🏈 JMU denied: The NCAA has denied a waiver request from James Madison to play for a conference championship and be fully bowl-eligible this season. The 10-0 Dukes could still make a bowl game if there aren't enough 6-win teams.
🏏 Cricket World Cup: Host nation India beat New Zealand to reach the final of the Cricket World Cup. They'll face the winner of South Africa-Australia.
⛳️ Roof collapse: TGL, the new indoor golf league backed by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, could see its debut season delayed after the roof of its main stadium in Florida collapsed.
⚾️ THE BENCH COACH TO MANAGER PIPELINE
Four of the seven managers hired this offseason have experience as a bench coach, a lesser-known but critical role that has become almost a prerequisite for holding the top job, Jeff writes.
The new hires: The Astros (Joe Espada) and Brewers (Pat Murphy) promoted their bench coaches, the Mets (Carlos Mendoza) hired the Yankees' bench coach and the Giants (Bob Melvin) hired a longtime manager who began his career as a bench coach.
By the numbers: That ratio (four of seven) is roughly in keeping with the league as a whole, where 18 of 29 current managers were bench coaches before becoming skippers. And many of them found success not long after making that jump.
What a bench coach does: They are the manager's right-hand man; their lieutenant; their sous-chef. So while the skipper has the final say, it's the bench coach who's grinding behind the scenes to be the most prepared member of the staff.
For starters, they take care of less high-profile tasks like running spring training and scheduling batting practice. But their most important responsibility is tactical game preparation.
Bench coaches pore over stats and data to know how to attack the opponent, and because managers are so focused on the now, bench coaches are often looking ahead to the decisions that must be made innings later.
They also need to be trusted communicators, acting as a liaison between the manager and players. There's a reason the fiery Billy Martin brought the affable Yogi Berra into his dugout in 1976 before "bench coach" was even part of the lexicon.
Notable examples: The first modern iteration of the role came in 1962, but it didn't fully catch on until 1996. That's when Joe Torre brought former manager Don Zimmer on board and they led the Yankees to four championships in five years. Since then, numerous bench coaches-turned managers have won World Series.
Dave Roberts spent two years as the Padres' bench coach before heading to Los Angeles in 2016, where he helped end the Dodgers' three-decade title drought in 2020.
Alex Cora led Boston to a championship in 2018, just one year after winning as the bench coach in Houston.
Joe Maddon won the 2002 World Series as the Angels' bench coach before taking the Rays to their first World Series in 2008 and ending the Cubs' 108-year curse in 2016.
And who was Maddon's bench coach in Tampa and Chicago? Dave Martinez, who led the Nationals to their first title in 2019, his second year at the helm.
What to watch: The Padres are the only team still looking for a manager, and they've already interviewed four candidates. Bet you'll never guess what three of those four have in common.
🏈 DESHAUN WATSON: $90M FOR 12 GAMES
Deshaun Watson will undergo season-ending surgery to repair a broken bone in his throwing shoulder, the Browns announced Wednesday.
Wild stat: By season's end, the Browns will have paid Watson over $90 million to play 12 games (~$7.5 million per game).
Cleveland signed Watson to a $230 million fully guaranteed contract last year despite allegations of sexual misconduct.
He missed 11 games in 2022 due to suspension and missed a month earlier this year with a strained rotator cuff.
Watson's replacement: Rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson will take over as the starter for the 6-3 Browns, who host the rival Steelers on Sunday.
🏒 MANSLAUGHTER ARREST MADE IN HOCKEY DEATH
American hockey player Adam Johnson tragically died last month after an errant skate slashed his neck during a game in England. Now, the player whose skate landed the fatal blow could face criminal charges, Jeff writes.
What's happening: South Yorkshire police arrested a man on Tuesday on suspicion of manslaughter.
While U.K. laws grant privacy to individuals under arrest, the man is assumed to be Matt Petgrave, the defender who collided with Johnson.
He has since been released on bail, which in this case means the police aren't ready to make a decision on his case. The investigation is ongoing.
Wasn't this a "freak accident"? That's what Johnson's team, the Nottingham Panthers, called it. But intent isn't required for manslaughter, which can be either voluntary or involuntary.
There is no precedent for such a conviction in U.K. sports, but criminal charges have been brought against hockey players for similar incidents in other countries.
One notable example: In 1992, Miran Schrott died of cardiac arrest in Italy after being hit with Jim Boni's stick. Boni pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but did not go to prison.
What they're saying: Johnson's teammates have stood with Petgrave in the aftermath of the tragedy. "It's clear to me his actions were unintentional," said one. "No one on our team thinks it's his fault," said another.
Preventing another tragedy: England's pro league, as well as leagues in Germany and Canada, have mandated protective neck guards starting next year. The NHL has tabled the discussion for now, but the Penguins — for whom Johnson played 13 games in 2019 — are mandating the guards for their minor leaguers.
⚾️ MLB COULD SHORTEN PITCH CLOCK
MLB is weighing a proposal that would shorten the pitch clock with runners on base from 20 seconds to 18 seconds, ESPN reports.
By the numbers: The pitch clock did its job last season, with the average nine-inning game lasting 2:39. That was 24 minutes shorter than the previous season and the shortest since 1985 (also 2:39).
But games got longer as the season progressed, from an average of 2:37 over the first two months to 2:44 by season's end.
The goal of this change, which could be implemented by the start of next season, would be to reverse that trend.
The current rules: Pitchers have 15 seconds to deliver their pitch with the bases empty and 20 seconds with runners on base. Batters must be in the box ready to hit by the time the clock hits 8 seconds. Violations result in an automatic ball (for the pitcher) or strike (for the hitter).
📸 BEHIND THE LENS
Each week, we go "Behind the Lens" with Getty Images to get the backstory on the best photographs in sports.
This week's photo: Chargers running back Austin Ekeler is tackled onto Lions linebacker Jack Campbell by two other Lions players, Aidan Hutchinson and Derrick Barnes, during the second quarter of Detroit's thrilling 41-38 win at SoFi Stadium.
Photographer: Harry How
Location: Inglewood, California
Date: November 12
Behind the lens: Here's Harry…
Football is one of those sports where random things happen, so any angle can instantaneously become the right angle. Staying attentive is key.
This picture was taken on a 600mm lens from the end zone. I followed Austin Ekeler from behind as he took the handoff and ran away from me. Ekeler was hit from all directions, and as he spun and fell, the bodies just piled up above and below him to form a human sandwich that I've not seen before. A bit of luck is always needed photographing sport.
📆 NOV. 16, 1957: NOTRE DAME 7, OKLAHOMA 0
66 years ago today, Notre Dame beat Oklahoma, 7-0, to snap the Sooners' 47-game winning streak, which remains the longest in Division-I history, Jeff writes.
Longest winning streaks*:
47: Oklahoma (1953–57)
40: Washington (1908–14)
39: North Dakota State (2017–20)
37: Yale (1887–89; 1890–93)
35: Toledo (1969–71)
34: Penn (1894–96); Miami (2000–02); USC (2003–05)
33: North Dakota State (2012–14)
32: Nebraska (1969–72)
31: Penn (1896–98); Pitt (1914–18); Oklahoma (1948–50)
30: Texas (1968–70)
🏈 1982: The NFL players' strike ended after 57 days. It was the longest in pro sports history at the time, lasting seven days longer than the MLB players' strike one year earlier.
⚽️ 2003: 16-year-old Lionel Messi made his Barcelona debut, entering in the 75th minute of a friendly against Porto.
*Active leader: Georgia has won 27 straight games, the longest active streak in the nation and one shy of tying Alabama's SEC record of 28.
📺 WATCHLIST: ROAD TO THE COLLEGE CUP
The men's NCAA soccer tournament kicks off today, as 48 teams begin their road to the College Cup (soccer's Final Four), Jeff writes.
Schedule: The 32 unseeded teams play today (1-10pm ET, ESPN+), with winners advancing to face the 16 national seeds in the second round.
National seeds (1-16): Marshall, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Georgetown, West Virginia, SMU, Virginia, New Hampshire, Clemson, Wake Forest, Portland, UCF, UCLA, Hofstra, Duke, Stanford.
More to watch:
🏈 NFL: Bengals (+3.5) at Ravens (8:15pm, Prime)
🏀 NCAAW: No. 20 Maryland at No. 8 UConn (6:30pm, FS1); Clemson at No. 1 South Carolina (7pm, SEC); Kansas State at No. 2 Iowa* (8:30pm, FS1)
⚽️ Nations League: USMNT vs. Trinidad & Tobago (9pm, TNT/Max) … In Austin, Texas.
🎾 Tennis: ATP Finals (8:30am, Tennis)
⛳️ LPGA: Tour Championship (7:30am, ESPN+; 3pm, Golf) … Season finale.
🏀 NBA: Nets at Heat (7:30pm, NBA); Thunder at Warriors (10pm, NBA)
🏈 CFB: Boston College at Pitt (7pm, ESPN)
⚽️ Women's NCAA tournament: Second round (6pm, ESPN+) … Two games today.
*Clark's on fire: Reigning POY Caitlin Clark is averaging 32-8-9 and coming off a 24-point triple-double that made her Iowa's all-time leading scorer.
⚾️ MLB TRIVIA
Blake Snell is the second lefty to win the Cy Young Award in both leagues (2018 with the Rays, 2023 with the Padres).
Question: Who does he join?
Hint: He won four straight and five overall.
Answer at the bottom.
🏀 FROM COACH TO ROOMMATE
Former Buckeye great Aaron Craft will spend the next month working at an Indianapolis hospital as he pursues his medical degree. With his family in Columbus, he's moved in with his former coach, Thad Matta, now at Butler.
Matta: "I think that's the way it's supposed to be. Because when I recruit kids I tell them, 'This is not a four-year deal, this is a lifetime deal.' … I'll do whatever I can for those guys."
Read the full story (Indy Star)
Trivia answer: Randy Johnson (1995 with the Mariners, 1999-2002 with the Diamondbacks)