The Jaguars have had more misses than hits in their NFL franchise history except when it comes to ownership. They couldn’t have had two better owners than Wayne Weaver and Shan Khan.
There would be no Jaguars without Weaver. He not only was the deep-pocketed guy needed to put Jacksonville’s bid for a franchise over the top in ‘93, he was the right fit with the other team owners. He was immediately accepted into the group and had clout from day one. Weaver the man, in fact, was chosen by the owners more than the city.
He also knew when it was time to turn the team over to someone else and he knew who that man was. In Khan, Weaver found the man who had the money, the vision and the get-up-and-go to assure that the franchise would remain in Jacksonville.
It was clear to everyone, including Weaver, that it was time for Weaver to step aside after 17 years. The league finances had gotten out of control to Weaver’s way of thinking. His family wasn’t interested in keeping the franchise. His last great act as Jaguars owner was to find someone who was dedicated to keeping the franchise in Jacksonville, not simply the highest bidder.
The tall Southern conservative couldn’t have found anyone more different from himself than Khan, a small, self-made billionaire from Pakistan with the flair of a showman.
Khan looked at Jacksonville and saw the great potential for growth, not one of the smallest markets in the NFL. In just three years he has made a big impact on Jacksonville and . . . well, we haven’t seen anything yet. Everyone needs to check out his vision for the vacated shipyards that he unveiled Tuesday.
Weaver and Khan have little in common other than being the perfect owners for an NFL franchise in Jacksonville.
As Jeff Gordon prepares for this week’s Daytona 500 in his final year as a fulltime driver on the NASCAR circuit I hope he gets the kind reception on his farewell tour that he deserves.
Although the fans have been nicer to him in recent years, Gordon has been viewed as a villain much of his career. He entered NASCAR seen by many as a wimpy little Yankee boy with the high-pitched voice who had the audacity to not only challenge Dale Earnhardt but beat him on a regular basic.
While he didn’t look and sound like the typical stock car racer, on the track he has been every bit the bulldog Earnhardt was; just as cunning as Tony Stewart; and about as skilled behind the wheel as anyone who ever crawled in a race car.
Where he ranks with his 92 victories and four championships is subjective, but wherever you rank him it has to be very close to the top.
How fitting would it be for Gordon to win what may be his final Daytona 500? It would put him in even more rarified air to win his fourth Daytona 500. Only Richard Petty (7) and Cale Yarbrough (4) have won NASCAR’s signature race more often.
Gordon’s farewell tour already has gotten off to a good start with him winning the pole for Sunday’s race. It sure is amazing how often things work out so well for NASCAR, isn’t it?
Based on NASCAR’s track record – you know, Petty winning his 200th race on July the 4th in front of President Reagan, Dale Junior winning the first race at Daytona after his dad’s death, etc. -- I’m picking Gordon to win this year’s race.
Spinning around the dial . . .
As the sports world debates and dissects what’s wrong with Tiger’s game, it has all but ignored the woes of Mickelson, who hasn’t won since the 2013 British Open is more likely to shoot 76 than 66 these days.
Clearly the second best golfer in the world for the last 20 years, Mickelson has won 42 PGA Tour tournaments, including five majors, and hundreds of millions of dollars. Incredibly, he’s never been ranked No. 1 in the world, however. As successful and popular as he’s been, Mickelson has always Robin to Tiger’s Batman.
While Tiger gets more attention, it’s a better bet that if one of them is done as a superstar it is Mickelson. At 44, Lefty’s five years older and his health problem, arthritis, can be managed but not cured.
His main problem is a simple one: the putter, a club that has ended the careers of many great players. The more Mickelson tinkers with changes, the worse it’s getting.
I bring this up now because the 2015 NASCAR season is about to begin, as always, with Speed Week in Daytona Beach. There was a time for me when the Daytona 500 ranked right alongside the World Series and the ACC basketball tournament as can’t-miss events.
Somewhere along the way I fell out of love with racing. I’m really not sure why, but I think stock car racing grew too fast for me. I loved it when it was the sport of the South. I loved it when drivers, not engineers, determined who won and lost. I’ve always dislike the multi-car team concept.
I’ll watch this year’s Daytona 500 but . . . well, actually I won’t watch it. I’ll be on a Caribbean cruise.
His name didn’t appear on any of the lists of this year’s top recruits because he’ll be a 5th-year senior and already has a trophy case full of college awards. Adams has been quarterbacking Eastern Washington, a division two program, the last three years.
Several years ago the NCAA decided to allow players who graduate but still have a year of eligibility remaining to transfer without having to sit out a season. The most famous of this group is a guy named Russell Wilson, who went from N.C. State to Wisconsin and . . . well, you know the rest of that story.
I’m undecided how I feel about this rule. I just know something about it bothers me. I’m probably being a bit naïve but it seems to me it closes the gap between professional sports and big-time college sports even more.
I’m feeling sad and old today. Two of the people in sports I most admire passed away last weekend.
The world is a better place because of Dean Smith and Billy Casper.
Smith, who spent his entire head coaching career at North Carolina, is the greatest basketball coach of all-time. Casper is the most underrated great player in golf history.
As great as Smith and Casper were in their professions, they were better men. They epitomized integrity and class. It was my good fortune to know both men both on and off the fields of play.
Smith made education, graduation and character top priorities before anyone talked about those things in college sports. He didn’t just create the “Carolina Way”, he lived it. He cared as much about the 12th man on the bench as he did his superstars such as Michael Jordan. And he never stopped caring, staying involved with his former players regardless of where life led them.
He was never afraid to take a stand for what he believed in. He was outspoken in support of civil rights and was part of several peaceful protests. He made Charlie Scott the school’s first black scholarship athlete, ignoring an effort by some alumni and boosters to have him fired.
He took over a program hampered by NCAA probation and quickly turned it back into a national power. When he retired in 1997 after 36 seasons he owned an NCAA record 876 victories, two national titles and an Olympic gold medal. He coached his team to 11 Final Fours. He was the model of consistency, his only losing season being his first.
All the while he graduated his players, turning out doctors, lawyers and teachers as well as NBA stars. He left a coaching tree still going strong today.
I realize many will scream at me calling Smith the greatest basketball coach of all-time. I realize John Wooden is most often called that and Coach K, Bobby Knight, Adolph Rupp and others deserve consideration for such a distinction. And, yes, I’m no doubt bias having attended UNC.
But when you put the entire package together -- record, innovator, mentor, leader, citizen – no one stands taller in college basketball history; maybe in sports history.
Getting back to Casper, he had the misfortune to play in the same era as Arnie, Jack and Gary, The Big Three. They dominated the headlines but Casper was every bit their equal. For the record, he had 51 victories, including three majors, and still had time to help rear 11 children.
Two great men who were also stars in the sports world are gone. In departing they took a big piece of me with them.