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Luke Fickell set to lead Cincinnati into an exciting future | Way-too-early 2023 Super Bowl odds

Happy Tuesday morning, all!

Let’s get right to it.

Good morning to everyone but especially to…

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Big results. Big (12) future. Big payday for Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell.

The Bearcats’ leader agreed to a massive extension that will pay him $5 million per year through 2028. 

Fickell is fresh off leading the Bearcats to a 13-1 season in which they became the first Group of Five team to make the College Football Playoff. It’s an extremely well-deserved raise, writes college football expert Shehan Jeyarajah:

  • Jeyarajah: “When Cincinnati hired Fickell, the program had not earned a national ranking since Butch Jones was head coach in 2012. The Bearcats had just one top-10 finish in program history… Fickell has brought unmatched consistency to the program, which has enjoyed four straight ranked finishes in the AP Top 25 and back-to-back AAC titles.


Obviously this is a great deal for Fickell, but this is a great deal for Cincinnati, too. It’s no coincidence that it comes ahead of the school’s move to the Big 12, which is expected to take place by 2023. Last year, just three Big 12 coaches made more than $5 million

  • Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley ($7.8 million)
  • TCU’s Gary Patterson ($6.1 million)
  • Texas’ Steve Sarkisian ($5.4 million)

Fickell is 48-15 in five seasons at Cincinnati and will likely pass Rick Minter‘s school-record 53 career victories this season. Minter needed a decade to reach that; Fickell will get there in just over half that time.

Another key part of this extension is that Fickell’s assistant coach salary pool grows from $3.9 million to $5.2 million. That’s a huge boost as Fickell will need to restock his staff should his team continue to have success and his assistants get hired away.

Long story short, Cincinnati is entering a new era, and there’s no one better to lead that new era than Fickell. Now, he’s a sure thing to do just that, in the immediate future and beyond.

Honorable mentions:

And not such a good morning for…

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Brian Flores‘ lawsuit may not be the top piece of sports news any more, but it’s not going anywhere in the NFL‘s eyes. And that could mean bad news for Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

In his lawsuit, Flores had several allegations against the NFL as well as the Dolphins, Giants and Broncos, but when it comes to Miami, two things stood out:

  • Flores says Ross offered him $100,000 per loss in 2019, as part of an effort to tank
  • Flores says Ross tampered with a “prominent quarterback” two offseasons ago, and when Flores didn’t join in, Ross turned on him

That first allegation, if proven true, could result in Ross losing the team. According to reports, last week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said, “I do believe that clubs do have the authority to remove an owner from the league.” Our NFL expert Patrik Walker explains:

  • Walker: “It would require a three-fourths vote among ownership, but given the accusations, it is entirely possible. That is, of course, if the NFL can prove an offer to Flores occurred, which would also lead to sanctions by the league itself against the organization and not simply against Ross. That could come in the form of a massive fine and/or lost future draft picks, and anything else Goodell feels is justified, although the commissioner won’t speculate on what the punishment(s) would be, other than to intimate they’d match the extreme severity of the possible violation.”

Ross has denied Flores’ claims, and the NFL is investigating the matter.

Not so honorable mentions:

Looking at 2023 Super Bowl odds; which team presents the best value? 🏈

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – JANUARY 24: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs throws a pass in the first half against the Buffalo Bills during the AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 24, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Well the NFL season is officially over, which means (1) I’m sad and (2) it’s time to look forward to next season. Our friends at Caesars Sportsbook have already released the odds for next year’s championship, and the top tier includes the usual suspects. As of Monday night…

  • Chiefs +700
  • Bills +750
  • Rams +1000
  • 49ers +1400
  • Bengals +1400
  • Packers +1500

Last year, NFL expert Jordan Dajani named the Rams as the best value pick, and I’m not saying you should have followed his advice, but if you had, you’d be rich right now.

So who does Dajani like for next year? One of his favorites shares a division with this season’s Super Bowl champs:

  • Dajani: “It’s time for Kyle Shanahan to win a Super Bowl after watching his buddy Sean McVay get one. … Everyone understood that the 49ers‘ plan for victory included running the ball, playing great defense and special teams and then Jimmy Garoppolo just not turning the ball over. Trey Lance will be the quarterback in 2022, and if he’s even a small upgrade, the 49ers are going to have a chance to compete for the Super Bowl.

I love that pick. Want another from yours truly? How about the Ravens, who will get Lamar Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey and plenty of others back and healthy? Baltimore checks in at +2000 currently, tied for the ninth-shortest odds.

Gonzaga back on top of AP Poll; Bracketology heating up 🏀

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Gonzaga is back on top of the latest AP Poll, the third different time the ‘Zags have reached No. 1 this season.

Previous No. 1 Auburn lost last week at Arkansas (the Tigers fell to No. 2 this week), and Gonzaga took full advantage. Mark Few‘s team is currently steamrolling the West Coast Conference and is coming off a 74-58 win over a ranked St. Mary’s team. That’s tied for the ‘Zags “smallest” conference win this season.

Anyway, that sort of dominance makes Gonzaga a thoroughly deserving No. 1, writes college basketball reporter Gary Parrish:

  • Parrish: “They have, once again, clearly established themselves as the favorite to win the national championship by doing enough in the non-league portion of their schedule before completely overwhelming the West Coast Conference. Gonzaga beat Texas by 12 points and UCLA by 20 points in November, beat Texas Tech by 14 points in December — and the Zags have spent January and February destroying everybody in their path.”

That dominance is coinciding with freshman Chet Holmgren‘s rise to stardom, and Matt Norlander’s feature on him is a must-read.

Meanwhile, in Jerry Palm’s latest Bracketology, Wisconsin finds itself skidding down to the 3 line. You can see Palm’s full field here.

The Phoenix Open provided what no other professional league can ⛳

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If you missed it this weekend, the Phoenix Open was awesome. Rising star Scottie Scheffler won in a playoff and the crowd at the famous 16th hole got to celebrate two hole-in-ones. And, boy, did it celebrate.

As some big-name golfers consider moving to the Saudi Arabia-funded Super Golf League (where the payouts would be gigantic), the Phoenix Open was another reminder that the PGA Tour supplies fun that no other tour — especially the Super Golf League — could, opines golf reporter Kyle Porter:

  • Porter: “It is easy to envision a future in which Super Golf League participants, with little to no fanfare surrounding them, are globetrotting for sums of money that seem miscalculated by factors of 100. … We have done a bad thing in our capitalistic society where we have made personal experience and financial earnings equivalent with one another. We might not say it, but we believe that experiences have a price tag (often an exorbitant one); the reality is that they do not.”

I thought this column was strong, balanced and informative, and it gave me an insightful look into a potentially major rupture in the golf world.

What we’re watching Tuesday 📺

🏀 Celtics at 76ers, 7:30 p.m. on TNT
🏀 No. 10 Villanova at No. 8 Providence, 8 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
🏀 No. 4 Kentucky at No. 16 Tennessee, 9 p.m. on ESPN

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