King Kaufman's Sports Daily

If money talks, it's yet another advantage for the Patriots. Plus: Crazy idea for college basketball teams. Play all of your league foes!


Salon Staff
February 3, 2005 1:00AM (UTC)

Forbes magazine says the Patriots are going to win the Super Bowl. Hardly a daring pick, and anyway why should we care about Forbes' sports predictions any more than we might care about ESPN the Magazine's predictions about Wall the Street?

Perhaps because Forbes has never been wrong on a Super Bowl pick.

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Ignoring silly stuff like yards per attempt, turnover ratio and red-zone efficiency, Forbes looks at a single stat before making its call: franchise value. The magazine began publishing its estimate of those values in 1998, and every season since then, six in a row, the team with the higher franchise value has won the Super Bowl. Do you have a six-year Super Bowl prediction win streak going? Mine's at two.

Forbes values the Patriots at $861 million, the Eagles at $833 million, fourth and fifth highest in the league. Bob Kraft bought the Pats for $172 million in 1994, the most ever paid for an NFL team. Jeff Lurie broke that record three months later by paying $184 million for the Eagles. Pretty good return on investment there. Forbes says, "The value of both teams has jumped more than 50 percent over the past two years."

And they owe it all to paying for their own stadiums!

Well, not really, but it's certainly an interesting thing to note that the Patriots paid for theirs, and the Eagles paid for a solid chunk of theirs in a public-private partnership. The Patriots are widely seen as the model franchise, the best-run organization in the league, and the Eagles are a near-mirror image. Both teams are on runs of success that are reaching a length thought to be impossible in the salary-cap era.

The Pats have had four straight winning seasons and can win their third Super Bowl in four years, something that's only been done once before, by the '90s Cowboys. Two teams won three NFL titles in four years in the pre-merger era, when the league was much smaller. This is the fifth year in a row the Eagles have had a winning season and won at least one playoff game, the fourth in a row they've made the NFL's final four.

The Patriots paid for $350 million Gillette Stadium, with the state of Massachusetts kicking in about $72 million for infrastructure. The Eagles got a bigger gift from the taxpayers. The team contributed about $355 million of the roughly $512 million -- sources differ on the exact amounts -- needed to complete Lincoln Financial Field, with the remainder coming from the coffers of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.

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Lurie cited the private stadium financing Tuesday when he ticked off for reporters some of the reasons why the Pats and Eagles are so similar, and so similarly successful. "We are the two winningest franchises this decade," he said. "Both of us invested well over $300 million in new stadiums. We each hired coaches in an unorthodox fashion ... Both organizations are built around franchise quarterbacks. Both are high-character teams who share. There are a lot of similar lines and similar value systems for each team."

The Pats -- the fourth most valuable franchise in the NFL -- are one of three teams playing in a stadium that was financed privately. The others are Washington, worth more than $1 billion and the most valuable franchise in the league, and the Miami Dolphins, the 11th most valuable out of 32.

Just one more little set of thoughts to keep in mind the next time a ball team and its pet politicians try to push through a taxpayer-financed arena, and by that I mean: today and every other day.

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A modest proposal for college hoops [PERMALINK]

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One of the many ways college basketball is a frustrating and unsatisfying sport to follow -- even though individual games are often thrilling to watch -- is that it's organized into leagues in which the members could and should, but don't, play each other an equal number of times.

Illinois, the Big Ten leader and No. 1 team in the nation, beat second-place Michigan State 81-68 on the road Tuesday night. State didn't play badly, but Illinois just shot the lights out. Not your night, Spartans. Get 'em next time, in Champaign.

Except there won't be a next time in Champaign. The 11 teams in the Big Ten only play 16 conference games, meaning each school meets four league opponents once, rather than in a home-and-home series. Illinois doesn't play road games at Minnesota or Indiana, or home games against Michigan or Michigan State.

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I know there are real problems in the world and everything, but I find this ridiculously annoying. It's not as though there isn't room on the schedule for these conference games. Illinois' 30-game schedule includes a staggering 14 non-conference games, only two fewer than the number of conference games it will play.

A note: The NCAA has a rule limiting basketball schedules to 27 games, but that can be stretched to 30 by playing in certain tournaments. As long as we're reforming the schedule, it would be easy enough to just lose that charade and make 30 the limit.

Illinois' opponents: Delaware State, Florida A&M, Oakland -- stay with me, they'll get to real foes, briefly -- Gonzaga, Wake Forest, Arkansas, Chicago State, Georgetown, Oregon, Valparaiso, Missouri, Longwood, Northwestern State, Cincinnati.

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What do you mean you've never heard of Longwood? Longwood University is a public school in Farmville, Va., founded in 1839. The Lancers are independent, and have struggled to a 1-22 record in their first full season in Division I. But, a headline on the school's Web site assures us, the team is "playing much better than record would indicate." With a few breaks, I guess, Longwood could have been 4-19.

Anyway, let's see if we can find four games out of those 14 that Illinois could have sacrificed to play a full conference schedule. They had to play Wake Forest because of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, and Missouri because that's an annual rivalry game. We'll give them Chicago State and Valparaiso as regional mini-rivals, smaller schools that ought to get a crack at a neighboring big shot if they want one.

By all means Illinois should keep the games against schools from big and medium-size conferences: Arkansas, Georgetown, Oregon, Gonzaga and Cincinnati. That leaves five games: Delaware State, Florida A&M, Oakland, Longwood and Northwestern State. Losing any four of those in favor of games against Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State could not have been considered anything but a positive for college basketball.

Having Big Ten teams play partial conference schedules so they can play the likes of Delaware State, Florida A&M, Oakland, Longwood and Northwestern State is a joke, and I hesitate to use the word "joke," because I respect a good joke.

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Not that it's only the Big Ten. I'm just picking on Illinois because it's No. 1. All of the big conferences do it, save one.

The Atlantic Coast Conference also has 11 teams and they also play 16 conference games when they should be playing 20. First-place Duke doesn't play at Virginia or Clemson, or home against North Carolina State or Florida State. But the Blue Devils did or will find time to play Tennessee-Martin, Davidson, UNC-Greensboro, Michigan State, Valparaiso, Toledo, Illinois-Chicago, Oklahoma, Princeton, Temple and St. John's.

Again, let's see if we can find four games to jettison so the Blue Devils could have played another game each against Virginia, Clemson, N.C. State and Florida State and turn the ACC league schedule into a real one.

Duke has to keep Michigan State because of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, and it ought to be able to keep in state mini-rivals Greensboro and Davidson. Keeping big- and medium-conference opponents means Oklahoma, Temple and St. John's. That leaves five opponents: Tennessee-Martin, Valpo, Toledo, Illinois-Chicago and Princeton. Pick two and play them. This is easy.

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You can do this for every team in all of the overstuffed conferences, and don't get me started on Conference USA, which has a schedule created by a team of highly trained dadaists.

The Big East has 12 teams and plays a 16-game schedule, rather than the 22 games each team should play. That's really outrageous. More than half of your league opponents, six out of 11, you only see once each. Conference leader Boston College plays each of the next four teams in the standings -- Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Georgetown -- one time, not twice. Sorry, guys, have fun chasing.

Here's B.C.'s 11 non-conference opponents: Maine, New Hampshire, Clemson, Long Island, UCLA, Holy Cross, Boston University, Yale, Duquesne, Kent State and Massachusetts. That would have to be cut down to five to accommodate a 22-game conference schedule, though B.C. can play up to 30 games if it wants. Easy enough either way.

The Big 12 and Southeast Conference, like the Big East, have 12 teams and play a 16-game conference schedule.

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The only major conference that does it right is the Pac-10, which has the fewest teams of any big league and plays the longest schedule. There are 10 teams, and get this, they all play each other twice.

But don't worry, everyone. Washington, which shares first place with Arizona, still found time to play Seattle Pacific, Eastern Washington and Sacred Heart. The Wildcats also tussled with Eastern Washington, as well as San Diego, Wright State and recent Tournament darling Manhattan.

You see? Even if all the teams in a major conference find time in their busy schedules to actually play each other, there are plenty of opportunities to get those gimme wins. Just because we're fixing one thing about college basketball doesn't mean we have to fix everything.

Previous column: Columnist beatdown!

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