As the completions and the victories pile up, low-key star Teddy Bridgewater brings Louisville closer to New Year’s Day and himself closer to New York City, writes Pete Thamel in this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Playing in the pros will allow Bridgewater to fulfill a promise he made to his mom, Rose Murphy, when he was in the third grade. “When I make it to the pros,” Teddy Bridgewater said, “I’m going to buy you a pink Escalade with pink rims.” (PAGE 39)
From the age of eight, Bridgewater was tabbed as a can’t-miss quarterback. He excelled in the vaunted Optimist youth leagues in Miami and later at Northwestern High. It was there that he became a top college prospect and did so while his mother was battling breast cancer. Now a junior at Louisville, he’s the nation’s third-most efficient passer on the No. 8 team, a Heisman Trophy candidate and the potential No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL draft. “His mother’s situation made him a grown man,” says Northwestern coach Billy Rolle, “and I think that helped him out more than any coach could.” (PAGE 40)
Bridgewater worked hard to avoid the stigma that South Florida produces any athlete but quarterback. He wound up a Cardinal after committing to and decommitting from Miami. “He wanted to be a quarterback,” says Louisville coach Charlie Strong, “not an athlete who’s a quarterback.” (PAGE 40)
After working extremely hard with Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson between his freshman and sophomore seasons, Bridgewater led the Cardinals to an 11-2 season and was named Big East Player of the Year last season. He earned a reputation for not only being very accurate but also tough. He played through injuries, and shook off a nasty hit early in Louisville’s Sugar Bowl win over Florida last year. He has become a more willing leader. “This is his football team,” Strong says. “He knows this, his team will only go as far as he takes them.” (PAGE 42)
While Bridgewater has a season of eligibility remaining, he’ll graduate this year. His descision to enter the draft seems like a foregone conclusion. “The reality is that we’re hoping and believing that he has a great season,” says Rose, “and after that he’ll do what he needs to do to prepare to go to the draft.” (PAGE 42)
Thamel finds that Bridgewater is very humble on and off the field. For instance, he asked Louisville not to run a Heisman campaign for him because he doesn’t want special treatment and he still dates his high school sweetheart. “He’s one of those players who wants no credit,” says Strong. “He’d rather sit back and let his work speak for him.” (PAGE 43)
Bridgewater may not get as many Heisman and Twitter mentions as Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, the two are “not in the same universe” as NFL prospects, says former Eagles scout John Middlekauff, who adds, “You build a franchise around high-level people as much as high-level players.” (PAGE 50)
For this week’s SI, senior writer Pete Thamel had the rare chance to sit in the Ohio State coaches’ box and put on a headset for the Buckeyes’ 40-20 season-opening victory over Buffalo on Aug. 31. “Listening in is like eavesdropping on a program’s family dinner—spoken in mostly undecipherable jargon—complete with cursing, elation and the relentless tension of coach Urban Meyer asking for more,” writes Thamel. “It’s not a fun three hours,” says director of football operations Brian Voltolini, who shadows Meyer on the field. “You can’t take anything personal that happens on game day. If you do, you’re done.” (PAGE 40)
With Buffalo facing a third-and-eight on its second drive, Meyer flips over from the defensive headset channel to the offensive one and says to offensive coordinator Tom Herman, “Tom, I want to be real aggressive on this drive.” (PAGE 40) Herman plans to “jet to inferno,” meaning they will run the no-huddle (jet). After four hurry-up passes in five plays, Ohio State scores on a wheel route from Braxton Miller to Chris Fields. “Hey 5,” Herman says to Miller when he returns to the sideline and puts on a headset. “Good drive, bud. Great job being patient.” (PAGE 40)
After a Miller interception leads to a pick-six for Buffalo (and a third straight unsuccessful drive), Meyer shouts in the headset, “That’s three in a row boys. Let’s go. We need to start blocking these guys.” (PAGE 41) As the quarter progresses and Ohio State continues to struggle, Meyer comes on the headset: “I’ve never got my face kicked in by drop eight like this.” (PAGE 42)
Thamel discovers that there are two types of conversations on the offensive headsets. When Ohio State has the ball only Herman and Meyer can speak. When they don’t have the ball, all of the coaches can chime in. That’s why Thamel hears Herman say, “Can everyone shut up?!” (PAGE 42) The coach was trying to speak with his quarterback but couldn’t hear through all the coaches on the headset.
With the game too close for comfort, Meyer turns away from the high-tempo attack. “Where’s your best back?” Meyer asks Herman. “Let’s pound ’em. It’s Buffalo.” (PAGE 43)
With the play slowing down, Thamel notices the hardest working part of the play-calling operation—the signalers, who stand on the sideline in purple, orange and green shirts. When Herman calls a play into the headset, it doesn’t go directly to the quarterback’s helmet. Rather, the three signalers relay signs to the huddle, with only one of them being the live signaler.
As OSU winds down the clock of a 40-20 win, Meyer adds one final piece of commentary into the headset. “Well, we got outcoached today.” (PAGE 43)
The cerebral revolution is on in college football, and Stanford senior linebacker Shayne Skov—who has emerged as the face of a program that enters this season as one of the favorites for the national title—is happy to lead it. In this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, senior writer Pete Thamel tells the story of the nation’s best play-making nerd and the difficult journey he has traveled. Skov also appears on one of six regional SI covers this week.
His face may well be adorned on game days with KISS-style eye black and topped by a Mohawk, but Skov’s younger brother, Patrick, a Cardinal fullback, describes Shayne as “a nerd-meathead combo.” (PAGE 48) Shayne, a management science and engineering major, is the first to admit that he devours the works of George R.R. Martin and enjoys role-playing games such as Skyrim. Yet the game he is best at is football. “He’s got the ability to play at the highest level,” says Stanford coach David Shaw, “and be one of those special players.” (PAGE 48)
But there’s a deeper story here, too, about a boy whose path to big man on campus at Stanford has been as difficult as they come. Thamel writes, “His saga spans two countries, two coasts and two languages. He’s been thrown off the football team at one school, voted head prefect at another and suspended for an academic quarter for a DUI at a third. There have been three knee surgeries, a two-year delay in entering the NFL draft and, now, one final season to prove he’s healthy.” (PAGE 48)
All of this unfolded as Skov watched the health of his mother, Terri, decline for more than a decade as she suffered from multiple sclerosis. Shayne and his family aren’t looking for sympathy, and he doesn’t want his mother’s health to become a story line during Stanford’s season. “My mom’s sick, and that unfortunately is what it is,” he says. “Everybody has their own issues.” (PAGE 49) Terri is now in hospice care, and doctors expect her to live only three or four more months.
Shayne and his family spent three years in Mexico before high school so his mother could be more comfortable and receive cheaper treatment. He moved to the Oakland suburb of Piedmont with his father, brother and two sisters after his parents divorced in 2003, but he eventually landed at Trinity-Pawling, a prep school in upstate New York after being kicked off the Piedmont High team for missing the team bus to a big game. Shayne thrived in the structure and stability of the prep school where he loaded up on AP courses, scored a 1,300 on the SAT and excelled on the football team. “That school was nothing short of a miracle,” his father Peter Skov says. “I sent my kid there as an act of desperation. He was on his way to a construction job, and they turned him into a Stanford student. Are you kidding me?” Says Shayne, “I can’t say enough about how much patience they had with me and steered me in the right direction.” (PAGE 50)
Shayne seemed destined for a three-and-done career at Stanford, as he became a starter seven games into his freshman year and led the team in tackles his sophomore year. However, three games into his junior year he suffered a gruesome knee injury. He tore his ACL and MCL and fractured his tibia, which wound up requiring three surgeries. “It was hard to believe I was going to get back,” says Shayne. (PAGE 53)
He bottomed out in January 2012 when he was arrested for DUI after driving home from teammate Ryan Hewitt’s 21st birthday party. He was fined, ordered to attend alcohol-diversion classes and suspended by Shaw for the 2012 opener. “I made a mistake,” says Skov. “Certainly I wasn’t like, smashed drunk speeding down the freeway. I broke the law, though, and I suffered the consequences from it. . . . It probably was my darkest hour.” (PAGE 53)
His return to the field in 2012 saw him once again lead the team in tackles, and Stanford won its first Rose Bowl since 1972. But he didn’t feel he had his burst back yet. After the season, the school’s judicial affairs board suspended him for the winter 2013 quarter for the DUI offense. While away from school, he was able to rest his knee and cut down his body fat. He feels he’s back to his old self now. “We won’t know until I’m on the field for football-specific movement,” says Shayne, “but right now I’m ready to perform at as high of a level as I ever have in my career.” (PAGE 54)
***Also in “Revenge of the Nerd,” SI writers reflect on the rise of their alma maters—and the smart guys who play there: Kelli Anderson on Stanford; Lee Jenkins on Vanderbilt and senior fullback Fitz Lassing, Sarah Kwak on Duke and senior defensive end Kenny Anunike and Ben Glicksman on Northwestern and junior center Brandon Vitabile.
SI Special Report – How the NCAA’s Mishandling of the Miami Case Exposed an Enforcement Department Seemingly Powerless To Do Its JobPosted: June 12, 2013
After months of interviews with current and former NCAA staffers, as well as with convicted felon and former notorious University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, a special report entitled “The Institution Has Lost Control” in this week’s SPORTS ILLUSTRATED by senior writers Pete Thamel and Alexander Wolff exposes a fractured NCAA enforcement department seemingly powerless to do its job—despite recent efforts.
“People are questioning the need and effectiveness of an enforcement staff in general,” says former NCAA enforcement rep Abigail Grantstein, “to the point that I wonder if the membership will say we don’t want it.” (PAGE 65) “The time is ripe to cheat,” adds an ex-enforcement staffer. “There’s no policing going on.” (PAGE 66)
Shapiro, whose initial allegations that he supplied improper benefits to more than 100 Miami football and basketball players between 2002 and ‘10 came to light and was mostly corroborated in an August 2011 Yahoo! Sports report, now claims that he used inside information from Hurricanes players, coaches and athletic department staffers to win bets on 23 Miami football games between 2003 and ’09. Shapiro supplied SI with financial statements and bank records from 2005 to ’08 that show dozens of five- and six-figure sums moving from Shapiro’s entities to Adam Meyer’s during the college football season. Meyer is the operator of a handicapping website AdamWins.com. Meyer’s lawyer, Joel Hirschhorn, told SI that Meyer would place bets for Shapiro when his client was in Las Vegas.
An example of Shapiro’s new claims: He told SI that several days before favored Miami lost 19-16 to N.C. State on Nov. 3, 2007, he learned from a coach that quarterback Kyle Wright would be benched due to a bad knee and ankle. Shapiro said he got his bet in before the benching became public, and the line moved from 13 points to 11. Records show that six days after the game, nine wires moved $1.18 million from one Shapiro business to another. Shapiro claims it was all money from the N.C. State game.
This week the NCAA committee on infractions will hear the Miami case, but Shapiro says his gambling accusations won’t be a part of it. E-mails from earlier this year obtained by SI between Shapiro and an NCAA investigator make it clear that Shapiro wouldn’t consent to an interview with the NCAA to discuss his gambling on Miami games after the NCAA balked at paying for his attorney to attend the interview.
In addition to Shapiro’s claims, the SI report found that policies under NCAA president Mark Emmert since he took office in October 2010 have resulted in an atmosphere of instability, distrust and tension in the NCAA enforcement division. Among the findings: New performance metrics pressure NCAA investigators to try to solve cases more quickly; Emmert’s public comments on ongoing cases has disheartened staffers; and college presidents have more direct access with Emmert to discuss cases involving their schools. All of this has led to a staff reluctant to be aggressive on high profile cases.
Included in the SI report:
- Rich Johanningmeier, one of two NCAA enforcement reps originally assigned to the Miami case, retired in the middle of the investigation last spring. He told SI that he had found Shapiro to be substantially truthful and is taken aback by the interest college presidents, such as Miami president Donna Shalala, express in active investigations. Johanningmeier also noted how much more involved Emmert was than his predecessors. Johanningmeier says, “You were more aware that there was an interest from the [NCAA] president’s office in the cases than in the past.” (PAGE 63)
- Emmert’s No. 2, Jim Isch, began judging all NCAA departments with performance metrics, including an expectation that no investigation would take more than 12 months. Johanningmeier says he considered the Miami case to be a two-year undertaking.
- Shortly after being fired last spring for contracting with Shapiro attorney Maria Elena Perez to pose questions to witnesses who would not cooperate with the NCAA, Ameen Najjar, the other NCAA enforcement rep initially assigned to the case, sent Shapiro an e-mail that said his superiors “simply want to get the case done, even if it is half or only one quarter done. I don’t know if it is simply to meet some arbitrary time line or the upper levels are trying to save Miami. I suspect it’s the latter.” (PAGE 63)
- In 2011 the NCAA introduced a new enforcement model that assigned multiple staffers to one investigation. “One of the strong points under the old system was that we had a person who knew a case inside out,” Johanningmeier says. “With ownership comes responsibility. These were no longer your cases. They were team cases.” (PAGE 65) Former enforcement chief Julie Lach claims the new approach was effective and led to a speedier resolution in the case against Ohio State and coach Jim Tressel.
- Controversial episodes beyond the Miami case also disheartened enforcement employees. The NCAA abandoned a recruiting violation case against UCLA basketball player Shabazz Muhammad after the boyfriend of Grantstein was overheard boasting on a plane that the NCAA would find violations. Additionally, the NCAA’s harsh punishment of Penn State after the Jerry Sandusky scandal was regarded as overreach by many NCAA staffers, especially since the enforcement division never conducted an investigation.
Visit SI.com later today to read Pete Thamel’s take on the ineptitude of the NCAA enforcement process and Alexander Wolff’s intimate look at what it was like interviewing Shapiro through a series of jailhouse interviews.
With the NBA and NHL playoffs in full steam, daily baseball games and much more in the world of sports, there’s a chance you couldn’t get to all of the great content on SI.com this week. Inside SI has you covered. Here’s a selection of some of the top Sports Illustrated stories and video productions from the past week.
SI announced 10 finalists for its inaugural College Athlete of the Year.
Richard Deitsch reviews Fox Sports 1’s new big hires and more in his weekly Media Circus column.
Jeff Pearlman reminisces about the USFL 30 years later
Ian Thompson says Steph Curry is the latest to establish himself as a star in the playoffs.
Lee Jenkins writes that Kevin Durant can only do so much for OKC.
Rob Mahoney lists five players who have disappointed in the playoffs so far. He also notes the biggest surprises of the playoffs so far.
Do the NBA Playoffs Underdogs stand a chance? Chris Mannix and Maggie Gray discuss the Warriors and Bulls (video).
Mannix discusses how the injuries of Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Amar’e Stoudemire have affected their respective teams (video).
Sara Kwak says the Isles vs. Penguins has been the most thrilling series so far.
Allan Muir says the Senators showed their superiority over the shorthanded Habs.
While this week’s SI cover man Sidney Crosby worked his magic in the Penguins’ Game 5 Win, Eli Bernstein says the play of both goalies proved to be the difference.
Stu Hackel on how the NHL may change their policy on head shots.
Tom Verducci says expensive free agents are once again failing to meet expectations.
Jay Jaffe says Matt Harvey is fastest-starting Mets ace ever.
Cliff Cocoran provides this week’s Awards Watch.
SI.com’s Tom Verducci takes a look at the increasing strikeout rate around the MLB and asks if the Braves’ power can overcome their swing-and-miss ways (video).
The Tigers top Joe Lemire’s power rankings.
Peter King notes differing draft strategies, who will control the ’14 draft and more in this week’s MMQB.
Jim Trotter writes on how the California workers comp bill will have a lasting effect on NFL players.
Don Banks asks if betters days are coming for minority hires in the NFL?
Chris Burke on each team’s most pressing question as minicamp looms.
Micahael Bamberger writes that TV saved Tiger Woods from withdrawing from the Masters.
Gary Van Sickle says McIlroy, Stricker and Scott make TPC Sawgrass look easy
Andy Staples takes a stab at his post spring top 25.
Holly Anderson hands out her Sixth annual Switzies, which celebrate the ‘best’ of the 2013 offseason.
Stewart Mandel on how Ohio State aims to break the SEC’s title streak in 2013.
Rick Pitino talks Kentucky Derby, Final Four and 2013-14’s prospects in a Q&A with Pete Thamel.
Luke Winn gives out his second annual data-based hoops awards.
Bruce Jenkins writes that Madrid red clay is a welcome sight after 2012 left all feeling blue
In his weekly mailbag, Jon Wertheim wonders if Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens can find peace.
Grant Wahl provides updates on Alex Morgan, Frank Lampard and various MLS nuggets in his Planet Futbol Column.
Jonathan Wilsion says David Moyes is a safe choice for Manchester United, but comes with risk.
Sid Lowe writes that Jose Mourinho’s separation from Real Madrid getting messy.
Floyd Mayweather tops Chris Mannix’s Pound-For-Pound Top 15.
Floyd Mayweather talks about his title fight victory over Robert Guerrero, and looks ahead towards the rest of his multi-fight contract (video).
Jeff Wagenheim discusses Anderson Silva’s punishment, Johny Hendricks’ beard, and more in his MMA mailbag.
Lars Anderson on what we learned on a rainy, dark day at Talladega.
Carl Estes provides this week’s power rankings.
Only five million of India’s 1.2 billion people play basketball, making it the largest untapped hoops market in the world. In this week’s Sports Illustrated, senior writer Pete Thamel takes an inside look at basketball in India and how the NBA’s plan to penetrate this potentially lucrative market centers on the success of a 7-foot teenager from the Punjab named Satnam Singh Bhamara.
Satnam didn’t play basketball until age nine, when he was already 5’ 9” and was simply told to try the game due to his height. He picked up the game quickly and earned a scholarship at India’s premier basketball academy. He is now playing and going to school on scholarship at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. At age 17, he is a 7’1 ½”, 300-pound basketball prodigy with size 20 sneakers. Thamel writes:
“He can shoot with both hands, he never brings the ball below his waist after a rebound, and he can reliably hit free throws.” (PAGE 68)
Satnam’s father Balbir, also more than seven feet tall, never played basketball since he had to work on the family farm. He tells Thamel: “The things I couldn’t do in my life, I want Satnam to do.” (PAGE 68)
Thamel finds that the NBA shares the lofty ambitions for Satnam that his father has, as league executives envision Satnam becoming an Indian icon and international basketball ambassador, much like Yao Ming did in China a decade ago. Both the NBA and IMG understand the potential of India’s large young population. “It’s the largest untapped basketball market in the world,” says Bobby Sharma, IMG’s senior vice president for global basketball. “If Satnam’s potential gets him to the NBA, that’ll be good for a lot of people—especially Satnam.” (PAGE 69)
Almost half of India’s population is under the age of 24, so marketers and the NBA think now is the time to tap into basketball in India. “I just see it as unlimited in terms of its potential,” says NBA commissioner David Stern. NBA league marketing partners, such as Nike, Adidas and Coca-Cola, have signed up to help grow the game in India. India is “a top priority,” says NBA International president Heidi Ueberroth.
Thamel notes the many challenges to growing basketball in India, from not having adequate facilities to competing against more popular Indian sports like cricket, soccer and field hockey to the lack of a professional league that encourages kids to play and eventually earn some money playing the sport. Officials must also close the talent gap and find players like Satnam in remote areas outside of the cities. As it stands now, Thamel writes that “the Indian National team would struggle in the middling America East Conference.” (PAGE 72)
While he currently projects to be no more than an end-of-rotation NBA banger, his upside in India is enormous and he understands his potential influence. Satnam says: “Even after I retire, I want to make sure there’s a young generation that continues the popularity of basketball in India.” (PAGE 69)
Says Stern: “It doesn’t depend ultimately on whether Satnam Singh is the next Yao Ming…although that would be nice.” (PAGE 70)
Click here to listen to Pete Thamel discuss whether India can develop as a basketball power on the Inside SI Podcast with Richard Deitsch.