Keith Strudler | WAMC

Keith Strudler

Keith Strudler: The Supreme Court And College Sports

Dec 17, 2020

While the US Supreme Court may have decided not to hear a recent, extremely high-profile case, it subsequently just decided it would hear another. And even though this case won’t determine the fate of American democracy, it will have lasting impact on a pretty significant American institution.

Keith Strudler: Michigan Finally Wins

Dec 9, 2020

You can only imagine what Woody Hayes would say right now. The legendary if but controversial former head coach of the Ohio State Buckeye football program allegedly wouldn’t even stop to buy gas in the state of Michigan due to his abject hate of that school up north, as he used to call it. So to know that the Michigan Wolverines may cost Ohio State a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, and perhaps even the college football playoffs, would likely be too much to bear. Especially since it has nothing to do with playing an actual game on the field.

Keith Strudler: The Arizona 49ers

Dec 2, 2020

The San Francisco 49ers are by no means the first nomadic team in NFL history. In 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Saints split their time between San Antonio and Baton Rouge before returning home to the Superdome the following year. When the Houston Oilers first left Texas for Tennessee, they played a year in Memphis while a stadium was being finished in Nashville. And recently the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers both played in transitional homes while their new SoFi Stadium megaplex was under construction, even if they were still in the same general metropolitan area.

Keith Strudler: Getting Uncomfortable

Nov 25, 2020

In one of the more unusual but telling statements of the current NBA landscape, the Houston Rockets front office just said that they are willing to get uncomfortable heading into this upcoming season, whenever that might happen.

Keith Strudler: The Winter of Discontent

Nov 11, 2020

So perhaps the most pressing sports question in my household has nothing to do with the NFL, or the NBA, or about college football. It’s not about what happens to March Madness this year, or even if the Summer Olympics are still on. It’s about rec basketball. More to the point, will we have rec basketball this year?

Keith Strudler: On Wisconsin!

Nov 5, 2020

On a positive note, Wisconsin football remains undefeated several weeks into the college football season and is essentially guaranteed to continue so through this weekend. The bad news is, Wisconsin isn’t going to play this weekend, and they didn’t play last weekend either, both games cancelled because of significant numbers of positive Covid tests among players and staff. Which means that three weeks into a highly condensed season, Wisconsin will remain 1-0, a singular win against Illinois in their season opener. That leaves the Badgers increasingly close not being able to complete the nine games mandated to compete for a Big 10 Championship, although to be fair that feels somewhat aspirational at this point.

Keith Strudler: College Basketball At A Crossroads

Oct 28, 2020
College basketball court
Ian Pickus / WAMC

It may be the throes of college football season, with all the pageantry and Covid cancellations that come with it, but most people working in college athletics are already looking ahead to a light in the tunnel. That light is college basketball, and by all accounts, it may be a freight train. While most American universities outside of major Division I programs have sat out fall sports, they’ve all been looking towards the winter, and college basketball in particular, as the return to action, if not normal. Some of that is driven by imperative, since for Division I non-major football programs, men’s hoops is where the lion’s share of revenue is generated. Which means that without a college basketball season there will be existential questions about college athletics that go far beyond 2021. Which is why everyone from the PAC 12 to the Big East is trying to make this work.

Keith Strudler: Filling The Seats

Oct 21, 2020

Here’s what we’ve learned from the successful completion of the NBA and NHL seasons and near completion of the World Series. If you use science, highly reduce risk, get player buy in to live a sheltered life, and largely keep fans and outsiders away from the field of play, you can successfully play professional sports during Covid. You may have some outbreaks, like baseball had early on and the NFL seems have right now. But overall, a disciplined, risk averse approach has made the difference between live games and dead air.

Keith Strudler: SEC On Hold

Oct 16, 2020

For everyone who firmly believes that the SEC is the leading college football conference in the country, you now have some hard data to support that position. That is, at least when it comes to Covid-19, where the SEC has set the bar high for spreading the virus with speed and intention. Don’t take my word for it – the proof is in the results, starting with the fact that two conference games have to be postponed this weekend because of team outbreaks. Florida/LSU, a marquee matchup of teams coming off crushing defeats, is on hold because over twenty Gator athletes have tested positive, bringing the number of available scholarship players available to under 53. A less appealing matchup between Vanderbilt and Missouri is also on hold because Vandy can’t find 53 with positive tests, quarantines, and opt-outs. And of course as you probably know, second ranked Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban will miss this weekend’s game against third ranked Georgia since he tested positive. While Saban has run practice from Zoom this week, he will not be allowed to virtually coach Saturday on Zoom or any other platform, for whatever reason.

Keith Strudler: Stopping The NFL Spread

Oct 8, 2020

Lest anyone think the White House is the only high profile super spreader in the US, I present to you the Tennessee Titans. Like the White House, the Titans have gone from a singular positive test result to now over 20, threatening their ability to conduct the in-person business of playing professional football. I will also add that the similarities between Tennessee and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue pretty much end there, since the Titans have taken a proactive approach to tracing and further preventing the spread of the virus under league mandate. And I never expected that I would hold up the NFL as the exemplar of safety protocols. But here we are.

Keith Strudler: Trump And The Big 10

Sep 30, 2020

In the odd chance that you were able to watch the entirety of that hellscape last night, you may recall one of Trump’s somewhat irrelevant throwaway lines amidst the avalanche of dystopian chaos. At one point, Donald Trump announced that he “brought back Big 10 Football,” and continued, “it was me, and I’m very happy to do it and the people of Ohio are very proud of me.” Now, I can’t collectively speak for the people of Ohio, although assuming they are still a subset of the larger American populace, I’d find it hard to fathom they’re particularly proud of the President this morning. But insanity withstanding, I believe Trump was inferring the college football loving people of the state of Ohio, more specifically those that root for Ohio State, should owe him a debt of gratitude for somehow magically convincing the Big 10 Conference to begin fall play in late October.

Keith Strudler: The NFL And Optics

Sep 23, 2020

Perhaps the most overused, contentious, and misunderstood word in the age of Covid is the term “Optics.” That’s because the concept of optics infers you’re trying to present a reality that’s somehow different from the truth. Like, you might drive a rental Mercedes to a high school reunion that belies your actual financial situation. In most cases, it’s assumed that optics are fairly synonymous with lying.

Keith Strudler: The Big 10 Is Back

Sep 16, 2020

Two very predictable things happened today in the landscape of big time college football. First, the Big 10 Conference announced it would in fact play football this fall beginning October 24, reversing their initial decision of postponing until spring. That change seemed fairly inevitable once other Power 5 conferences began league play, leaving the Big 10 increasingly under fire from everyone from boosters to legislators to current athletes on the team. The second predictable thing that happened was that President Trump tried to take credit for the decision, like he had anything to do with it.

Keith Strudler: Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Sep 9, 2020

If you’re watching the US Open Tennis tournament on TV, and to be clear that is the only way to watch it, you’re probably well aware of two facts about the men’s draw. First, several top male players decided to sit this one out, including both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – as, by the way, did most of the women’s top 10. Second, the one household name in the men’s field, Novak Djokovic, ranked number one in the world with 17 majors under his belt, is also no longer playing. And it’s not because he lost, or tested positive for the virus, or just grew tired or bubble life, which, unlike the NBA version, sounds pretty miserable. Djokovic is out after defaulting during his round of 16 match with Pablo Carreno Busto, who despite being ranked 20th in the world, should have been little match for the most dominant player in the game.

Keith Strudler: Are You Ready For Some Football?

Sep 2, 2020

Are you ready for some football? Normally that’s a hypothetical asked by an overly enthusiastic broadcaster to get frothy sports fans ready for the next game. But in this case, it’s actually a real question, like, are you actually ready to watch the sport of football in the era of Covid-19. Or in some cases, are you ready to play football where face masks are replaced with, well, facemasks, and giving anyone six feet of distance is a guaranteed way to get put on the bench.

Keith Strudler: Bubble Basketball Is Glorious

Aug 26, 2020

Last night’s Clippers/Mavs game withstanding, these NBA playoffs have been, well, outstanding. Perhaps there’s some inherent bias because after not watching sports for a few months, pretty much anything looks great. It’s like the first thing you eat after Yom Kippur ends – it’s always tastes fabulous. But with as much objectivity as can be assumed, we’re watching some really entertaining sports programming right now. And it’s just the first round.

Keith Strudler: The Question Of College Basketball

Aug 20, 2020

It is never too early to plan ahead. Especially now, when there’s an expectation that everything requires a detailed, medically driven, multi-page Covid plan that will inevitably be completely changed within hours of execution. That’s the nature of 2020. Hope for the best, and plan for the apocalypse.

If you’re tired of seeing Clemson play a team from the SEC every year for the college football national championship, then I have some bad news. Because at least at it stands right now at this particular moment, that’s the most likely outcome of what could be the most unusual season in college football history. That’s because two of the Power 5 football conferences, the Big 10 and Pac 12, have already cancelled their fall sports seasons. Three – the Big 12, SEC, and Clemson’s ACC, are still moving ahead. Beyond those, the rest of major Division I is split – the American, Sun Belt, and Conference USA are in, but the Mountain West and Mid-American are done. Oh, and Nebraska wants to play even if the Big 10 doesn’t, which may or may not work.

Keith Strudler: To Play Or Not To Play

Aug 5, 2020

If you ask most people about the University of Connecticut football program, they would likely say, I think that’s a basketball school. Of course, history affirms that suggestion, as certainly the women’s program as well as the men’s have enjoyed long periods of success, including national championships on both sides. UConn’s drive to become a national football power has seen far less success, and truly the fall of the Big East football conference and their inability to move to either the ACC or the Big Ten has made them little more than a conference doormat and a relative financial drain on the University.

Keith Strudler: Marlins Taking On COVID Before NL East

Jul 29, 2020

If you’re an aspiring minor league baseball player whose season was cancelled, there’s good news, and there’s bad news. The good news is there may be some spots that are open on a major league roster to play in this condensed, fan free season. The bad news is that’s it’s with the Miami Marlins, the majority of whom are stuck in Philadelphia after a failed effort to start their season. 

Keith Strudler: Finding A Home Away From Home

Jul 23, 2020

When it comes to baseball and the city of Toronto, teams don’t have to go home, but they can’t stay here. That’s the message to the home town Blue Jays, baseball’s only Canadian team and now the league’s resident nomads. With the calendar closing in on today’s Opening Day, Toronto officials told the Blue Jays they wouldn’t be able to use the Rogers Center in Toronto as their baseball home. That’s because the Canadian government said no to both the Blue Jays and baseball teams from all across the US potentially spreading Covid across a country that now counts new daily cases in the hundreds. Which meant that the Toronto Blue Jays would have to find a new home stadium in the US for their compressed 60 game season.

Keith Strudler: Freeing Up Saturday Afternoons

Jul 15, 2020

Despite the similarity in their team name, there is a big difference between Harvard Football and Alabama Football. That’s no critique of the Crimson, who play a fairly high level of FCS college football, the second tier of Division I. But it’s a whole different version of the pastime of the Crimson Tide, who annually compete for a national title and send a disproportionately high number of players to the NFL. And at the current time, there’s one additional, striking difference between the Crimson and the Crimson Tide. As of today, the Alabama Crimson Tide plan on playing a football season this fall, while the Harvard Crimson will not. That decision was made last week by the Ivy League, which cancelled all college sports competition until at least Jan 1, marking the second time this year the Ivys were the first Division I conference to close sports because of the virus – the first coming during basketball’s tournament season.

Keith Strudler: The Washington Football Team

Jul 8, 2020

The good news is, it seems nearly certain that the NFL football team the Washington Redskins will finally change its name. Maybe not today, but soon, likely before they start next this season. Of course, given the uncertain state of affairs, that doesn’t really narrow it down. But it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever have to watch a professional football game featuring a team using this particular offensive stereotype. Given the number of years activists and advocates have asked for this change, it should feel like something of a victory.

Keith Strudler: Risk Management Of Pro Sports

Jul 1, 2020

If you’ve ever wanted to make an NBA roster, now it probably your best shot. Especially if you don’t mind playing for the Brooklyn Nets, who seem to have an inordinate amount of open roster spots. Of course, since every team is going to be playing in Disney World, I suppose city of origin is fairly irrelevant at this point. But beyond the ongoing injury issues for Brooklyn, including stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant – and now surgery for bench forward Nicholas Claxton, the Nets have already lost two players to Coronavirus and a third who’s opting out for fear of catching the virus. And that’s with still a couple of weeks before heading to Florida, plenty of time for the rest of the roster to test positive or decide to sit this season out.

Keith Strudler: Taking To The Field?

Jun 25, 2020

When it comes to sports these days, or really life, perhaps the most important word is plan. Like the NBA has a plan to have teams in a quasi-bubble in Disney World to finish the season. And baseball is trying to figure out a plan for a 60-game season played across the country. But you know what they used to say. Everyone’s got a plan about how to beat Mike Tyson until they get punched in the face.

Keith Strudler: Change In College Football

Jun 17, 2020

Perhaps the single most common word used during this whole Covid era has been change. Like how industry is changing, and schools are changing. And not just now, but long after Covid is under control, whenever that may be. So the world is changing at light speed despite the fact that pretty much every day right now feels exactly the same.

Keith Strudler: Brown Retains Varsity Status

Jun 10, 2020

Fans of Brown University Men’s Track and Cross Country, rejoice. Nearly two weeks after hearing your beloved programs would no longer compete at the varsity level and would be reclassified as club sports, Brown President Christina Paxson changed course and announced these sports would in fact retain varsity status. The eight other sports programs scheduled to downgrade were not offered the same stay, nor is there any change for the two sailing programs being promoted to varsity from club. But for now, men’s track and field and cross country will not be victims of the University’s Excellence in Brown Athletics Initiative.

Keith Strudler: The Voice Of Sport

Jun 3, 2020

In the midst of all of this, sports may seem somewhat insignificant. And by all of this, of course, I mean the greatest pandemic in at least 100 years coupled now with America’s invigorated fight towards racial justice on top of a heightened speed towards perhaps the most consequential presidential election in the history of the Republic. So, all that said, there’s probably less riding on whether or not the US Open Tennis tournament can move ahead. Although as a tennis fan, I’ll go on record hoping it does.

Keith Strudler: The Glory Days Of Jordan And Lance

May 27, 2020

For the most part, if you’re talking about sports right now, you’re basically talking about one of two things. First, the plans and feasibility and ethics of sports coming back, be it amateur or professional. That seems to dominate the lion’s share of the conversation, especially as place like the NBA and Major League Baseball negotiate their models. Second, if you’re not talking about that, you’re probably talking about the small number of actual sporting events that are happening across the globe in some altered form. Like German soccer, which I watched this past weekend being played in a largely empty stadium. A bunch of folks watched a highly publicized charity golf foursome this weekend, featuring golfers Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson along with NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. And NASCAR’s racing, so you can watch that. But it’s still pretty much slim pickings.

Keith Strudler: (Don't) Play Ball

May 20, 2020

As is the case with pretty much everything, when it comes to the return of Major League Baseball, the devil is in the details. Unfortunately, at this particular moment resuming organized professional sports involves more details than landing a RV on the moon. The vast majority of these involve the logistics of playing a team sport in venues across North America without an outbreak of the disease or unduly stressing the limited medial resources of each one of their home cities. Baseball has created a book length document outlining this process, all of which could easily derail from something completely out of their control. And to be clear, pretty much any team city or state could basically pull the plug if there’s an emergency, which seems entirely possible with a second spike as we plod into the unknown. In some ways, it’s like planning a Caribbean Cruise at the height of hurricane season. A lot of things can happen.