The new NCAA playoffs: What you need to know

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The new NCAA playoffs: What you need to know

From Comcast SportsNet
A committee of university presidents approved a plan for a four-team college football playoff, starting in 2014. Here's what you need to know about the new postseason format put together by the commissioners of the 11 major college football conferences and Notre Dame's athletic director. HOW WILL THE TEAMS BE CHOSEN? A selection committee will pick the four teams, using guidelines such as strength of schedule, head-to-head results and won-loss record, after the regular season. The committee will give preference to conference champions. The makeup of the committee is to be determined, but it will likely be about 20 conference commissioners and college athletic directors. WHERE WILL THE GAMES BE PLAYED? The two semifinals will rotate among six sites. The current BCS games are the Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.), Sugar Bowl (New Orleans), Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, Ariz.) and Orange Bowl (Miami). The Cotton Bowl, now played at the state-of-the-art Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, has to be considered a front-runner to land one of the other two spots. Candidates for the other one? Try Atlanta and Jacksonville, Fla. The championship game will become college football's Super Bowl. Any city can bid on it, even ones that host the semifinals and those that have not been traditional bowl sites. Expect most to be played in dome stadiums or warm weather sites. WHEN WILL THE GAMES BE PLAYED? The semifinals will be played on Dec. 31 andor Jan. 1. College football used to own New Year's Day. The Bowl Championship Series got away from that. The leaders of the sport want to reclaim that day. The championship game will always be played on the first Monday that is at least six days after the semifinals. The first "Championship Monday" is Jan. 12, 2015. WILL THIS PUT AN END TO THE CONTROVERSY? No. Doubling the field from two teams to four alleviates some of the problems that the Bowl Championship Series couldn't solve. There will still be plenty of complaining, but it will come from teams No. 5, 6 and 7, instead of Nos. 3 and 4. That's better. The farther down you go in the rankings, the weaker the arguments get for inclusion. But there are plenty of people out there now that believe four is not nearly enough. HOW MUCH? Conservative estimates have the television right to the new playoff system being worth at least double what the BCS was worth. That means 300 million easy, probably more like 400 or 500. How it gets divided among the conferences is still to be finalized, though criteria has been set up: -- On-field success -- Teams' expenses -- Marketplace factors -- Academic performance of student-athletes In short the five power conferences (SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and Pac-12) will get more than the others. The Big East no longer will get a big share, but how much smaller will it be? HOW SOON AND FOR HOW LONG? The four-team playoff will start in the 2014 season because the current TV deals have already locked the Bowl Championship Series in for two more years. The next round of TV deals will be for 12 years. Those negotiations will begin in the fall. The 12-year deal accomplishes two goals for the commissioners: 1) They don't want to deal with this every four years the way they have been. 2) It keeps the playoff from expanding for 12 years. WILL IT GROW EVENTUALLY? No doubt. It will be successful, so why not have more of a good thing. Also, many if not all of the people who put this thing together will have moved on when it's time to come up with another plan. College football is moving away from the current bowl system, in which it farms out its postseason to third parties. As a new structure evolves and conferences continue to realign, there is no reason to think the playoff will continue to have only four teams.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''

 

Acciari nearing a return for Bruins after missing a month

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Acciari nearing a return for Bruins after missing a month

BRIGHTON, Mass. – He hasn’t been cleared to play just yet, but fourth line energy guy Noel Acciari is closing in on a return to the Bruins lineup. 

Acciari joined in for a Bruins morning skate for the first time in 14 games at the end of last week, and practiced with the team again Monday for a morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. The 25-year-old has missed almost exactly a month with a lower body injury, and said he can thankfully now see the light at the end of the injury tunnel for a healthy return to the B’s lineup. 

“It was getting lonely with all the guys on the road, and with me just skating with Frankie [Vatrano] and Zee [Chara],” said Acciari. “It’s great to be back out there with the guys, and it’s good to be back. Each skate I feel a lot better out there and just trying to get my conditioning back. Just being back with the guys is a great feeling, and it’s a big help.”

The fourth line has been okay in Acciari’s absence, but it seemed to be lacking the same kind of energy and hard edge the Providence College standout provided when he was healthy. That was part of what led the B’s to call up the similarly rugged Anton Blidh from Providence at the end of last week, and could provide some interesting energy line options when Acciari is ready to return. 

“I’ve played with [Blidh] before, I’m used to him and I know what he brings to the table just like he knows what I can do,” said Acciari. “So it would work out well [if we played together] I think.”

Acciari has two assists and a plus-1 rating along with four penalty minutes while averaging 10:01 of ice time in 12 games this season, and proved to be very good at unnerving opponents simply by playing all-out all the time.