PORT ARTHUR —
Two thumbs up to Lamar University baseball coach Jim Gilligan for hitting the Southland Conference daily double of being named as a player on the league’s all-decade team of the 1960s and as a coach on the team of the ‘70s. Gilligan has long been one of Lamar’s greatest assets, both on and off the field, and it was nice to see such well-deserved recognition come his way. Admittedly, I’m not unbiased where Jim is concerned, since we go all the way back to me writing about his pitching feats for the Lamar school newspaper — The Redbird — in 1967. I’m still steamed over the controversial play at the plate in the finals of the 1984 NCAA regional in Austin that allowed Texas to escape with a 6-5 win and cost Gilligan and LU a shot at the College World Series . . . Speaking of Southland Conference baseball, the league achieved a major milestone in the MLB draft by having two players selected in the first round for the first time ever. SFA shortstop Hunter Dozier went 8th to Kansas City and Oral Roberts pitcher Alex Gonzalez was taken with the 23rd pick by the Rangers. They became the eight and ninth SLC players go in the first round of an MLB draft. Only two conferences — the SEC and Mountain West with three players each — had more first rounders than the Southland. SFA’s Dozier now shares with former USL (now Louisiana-Lafayette) basketball star Andrew Toney the distinction of being the SLC star taken the highest in any draft. Toney was selected 8th by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1980 NBA draft and went on to become an integral part of a championship team with Julius Erving and Moses Malone.
Few would argue that Jamaal Charles is the best player on either one of Missouri’s NFL team’s, so it’s fitting that he’s the dominant figure on the cover of the regional issue of The Sporting News 2013 Pro Football preview out this week. The Southwest cover of the magazine, meanwhile, features Dallas’ Tony Romo and Houston’s J.J. Watt. Jamaal, by the way, with 4,536 yards, is fourth on Kansas City’s all-time rushing list behind Christian Okoye (4,897), Larry Johnson (6,015) and Priest Holmes (6,070). Depending if he stays injury free, and how often Andy Reid gives him the ball, Charles could be the Chiefs all-time leader by season’s end . . . Next time your blood pressure rises over income tax, and those who get away without paying any, think about the NFL. The wealthiest, most powerful sports league in the world, which rewarded commissioner Roger Goodell to the tune of a $29.4 million salary last year, is classified as a 501 (c) (6) organization. That means it’s blessed with federal tax-exempt status. The PGA Tour and the National Hockey League enjoy the same benefit. The good news is that Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., thinks sports leagues going tax free is an outrage and is trying to pass legislation to change the status quo. The bad news is that the NFL’s lobbying clout — it spent $1.5 million on lobbyists last year — suggests Coburn won’t succeed. If he does, estimates are that $109 million in new taxes would be generated over the next decade.
How about them Astros! With their eye-opening road winning streak last week against Colorado and the Los Angeles Angels, Houston became only the ninth team in Las Vegas betting annals to win as an underdog of plus 120 or more in six straight games. The plus 120 means a $100 bet wins $120. Houston was actually plus 160 in all six games and plus $200 in five of them. According to Pregame.com, the odds against the Astros winning those six games in a row was 834/1 . . . Baseball attendance is down and the Astros have done their share to contribute to the drop-off with a decline of 129,811 through the first 29 home games of 2013. Believe it or not, however, four teams have seen attendance tumble more than Houston. Miami, baseball’s worst team, is down 307,867 and that’s not surprising after the Marlins player sell-off. But the next three — Philadelphia (194,403), the Chicago Cubs (148,378) and the Boston Red Sox (131,347) — are baseball hotbeds. Baltimore, meanwhile, claims the biggest bump in new ticket sales with a jump of 790,000 thus far . . . Sounds like the movie “42” was a blessing for Jackie Robinson memorabilia. A baseball glove worn by Robinson in the 1955 and 1956 World Series was sold last week in an online auction for $373,002. And one of the Louisville Slugger bats Robinson used in 1956 went for $114,000.
So how close, really, were University of Texas interests to luring Nick Saban away from Alabama. The well-connected anonymous contributor to the Inside Texas newsletter, known as the Big Cigar, reiterated recently that it was virtually a done deal until Mack Brown went ballistic after certain boosters and Board of Regents members made what they thought was an appealing exit strategy over lunch. According to the Big Cigar, Brown said they would have to fire him to get him to leave. That obviously didn’t happen . . . Early point spreads on college football posted Friday by the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas underscore why Brown feels so strongly that he can avenge some of his Longhorn football honor this season. Texas’ schedule is so soft the Longhorns are favored by at least 6 1/2 points in all but two games. They are a three-point favorite against TCU and the Oklahoma game is pick-em. With most Big 12 teams expected to take a significant step back, UT would seem to have a shot at running the table . . . Most noteworthy college point spread posted by the Golden Nugget was Alabama by six over Texas A&M in College Station. I’m betting that line will attract enough Aggie money to cause a drop of at least a point and probably more. A&M is also an underdog at LSU, although it’s only by one point. Alabama, on the other hand, was at least a 17-point favorite in every game but A&M and LSU. It’s 11 1/2 over the Tigers. During one stretch, the Tide is favored by 41, 17, 30, 27, 29, 11 1/2, 23 and 24 points.
Things change so much from game to game in the NBA playoffs after adjustments are made, it’s risky to jump to conclusions based on any game. But, after shooting so poorly and still winning Game 1 in Miami Thursday night, you have to think the San Antonio Spurs are feeling pretty good about their chances to win a fifth NBA championship. Miami usually plays best when backed into a corner, but it’s possible the Heat simply have too many holes. LeBron James must feel like he’s back in Cleveland carrying the entire load . . . Houston fans are excited about the possibility that Dwight Howard might be wearing a Rockets uniform next season and Vegas oddsmakers agree. Pregame.com lists a Howard return to the Lakers as even money, but has Houston next at 3/1, followed by Mark Cuban’s Mavericks at 5/1, New Jersey at 8/1, Golden State at 10/1 and Atlanta at 12/1. Because they are an aging team with the date of Kobe Bryant’s return from an Achilles injury up in the air, the Lakers best bargaining chip is the fact they can offer a max contract of five-years for $118 million. The best other teams can offer is four-years at $87.6 million. Leveling the table for Houston is no state income tax in Texas and a young team that’s on the rise . . . Little more than three years after a fall from grace that cost him an estimated $50 million annually in endorsements, Forbes magazine says Tiger Woods is back as the world’s highest-paid athlete. According to Forbes, Woods banked $78.1 million last year in tournament winnings, endorsements, appearance fees and course-design work. Closest to him was tennis star Roger Federer at $71.5 million. Kobe Bryant ($61.9 million), LeBron James ($59.8 million) and Drew Brees ($51 million) complete the top five. With a lucrative new Nike contract imminent, Woods is certain to remain No. 1 for a while.
Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at email@example.com.