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Happy Tuesday morning, all!
Let’s get right to it.
LUKE FICKELL…
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:
… AND ALSO A GOOD MORNING TO THE CINCINNATI BEARCATS
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
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.
STEPHEN ROSS
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:
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:
Ross has denied Flores’ claims, and the NFL is investigating the matter.
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…
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:
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 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:
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.
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:
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.
🏀 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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