Cubs

Great news for college football fans

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Great news for college football fans

From Comcast SportsNet
CHICAGO (AP) -- The BCS commissioners are backing a playoff plan with the sites for the national semifinals rotating among the major bowl games and a selection committee picking the teams. The plan will be presented to university presidents next week for approval. Once the presidents sign off -- and that seems likely -- major college football's champion will be decided by a playoff for the first time starting in 2014. "We are excited to be on the threshold of creating a new postseason structure for college football that builds on the great popularity of our sport," Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Wednesday. All 11 commissioners stood shoulder-to-shoulder behind Swarbrick, who read the BCS statement from a podium set up in a hotel conference room. The commissioners have been working on reshaping college football's postseason since January. The meeting Wednesday was the sixth formal get-together of the year. They met for four hours and emerged with a commitment to stand behind a plan. "I think we're very unified," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said. The commissioners refrained from providing specifics of the plan in their announcement. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott did say the two semifinals would be worked into the existing major bowls and the site of the national championship game will be bid out to any city that wants it, the way the NFL does with the Super Bowl. People with firsthand knowledge of the decision tell The Associated Press the semifinals of the proposed plan would rotate among the major bowls and not be tied to traditional conference relationships. They also said that under the plan a selection committee would choose the schools that play for the national title. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the commissioners did not want to reveal many details before talking to their bosses. "I am delighted," said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive, who has supported a four-team playoff for years and whose league has won the last six BCS titles. "I am pleased with the progress we have made. There are some differences, but we will work them out. We're trying to do what is in the best interest of the game." There was some debate about whether to have semifinal sites rotate between the current BCS bowls -- the Orange, Sugar, Rose and Fiesta -- or link the sites of the games to traditional conference affiliations. By linking sites to leagues Southeastern Conference teams could host games at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans and Pac-12 and Big Ten teams could host games at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. But the logistical issues that come with not having the sites for the semifinals set in advance were too big a problem. Now it will be possible for Ohio State and Oregon to play a semifinal in Miami, the site of the Orange Bowl. How the teams will be selected has also been hotly debated; the current Bowl Championship Series uses a combination of polls and computer rankings. There are still major details to be worked out, such as who exactly makes up the selection committee, but college football will take a page from college basketball, which uses a committee of athletic directors and commissioners to pick the teams for its championship tournament. Scott has pushed for conference champions to be given preference for the playoff, but said he was comfortable that a committee would emphasize that and strength of schedule. He stopped short of saying the committee was part of the proposed plan. "My position has evolved on that," Scott said about the selection committee. "There's a positive impression about the role that the basketball committee has played for basketball, and I think there's been a consensus that the current (football) system is pretty flawed in a lot of ways." The 12-member BCS Presidential Oversight Committee meets Tuesday in Washington. The commissioners and Swarbrick all stressed that ultimately the decision lies with the presidents. And that they will have more than just one model to talk about at their meeting. The Big Ten and Pac-12 presidents have both expressed support for the so-called plus-one model, which gives the BCS a new look by selecting the championship game participants after the bowls are played instead of creating a pair of national semifinals. "I'm comfortable both of those will still be discussed at the president's meeting," Delany said. Discussed, yes. But unless something unexpected happens in Washington, a playoff will take another step to becoming a reality.

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: