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🎾 Four-year ban: Former world No. 1 Simona Halep has received a four-year suspension for violating multiple anti-doping rules.
🏈 Reporter sues NFL: Former NFL Network journalist Jim Trotter is suing the NFL, alleging his contract was not renewed because he called out Roger Goodell on the league's lack of diversity.
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THE NEW CONFERENCE OF CHAMPIONS
The Pac-12 has long been known as the "Conference of Champions" for its title-winning ways. But as those schools disperse next year amid landscape-altering realignment, a new league will ascend the throne, Jeff writes.
Where it stands: Currently, the Pac-12 has 55% more team championships* than the Big Ten in second place, and at least twice as many as each of the other three "Power Five" conferences.
NCAA team championships:
Big Ten: 367
Big 12: 243
Where we're headed: 10 of the Pac-12's dozen schools have announced plans to depart next year, bringing the 108-year-old league to an abrupt halt. The result will be a "Power Four" led by the Big Ten as the new "Conference of Champions."
Big Ten (654 team championships): The richest conference in America will now be the winningest thanks largely to the arrival of UCLA (122 titles, second-most) and USC (121, third-most). Oregon (34) and Washington (10) are also coming from the Pac-12, bringing 44 team titles of their own.
SEC (389): Big 12 stalwarts Texas and Oklahoma are set to join, bringing 103 trophies with them. No SEC school has more team championships than the Longhorns (60), and only Arkansas (51), LSU (45) and Florida (45) have more than the Sooners (43).
ACC (381): The Atlantic Coast Conference jumps out of last thanks to the addition of Stanford (135, most of any school) and Cal (45, 10th-most), which definitely aren’t on the Atlantic Coast. They’re also adding SMU, but the Mustangs have zero team championships.
Big 12 (236): Colorado (28), Arizona (19), Arizona State (24) and Utah (25) are making the move from the Pac-12, bringing 96 team championships — not quite enough to make up for the loss of Texas and Oklahoma.
What to watch: While the Pac-12's "Conference of Champions" days are ending, the league could survive beyond this year — at least in name. Oregon State and Washington State, the only Pac-12 schools without a new home, are considering a merger with the Mountain West whereby they retain the Pac-12 brand.
*The tally is based on NCAA team championships in 39 men's and women's sports, as well as football championships, which have been bestowed by various organizations dating back to 1869. The tally does not include individual championships.
THE YOUNGEST COACH IN D-1 SPORTS
As the college field hockey season kicks into gear, I'd like to call your attention to a fascinating story out of Chapel Hill.
Last year, Erin Matson led UNC to a national championship. This year, at just 23 years old, she's the head coach.
How we got here: Matson is one of the best players in the history of the sport. "The Michael Jordan of field hockey," her former coach told The Athletic ($).
At 16, the Pennsylvania native became the youngest player to ever make the US national team.
At UNC, she led the Tar Heels to four national titles and was named national player of the year three times.
Now, she's the youngest coach in D-I sports and is leading many of her former teammates, some of whom were her roommates not too long ago.
She's replacing a legend in Karen Shelton, who coached UNC for 42 years and won nine national championships.
Shelton intentionally put off retirement until Matson's playing career was over. Then, she gave her the keys.
Coming up: No. 2 UNC hosts No. 4 Louisville on Friday in their ACC opener.
THE HUNT FOR OCTOBER
The MLB playoffs begin in three weeks, and 26 teams are still alive for a postseason spot — though just 16 are truly in the hunt, Jeff writes.
As a reminder: The postseason now features 12 teams, with three division winners and three wild cards per league.
The top two seeds in each league earn a bye into the Division Series, while the remaining teams face off in the best-of-three Wild Card Round.
If the playoffs started today: The Orioles, Astros, Braves and Dodgers would earn the coveted byes, and the Wild Card Round would be Twins-Mariners, Rays-Rangers, Brewers-Diamondbacks and Phillies-Cubs.
Let's take a look at all the races…
American League: The East, West and Wild Card are all still up for grabs, while the dreadful Central is Minnesota’s to lose.
East: The Orioles (91-53) lead the Rays (89-57) by three games as they seek their first division title since 2014. They’ll play a huge four-game series starting tomorrow in Baltimore.
Central: The Twins (76-69) have a 7.5-game lead over the rest of the division and will likely be the only team to finish above .500. Yuck.
West: The Astros (82-64) have a narrow lead over the Rangers (80-64), who spent most of the summer in first, and the Mariners (80-65), who led the division a week ago. Wild finish coming.
Wild Card: The O's-Rays loser will easily grab the top spot, while the Blue Jays (80-65), Rangers and Mariners (or Astros, if they cede the division) are separated by just one game for the final two spots. The Red Sox and Yankees, both seven games back, need a miracle.
National League: The East and West are all but locked up, but the Central is tight and the six teams are still very much alive in the Wild Card race.
East: The Braves (95-50) clinched their sixth straight playoff berth on Sunday and look poised to win their sixth straight division title.
Central: The Brewers (81-63) lead the Cubs (78-68) by four games, and their seasons end with a three-game set in Milwaukee. Could be electric.
West: The Dodgers (88-56) have a 13-game division lead and will soon clinch their 11th straight playoff berth, which is the third-longest streak ever.
Wild Card: The Phillies (79-66) Cubs and Diamondbacks (76-70) are in as of today, but the Reds (75-71), Giants (74-71) and Marlins (74-71) are all within 1.5 games of that final spot.
Full snapshot: Playoff picture
UFC + WWE = TKO
The UFC and WWE officially merged on Tuesday, becoming TKO Group and debuting on the New York Stock Exchange.
The UFC, valued at $12.1 billion, was founded in 1993 and really took off this century under president Dana White. Endeavor (formerly WME-IMG) bought a majority stake in 2016 and took full control in 2021.
WWE, valued at $9.3 billion in the merger, was founded in 1953 as Capitol Wrestling Corporation by Vince J. McMahon, who later sold it to his son, Vince K. McMahon. It became a public company in 1999.
TKO leadership: Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel* will serve as CEO of TKO Group, with McMahon as executive chairman and White as UFC CEO.
What to expect: While WWE is choreographed and the UFC is real, there's enough overlap that cross-promotion makes sense. So expect UFC fighters to appear at WWE shows, and vice versa. TKO also plans to expand into other sports, CNBC reports.
*Fun fact: Emanuel was the inspiration for the Ari Gold character on HBO's "Entourage."
NFL POWER RANKINGS
49ers: 1-0 (up 4)
Eagles: 1-0 (–)
Chiefs: 0-1 (down 2)
Cowboys: 1-0 (up 2)
Bills: 0-1 (down 1)
Bengals: 0-1 (down 3)
Lions: 1-0 (–)
Dolphins: 1-0 (up 1)
Browns: 1-0 (up 7)
Ravens: 1-0 (–)
Jaguars: 1-0 (up 1)
Packers: 1-0 (up 3)
Saints: 1-0 (up 4)
Chargers: 0-1 (–)
Patriots: 0-1 (up 5)
Seahawks: 0-1 (down 5)
Steelers: 0-1 (down 4)
Jets: 1-0 (down 10)
Falcons: 1-0 (up 2)
Vikings: 0-1 (down 2)
Commanders: 1-0 (up 2)
Titans: 0-1 (–)
Raiders: 1-0 (up 3)
Giants: 0-1 (down 5)
Buccaneers: 1-0 (up 3)
Rams: 1-0 (up 4)
Broncos: 0-1 (down 3)
Panthers: 0-1 (down 3)
Colts: 0-1 (–)
Bears: 0-1 (down 3)
Texans: 0-1 (–)
Cardinals: 0-1 (–)
Super Bowl odds: The Chiefs (+650), 49ers (+700) and Eagles (+700) are the favorites at BetMGM. The Rodgers-less Jets dropped from +1800 to +6600.
SEPT. 13, 1970: FIRST NYC MARATHON
Growth through the years: The original course was entirely in Central Park. By 1976, it had expanded to traverse all five boroughs as it does today. Participation has exploded in the five decades since, from 55 finishers in 1970 to nearly 48,000 last year.
⚾️ 1909: Ty Cobb clinched his only AL home run title with his ninth homer of the season (all inside-the-park).*
🏈 1992: The Bills beat the 49ers, 34-31, in the first NFL game not to feature a single punt by either team.
*A different time: In 1915, about 25% of all MLB home runs were inside jobs. Today, that number is virtually 0%.
WATCHLIST: POSTSEASON HOOPS
The WNBA playoffs tip off tonight as four of the eight contending teams begin their best-of-three series.
No. 6 Lynx at No. 3 Sun (8pm ET, ESPN2): Minnesota is the second team to ever reach the playoffs after starting 0-6; Connecticut now owns the WNBA's longest active postseason streak (seven straight years).
No. 8 Sky at No. 1 Aces (10pm, ESPN): Vegas could become the first back-to-back champs* since the 2001-02 Sparks; Chicago is peaking at the right time, finishing 5-1 after a 13-21 start.
More to watch:
*Vegas likes Vegas: The Aces are -150 favorites to repeat. New York has the second-best odds at +145, per BetMGM.
The New York City Marathon is one of six World Marathon Majors.
Question: Name the other five.
Hint: Two in the US, two in Europe, one in Asia.
Answer at the bottom.
They are doing the first “Simba Cam” tonight at Citi Field with dogs 🐶 pic.twitter.com/Iq2IWcHMvV
— Jake Brown (@JakeBrownRadio) September 12, 2023
"SIMBA CAM" IN QUEENS
Tough times for New York sports, with nightmare openers for the Jets and Giants, and the Yankees and Mets flirting with last place.
But it's not all bad: They brought out the "Simba Cam" at Citi Field last night, encouraging fans to hold up their dogs for the jumbotron. Good boys!
Trivia answer: Boston, Chicago, London, Tokyo and Berlin