Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I still can’t believe the pictures from the Las Vegas Invitational.
In today’s SI:AM:
🏀 The awful Las Vegas Invitational
🏈 Jimmy G’s big season for the Niners
🧀 Wisconsin lands a big one
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What happens in Vegas shouldn’t happen again
College sports are technically amateur sports, but this weekend’s women’s Las Vegas Invitational was ridiculously amateur.
The event featured 10 teams playing at the Mirage Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Sounds glamorous, right? In reality, the tournament organizers set up a court in one of the hotel’s ballrooms, and the teams played in the middle of the beige surface with virtually no spectators.
According to Stadium’s Jeff Goodman, teams were told the venue would use the same setup as the Athletes Unlimited women’s professional basketball competition used at Las Vegas’ Sport Center earlier this year. The AU setup featured more arena-like lighting and a large video panel behind the scorer’s table flanked by large banners that disguised the fact that matches were being played in an otherwise empty space.
Compare that to this the court for the Las Vegas Invitational. It was brightly lit, and the removable wall dividing the ballroom took up the entire background of the main broadcast angle.
But the aesthetic nightmare wasn’t the biggest issue. On Saturday, Auburn’s Kharyssa Richardson was injured late in the Tigers’ game against Colorado State, and with no medical staff at the venue, it took 45 minutes for paramedics to arrive and treat her. The game was postponed by almost an hour.
There were other problems too. There was no scoreboard apart from two television screens on the scorer’s table. According to Big Ten Network analyst Meghan McKeown, Tournament organizers did not provide towels, so the players were told to bring the towels from their hotel rooms. The only seating for spectators was a couple of rows of folding chairs.
“We are very sorry,” site coordinator Ryan Polk told ESPN. “The space and the lighting, the stuff wasn’t a problem. But we needed full stands. We have informed The Mirage that we will not be returning. This is a one-time catastrophe in terms of events. It definitely didn’t go the way we imagined or planned. On the spectator side, we just missed the target.”
No. 6 Indiana won both games at the event, improving to 7-0 in the season. After that, Hoosiers coach Teri Moren was very critical of the terms. While Polk apologized to teams and players, Moren said she thought “there are probably other people who need to apologize for wanting us to play this event, too.”
“What’s disappointing is the aesthetic,” Moren added. “It’s not a fan-friendly environment. As women’s basketball coaches, we try to push our game forward. It felt that way because it was getting so many ticks on social media [media]that we took a few steps back at that moment. We have an obligation to expand our game and we completely missed that opportunity. They have a lot of really good teams representing their conferences here. I see all these other tournaments and footage of it. This was a big mistake in my opinion to help grow this game.”
That’s the main take-away here. It’s impossible to imagine a men’s tournament doing so poorly, let alone an event featuring a top 10 team in the country. In fact, the men’s Las Vegas Holiday Classic was held across town at the 7,500-seat Orleans Arena. (The stands were mostly empty when UC Irvine defeated New Mexico State in the finals.)
Moren said that playing in a ballroom wasn’t the issue, but that the Hoosiers were debating whether it was safe to continue playing at the Mirage given what happened to Richardson.
“We’ve played in ballrooms before,” Moren said. “Last year we were in the Bahamas: another ballroom scenario, but it looked very different from the ballroom we’ve been playing the last two nights. I don’t want the impression that playing in ballrooms is dangerous. But with this particular event, there were a lot of things that needed to be improved.”
The best of sports illustrated
In today’s Daily Cover, Conor Orr examines how Jimmy Garoppolo has turned things around for the 49ers this season:
Simply put, during the best years of the Kyle Shanahan regime in San Francisco, it always seemed like Garoppolo was holding the team back a bit, so Shanahan and the team’s top team sacrificed several first-round picks to select his putative replacement, Trey Lance. Forced to return to Garoppolo when Lance tore his cruciate ligament in the second game of the 2022 season, Shanahan has built an offense — and a team — that would largely protect the quarterback from changing the equation.
Pat Forde believes it was only a matter of time before Luke Fickell switched from Cincinnati to a job like Wisconsin. … After leading the Jets to victory against the Bears, it makes sense for New York to line up behind Mike White now, writes Orr. … Albert Breer’s MMQB leads with Jacoby Brissett’s win over the Buccaneers in his latest start before Deshaun Watson can return from his suspension.
Around the sports world
We track all knockout stage scenarios for each World Cup group. … Odell Beckham Jr.’s attorney released a statement after the recipient was removed from a plane in Miami. … Aaron Rodgers’ thumb injury is reportedly more serious than he cared to admit. On top of that, he left yesterday’s game with a rib injury. … Manchester United are reportedly considering a move for Christian Pulisic. … Lionel Messi is reportedly close to a deal with MLS’s Inter Miami. … WWE is conducting tryouts at IMG Academy this week as part of a new recruiting strategy targeting elite athletes.
Cyber Monday marks the finale of the Sale holiday season. From tech and fitness to outdoor and home goods, top off your holiday shopping with these great deals.
… Things I saw in the NFL yesterday:
5. The skunk in the stands at the Browns game. (It was the Bucs that stank, though. They lost to Cleveland 23-17.)
4. Jordan Love’s first touchdown pass of the season.
3. Kenneth Walker trying to keep his legs moving on a touchdown run.
2. Josh Jacobs’ 86-yard touchdown run to win the game in overtime. (He also had a nice 30-yard score in the first half.)
1. Brian Robinsons big hat.
Former MLB pitcher Dave Righetti turns 64 today. On July 4, 1983, he threw a no-hitter for the Yankees. Three years later, he led the American League in saves and became the first pitcher to ever throw a no-hitter and be a saves leader. Dennis Eckersley later joined him in this category. Who is the only other pitcher throwing a no-hitter and also leading the AL or NL on saves?
- John Smoltz
- Derek Lowe
- Aroldis Chapman
- CJ Wilson
SIQ from Friday: On November 25, 1908, Italian Dorando Pietri and American Johnny Hayes met in a re-run of their epic, controversial marathon four months earlier at the London Olympics. Which New York City venue hosted the race?
- The Polo Grounds
- Madison Square Garden
- central park
- Coney Island Beach
Answers: Madison Square Garden. The building (now known as the second Madison Square Garden, with the current arena between Seventh and Eighth Avenues being the fourth building to bear that name) was the largest indoor spectator space in the world at the time, but running 26.2 Miles inside was still a challenge.
Organizers were able to squeeze a track into the arena that was a tenth of a mile long and drew a sell-out crowd to see Pietri and Hayes walk around them 262 times. This may sound boring, but the London race was a really big deal and the rematch was highly anticipated.
At the Olympics, Pietri rushed to take a late lead but stumbled as he entered the stadium where the finish was to take place and was helped to his feet by race officials. Despite crossing the finish line first, he was disqualified for receiving outside help and Hayes was declared the winner.
Additionally, Hayes, a native New Yorker, was a hometown hero, and in a city teeming with immigrants, the encounter between Hayes (the child of Irish immigrants) and Pietri (from the Italian island of Capri) held special significance. A 1954 SI article reported that the race was held in front of “a full house of Italian and Irish-American partisans”.
The race lived up to the hype as Pietri finished just 60 yards ahead of Hayes. With the United States in the marathon frenzy, a third meeting between Hayes and Pietri was organized. In the race, which was also held at MSG in March 1909, Pietri won effortlessly.
From the vault: November 28, 1977
This is one of the most recognizable covers in SI history. But I don’t know if I’ve ever really paid much attention to the “College Basketball’s Secret Weapon” headline. It’s hard to imagine Larry Bird ever being a “secret weapon,” but by the start of the 1977-78 college basketball season, that was an apt description.
In an article on the increasing popularity and effectiveness of the jump shot, Kent Hannon wrote that Bird was “so little known outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, that he can only be described as basketball’s secret weapon.” Bird averaged 32.8 points per game and 13.3 rebounds in his freshman season for Indiana State. The Sycamores went 25-2 in the regular season but were denied an NCAA tournament call, leaving Bird’s skills as college basketball’s best-kept secret.
However, the mystery was revealed when the 1977/78 season began. SI ranked Indiana State as the No. 17 team in the country, although it took the rest of the country longer to catch up. (ISU only cracked the AP Top 25 after beating No. 11 Purdue in their season opener.)
Once again, however, the Sycamores were banned from March Madness. They finished a game behind Creighton in the Missouri Valley Conference rankings, so it was the Bluejays who bowed out for the conference tournament championship game. They beat Indiana State 54-52 in that game to claim the conference’s automatic NCAA tournament offer.
Check out more from SIs archives and historical images at vault.si.com.
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