The Philadelphia Eagles locked in a crucial piece to their offense yesterday, signing running back LeSean McCoy to a five-year extension worth up to $45 million.McCoy, 23, had one year remaining on his rookie deal. The Pennsylvania product scored a franchise record 17 rushing touchdowns last season and was elated to have his contract situation taken care of before the beginning of training camp.“It feels good just to wake up tomorrow and go to work knowing that the deal is done and it’s over with,” McCoy said during a press conference. “I’m not a guy to try and hold out and do this and do that. I try and do things the right way. I’m just happy that everything is done and over with, and I can go to work happy tomorrow and enjoy myself.”Head coach Andy Reid echoed his running back’s sentiments, saying, “We are excited to continue this off-season of taking care of our own players. LeSean is one of the most electrifying running backs in the National Football League. He can do it all – run, catch, block and score touchdowns from anywhere on the field.”
Tired of his off-the-field troubles, the Detroit Lions unceremoniously cut projected starting cornerback Aaron Berry on Monday morning after he was arrested this weekend for the second time in a month, a league source told ESPN.This time, Berry was apprehended, according to Cpl. Kyle Gautsch of the Harrisburg Police Department, on three charges of simple assault. And, to make matters worse, police said there ”was a weapon allegedly brandished during the incident.”That was enough for the Loins, apparently.Less than a month ago Berry was arrested in that area June 23 on suspicion of DUI, failure to stop and render aid from an accident and other counts. He was set to enter a diversionary program in that case.His second arrest was the latest bit of bad publicity during a troubled off-season for the Lions, who are quickly moving toward challenging the Cincinnati Bengals for players that get into off-the-field-trouble with the law.To illustrate: Lions’ running back Mikel Leshoure will miss the first two games this season without pay and will have to give up two more game checks for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Not good. Then there is defensive tackle NIck Fairley, who was arrested twice in two months. Really not good.Berry is entering his third NFL season. He started three games last season for the Lions and one the previous season.”I would just hope that everybody just holds their judgment on this matter,” said Corky Goldstein, Berry’s lawyer. ”There’s a lot more to this situation. I know Aaron is very upset over this whole situation. Let’s give the opportunity for all the facts to come out.”The Lions released a statement Sunday that hardly was a symbol of support.”We are extremely disappointed by the reports involving Aaron Berry,” the team said. ”We are currently gathering more information and will have further comment when appropriate.”
Nerlens Noel, Kentucky’s freshman center who was projected as the No. 1 pick in June’s NBA draft by many league observers, tore the ACL in his left knee Tuesday night in Florida, throwing the Wildcats’ season and his immediate future into question.Noel’s 6-foot-10 frame crumbled to the floor when he landed awkwardly after blocking a shot from behind with just over eight minutes left in the Gators’ 69-52 win. He lay on the floor writhing in pain as his teammates and Kentucky followers held their collective breath.But it did not look good when teammates had to carry him off the floor. Losing Noel is a significant hit to the Wildcats (17-7, 8-3 SEC), who now trail Florida (20-3, 10-1) by two games in the SEC standings. Noel leads the nation in blocked shots (4.5 per game) and averages 10.6 points per game and is second in the SEC in rebounding (9.6 per game).“I met with Nerlens,” coach John Calipari said in a statement Wednesday. “The meeting was really positive, and I loved his attitude. The way he is already dealing with this injury lets me know that he is going to come back stronger than ever.”Some have feared that Noel’s injury may have cost him millions as he had been projected to be a Top 5 pick in this year’s NBA draft had he elected to leave early. Calipari, however, dismissed that notion.“The good news is he is insured,” Calipari said, “so he would have been fine even if the injury would have been worse. Obviously this is not a career-ending injury and it’s one that athletes bounce back from all the time.”It is highly unlikely Noel will enter the draft now, as many suspected he would. He must rehab and play next season to prove to NBA teams he is healthy.
Players have incredibly busy schedules already with some juggling league and cup play, the Champions League and their international team responsibilities, so any playoff system probably shouldn’t add more matches to their already packed schedules. Perhaps the size of the league could be reduced by a team or two, or some regular season matchups could be a single match on neutral ground rather than home-and-away to allow for the extra playoff matches.I don’t know if playoffs are the right thing for the Premier League. I do know that I haven’t watched many matches during the second half of the season, but I’d watch these playoffs.Check out our latest soccer predictions. Liverpool00.40.6 SEEDTEAMMAKING SEMISMAKING FINALWINNING FINAL Leeds United00.6+0.6 Newcastle00.9+0.9 Manchester City22.1+0.1 Leicester City10.20.1 Manchester City22.02.6 Assumes the order of the top six teams will not change during the final weekend of matches. This playoff structure has six teams, with the top two seeds receiving byes. Queens Park Rangers00.00.0 Aston Villa00.4+0.4 Chelsea’s chances of winning the league would drop from 100 percent to 38 percent, and the five other teams that have been eliminated from the title race would still have hope.I also set up playoff forecasts to see how our system might have affected the number of titles won by each Premier League club since 1992-93. Liverpool and Arsenal would likely have benefitted the most, while Manchester United likely would have won fewer than their league-leading 13 titles in that time span. TITLES Manchester United137.5-5.5 NUMBER OF TITLES Newcastle00.00.0 Arsenal34.8+1.8 Liverpool02.6+2.6 Manchester United21.20.7 TEAMACTUALEXPECTED UNDER PLAYOFF SYSTEMCHANGE Leicester City10.2-0.8 Playoffs, of course, inject luck into a championship but there are indications that a team still needs a significant amount of luck to win the league outright.You can see how luck infiltrates league titles by looking at teams’ goal tallies. Goals scored and conceded will get a team to the top of the standings but they aren’t necessarily the best indicator of a team’s underlying talent, nor are they the most predictive of future performance. Expected goals, a metric we use in our SPI ratings, are a better gauge of each team’s quality of play. We can also use expected goals to approximate how likely each team was to win the league based on the shots it took over the course of the entire season.2To summarize this process, every shot taken is assigned a probability of scoring based on the location it was taken from, the part of body used, the player taking the shot and a few other factors. We can roll up these individual shot probabilities into the number of goals each team was expected to score in a match based on their shots. Finally, we can use these match-by-match expected-goal totals to go back and replay each season thousands of times (a team’s simulated score in a match is drawn from a poisson distribution with a mean equal to their expected goal total for that match) to see how likely each team was to win the titleThese expected goal simulations indicate that Manchester City have been unlucky not to win the title this year; if we rerun the season thousands of times, they win the league 61 percent of the time given the shots they took and conceded. Last year’s Leicester City team was fortunate to win the league according to these simulations; they only had a 9 percent chance of winning the league based on their expected goal numbers.Finally, if we look at the projected number of titles won over the past seven seasons3 We only have the play-by-play data needed to run these back to the 2010-11 season. based on these expected goal simulations, the number of titles each team is projected to have won is quite similar to the number of titles we expect them to have won if the league had playoffs. In other words, this implies that there may be just as much luck involved in winning the league outright as there would be in a playoff system. Wimbledon00.00.0 Includes all teams that would have qualified for the playoffs since 1992-93. This playoff structure has six teams, with the top two seeds receiving byes.Sources: ESPN, James Curley 2Tottenham Hotspur✓5226 Chelsea54.4-0.6 Bolton00.00.0 Everton00.2+0.2 Norwich City00.00.0 Everton00.10.0 Southampton00.1+0.1 6Manchester United36146 TEAMACTUALEXPECTED UNDERPLAYOFF SYSTEMEXPECTED UNDERXG SIMULATIONS Includes all teams that would have qualified for the playoffs since 2010-11.This playoff structure has six teams, with the top two seeds receiving byes.Sources: ESPN, Opta 1Chelsea✓70%38% Nottingham Forest00.1+0.1 Arsenal01.11.4 3Manchester City64%3418 Tottenham Hotspur00.6+0.6 Blackburn10.5-0.5 Chelsea21.51.3 Mock 2016-17 Premier League playoff forecast 4Liverpool58198 Impact of playoff system on league titles, 1992-93 through 2016-17 Tottenham Hotspur00.50.3 CHANCES OF … 5Arsenal42114 West Ham United00.00.0 Southampton00.10.1 Expected titles under playoff system vs. xG simulations, 2010-11 through 2016-17 Ipswich Town00.00.0 The final weekend of the English Premier League is upon us and the league has scheduled all 10 matches simultaneously on Sunday in order to maximize excitement. The problem is that there’s not much excitement left — and there hasn’t been for awhile. Chelsea has been the runaway favorite to win the title for a few months now, and the team officially clinched a week ago. This isn’t uncommon. Even Leicester City’s shocking run to a league title last year, one of the most exciting outcomes in league history, was clinched two weeks before the end of the season. And in the 2014-15 season Chelsea clinched the title a full three weeks before their final match. Awarding the EPL trophy to the team atop the table at season’s end eliminates most of the debate about England’s best team, but it also can eliminate fun.It doesn’t have to be this way. Imagine for a moment that after this weekend’s mostly meaningless matches,1Fortunately, there’s still some uncertainty around the final Champions League spots. we were headed for the inaugural round of Premier League playoffs to decide the league champion. What would happen if more than a century of English soccer tradition was thrown out in favor of a shamelessly Americanized format?As an experiment, I set up a mock six-team playoff for the Premier League and forecasted the results using our SPI ratings. There are a variety of playoff formats that could be used, but six teams feels right; it’s a small enough number that teams would have to compete to get in, but big enough that it would widen the pool of potential champions. Also, to reward teams that do well during the regular season, the top two teams in the table would be awarded byes. The next four teams would be seeded and would play one other team in a home-and-home aggregate, similar to the Champions League. From there the semifinals would follow the same format. Also similar to the Champions League, the final would be played as a single match at a neutral site such as Wembley.If you applied that playoff set-up to this season’s standings, the playoffs would give us two more Manchester Derbies in the first-round and would pit Liverpool against Arsenal. Chelsea and Tottenham would be waiting to play the winners.Chelsea would still be favored to win the playoffs — their first round bye and top seed helps quite a bit — but every team would have a reasonable shot at the title. Here’s how it would look:
Last fall, Lindsey Vonn, a gold-medal Olympian and the second winningest World Cup skier of all time,1She has 81 wins, only five behind male Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark, who retired in 1989. repeated a request she’d made before: to race against men. U.S. Ski & Snowboard made a formal petition on her behalf to the International Ski Federation (FIS), which currently does not allow mixed-gender competitions.2There are team events in Alpine skiing that have mixed-gender teams, one of which will be featured in the Pyeongchang Olympics for the first time. But in those events, women are still racing in heats against women and men against men. The FIS won’t rule on the petition until spring at the earliest, so as Vonn competes in Pyeongchang this weekend, she won’t know if she will ever get a chance to race against her male peers.3Even if the FIS were to approve the petition, it probably would not permanently change the rules regarding mixed-gender racing. Rather, it is likely to make a one-time exception for Vonn to race in the men’s World Cup race in November 2018.Vonn’s quest made us wonder: What would the Olympics look like if men and women skied against each other? We got results for four Alpine events in the Winter Olympics4Excluding combined and team events. going back to 1948 and looked at the median speed5We used median speed rather than an average of the field because competitors who did much worse than the field each year had too big an impact on the average. for competitors in the men’s and women’s events in each year.6 Because Alpine courses are not specific lengths (they follow general guidelines), we needed to know how long each course was so that we could compare speeds from different races, rather than just race times. The results came from Sports-Reference.com, and the course information is from Wikipedia. Neither dataset was complete, so races in which we are missing either times or course lengths are excluded. In slalom, giant slalom and the super-G, women’s and men’s performances seem to vary in comparison to each other. However, in downhill, the event that most emphasizes speed rather than making turns, the men consistently run ahead of the women — though female downhill skiers today are faster in general than the men who competed in the late 1970s and earlier.But these comparisons hide a key difference between the men’s and women’s competitions: namely, the courses themselves. Men and women rarely race on the same courses, which are set according to different guidelines, with men’s courses requiring a greater change in elevation. Courses also vary in their steepness, but there has not been a marked difference in the average gradient of men’s and women’s courses. This means that men’s courses, which tend to have the same gradient as women’s but a greater vertical change, are usually longer than women’s. In other Winter Olympic sports where events are defined by their lengths, such as cross-country skiing and biathlon, the women’s races are also almost always significantly shorter.7Curiously, the same is not true for most analogous Summer Olympic events, such as track and field races.So here’s another question: Is there any reason for women’s Alpine courses to be shorter? For example, do women go faster on shorter courses, either relative to themselves or to men? (Though that in itself would not be a reason that women’s courses had to be shorter but might give some explanation as to why they are.) To investigate, we plotted average speed versus course length for the winning female competitor in each event for every year. As women have gotten faster, they have also been racing longer distances. It seems that distance is not a limiting factor for female skiers. And yet, while the range of women’s speeds is comparable to that of men’s — and even in some events, such as super-G, women have the fastest average speeds in our dataset — in no event have women raced on the longest courses (though in many cases they raced the same distance or greater than men did in other Olympic years).Apart from any questions of inequality, this feature of Alpine skiing makes comparing men’s and women’s performances very difficult. Distance may, in fact, affect average speeds, and requiring separate courses also means that other factors, like gate placement and steepness, will be different for men’s and women’s races.The separation of genders in Alpine skiing, combined with the fact that women are usually asked to do less than men, implies that if men and women were in head-to-head competition, women would never have a shot at gold.8Atle Skaardal, race director of the women’s World Cup, has maintained that keeping genders separate has nothing to do with relative performance, saying, “For me it’s a meaningless comparison. It doesn’t matter if she’s one second behind or a half-second ahead. We compete female against female and men against men. To me it doesn’t matter if one gender is faster or slower. It doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, just because it’s of interest to one racer.” But we simply don’t know for sure if that is true — with all the differences between men’s and women’s races, the data can’t really tell us. Vonn herself has expressed doubts about how she would perform directly against men, telling the Denver Post, “I know I’m not going to win.”“But,” she said, “I would like to at least have the opportunity to try.”
Messi’s share 2015-1626.528.126.6 2016-1751.830.7 2010-1156.0%25.0 *Adjusted for 38-match seasonData from La Liga matchesSource: Opta Sports 2016-1729.431.423.9 2012-1332.037.419.5 2013-1427.131.819.5 2011-1230.036.121.5 Barca is even more dependent on MessiThe share of Barcelona’s production attributed to Lionel Messi, adjusted for playing time, 2010-2019 2014-1528.031.426.2 2017-1830.732.428.1 2018-1934.741.333.6 Data from La Liga and Champions League matchesSource: Opta Sports 2014-1555.527.3 2010-1133.7%36.1%20.3% Barca’s defense isn’t the sameBarcelona’s pressing rate and expected goals allowed by season Messi receives the ball more often now in the back half of the pitch and the center. These are areas that normally Liverpool would expect to have at least two if not all three of its central midfielders covering. In a transition game, however, Messi might have more space to work and find passes either to Suarez or perhaps an onrushing fullback.1Jordi Alba has been Barcelona’s top attacking outlet since the departure of Neymar.The other option for Liverpool, if that seems too much of a risk, would be not to open up the throttle and play in transition but to sit deeper and look for less frequent counterattacking opportunities. This would deny Messi space to find passes. Of course, this would be nothing new. Barcelona has often faced opponents who sat deep and denied space. What has changed, however, is Barcelona’s approach. Where once Barca would patiently hold the ball forever until it unlocked an opponent, now Messi has started gunning. In the past two seasons, Messi has attempted 121 open-play shots from outside the box as well as 108 direct free kicks. In the two seasons prior, 2015-16 and 2016-17, he attempted just 83 open-play shots from outside the box and 87 direct free kicks. Messi has increased his production outside the penalty area from eight goals per season to 10.5 per season. 2011-1255.425.8 2013-1452.430.5 2012-1349.632.6 In some ways, Liverpool’s task on Wednesday while facing Barcelona in the Champions League semifinal is simple. All the Reds likely have to do to reach a second consecutive European final is contain Lionel Messi, the greatest soccer player of all time.In past seasons, such a description might have been oversimplifying. Back when Xavi and Andres Iniesta roamed midfield for Barcelona, the pair’s game control and precision passing could dominate matches. More recently, when Neymar and a younger Luis Suarez joined Messi in the forward line, the interchanging of this three-headed monster was the core problem for opponents to solve. Today, the superstar supporting cast at Camp Nou is largely gone or aged out of its prime. But the astounding thing about Messi is that at age 31, he is still good enough to carry a team on his back very nearly to the top of the Soccer Power Index rankings, not to mention to an easy league title and a Copa del Rey final. Now he has the chance to bring the club a sixth Champions League title.From 2010-11 through 2013-14, when Barcelona was either managed by Pep Guardiola or still functioning mostly in his systems, Messi was a forward. He operated in the “false nine” role he made famous and ran up incredible goal-scoring and assist production, while ball progression responsibilities fell as much to him as to great midfielders like Xavi and Iniesta. The team changed in 2014-15, when Luis Enrique took over, Suarez arrived as an elite center forward and Xavi fell out of the rotation. Messi switched to a role on the right and became the team’s primary ball progressor, while Suarez and Neymar helped share the goal-scoring load.Today, increasingly, Messi just does it all. He is the lone true ball progression engine, and he’s creating an even higher percentage of his team’s goals and chances than he did at his peak, according to data from analytics firm Opta Sports. seasonExpected Goals + AssistsGoals + AssistsProgressive Passes + Runs 2017-1847.838.5 The main reason that Barcelona is increasingly a one-man team is that the other players are not as great anymore. Luis Suarez at 32 isn’t the dynamic center forward he used to be. Neymar, Xavi and Iniesta are gone. Sergio Busquets, 30, and Ivan Rakitic, 31, cannot cover ground in midfield like they used to. The result is a team that is less able to supplement the attack either with forward runs or with an aggressive high press to cause turnovers because the midfield needs to be more stable and defensive. Early in the season, Barcelona was playing more aggressive midfield tactics and was rewarded with a string of goals conceded. Manager Ernesto Valverde has since pulled back the press, which prevented a disaster but has left Messi carrying the team. 2015-1653.133.6 2018-19*47.242.0 These personnel issues show up clearly in the stat sheet. Where once Barcelona was among the highest-pressing teams in the world, now the Blaugrana don’t force turnovers up the field at the same rate. Barcelona’s defensive numbers have still declined as its midfielders have lost range — and the team’s more conservative approach could only slow the decline, not prevent it entirely.This defensive weakness offers Liverpool its primary tactical opportunity. If Jurgen Klopp’s side can pull Barcelona into a transition game and open up midfield, there will be advantageous matchups to exploit. If Mohamed Salah or Sadio Mane can find themselves running in space, Rakitic and Busquets are unlikely to slow them down.But such a transition game has a downside for Liverpool. And that’s Messi. If Liverpool seeks to exploit the weaknesses of Barcelona’s defense and create transition opportunities, that will give Messi room to operate. As he has shifted from a right-sided forward to a pure central playmaker, Messi has had to work in tighter spaces, often deeper on the pitch. SeasonPressing RateExpected Goals Allowed This increase in production counts, but it is not spectacular. Messi has managed to be just as dangerous a ball progressor while letting it fly more frequently. But the risk Messi poses against a set defense, firing from long range, is probably one that an opponent can accept. While Messi is more dangerous shooting the ball than just about anyone else in soccer, his increased distance shooting has led to only a couple more goals over a long season. This isn’t a strategy to beat Messi — such a thing does not exist. But on balance, the statistical record suggests that even the greatest of all time has not turned gunning from 20 yards into a killer attacking plan.Barcelona is Lionel Messi at this point, and game-planning to stop Barcelona is now as simple as figuring out how to stop Messi. Which has, of course, never been simple. But with less expansive passers behind him and less explosive forwards ahead, he has never had fewer weapons among his teammates. Liverpool can either play a more risky strategy of exploiting Barcelona’s now-shaky defense or a more conservative strategy that looks to force Messi into shooting from range. Both strategies could easily be defeated by Messi finding space in transition or driving home a great shot from distance. But on balance, Liverpool is probably better off with the latter risk than letting Messi get free on the break.Check out our latest soccer predictions.
The power of the major league manager is in decline, and the role has changed in baseball’s information age. More and more power is concentrated in the front office, which constructs rosters and sets organizational philosophy. Yet there’s one traditional managerial responsibility that remains largely intact: in-game decision making. While the front office plays a role in game-planning in most organizations, the manager is ultimately making the real-time decisions. Tactical errors can be lost in the marathon of a regular season, but they are heightened and highlighted in the postseason.New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone had a tough Monday. His Tuesday wasn’t much better. And in part because of his decisions, the Yankees’ season came to a close. The Boston Red Sox advanced to play the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series beginning Saturday in Boston.The Yankees entered the postseason with the most dominant bullpen in history by some measures, including wins above replacement (9.7) and strikeout rate (11.4 strikeouts per nine innings). Moreover, managers have never been more aggressive in employing their bullpens. Major league relief pitchers accounted for a record 40.1 percent of innings in the regular season. They absorbed a record 46.5 percent of innings last postseason. Entering LCS play, relievers have accounted for 48.8 percent of innings this postseason. But Boone seemed to forget that Yankees general manager Brian Cashman had spent the last two years building one of the most dominant relief units of all time.After Sunday’s off day, with the series tied at 1-1, the Yankees started ace Luis Severino in Game 3. Severino struggled. The Yankees already trailed 3-0 in the top of the fourth when three straight Red Sox reached to open the inning and load the bases.“Certainly in hindsight, when he doesn’t get an out, I’d like to have that back,” the rookie manager told reporters before Game 4 on Tuesday. “Being able to look back in hindsight, sure, go in a different way there.”At that point, the Yankees had a 10.2 percent win expectancy, according to FanGraphs. Boone then exacerbated matters by calling upon Lance Lynn, hardly the top bullpen option available, with a 4.77 ERA in the regular season.1Though he pitched better with the Yankees (4.14 ERA) than he had with the Twins (5.10). Lynn walked Mookie Betts and allowed a bases-clearing double to Andrew Benintendi. The Red Sox led 10-0 by the close of the frame, and the Yankees’ win probability had fallen to 0.8 percent, en route to their 16-1 loss.Source: FanGraphsAny decision from Boone in that situation might not have changed the final outcome. The next pitcher after Lynn — Chad Green, a more dominant bat-missing arm — also struggled. But Boone’s curious thought process played a part in letting the game slip away early.“I know it’s out there because of the texts I receive, the ‘hang in theres,’” Boone told reporters about the second-guessing. “We can all sit and second — not even second guess, first guess or second guess — I would do this, that’s one of the great things about our game.”On Tuesday night, as the Yankees faced elimination, some in the media advocated for the Yankees to bullpen the game. Boone started veteran CC Sabathia and stuck with him through a third inning in which the Yankees’ win probability slipped from 50 percent to 23.9 percent.Source: FanGraphs Yankees ace reliever Aroldis Chapman did not pitch Monday and only appeared Tuesday when the Yankees were down by three runs in the ninth inning. In the Yankees’ five postseason games, including their wild-card game win over the Oakland A’s, Chapman pitched just three innings.Meanwhile, in the year of the relief pitcher, the Milwaukee Brewers have bullpenned games in the postseason, and the Tampa Bay Rays, a rival of the Yankees in the AL East, often started regular-season games with a reliever. The Red Sox used ace Chris Sale in relief Tuesday. But Boone plotted a more traditional path — and it cost him.Managers have lost power, but they have become important conduits and gatekeepers when it comes to sharing and embracing information. While their power is reduced, their decisions can still make or break fortunes.Check out our latest MLB predictions.
Ohio State head football coach Luke Fickell announced Thursday that Braxton Miller would start at quarterback in Saturday’s matchup against Colorado. Fickell made the announcement during his weekly radio show around noon, according to The Columbus Dispatch. The expected start would be Miller’s first at OSU. Miller did not see playing time against Toledo, but split time with redshirt senior quarterback Joe Bauserman in games against Akron and Miami (Fla.). Bauserman started the previous three games. Kickoff for Saturday’s game at Ohio Stadium is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and will air on ABC.
Shaun Richard is set to become OSU’s associate athletics director for sports administration.Credit: Courtesy of Colgate University AthleticsThe Ohio State Department of Athletics is getting a new face.Shaun Richard has been named to the position of associate athletics director for sport administration, Miechelle Willis, executive associate athletics director for student services and sport administration, announced Tuesday.Richard, a 2003 graduate of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, will replace senior associate athletic director for sports administration Chris Schneider. Richard will directly oversee multiple OSU programs, including men’s and women’s hockey, according to a press release.He is set to begin at his new position next week, OSU Department of Athletics spokeswoman Leann Parker said in email Tuesday night.“I would like to thank athletics director Gene Smith, Miechelle Willis and the entire search committee for this amazing opportunity,” Richard said in a released statement. “It is both humbling and exciting to be part of the Ohio State family. I look forward to being a part of the continued success of the Ohio State athletic programs and working with the great coaching staffs and outstanding student-athletes who put on the Scarlet and Gray.”Before coming to Columbus, Richard was named the assistant athletics director at Colgate University in November 2008. In July 2011, he was promoted to the position of associate athletics director and has served as the school’s associate director of external operations since July 12, 2012, according to the release.“Shaun will be a great addition to our department,” Willis said, according to the release. “He has broad-based experience in athletics at many levels — as a coach, in the NFL and on the intercollegiate level … His service on a number of university and conference committees, and his experiences with external relations, were a plus.”Prior to his time with the Colgate Raiders, Richard served as the operations manager of the Jason Taylor Foundation in Miami, Fla., in addition to the working for the operations department of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.The terms of Richard’s salary were not readily available upon request and Richard was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.
The Buckeyes celebrate following the game against Michigan State on Jan. 7 in Value City Arena. Ohio State won 80-64. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorWhen members of Ohio State’s men’s basketball teams are introduced this season, a bright flame shoots up from on top of the hoop to signal the entrance of the player.That flame did not go off Monday night, and the Buckeyes seemingly followed suit.There was no fire in the Buckeyes early on. No energy. Ohio State came out slow to start the game, making just two field goals over the first seven and a half minutes of the game. The team finished the first half with just 24 points, it’s lowest single-half total since its 86-59 loss to Gonzaga.It had no business winning the game against Nebraska. It did anyway. The Ohio State team last season, which finished with a 17-15 record, would have watched Nebraska junior guard James Palmer Jr. knock down back-to-back 3-pointers to tie and subsequently give his team the lead with seven minutes left in the game and crumbled away.But the Ohio State team this season — which already has an 18-5 record and perfect 9-0 Big Ten record — fought back, seemingly getting stronger as the stakes got higher and managed to salvage the game for a 64-59 win.“Were there like four times they were dead in the water, jumping out of bounds to save a ball and somehow, like Dakich is standing in the corner wide-open, I’m like, ‘How the heck did he get that?’” Nebraska head coach Tim Miles said.The win for Ohio State is just the latest in a season full of unexpected wins. The Buckeyes were not expected to do much of anything before the season began. This looked like a rebuilding year. But now the No. 13 team in the nation, Ohio State is in anything but a rebuilding year.Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said after the game he never knows how to answer questions about what a win means for a team. This win alone did not mean much. This win in the context of the rest of the season is just a sign of how fast a team has come together.“Listen, I don’t want to take this for granted. I’ve never been a part of anything like this. And I don’t know that I ever will again,” Holtmann said. “You don’t start 9-0 in conference play. So I don’t want to take that for granted. It’s been an amazing run and just hopefully we can continue it.”Hearing a coach say that a team is “buying into” the message a news coaching staff brings in its first season sounds like coach-speak at the beginning of the season when the team is beating up on clearly inferior opponents.But now this deep into the season, it no longer sounds like coach-speak. There is something about this team and these players that can seemingly only be attributed to “buying into” the coaching staff.“It didn’t happen overnight,” senior forward Jae’Sean Tate said. “In my opinion, I’ve never been on a team where so many people buy in. Like there’s no hidden agendas in our locker room. None. You don’t see that a lot . . . Everybody’s buying in. Everybody’s playing with with heart, effort and you know we’re not afraid to call each other out on it.”This level of commitment is not foreign to a team hiring Holtmann for the first time. Holtmann was an assistant coach under Brandon Miller at Butler when the Bulldogs endured a major down-year. The season prior under now-Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, the team went 27-9 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But Miller’s team found less success, struggling to a 14-17 season. The following offseason, Miller left due to medical issues, leaving Holtmann as the head coach.Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann coaches Kaleb Wesson (34) on the sideline in the second half of an exhibition win against Wooster on Nov. 5, 2017 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Jacob Myers | Managing Editor for ContentThat team turned around immediately, finishing 23-11 and again reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Holtmann said that losing season transformed the players into a “hungry group,” motivated to again find success. When he joined an Ohio State team that missed the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season, he saw a similarly hungry group.“I think some of what happened last year has allowed this group to be even hungrier, so I think we as a coaching staff have probably benefited from that to some degree,” Holtmann said. “I think my time at Butler, it happened pretty quickly. But I had been there a year as an assistant, so it was easier. But I did not expect this group to be as connected to us so quickly.”Everyone who doubted the Buckeyes at the beginning of the season has looked for answers to why this team managed to turn a dismal 2016-17 campaign into one of the best teams in the country. Is it the fact redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop is averaging nearly 20 points per game? Or perhaps it has more to do with emergence of junior guard C.J. Jackson?Both those are major factors in the turnaround, but the mentality and morale around this team is just different than it was last year. It isn’t a program that is defeated at halftime of some games. It is a team that fights till the end of every game with maximum effort.That fire won’t always be there at the start of every game. But with the way Ohio State has played to this point in the year, that flame can seemingly always be counted on in the end.