Our email accounts at the newspaper get flooded with a steady stream of junk, but one particular item caught my eye earlier this week when it crossed into my inbox.
During the height of football and basketball seasons, I get weekly updates from BetOnline, an offshore sportsbook based in Panama. So I was surprised when I got an email that said: “Opening College Football Lines for Top Games and Rivalry Games.’’
What? College football betting lines this early?
Yep, they had odds for select games for the entire season, starting with Week 1 when Navy is scheduled to play Notre Dame on Aug. 29 in Dublin, Ireland (the Irish are 131/2-point favorites) and carrying all the way through to Week 15 when Army and Navy are set to clash on Dec. 12 in Philadelphia (Navy is a 4-point favorite).
There are no lines offered on any West Virginia or Marshall games, but Ohio State is prominently mentioned several times in the list. The Buckeyes are 6-point favorites on Sept. 12 at Oregon and 3-point favorites on Oct. 24 at Penn State, among other games.
The first listings for a Big 12 team are the Sept. 5 Baylor-Mississippi game in Houston (it’s pick-’em) and the Sept. 12 Tennessee at Oklahoma game (Sooners spotting 81/2 points).
I guess I shouldn’t be too amazed that someone is offering betting action on games nearly nine months away, because there’s always someone willing to plunk down some cash. But here’s the one thing I never understood about college sports betting:
How can lines be set for football games months and months in advance when you’re not even sure who’s going to be on the team, much less who’s going to be healthy enough to play? And college basketball games follow a completely different approach.
During college basketball season, you can’t find a single line until maybe 24 hours before the game. Why such a disparity? You’re certainly more likely to find impactful injuries affecting football odds than in basketball.
Spring sports seasons in West Virginia may be hanging by a thread due to the coronavirus — Virginia has already canceled all spring sports this year and Ohio appears ready to make an announcement this week.
If they’re indeed wiped out in our state, that interrupts what could be a sixth top-line pitcher to transfer and play at Class AAA contender Hurricane since 2007.
The exodus began in 2006 when South Charleston’s Arik Sikula — the reigning state player of the year — left to pitch at Hurricane. He was followed in recent seasons by Aaron Perry (Winfield 2016), Liam Bailey (Charleston Catholic 2016), Noah Short (Winfield 2017) and Jonathan Blackwell (George Washington 2018).
Now, it’s Lenny Washington (St. Joseph), a pitcher-infielder, who joined the Redskins program in the off-season. He was 7-3 last season for the Irish with 80 strikeouts and a 2.32 ERA.
Most are considered All-Conference and All-State-type pitchers, Division I or even pro prospects. Perry was a 14th-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2017. Washington placed third in the state player of the year voting last season.
The reason they come to Putnam County? The Redskins have played in the AAA title game four times since 2014, winning twice.
Hurricane coach Brian Sutphin feels a lot of sympathy for his players these days, as their season was shut down a couple of days before it was supposed to start and may not even get off the ground. However, Sutphin realizes it’s all for the greater good of battling the pandemic.
“You put yourself in a 15- to 18-year-old’s brain and you feel for them,’’ Sutphin said. “You’re only young once. As an adult, it’s really not about you. It’s more about their experiences and their memories and friendships and all that. But obviously there are more important things than sports right now. It’s just completely unfamiliar territory — trying to do what’s right for everybody.’’
The likely cancellation of the boys basketball state tournament will bring an end to an impressive streak for Doug Huff, the retired former sports editor at The Intelligencer in Wheeling, who is known statewide for his work as the executive secretary-treasurer of the West Virginia Sports Writers Association and nationally for his comprehensive compilation of football and basketball record books.
Huff was planning to attend his 60th consecutive state tournament, a streak that started in 1961 when he was a senior at Magnolia High School in New Martinsville and was keeping stats (naturally) for the Blue Eagles basketball team, which won its first state championship that season in Class AA.
He hasn’t missed one since, attending all three tournament championship games whether they were played in Charleston, Huntington or Morgantown.
Finally, consider this an introduction to an upcoming series of columns detailing some moments in my career as a sportswriter. When you’ve been at it more than 40 years, you have quite a few recollections to share.
It’s going to be called “Total recall: A life on the sidelines.’’ It will include some recognizable athletes and coaches, memorable games I’ve covered and stories I’ve written that might carry some interest, especially in these sports-starved times.