Rugby: No justification for Umaga being kept on by the Blues, says rugby writer Wynne Gray – New Zealand Herald


There is no justification for the Blues to have kept on coach Tana Umaga, says rugby writer Wynne Gray.

Despite having struggled in their 2018 campaign, the Blues announced yesterday that Umaga’s reign in charge of the franchise will continue after extending his contract to the end of the 2019 Super Rugby season.

The Blues also confirmed that former All Blacks fullback Leon MacDonald will be joining as assistant coach.

Speaking to Radio Sport Breakfast, Gray said he was confused by the Blues’ decision to extend Umaga’s contract.

“I’m just confused as normal about what the Blues are doing,” said Gray, who has written several books about rugby and the All Blacks, and also writes a weekly column for the Herald.

“I can’t see any justification for Tana being kept on quite frankly. He’s had three years, success has been minimal.

“You’ll hear [Blues CEO] Michael Redman carry on about how they’re making progress but really, when you look at other franchises with first year coaches for example, the Highlanders and the Chiefs, they’re doing far better than the Blues already. So I just can’t see the justification for keeping him on.

“And bringing in an assistant coach for next year who was reluctant to travel and go to the Crusaders about a year ago, I don’t get it.”

Tana Umaga and the Blues squad. Photo / Getty Images
Tana Umaga and the Blues squad. Photo / Getty Images

The Blues have had another disappointing season under Umaga during his third season in charge, winning just three of their 11 games this season.

They’re also in the midst of a horror run against New Zealand opposition, having failed to beat a Kiwi side in their last 16 matches.

Gray said it is up to the Blues board and leadership to turn things around for the ailing franchise.

“[Finding the best person for the job] is something for the board and people whose responsibility it is, they need to have been proactive and gone and investigated who’s around and who’s available,” Gray told Radio Sport Breakfast.

“The history of the franchise in the last 15 years suggests [this] pattern will continue.

“You’re always optimistic every year that it might change but the thread is getting thinner and thinner.

“Every year or every three years we will hear something along the lines from a CEO ‘this coach is going to make a huge difference’. Well, we haven’t seen it for 15 years have we.

Leon Macdonald and Tana Umaga. Photo / Photosport
Leon Macdonald and Tana Umaga. Photo / Photosport

Speaking after yesterday’s announcement, Blues boss Redman said while the board wasn’t satisfied with current performances, they don’t believe firing Umaga is the answer.

“The board believes there are positive improvements taking place at all levels at the club, and that Tana still has a contribution to make,” said Redman.

“Changing head coach now would mean we throw out three years of hard-earned experience and starting again which we believe is the wrong thing to do.

“At the same time, the expected shifts in on-field performance are yet to be achieved and we are examining every aspect of team selection, preparation and support as our fans would expect.”

Umaga said he was also disappointed with the team’s results and knows they need to improve quicky.

“We are in the results business. Believe me, no one at the Blues right now is happy with where we are at, but everyone has bought in to our plan, believes in it and works so hard every day to perform,” Umaga said.

“There are significant parts of every game where we are achieving that, and just a few basic things that let us down and convert those tight games into positive results.”



NFL has no problem with new owner's casino investments – New York Post



New York Post

NFL has no problem with new owner’s casino investments
New York Post
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Phoenix gets Alliance of American Football team, will name coach Friday – Arizona Sports


Some of the newly finished stadium construction, foreground, at Sun Devil Stadium starts to fill up with fans prior to an NCAA college football game against Northern Arizona Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Phoenix will become the fifth city to have a team with the Alliance of American Football.

A press conference will be held Friday at Sun Devil Stadium, where the games will be played, to announce the head coach.

The AAF will be an eight-team, 10-week league beginning Feb. 9, the week after the Super Bowl. There will be two playoff rounds, then a championship game the weekend of April 26.

The AAF website lists Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Memphis and Orlando as the other four official teams to have joined the league.

Former ASU coach Dennis Erickson will coach the Salt Lake team. Over his five years in Tempe, the Sun Devils went 31-31 and appeared in two bowl games.

Erickson was also the head coach of the Seahawks and 49ers.

Atlanta will be coached by Brad Childress, a former Vikings head coach and assistant for several other NFL teams. He has also coached at the collegiate level, including Northern Arizona.

Mike Singletary, a member of the Pro and College Hall of Fame, will coach Memphis. He was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year for the Chicago Bears.

He was the head coach of the 49ers from 2008-10.

Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback and 10-year pro Steve Spurrier will coach Orlando. He coached at the collegiate level for 26 years, compiling a 228-89 record and appearing in 21 bowl games.

Spurrier is one of four people to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player and a coach.

Follow @Logan_Newsman



Las Vegas Welcomes The Spread Of Sports Gambling – NPR


People place bets at the Sports Book at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Leila Fadel/NPR


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Leila Fadel/NPR

People place bets at the Sports Book at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Leila Fadel/NPR

At MGM Grand Las Vegas, a bookmaker takes bets on sports events at the round counter at the Race & Sports Book near the casino. Hockey is among the games being broadcast on 47 flat screens above while gamblers sit in leather seats to watch and strategize.

For years, Las Vegas has held a fairly exclusive lock on legal sports gambling like this in the U.S. But a Supreme Court decision to strike down an act that effectively banned it in most of the rest of the country now means other states can permit and regulate it, too. And while that means more competition for Las Vegas, casino executives and longtime bookmakers in Nevada are welcoming the decision. They say permitting sports betting is good for everyone in the industry. Besides, they say, people come to Las Vegas for more than that.

On this day, Kevin Olson and Josh Sturm are on a guys’ trip, mostly to play cards and golf. The sports betting is just the icing, they say.

“Honestly, there’s a lot of avenues online that you can use, and people that we know and myself use online sports betting quite often,” Sturm said. “So it’s really, it’s not a lucrative thing that we have to come to Vegas just to be able to do it.”

Sturm is referring to the millions of people already betting online. The American Gaming Association estimates that people bet $150 billion on professional and college sports illegally every year.

But Sturm prefers to gamble and make bets in person.

“You know you always wonder ‘is there some element of cheating?’ I guess,” he said.

And soon enough, Sturm and his friends might be able to make these bets — legally and in person — closer to their homes in Austin, Texas.

“If something opens up in Texas,” Olson says, “I feel like I would be doing a bit more sports betting just year-round. Not just here in Vegas.”

But he’ll still head to Las Vegas for the experience: golf, cards, slots, shows, restaurants. And that is what bookmakers and casino executives are banking on. They hope that Nevada will be a model for newcomers to the regulated sports betting industry.

Yes, we’ve enjoyed a monopoly or a near monopoly on sports betting, but Las Vegas benefits when there there’s interest in our field, in our field of entertainment sports, sports betting, gambling in general,” said Jim Murren, the chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International. “It will promote activity, increase fan interest in the team, in the sport, in the league which we believe will in turn increase their interest in going to the sports mecca of sports betting and gambling: Las Vegas.”

Murren says people were also worried about Las Vegas when legal gambling went to other states and to Native American reservations.

“And yet Nevada has grown through that period of time,” he said.

MGM hopes to expand sports betting to its other properties in the United States and its online betting app. And with it becoming a legal and regulated industry, Murren said, it’s just one more step toward erasing the stigma often attached to the industry as predatory.

“The traditional view of the casino industry is starting to evolve, but it will be viewed much differently five years from now and this will be a major reason why,” he said.

Currently, sports betting is a drop in the bucket of money made in Nevada off gaming. In the last fiscal year, Nevada took in $688.6 million in a tax fee on gambling and just over 2 percent of that came from sports betting according to the Nevada Gaming Association.

The association welcomed the ruling and offered its expertise to other states that will be regulating sports betting.

But what does this mean for bookmakers like Jimmy Vaccaro, who has been doing this work for 41 years?

“It’s a big day,” Vaccaro said at the South Point Hotel and Casino just off the Las Vegas Strip. The in-house satellite radio station praised the decision as enlightened.

“Now with it being nationwide, it’s going to have an impact, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “It will be a little less only because if you live in California, you don’t have to run over here to make a bet, you could do it right from there.”

There will be fewer people through the doors. But “there will be plenty of opportunities a lot of other places for people like us to, in a sense, run their book for them, only because of what we have done, only because the way that we do business, only because of what we do and how we handle it,” he says. “We will get opportunities. I think the opportunity will outweigh drastically the little part that we lose people coming to the South Point.”

All day, Vaccaro has been in meetings discussing the decision.

There is a lot to be ironed out to make sports betting lucrative — from state taxes in other places to whether the leagues get a cut of the bets.

Bookmaking has changed since Vaccaro started decades ago — betting has moved online and there is a higher cost to air professional football games. But bookmakers adapt, he says.

“We’re always reinventing ourselves.”



Insider: What Romeo Langford, Adidas relationship means for IU basketball – Indianapolis Star


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New Albany’s Romeo Langford chooses Indiana University.
Clark Wade/IndyStar

BLOOMINGTON – The perhaps never-ending scandal cutting a path across college basketball grazed Indiana on Tuesday.

A lengthy piece in the Washington Post, published online around lunchtime, detailed a financial relationship between Adidas and Tim Langford, father of McDonald’s All American IU signee Romeo Langford. The basic thrust: The apparel company had, according to former Louisville coach Rick Pitino, funded an AAU program coached by Tim Langford, and that Adidas agreed to do so to maintain its influence with Langford’s NBA-prospect son.

More: Why Romeo Langford means so much to basketball in Indiana

More: How Archie Miller landed Romeo Langford, against the odds

Cutting through the inevitable hysteria, from Indiana’s perspective, there’s not much there, at least not yet.

That’s not to discredit the Post’s story, which is well-reported and revealing, while also measured and balanced. It makes a case and makes it well — Adidas, in an effort to keep Romeo Langford under its umbrella, agreed to sponsor an AAU team run by his father.

Romeo Langford sat flanked by family during a groundbreaking ceremony in Kevin Hammersmith Park that will feature a basketball court named after the New Albany High standout. 5/11/18 (Photo: Marty Pearl/Special to Courier Journal)

It’s not that that’s not news. It is news. It’s just that, at least in addressing questions about Romeo Langford’s eligibility, his potential college career and the ripple effects on IU, none of it appears to be illegal or against NCAA rules.

Pitino himself, quoted heavily in the Post story, told the Louisville Courier-Journal on Tuesday, “I don’t think they did anything wrong,” referring to Adidas’ decision to sponsor Twenty Two Vision, Langford’s AAU program the summer before his senior year of high school.

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Romeo Langford of New Albany earns IndyStar Mr. Basketball

More: ‘Romeo Langford’ graduated from the Kelley School of Business, thanks to an IU prankster

This isn’t the first time Indiana has been touched by all this.

In late February, on the night of IU’s regular-season finale against Ohio State, Yahoo! Sports reported that ASM Sports agency associate Christian Dawkins — one of the central figures in the FBI’s criminal investigation into college basketball corruption — claimed through internal communication to have had contact with former IU assistant coach Chuck Martin.

Dawkins appeared to suggest to another employee of ASM Sports, the agency employing him, that he was attempting to trade favors with Martin. He would steer elite recruit Brian Bowen to Indiana, in exchange for Indiana steering soon-to-be NBA prospects Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby to ASM.

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Insider Zach Osterman and columnist Gregg Doyel discuss Romeo Langford’s decision to play for Indiana University.
Clark Wade/IndyStar

Bowen never visited Indiana, nor was he ever reported as a serious IU target. Neither Bryant, nor Anunoby, signed with representation under ASM’s umbrella. Responding to an open records request from IndyStar, Indiana University said it had no record of contact between any ASM employee and Martin, or any other member of IU’s staff at that time.

Perhaps IU is just lucky. Perhaps there is another twist to come. Perhaps the relationship between shoe companies and college basketball has become so intimate and pervasive that it will be hard for any major program not to be brushed by this.

Tuesday’s Washington Post story, though, didn’t really reveal anything not already either known or presumed.

And the social media reaction, while unsurprising, felt distinctly Casablanca, with Claude Rains telling Humphrey Bogart he’s “shocked” to find gambling going on in Bogart’s café, as a croupier hands him his winnings.

Follow IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.

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