his progressions across the field.

In short, he’s pretty polished for a true freshman quarterback who’s only been through a dozen or so spring practices.  That being said, it’s a lot easier making those throws against the second team secondary (minus Hardman, to boot) than against a starting SEC defense, so let’s not throw any ticker tape parades quite yet.

As for Eason, I still maintain he’s making good progress as far as reading defenses and adjusting.  He also did a nice job on extending one play rolling to his right and hitting a wide open Terry Godwin for a big gain.  His line didn’t do him any favors, although as I mentioned yesterday, his performance picked up noticeably when the pass blocking stabilized.  The thing with Eason is that there were three or four passes he tossed that made my jaw drop; the number of college quarterbacks who are capable of doing similar work can be counted on one hand, if that.

He’s got a helluva ceiling.  The challenge for Jim Chaney is raising Eason’s floor.

As for the rest of what I garnered from the replay, it was mainly reinforcing how stout Georgia’s front seven on defense look — and, unfortunately, how that couldn’t be said about the offensive line.  Also, if you watch, read this Jason Butt piece about the options Chaney has in the slot.  That may have been the one bit of strategery for which he tipped his hand.

Lemme know if you see anything else of note.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Today, in I don’t think that word means what you think it means

This is al.com’s idea of Greg Sankey “addressing” speculation on conference expansion:

Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey declined to deny whether the conference has privately explored expanding in an attempt to be the first league with 16 teams.

“I’ll let others discuss expansion publicly,” Sankey said, adding that he thought he answered the question “directly.”

I doubt even Sankey believes that.

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Filed under Media Punditry/Foibles, SEC Football

Shit, AD, that’s all you had to say.

You know, if Greg McGarity had just said from the beginning that he needed a reserve fund to protect the department against his own lack of competency in hiring and firing coaches instead of making up some nonsensical excuse about having to pay student-athletes down the road, I might have been more understanding.

At least I would have applauded him for being realistic.

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Filed under Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness

The Georgia Way: a definitional bleg

You know, I’ve mentioned before that the Lexicon badly needs an entry for The Georgia Way, but I’ve really struggled to come up with a succinct description.

A couple of recent things have come up that may have helped me sharpen my thoughts on the subject.  First, this tweet sent my way a few days ago:

Then, comes the news this morning that McGarity has seen fit to can the gymnastics coach he hired five years ago, right after she dismissed three players from the team, naturally.  I’m sure the program is just around the corner from greatness.

Anyway, a phrase popped into my head in response to both of those items, and the more I chew on it, the more it grows on me:  arrogance in the service of mediocrity.  I mean, arrogance is tolerable, if you’ve got something rightfully to be arrogant about, and, well, as a Georgia fan, I’ve certainly been familiar with my fair share of mediocrity.

It’s the combination of the two, along with the money fixation, that makes the Georgia Way special for me.  Am I off base with that, does it resonate with you, too, or is it just a decent start?

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