As word spread quickly in January 2007 that Mike Tomlin would be the next head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, no one needed to explain the significance of the move to Steve Jackson. Then a safeties coach with the Washington Redskins, Jackson was among the many African-American assistants rooting for Tomlin to get the job. Just a few years earlier, Tomlin, who had just completed his first season as the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive coordinator, probably wouldn’t have been on the short list for one of the most prestigious coaching gigs in professional sports. But under the Rooney Rule, times were changing.“For me, that’s the one that really stood out,” said Jackson, now the Tennessee Titans’ assistant secondary coach. “It was the Steelers. That’s one of those jobs that everyone looks at. And he wasn’t the leading candidate when he walked in for the interview, but he got in that room and he made his case. That’s what we all want: just to have a real chance to compete for the job. A lot of us [black coaches] looked at that and said, ‘Yeah.’”There’s no debating that the Rooney Rule has had a positive impact on the NFL. By providing owners with the first leaguewide tool to make hiring potentially more inclusive, the NFL took a significant step toward changing its culture. The rule continues to be expanded, and major corporations have followed the league’s lead. But in a workplace in which the overwhelming majority of players are African-American, the NFL has many more opportunities to strengthen the rule and further increase diversity in its management ranks.In place since 2003 for head coaches and expanded in 2009 to include general manager jobs and equivalent front-office positions, the rule — named after Dan Rooney, Pittsburgh Steelers chairman and onetime head of the league’s diversity committee — mandates that an NFL team must interview at least one minority candidate for these jobs. The rule, however, has two fatal flaws: the temptation to substitute sham interviews in place of a search for real diversity, and coordinator-level positions, a crucial step to head-coaching jobs, are not under the umbrella.The NFL did recently expand the rule again to include women: For all executive openings in the commissioner’s office, a woman must be interviewed. The San Francisco 49ers were the first team to formally adopt the practice, but the same flaws still apply.But the league did provide a blueprint for corporate America to improve its poor hiring record when it comes to diversity. Facebook, Pinterest, Intel, Xerox and Amazon are among the major companies that have instituted their own version of the rule. Even the Pentagon has explored using some form of the rule to diversify its officer corps.“The Rooney Rule really has become the best practice for diversity and inclusion,” said Robert Gulliver, the NFL’s executive vice president of human resources and chief diversity officer. “The Rooney Rule is all about access and opportunity, and it’s exciting to see where we are now after having the Rooney Rule in place for 12 years when you look at what the Rooney Rule has delivered.”In the 12 seasons before the rule was instituted, the NFL had only six non-white head coaches. In 12 seasons under the rule, the league has added 14 head coaches of color. From the NFL’s standpoint, there were other encouraging numbers last season regarding diversity. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida found that:At the start of last season, there were six head coaches of color, one more than in 2014. In 2011, the NFL had an all-time high of eight head coaches of color.There were seven African-American general managers in 2015 and for the ninth consecutive year, there were at least five general managers of color.Eight of the last 18 Super Bowl teams have had either an African-American head coach or general manager.Clearly, minorities have made modest strides in filling leadership positions. The problem is, there are 32 NFL teams. Even at its highest point, minority representation among coaches was a meager 25 percent. Almost 68 percent of the NFL’s players are African-American, but there are no African-American team presidents, and only one team president of color. Although the NFL received an A grade for overall racial-hiring practices from Central Florida, only 19.4 percent of the league’s professional positions — front-office and business-operations personnel — were filled by “people of color” in 2015. The numbers tell the story: There’s still plenty of work to do.Jeremi Duru wrote the book on the Rooney Rule. Literally. In Advancing The Ball: Race, Reformation, and the Quest for Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL, Duru masterfully details the history of the process that resulted in the rule. Duru, a law professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, agrees that the rule is not perfect, but “the whole idea of it is to prompt kind of a culture change in the league,” he said. “It’s not that the outcome of each particular interviewing season is going to vindicate the rule, but rather that the rule will put in place the sense that, in order to be the best, you have to think broadly. It’s the idea that in order to succeed and be competitive, you have to look at a deep pool of candidates.”One of the biggest criticisms of the rule is that it hasn’t effected change fast enough. For the rule to have been in place so long, some African-American commentators have argued, the NFL should have many more minorities in the highest-ranking positions. “It’s extremely difficult to eradicate a long-standing problem quickly,” Duru said. “The Emancipation Proclamation itself isn’t going to be a panacea. But it creates a culture where there’s no longer lawful slavery, and where we start to see progress, slowly but surely.“In the end in the NFL, hopefully, the idea is that it really becomes clear that the best coaches come from all sorts of different places. And if you think broadly about coaching and you slow down and take time with your hire, you’re going to find yourself with the best outcome. It’s not a consequence of the rule itself, but of the culture that the rule has ushered in.”Unfortunately for the NFL, the public perception is that sham interviews are integral to the league’s culture. Invariably each season, rumors have swirled that some teams interviewed African-American candidates only to comply with the rule. In January, the timing and execution of the Philadelphia Eagles’ hiring of new coach Doug Pederson raised questions about whether they had violated the spirit of the rule. The Eagles interviewed Duce Staley, a former Philadelphia player and current assistant coach on the team. Staley had never been a coordinator and only served as a position coach for three seasons. To many league observers, it appeared the Eagles had skirted the rule by interviewing an in-house candidate who obviously lacked the experience to be a head coach.That’s where the Fritz Pollard Alliance comes in. Together with the league’s front office, they determine whether a team’s interview process is legitimate. In the first year of the rule, commissioner Roger Goodell’s predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, fined former Detroit Lions general manager Matt Millen $200,000 for “failing to discharge his duties” under the rule.Although the specter of fines should serve as a deterrent to teams violating the rule, there’s another step the league could take to ensure compliance besides the removal of draft picks: require teams to provide transcripts of interviews with minority candidates. That way, the Fritz Pollard Alliance and the commissioner’s office could judge for themselves whether teams adhered to the spirit of the rule.“The Rooney Rule requires that there be a meaningful interview of a person of color, not just an interview,” Duru said. “Any mechanism that can be used to ensure an interview that is meaningful should be on the table.”However, among NFL decision-makers, there’s no momentum for detailed transcripts to become part of the process. “What is important is getting interview feedback,” the NFL’s Gulliver said. “We really do find that getting feedback, getting candidate feedback, on what worked and what didn’t work, and what can even be better the next time, will help candidates as they continue their quests to become a head coach or a general manager.”That being said, covering more potential candidates under the rule would seem to be a logical next step. Generally, coordinators have the most responsibility among assistant coaches. Owners often pluck coordinators from successful teams to become head coaches. If there were more minority coordinators in the pipeline, theoretically, there would be more minorities in the applicant pool for head coaching positions. The Rooney Rule does nothing to address that basic fact.In response to the NFL’s horrible hiring record after the 2012 season (eight head coaches and seven general managers were fired; 15 white guys were hired), the Fritz Pollard Alliance proposed that coordinator-level and team president positions should be covered under the rule. The NFL rejected the proposal, but in 2013 the league did restart the Career Development Symposium, which previously ran from 1998-2008.The commissioner’s office requested that teams send two representatives, including at least one person of color, who aspire to be general managers and head coaches, to a three-day program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Besides networking with decision-makers from throughout the league, participants honed their interview skills through presentations and panel discussions. (In March, the league had its first Women’s Career Development Symposium.)But remember: Last season, the league had only six head coaches of color and seven African-American general managers. Obviously, the Career Development Symposium didn’t hobble efforts to improve minority hiring — but how much did it help? It just seems that including coordinator positions under the rule could be another major turning point in the ongoing struggle to level the playing field.In ESPN The Magazine’s Feb. 8 Super Bowl 50 Issue, senior writer Mina Kimes wrote that white position coaches and assistants are more than twice as likely to be promoted to coordinator than their African-American counterparts, according to research from professors at Georgetown, George Washington, Emory and Iowa State University. Moreover, those promotions occur regardless of the white coaches’ performance, experience and coaching background. The data shouldn’t be ignored.The Titans’ Jackson is a 13-year NFL assistant. Despite his experience, Jackson knows it’s downright impossible to make the leap from an assistant coach to a head coach without first being a coordinator.“There’s always a network, an inner circle, and then there are others,” he said. “And if you’re in the others, you have to do everything you can to get in the door.”The argument against expanding the rule to include coordinator positions is that head coaches should be allowed to pick their staffs without any restrictions on interviewing. There may be something to that.During the 2007 and 2008 seasons, Brian Stewart directed the Dallas Cowboys’ defense. If coordinators are covered under the rule, Stewart envisions the potential for conflict. “That would be rough,” said Stewart, now a college coach at Nebraska who works with defensive backs. “You really have to leave picking those guys [coordinators] to the head coaches. They have to be allowed to choose their own people.“That’s one of the benefits of reaching the level of head coach. And if you don’t let them interview only the guys they want to interview, it could really open up a can of worms when you talk about relationships on the staff. If guys feel like a coordinator didn’t get the job the right way, there could be a lot of resentment from all the other assistants. It could be a problem. It could be a big problem.”Of course, there’s often resistance to change. When the rule was instituted, many within the league suggested head coaches wouldn’t have credibility if they were hired as a result of the process. But who would argue that great coaches such as Hall of Famer Tony Dungy, Tomlin and Carolina Panthers’ Ron Rivera lack credibility? The Steelers’ pick of Tomlin worked out spectacularly.The Rooney Rule is still evolving and growing pains are part of the process. But with the NFL on the right track, it’s definitely not time to slow down. Editor’s note: Tuesday was opening day at The Undefeated, a new ESPN website that explores the intersections of race, sports and culture. In an introductory letter, Kevin Merida, its editor-in-chief, says the site won’t shrink from covering challenging subjects with a mix of original reporting, innovative storytelling, provocative commentary, must-see video, narratives and investigations. At FiveThirtyEight, we’re so excited at having a new sibling that we’ve been running several of The Undefeated’s articles on our site this week — including the one that follows here — and we have big plans for partnerships in the future. More stories from The Undefeated:Serena: The embodiment of it all by LZ GrandersonDon’t believe the fairy-tale mythology that sports promote by Domonique FoxworthWill my 2-year-old nephew end up like Michael Brown? by Wendi Thomas
The United States brought home more gold medals than any other country at the Rio Games this summer. As has become usual, the U.S.’s excellence owes much to the success of American women.In Rio, the U.S. women shined with 61 of 121 medals, including 27 out of 46 golds (59 percent). The U.S. was also atop the medal table at the end of the previous Summer Games, in London, and women were responsible for more than half the gold medals that year as well. Worldwide, more women than ever are competing in the Olympic Games: In Rio, around 45 percent of the athletes competing were women, and women’s events accounted for 47 percent of the 306 total. Of those 145 gold medals available for women, the Americans took 27 of them (19 percent). The U.S. men, meanwhile, won gold medals in 19 of the 161 male events that took place in Rio (12 percent). In the 2012 Games, the U.S. women took 29 of the 140 available gold medals (21 percent) while their male counterparts took 17 of the 162 available gold medals (10 percent). This has been the trend in most Summer Olympic Games, which leads to this inescapable conclusion: The only thing limiting the success of American women at the Olympics is the number of events available to them.Naturally, this brings us to Title IX, which was passed into law in 1972 and prohibits discrimination against girls and women in federally funded educational programs, including sports. The share of U.S. gold medals won by women at the Summer Olympics dipped in 1976, but with the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, the U.S. women began a rapid ascent into equilibrium with the U.S. men: If we take into account that women have participated in fewer events than men in all modern Summer Olympics — and therefore competed for a smaller number of medals — the divide between men and women looks even more drastic. In 19 of the 26 Summer Olympic Games in which American men and women fought for medals,1This excludes the 1896 Olympics, which had no female events, and the 1980 Moscow Olympics, which the U.S. did not compete in. the women won a greater share of the available gold medals than the men did. That’s right — if there were a gold medal for who performed better in the Olympics, women would bring that one home too. The International Olympic Committee hopes to achieve an equal number of male and female events and athletes at the 2020 Summer Olympics, being held in Japan. That’s good news for everyone, but considering recent history, perhaps even better news for Team USA.
Jabari Parker, the Chicago high school player of Mormon faith who selected Duke over a plethora of colleges, was named the Morgan Wootten Male Player of the Year during a news conference Monday at the Ronald McDonald House.“It’s a big-time (honor),” Parker said of the award. “I always dreamed about being amongst the ranks of especially Chicago players, but now I can say nationwide. Hopefully, I can take this and give myself a little bit motivation.”Parker, whom ESPN ranks as the No. 2 senior in the country, helped guide Simeon Career Academy to its fourth consecutive Illinois state championship in Peoria, Ill., on Saturday. He had 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting and eight rebounds in the Wolverines’ state title victory. He also had 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting and 15 rebounds in the team’s semifinal win.Parker averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds during his senior year after battling a foot injury early in the season. He averaged 21.7 points during the team’s seven playoff victories.The Wootten award is named after the former DeMatha High School (Hyattsville, Md.) coaching legend and given to the McDonald’s All-American who demonstrates outstanding character, exhibits leadership and exemplifies the values of being a student-athlete in the classroom and the community. McDonald’s established the award in Wootten’s name to pay tribute to his achievements as a teacher and coach.Taya Reimer, a guard/forward and Notre Dame recruit from Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Ind., won the girls’ Wootten award.Parker, a 6-foot-9 small forward, was among six finalists for the award. The other finalists included Archbishop Mitty power forward Aaron Gordon (uncommitted), William B. Travis guards Aaron Harrison (Kentucky) and Andrew Harrison (Kentucky), Montverde Academy center Dakari Johnson (Kentucky) and Huntington Prep forward Andrew Wiggins (uncommitted). All six players are ranked among the top 11 players in ESPN’s Class of 2013 rankings.Parker committed to Duke over BYU, Florida, Michigan State and Stanford on Dec. 20.As a junior, Parker was named the Team USA basketball 2011 Male Athlete of the Year, the Gatorade national player of the year and Illinois’ Mr. Basketball.Parker will be presented with the Wootten award on April 2 during the McDonald’s All-American Game festivities and will play in the April 3 McDonald’s All-American Game at the United Center in Chicago. The game will be televised on ESPN at 8:30 p.m. CST.
We’ve seen all this before. And it was not so long ago.On Tuesday night, with his Houston Rockets up 2 against the streaking Portland Trail Blazers, a little more than three minutes on the clock, James Harden made a three. A few possessions later, he made another. The Rockets won 115-111 to go to 57-14 on the season, best in the NBA and four games up on the reigning champion Golden State Warriors. On both shots, Harden took what would have been called hero ball shots in another context. No other Rocket touched the ball; everyone in the arena knew what Harden would do, and how. Harden has made these shots his signature and his team’s by finding success where others have found only stacks of Rudy Gay box scores. And while the league has come to view the shot as not just unguardable but reliable, it has at times waffled on whether Harden’s team can be trusted. Funny, given the recent history of ascendant teams led by star guards with an unguardable shot.Just a few seasons ago, a team was led by two star guards who hadn’t found much success in the postseason thanks to a history of injuries and bad fortune. It featured a young big man who anchored the defense and epitomized a key facet of modern offenses. It boasted a sixth man who would have been a featured starter on practically any other team, a roster loaded down with dead-eye marksmen and a fleet of versatile wings who could switch assignments and not fall down. This team won the NBA title.(Key: Steph, Klay, Draymond, Andre, just about everyone else, and the top-ranked 2014-15 defense.)The 2014-15 Golden State Warriors were an unexpected development. The team had won 51 games the previous season under then-coach Mark Jackson, and the roster was largely unchanged coming into that season. Once the season began, however, it was clear that something was very different. Golden State won 21 of its first 23 games and finished the season with 67 wins, ranked first in defensive rating and, importantly, second in offensive rating, up from 12th the season before. Yet a broad set of NBA observers doubted that a team playing the way the Warriors did could win a title, even after they’d already won it.This season, the Rockets ran out to a 25-4 record before losing seven of nine games. In each of the losses, they were missing Harden, Chris Paul or Clint Capela. Since then, Houston has lost just three times in 33 games. FiveThirtyEight’s projections expect the Rockets to win 67 games total, up from their tally of 55 last season. They have the top-rated offense not just this season, but for as long as Basketball-Reference.com has been keeping track. They sneak into the top 10 on defense this season as well, an improvement on 18th the previous season. They’re flat good. But you know that by now. What’s important here is that when a team is this good, regardless of what its doubters say, the question isn’t whether it has arrived but whether it will win the title or merely its conference.There are a few ways to slice this. Since 1983-84, this year’s Houston team ties for 20th among all teams in net rating (the difference between points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions) through 71 games. That’s a bigger deal than it may seem, for a few reasons. First, the teams ahead of this season’s Rockets are immensely accomplished. They include four Michael Jordan teams, three Tim Duncan teams, two Laker teams — one Shaq and Kobe, another Magic and Kareem — one Kevin Garnett Celtics team and, of course, the past three versions of the Golden State Warriors. In general, teams at Houston’s level at least win the conference. The teams that didn’t make the finals tended to have extenuating circumstances. The 2012-13 Thunder, for instance, were the top seed in the West but lost Russell Westbrook in the first round and fell to Memphis in the second. The 2011-12 Chicago Bulls lost reigning MVP Derrick Rose in the first game of the first round. And the 2015-16 Spurs faced an exceptionally high level of competition, losing in the second round to a Thunder team that went up 3-1 on the Warriors.1These rankings tend to be sticky. Meaning that the list after 25 games looks a lot like the list after 45 games, which looks a lot like the list after 65 games. Teams shift around a few places, but they do not tend to bomb in or out of the rarified neighborhood. We know that the early season is predictive in sports because players tend to be healthy and rested, but it’s also good to remember that teams playing at an all-time level are seldom flukes.Net rating isn’t the only factor in which Houston is dominating, and as Benjamin Morris wrote for FiveThirtyEight a few seasons back, margin of victory is actually far less predictive in the playoffs than it is in the regular season. In fact, it’s Houston’s wins that make it a playoff force. In the postseason, the difference between two teams’ win totals is much more predictive than margin of victory. If the Rockets finish with 67 wins and the Warriors finish with their projected 61, Morris’s data from his 2016 article suggests that given home court advantage, Houston would win a series 70 percent of the time — even if the two teams were dead-even on margin of victory.The Rockets may not be quite as good as the Warriors were in that first season or as Golden State was in the 73-win 2015-16 campaign. But, then, neither are this year’s Warriors. The team’s injury troubles and continuing sloppiness have turned it into a merely dominant team, not an all-time one. Even if we grant the Warriors a few extra victories because their injury problems have been worse than Houston’s, it would make a prospective series between the two a coin flip, not heavily slanted toward Golden State.And like the Warriors, the Rockets aren’t simply unguardable as a team: They have a player who has mastered an unguardable manner of playing. Harden doesn’t have the same switchblade release as Curry — he can’t dart around a ball screen and have a shot in the air before his man can turn his head. What Harden can do is get just about any switch he wants, thanks to the level at which he and Paul are running the pick and roll, and then, in isolation, he can walk into his now-trademark step-back threes.The pull-up three is increasingly a staple of modern offenses, as defenses have adjusted to the off-ball maneuvering that good offenses use to free up shooters. Harden leads the league in pull-up threes per game, taking 8.0 and making 39.0 percent of them. Paul is third on the list, taking 5.2 per game and making 38.5 percent of them.2The Blazers’ Damian Lillard sits between the two at 5.4 pull-up threes per game. As a team, the Rockets are taking 16.5 pull-up threes per game and making 35.9 percent. The next-closest team, the Los Angeles Clippers, takes 10.0 per game. Even if its primary pick-and-roll engine sputters, Houston has an entire extra, independent dimension to carry its offense through dry spells, like Curry’s pull-ups or like Kevin Durant’s mastery of contested shots in last summer’s finals.Nothing the Rockets could do this season would make them meaningful favorites to most NBA fans against a healthy Warriors team in the playoffs. Nothing the Warriors could do would do that, either. That’s probably correct: There are many things most projection systems, like FiveThirtyEight’s CARM-Elo, can’t spot, such as player injury, which undermine the edge Houston holds by the numbers. Golden State is a dominant champion with what is now a considerable track record of excellence. It’s tough to be favored heavily against that. But there is also now sufficient evidence to declare that Houston is squarely in Golden State’s weight class, just as there was for Golden State when it arrived on the scene.Check out our latest NBA predictions.CORRECTION (March 22, 2018, 5:15 p.m.): A previous version of this article mistakenly said that James Harden played in Houston’s Jan. 4 loss to Golden State. He was out with a strained hamstring.
Things That Caught My EyeDraft Day!It’s the first day of the NFL draft, meaning that enormous financial concerns are about to publicly gamble in prime time television, which is always pretty cool. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is the top running back prospect in this year’s draft and will likely go very early in the evening. But a team betting on a workhorse running back isn’t always the sure bet it was once considered. From 2006 to 2015, there were only three running backs drafted in the top five, and to some extent they never really panned out for their teams. Since then, we’ve had the phenomenal Leonard Fournette and Ezekiel Elliott going each at 4th. Barkley could join them if he joins the Giants at No. 2 or Browns at No. 4. [FiveThirtyEight]‘The Blind Side’ is overIn the aftermath of “The Blind Side,” which extolled the virtues of the left tackle position and lead to a commensurate skyrocketing to the value of those players, teams appeared to undervalue guards compared to tackles. In the 32-team era, 62 tackles were drafted in the first round of the draft compared to 14 guards. That may be changing, since 2013 the total value of draft picks for left tackles has been essentially in free fall since the post-2006 highs. [FiveThirtyEight]Oldest sport adapts to new realitiesThe International Association of Athletics Federations, which governs the world of track and field, will implement new regulations regarding testosterone levels for elite female athletes. Most women have testosterone levels ranging from 0.12 to 1.79 nanomoles per liter, while most men have 7.7 to 29.4 nanomoles per liter. The regulations — which will undoubtably fuel controversy from literally every angle, and that’s okay — will impact women who have testosterone levels above 5.0 nanomoles per liter, and would require them to choose between hormone therapy, not competing internationally, or competing against men. [The New York Times]Try out our interactive, Which World Cup Team Should You Root For?Winnipeg, city of miseryA new calculation for the quantified metropolitan sports misery score that counts not only the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL but also the MLS and Canadian Football League puts the Canadian city of Winnipeg over perennial sports drought cities like Cincinnati and Buffalo to have the most yearning-for-a-win fans. [The 10 and 3]Tsunami of corruptionA draft report published Wednesday by the Independent Review of Integrity in Tennis follows up on earlier investigations from the BBC and BuzzFeed to find evidence of match-fixing in the sport, particularly at lower levels. The report found 20 unnamed high-level players who lost at least one suspicious match from 2005 to 2008. [BuzzFeed]World Cup getting called from statesideFox Sports is rolling out details about its play calling teams for the forthcoming FIFA World Cup in Russia. Given the lack of an American presence at the cup — the United States failed to qualify — Fox elected to pare back its footprint in Russia proper and will have only one of five announced crews actually in Russia. [World Soccer Talk, The Associated Press]Big Number(s)161.4Looking at a stat called five-year approximate value, the hoarde of valuable draft picks held by the Cleveland Browns is truly formidable. Overall, the Browns have a total draft expected value of 161.4, which is head and shoulders above their nearest competitors, the Bills (124.3), Colts (122.1) and Broncos (116.4). The Browns are poised for a guaranteed consequential couple of days, for better or for worse. [The Washington Post]Leaks from Slack: neil:MLB Now talking about 8 teams currently being on pace for 100+ losses…. wonder how that compares to other seasons via something more rigorous like Elo?natesilver:we have two teams projected for 100+, and 2 more for 99plus one at 97 and one at 95seems like a lot for this early in the seasonneil:TankFest ’18Predictions NBA See more NBA predictions All newsletters Oh, and don’t forgetThe past few weeks of the Overwatch League have been outstanding We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆 Join the squad. Subscribe
OSU sophomore Taylor White (21) and junior Shelby Hursh (19) in a game against Penn State on April 6 at Buckeye Field. Credit: Lantern File PhotoJust five hours after its defeat at the hands of the Arizona Wildcats, the Ohio State softball team recouped and avoided elimination in the Knoxville regional at the NCAA tournament, advancing to Sunday.OSU only collected two hits in its first contest in the late morning of Saturday, but the bats came to life in a 6-1 victory over Marist, eliminating the Red Foxes from the NCAA tournament.For much of the game, sophomore outfielder Taylor White led the OSU offense to an early lead. In the first inning, the Buckeyes had a runner on second and third with two outs when White delivered a two-run triple to put OSU ahead 2-0.In her next at-bat, White launched a homerun to left-center field off second-team All-MAAC redshirt junior pitcher Jessica Van Alphen for a 3-0 lead. Van Alphen had a record of 10-3 and an ERA of 1.98 coming into the game.The second-team All-Big Ten honoree, White, gave a lift to a struggling offense who only totaled one run combined in its last two games. White has 32 RBIs this season.Freshman Emily Clark and first-team All-Big Ten junior infielder Alex Bayne hit back-to-back homeruns in the fifth. Bayne’s team-leading 19th homer came off MAAC pitcher of the year Jayne Oberdorf.Handed the loss in the first game, Buckeye junior pitcher Shelby Hursh was back in the circle for coach Kelly Kovach Schoenly’s squad against Marist and displayed confidence the team expects from its ace. Hursh tossed her ninth complete game while surrendering just four hits, one unearned run and striking out seven Red Foxes. She picked up her 16th win in her junior campaign.Hursh likely has been OSU’s best pitcher all season. After pitching two games on Saturday, it’s unclear whether the right-handed Hursh will be ready to go on Sunday.OSU will need stellar performances up and down the lineup on Sunday when the Buckeyes play an elimination game at noon against host, 13th-ranked Tennessee. The winner plays Arizona in the regional finals.
INDIANAPOLIS — After sneaking past Northwestern, 67-61, in overtime Friday in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament, the Ohio State men’s basketball team will play Michigan on Saturday. The Buckeyes needed an Evan Turner buzzer-beater from just inside halfcourt to top the Wolverines in the 2010 tournament. With the No. 4-seeded Wolverines’ (20-12) 60-55 win against Illinois on Friday, Michigan coach John Beilein said his team is playing its best basketball late in the season. After a 1-6 start to Big Ten play, Michigan put together an 8-3 record down the stretch to finish 9-9 in conference play. The Wolverines were able to close the season strong because of improved play from their young players. Michigan starts two freshmen and one sophomore. That sophomore, guard Darius Morris, leads the Wolverines in scoring and assists with 15.1 and 6.8, respectively. That assist mark tops the Big Ten. OSU point guard Aaron Craft likely would be the primary defender of Morris. The freshman said he is looking forward to the opportunity. “Defense is something I’ve definitely taken pride in over the years,” he said. “I definitely enjoy the challenge.” Morris had 17 points and seven assists against Illinois. Freshman guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and redshirt freshman forward Jordan Morgan are next in scoring for the Wolverines, with 13.8 and 9.5 points per game, respectively. OSU freshman forward Jared Sullinger said he knows how he will approach the talented, young Michigan squad. “It’s the Big Ten,” he said. “This is where you’ve got to be physical, especially in the Big Ten Tournament.” The Buckeyes took home victories in both matchups with Michigan this season, with a 68-64 win Jan. 12 in Ann Arbor, Mich., and a 62-53 victory Feb. 3 at home. OSU junior guard William Buford topped all Buckeye scorers in the teams’ first meeting, with 19 points. Sullinger put up 19 of his own in the second meeting with the Wolverines, to go along with 15 rebounds. But, the Buckeyes are looking forward, not back. “We have a game tomorrow,” Sullinger said, “and that’s really where our focus is at.” Michigan would all but assure an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament with a victory against No. 1 OSU. If OSU shoots like it did against Northwestern, it may make that victory more likely. The Buckeyes tied a season low by connecting on just 32 percent of their shots from the floor against the Wildcats. “Hopefully we shoot the ball a little better tomorrow,” Matta said. Though shooting may be a concern, the fact that four players — Sullinger, Craft, senior guard Jon Diebler and fifth-year senior forward David Lighty — played 40 minutes or more against the Wildcats does not seem to be. “I don’t think it affects us at all,” Lighty said. “We’ve been through it before, last year and even the year before that. It’s just us coming out and continuing to do what we do.” The Buckeyes will face the Wolverines at 1:40 p.m. Saturday at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
After the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles concluded its investigation of car purchases made by Ohio State athletes and found that all purchases were legitimate, OSU has canceled its own investigation. According to the BMV’s 65-page report released Tuesday, which examined purchases from the Jack Maxton Chevrolet and Auto Direct dealerships in Columbus, there was “no evidence” to suggest wrongdoing by the dealerships or OSU players. “In light of the report from the BMV and an examination done by the Ohio Independent Automobile Dealers Association, we have seen no evidence that would lead us to believe that Ohio State student athletes violated any policies when purchasing used cars,” OSU spokesman Jim Lynch wrote in an email to The Lantern. “Therefore, we will not be conducting an independent examination outside of what has already been done by these parties.” The report cited that all 25 transactions were legitimate; however, no OSU officials were referenced in the BMV report. In a separate investigation released Tuesday, James R. Mitchell, the executive director of Ohio Independent Automobile Dealers Association, said that each of the 25 cars in question were sold at “fair market value.” “It is my professional opinion in regards to the sales transactions regarding (OSU) student athletes and their family members that there was no preferential treatment,” he wrote in a letter. The BMV’s investigation found that the automobile titles for the cars in question accurately reflected the actual purchase prices of the cars. The report also said there was no evidence of players providing memorabilia or tickets to the dealerships in place of cash. The Columbus Dispatch originally reported OSU’s plan to investigate car sales on May 7. Terrelle Pryor, who was connected to the use of at least six different cars during his time at OSU, departed the university on June 7 to pursue an NFL career. Thomas Bradley contributed to this story.
Ohio State’s game against Purdue on Saturday appeared to be over. With the Buckeyes trailing by eight points, and just two minutes and 40 seconds remaining on the game clock, OSU redshirt junior backup quarterback Kenny Guiton’s deep ball had just been intercepted by Purdue sophomore safety Landon Feichter. As it seemed the 7-0 Buckeyes were headed for their first loss of the season, many OSU football fans began their exodus from Ohio Stadium. It was hard not to give up on the Buckeyes at that point. OSU’s star quarterback, sophomore Braxton Miller, had left the game in the third quarter with a head injury. In his place, Guiton had failed to lead the Buckeyes to points on three consecutive drives. For the Buckeyes’ offense to even get another shot at tying the game, a defense that had given up 49 points to Indiana one week earlier needed to force Purdue’s offense off the field in four downs or less. If the Buckeyes were going to win, they needed a miracle. At that point, the Buckeyes showed the resilient, never-say-die attitude that first-year coach Urban Meyer has clearly instilled. The defense did exactly what it needed to do, not allowing a single first down and forcing a punt, which gave Guiton and the offense 47 seconds for one final shot at a game-tying drive. Guiton took advantage of his moment to shine. Guiton’s first pass was a 39-yard connection with sophomore wide receiver Devin Smith, which kicked off a drive that reached completion with a two-yard touchdown pass to redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Fields. Still needing two points to send the game to overtime, Guiton subsequently completed a pass to wide-open sophomore tight end Jeff Heuerman in the end zone. From there, the Buckeyes did their job again on both sides of the ball, as another Guiton-led scoring drive and a defensive stop gave the Buckeyes an improbable 29-22 victory in overtime. The Buckeyes may be 8-0, but they certainly haven’t made it easy to stay undefeated. While they have been heavily favored in most games, they have trailed in the second quarter or later in seven of eight games, and have either gone to overtime or won by three points or less in three of their four in-conference games this season. As should be expected of any team with a postseason ban and a first-year head coach, the Buckeyes have their issues, but they have displayed a knack for coming through and making the plays necessary to escape each game with victory. In games where the Buckeyes have failed to play up to their ability, as was certainly the case against Purdue, they have seemingly willed victories away from their opponents when the game is on the line. On Saturday, however, the Buckeyes will be facing a team that has shown even greater resiliency. The Buckeyes are traveling to University Park, Pa. this weekend to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions, a team that has overcome an 0-2 start to win five consecutive games. The Penn State football program was rocked within the past 12 months by the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal that cost legendary head coach Joe Paterno his job, and later had to overcome the death of Paterno and NCAA sanctions levied against the program as a result of the Sandusky scandal, all the while adjusting to a new head coach of their own in Bill O’Brien. In the first two weeks of the season, the effects of this tumult seemed to have their effect on the Nittany Lions, who suffered surprising losses to Ohio and Virginia. Since then, however, Penn State has rolled off five consecutive wins, and comes into Saturday’s matchup as a serious threat to give the Buckeyes their first loss of the season. As both teams are ineligible for postseason play, some would say they have nothing to play for, but don’t tell that to the Buckeyes or Nittany Lions. After overcoming major adversity leading into their 2012 seasons, both of these teams have taken on new identities under their new coaches, and are making their regular seasons count. Meyer’s Buckeyes are composed largely of the same personnel from the 2011 team that went 6-7, and he has reignited the winning tradition that OSU football is known for. What O’Brien has done at Penn State this season, however, is remarkable. Filling the shoes of Paterno after his 46-year career coaching PSU, and following what is arguably the worst scandal in college football history, O’Brien did not take an easy job. It will continue to be a challenge, as the Nittany Lions are in just their first year of four years of NCAA sanctioning including a postseason ban and scholarship reductions. But by bringing his no-nonsense attitude, installing an up-tempo offense and redefining the image of Penn State football, O’Brien has the Nittany Lions headed back in the right direction. On Saturday, the Nittany Lions have a chance for their first post-scandal marquee victory if they can upset the Buckeyes. Given the way PSU has rallied together and won their past five games, the Buckeyes are going to need to be on top of their game to stop that from happening. Playing an ambitious team in Beaver Stadium, the nation’s second-largest stadium, a will to win won’t be enough to remain undefeated.
Ohio State redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins (7) calls out a play in the first half of the Rose Bowl Game featuring Ohio State and Washington. Ohio State won 28-23. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo EditorFor the first time since Art Schlichter in 1982, an Ohio State quarterback was selected in the first round of the NFL draft.Former Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins has been selected with the No. 15 pick in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft by the Washington Redskins.Haskins was the second Buckeye taken in the draft, after former defensive end Nick Bosa went No. 2 overall to San Francisco 49ers. He’s the first Ohio State quarterback to be drafted since Cardale Jones was picked in the fourth round by the Buffalo Bills in 2016.Haskins is the first first-round selection hailing from the Big Ten since Kerry Collins was selected No. 5 overall out of Penn State by the Carolina Panthers in 1995. Haskins set Ohio State’s new single-season record for passing yards with 4,831, completion percentage with 70 percent (minimum 100 attempts) and touchdowns with 50, earning an invitation to New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist. He also set the single-game passing yards record, throwing for 499 against Northwestern in the 2018 Big Ten title game, and tied the record for touchdowns with six on two different occasions.Under Haskins, the Ohio State offense finished No. 2 nationally in yards per game (535.7) and No. 2 in passing yards per game (358.7).Haskins declared for the NFL draft in the weeks following Ohio State’s Rose Bowl win against Washington.