Daily Noontime (Friday, October 23, 2020)

By Matt Noonan

Ah, it’s Friday – we made it!

I hope everyone is ready for another great weekend – crazy to think we have only one more Sunday in October, but I guess that means we’re another day closer to 2021 and 2022, right?

We took a day off yesterday, but are excited to be back to produce a brand new ‘Daily Noontime,’ beginning with welcoming back Big 10 Football!

Yep, Big 10 Football is back – the first week of the 2020 season for the conference begins this evening with the University of Illinois visiting the University of Wisconsin. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m.

What Big 10 game will I be keeping my eyes on? Well, I would say a few, but I think I will have to tune into tomorrow evening’s clash between the University of Michigan and University of Minnesota. Both teas are nationally ranked and the game will be played on ABC with kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.


Did you miss a recent Noontime Sports Podcast? If so, make sure to listen to our show on Apple Podcast and Spotify!


Let’s switch gears to baseball where the third game of the 2020 World Series is set to be played this evening with first pitch scheduled for 8:08 p.m.

Both teams – the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays – have won one game of the best-of-seven series, but many believe whoever wins the third game will most likely go onto win the series. I am still rooting for the Rays, but know these Dodgers are really good!

Here are a few interesting stories (and links) from the series (from the past day or so):

So, I mentioned ESPN – well, ESPN.com, to be exact – in one of our World Series links (above!) – and one thing we learned late yesterday was that the company is moving some of its feature content and analysis behind its ESPN + paywall. Will you be paying to read their commentary and analysis?

It is an interesting move given the world wide leaders’ competitors are either behind a paywall – some sites, not every site requires a credit card! – while others are heading in that direction.

Let’s conclude today’s ‘Daily Noontime’ with a few more links and news from the world wide web:

  • Sunday’s game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Tom Brady/Tampa Bay Buccaneers has been moved from an evening affair to a late afternoon contest due to “abundance of caution.”
  • New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton admitted yesterday to WEEI.com that he needs to improve his play – he certainly has high aspirations for himself, which is a good thing, I promise!
  • And finally, here are a slew of links from Blogging the Boys on the Dallas Cowboys – man, something is not right in ‘Big D’ these days!

13 States Will Not Play High School Football This Fall

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According to the National Federation Of State High Schools Association (NFHS), 13 states will not play football this fall. (PHOTO COURTESY: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports.com)

By Matt Noonan

We all know playing football during a pandemic is risky – there is a lot of concern from both coaches and players regarding safety, especially when it comes to tackling or crouching in front of an opposing offensive or defensive player.

So it should come as no surprise that 13 states, including Californa, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, and Oregon have decided to not allow its high schoolers to play football this fall, according to a recent update from the National Federation Of State High Schools Association (NFHS). That number is expected to increase, not just this week, but over the next few weeks as more organizations unveil plans for allowing student-athletes to return to playing field either later this month, next month, or at some point this fall.

There are some states planning to play football this year, including Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Louisana, and Michigan – there are others, of course – while here in New England, it seems to be an unknown if and how the sport could be played safely.

As of this morning, all six New England states seem to have some plans in place for allowing fall sports teams to startup after Labor Day – here in Massachusetts, the plan would be to allow programs to return to the practice field on Monday, September 14, but that date could change due to a recent uptick in coronavirus (Covid-19) cases.

Three New England states – Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire – might be able to play high school football this fall, but all three seasons will be much shorter than usual.

Football in Rhode Island is a possibility – there is a schedule posted on the Rhode Island Interscholastic League (RIIL) website, but according to the organization’s Tumblr page, no decision will be made on fall sports until Monday, August 17.

Vermont’s Governor Phil Scott said fall sports would occur during last Friday’s press conference but what does that actually mean for the state’s football programs is an unknown. If football is allowed in Vermont, expect it to look a bit different than usual. Maybe we would see flag football or 7 on 7 contests?

While there is so much uncertainty surrounding fall sports, especially high school football, one must remember that the situation is fluid and plans could change, not just here in New England, but in other parts of the country. More announcements on high school football, as well as other fall sports should be coming this week – keep your eyes on Ohio where Governor Mike DeWine is supposed to make a decision about all athletic events, including high schools and youth sports. 

Watching football on both Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons would certainly provide us all with a sense of normalcy, but as I mentioned during an op-ed piece on Friday, the thought of risking the health of not just student-athletes, coaches, team representatives, officials, parents, and community members is not worth it.

Daily Noontime: Friday, March 20th, 2020

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By Matt Noonan | @NoontimeNation 

Welcome to Friday (or as we like to call it, Fri-yay!).

It has been quite the week – when will the new normal end? – but like I did yesterday, I will continue to produce a ‘Daily Noontime’ going forward with hopes of putting a smile on everyone’s faces during this unique time (and the life we’re living these days).

Alright, it is official: Tom Brady is officially a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In a release (and story this morning from the Buccaneers’ website), the team’s General Manager Jason Licht said Brady will “immediately impact our entire organization.”

Indeed, Brady will make an impact on the Bucs, who finished their 2019 season with seven wins and nine losses.

But doesn’t it seem strange (or bizarre) to think Brady will end his historic career with the Buccaneers? I mean, I think so, but Joe Montana ended his career, not with the San Francisco 49ers, but the Kansas City Chiefs. Again, this just seems weird, but again, we’re living in unusual times.

So, with no Brady under center, it is time to embrace Jarrett Stidham, but maybe we should also Jameis Winston, too. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler thinks (and believes) that the former Buccaneers quarterback could be an ideal replacement for the Patriots, but do we really want a quarterback that threw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions last season?

In other National Football League (NFL) news, the “stay at home” order in California could impact the completion of SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. The new home of the Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams was supposed to be ready for the upcoming season, but due to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the “stay at home” order could mean a delay on the league’s new crown jewel.

In an interesting op-ed piece from the Los Angeles Times, there is a thought of building a people mover to the stadium, along with the shops and office space, which will be built nearby. Not a bad idea and it would decrease traffic, too.

Let’s switch gears to some quick hitters (and what occurred on this date in the past few months, years, and decades), beginning with wishing Bobby Orr a happy birthday!

On This Date in History: 

  • 1934: Babe Didrikson Zaharias pitched one inning in a Major League Baseball (MLB) spring training game for the Philadelphia Athletics. She gave up one walk but not hits in a single frame against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
  • 1965: UCLA beat Michigan in the 27th NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.
  • 1973: Roberto Clemente was elected to the MLB 11 weeks after his death in a plane crash.
  • 1989: Baseball announced former Cincinnati Reds manager Pete Rose is under investigation for betting on baseball games.
  • 1990: The Los Angeles Lakers retired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s number (No. 33).

As usual, please be well and be safe, take care of your family, and we’ll have more content on Brady (and some other topics) later today and this weekend! 

Around The Rim With Bob Whitney: Welcome Back College Hoops

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Former Braintree High and Kimball Union star Nic Timberlake in action last year for Towson University. Timberlake is now a redshirt freshman for Towson this winter after last season’s injury-riddled campaign. (PHOTO COURTESY: Bob Whitney)

By Bob Whitney | @WhitneyBob

In case you haven’t noticed the 2019-20 college basketball season is off and running, highlighted by a nationally-televised doubleheader last evening featuring the top four teams in the men’s basketball preseason rankings: Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas.

For all of us veteran purists, it was hoop heaven, the talent was amazing but the quality of play was spotty at best given such a huge stage on opening night.

That aside, it is my pleasure to pen a weekly hoop column for the hard-working Matt Noonan and his many followers here at Noontime Sports.

I have covered one of the Power Five conferences – the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), to be exact – for the last eight seasons, but this year I will focus on a little bit of everything but the primary focus will remain on all that is happening in New England – and that is a lot!

First of all, check out the Noontime Sports Men and Women’s New England D-III Basketball Preseason Top 10 Polls: (Men’s Basketball | Women’s Basketball)

A few thoughts from the basketball polls.

  • No surprise that Amherst College is perched at the top of both rankings. They have been the gold-standard regionally and a regular participant in the NCAA D-III Tournaments for years.
  • Speaking of Amherst, the men’s program suffered a sudden jolt in September when legendary coach David Hixon (after 42 seasons at the helm) opted to take a non-health sabbatical to deal with some family issues. The big question is can the program move on without Hixon’s leadership?

    Those close to the program feel that with the elevation of trusted assistant Aaron Toomey, who played under Hixon and helped win NCAA titles in 2012 and 2013, the transition should be seamless.

  • A game to watch (and to gauge how Toomey and his squad are managing the transition) is on January 10 when New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) rival Middlebury College travels to Amherst.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • There have been a number of rule changes introduced with the most important one being the extension of the 3-point arc from 17 inches to the international standard of 22 feet, 1 3/4 inches. Although testing of this change in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) last year found little change in shooting percentage, it was felt by the officiating honchos that it would alleviate congestion in the paint by forcing defenders to guard shooters further away from the basket. Stay tuned on this change.
  • All eyes will be pointing to Cambridge, Mass this season to see if the Harvard University celebrated senior class, led by awesome point guard Bryce Aiken, can finally win an Ivy League title, as well as earn an automatic tournament bid to the NCAA Tournament.

    Better yet, the Crimson will have some home-cooking help in March as this year’s conference tournament moves from the storied The Palestra to Lavietes Pavilion, March 14-15.

    The Ivy poo-bahs move to a conference tournament for men and women was a no-brainer – the atmosphere is pulsating and the quality of play is as good as it gets.

  • A shoutout to former Marquette University assistant Brett Nelson who assumes the reins at Holy Cross after Bill Carmody‘s decision to retire from the coaching ranks.
  • Did you know that we have a number of the top coaches in the women’s college game led by the legendary Barbara Stevens, who ranks fourth in wins among college coaches at Bentley University, Harvard’s Kathy Delaney-Smith, Stonehill College‘s Trisha Brown, Springfield College‘s Naomi Graves, and Babson College‘s Judy Blinstrub. If any of you have a daughter that may be destined to play at the college level the price of admission to catch one of these coaches in action will help with a final decision.
  • In my eight years following ACC men’s basketball, I had the privilege to hear firsthand from some of the great coaches in the game, including Coach Mike KrzyseskiRoy Williams, Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino, and Mike Brey. Buzz Williams was a real stitch in the press room. But most impressive among this elite group of coaches was the University of Virginia‘s, Tony Bennett.

    Obviously, Bennett’s run to the national title was the big news last year but most noteworthy was his recent decision to forego a well-deserved a big raise. Bennett felt that his family was blessed and thankful for what they have and felt that the money would be better spent in funding a program to help athletes transition to careers after basketball. Bennett is destined to be the voice of the ACC once Coach K and Roy retire.

A FINAL THOUGHT

Best wishes to Kristen McDonnell who left the Braintree high school girls basketball program after a ten-year run which included four D-1 state titles and a bunch of sectional crowns. McDonnell is seeking a new challenge as the Norwood high school boys head coach.

Keep shooting. See you next week!

The Bursting Bubble of College Hockey – Part II

The Big Ten Hockey map could shake up the NCAA spectrum!

By Dan Rubin 

The dominoes are already beginning to fall in college hockey’s realignment and reshaping. Within the next three-years, the nation’s college hockey landscape will look absolutely nothing like it will in the upcoming season, as teams are shifting and changing conferences with the air of desperation that was expected when Big Ten Hockey formed.

Here’s a look at the second part of hockey’s realignment that no doubt will continue throughout the summer and into the next season.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference was made official last Wednesday in a press conference in Colorado. The league, beginning in the 2013-2014 season will comprise, as expected, Denver, North Dakota, Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota-Duluth, and Miami University. During the press conference, the league made it clear that they were open to further expansion. Notre Dame, (who we discussed at length in Part One and will discuss again later here in Part Two) is examining membership, and Western Michigan is also expressing interest. Recent reports are surfacing that both Boston College and Boston University were approached by the future NCHC about joining, which were denied by the new league.  BC and BU compete in Hockey East and are logistically nowhere near the NCHC schools.

In the immediate aftermath of the announcement, Northern Michigan announced it was seeking membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). Two days after the announcement, the WCHA, which lost all of the NCHC schools except for Miami, (who was in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, or CCHA), accepted the Wildcats as its sixth member. The move will ensure the WCHA as a viable hockey conference with the six-school minimum guaranteed. As a side note, NMU has a history of shifting between the WCHA and CCHA, starting out in the central league in the 1970s before moving to the WCHA with Michigan Tech in the 1984. 13-years later, NMU rejoined the CCHA, making the NCAA tournament in 2010. Now, they’ll head back to the WCHA.

With the new conferences starting to create lower numbers, it became apparent that there now existed several new slots as they fight for survival.  Minnesota State-Moorhead became the first school to jump on the opportunity, announcing it was roughly 40% through a goal to endow a Division I program.  The chaos of the shifting conferences opened up some open slots for the conferences to fill, and the Dragons are securing their position to join the schools.  It’s possible both the CCHA and WCHA could add the school, which will play its home games over state borders in nearby Fargo, North Dakota.  The Minnesota State University system already sponsors hockey in Mankato, playing in the WCHA.  The state itself is at the heart of the realignment chaos, with the heralded Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Big Ten and Minnesota-Duluth leaving for the new conference.

Rumors continue to abound for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Irish are not staying in the CCHA, which is beginning to look more and more like the league that will be the biggest casualty.  The WCHA and the NCHC have made general overtures to Notre Dame, but it’s starting to become very apparent that Hockey East is the likely landing spot.  That potential move joins the school with Catholic rivals Boston College and Providence.

Expect Notre Dame hockey to play a significant role in the future of College Hockey!

Sources close to Noontime Sports are reporting that, if Notre Dame decides to explore Hockey East, they would be accepted by the conference.  That move brings the league to 11 teams, and while the reports say that the league doesn’t want to add a 12th team right away, they do want to keep the league at an even number.  But, after Notre Dame, there isn’t really the type of quality opponent that Hockey East is looking for.  The targets are boiling down to one of the six ECAC teams not considered Ivy League schools, a target from Atlantic Hockey or Bowling Green.

Bowling Green is a quirky, yet attractive offer that could be used to entice Notre Dame even more into looking east.  One of the Irish’s major hang-ups is travel, since the move would place the school in a conference with schools that are not within a bus drive.  But pulling Bowling Green into the league allows Notre Dame a “west coast” travel partner for Hockey East.  According to BC Interruption.com, this, along with the fact that BGSU doesn’t need to raise scholarship numbers, factor into this possible decision.  Furthermore, BGSU wouldn’t compete for a top slot in the league, which would keep the top slots secure for the traditional Hockey East powers, at least in the short term.

I heard a rumor about the CCHA.  Bear in mind that it’s only a rumor, and that it’s neither confirmed nor reported anywhere else, so please don’t give this anymore credence outside of being a rumor.  I heard that CCHA is looking at, specifically, Canisius, Mercyhurst, and Niagara from Atlantic Hockey.  Niagara left College Hockey America for Atlantic Hockey as a reactionary move to the conference falling apart, when CCHA didn’t want it two years ago. Canisius, in Buffalo, NY, and Mercyhurst, in Erie, PA, are possible landing spots because they want to raise their scholarship limit from the Atlantic Hockey-maximum of 12, a move the eastern schools in the league essentially blocked.  They could also bring a heated rivalry with one another developed over years spent in the MAAC, which became Atlantic Hockey.

Alabama-Huntsville is going somewhere. Nobody has any idea, but essentially, they’ll end up as a “stop-gap” for some conference that needs to fill a slot. The Chargers struggled last year to a [4-26-2] record, a year after they won the CHA Tournament. They would benefit from having guaranteed games against opponents, and it would ensure more home games for the team. Last year, they played only 12 home games compared with 18 road games, and the teams they played were predominantly power opponents such as Wisconsin, Ohio State, Cornell, Bemidji State, Colorado College, and Nebraska-Omaha. If they get any chance to join a conference, they’ll bite at the opportunity.