The Illinois basketball team has been devastated with injuries. With each successive man down, coach John Groce has re-stated his team's bulldog mantra:

"Next man up."

Problem is, the team's bench has been running out of men. At one point earlier this month, Illinois only had seven players available. So this week, Groce turned to team manager Ryan Schmidt and asked him to join the team.

Schmidt, a senior who has been the team's manager for four years, couldn't have been more excited.



Schmidt didn't play Saturday in a 79-71 loss to Minnesota, his first game in uniform.

"It was everything I hoped for," Schmidt told the Chicago Tribune. "I'm thankful for the chance."

Although not unheard of, it's rare for team managers to make the big leap onto a team's roster. The team manager for Arkansas-Little Rock completed the feat in 2012, while Tennessee's women's team brought on former head manager Elizabeth Curry in 2007. It's worth pointing out that Schmidt did play high school basketball, and he received some scholarship offers from Division II and III programs. Ultimately, though, the accounting major opted to attend Illinois for the quality of its education. Whether or not Schmidt sees the court at all this season remains to be seen, but if the Illini continue having health issues, he could find himself shouldering a heavy load. You've got to admit, he already has the look down:

So do we have another Rudy in the making? Time will tell, but no one's rooting against Ryan Schmidt.


On Monday night, the Atlanta Hawks unveiled a stunning, four-minute tribute to the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. before the team's introductions. The high-definition video was projected onto the entirety of the Hawks' home court, and to stunning effect.

As the video winds to a close, a choir takes the court and performs as the Hawks' starting lineup is introduced onto the court:

Atlanta's tribute video is the highlight of the NBA's day-long recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. The league has made a tradition out of playing a day-long slate of games on this holiday. Earlier this month, the league also released a "breaking barriers" video that highlighted some NBA pioneers from their respective nationalities and ethnicities, as well as saluting the NBA's first female referee.

Nothing compares to the sheer beauty and emotion evoked in the Hawks' video, which is well worth a watch. Then, check out the NBA's other recent production.

Anyone who says golf isn't dangerous should consult with Patrick Reed.

The 24-year-old paid the price this week for winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. Reed was wearing a cap for the competition and upon removing he revealed one of the worst tan lines you'll ever see. Check it out:

The tan line looked even more pronounced on television:



Dreadful hat tan aside, the victory was big for Reed. It was his first title since winning the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March 2014. After that title, which made Reed the youngest winner of a World Golf Championships event, he declared himself one of the top five golfers in the world. Now Reed is in elite company. Reed joins Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia as the only men to earn four PGA Tour victories before turning 25.

As bad as Reed's tan line was, was it worse than the one Stewart Cink sported last year? You be the judge:



Sports broadcaster Marv Albert has been a long-running guest on "The Late Show with David Letterman." In fact, he's made 126 appearances over the years, coming on to hand out his "Albert Achievement Awards," which honor the best bloopers and outtakes from around the sports world.

That's a lot of bloopers. And, in his last appearance on the show, Albert gifts Letterman with a hall of fame, so to speak -- the best sports bloopers on video.

Before getting into the segment, though, Albert and Letterman reflect on their long history, with Letterman marveling at Albert's track record of appearances. Albert, meanwhile, claims he just happened to be in the right place at the right time when Letterman wanted to do a sports goof segment.

The entire segment is worth watching:

Expect more iconic appearances to come the next four months, as David Letterman gradually bids farewell to the show he has hosted since 1993, when he came over from NBC's "Late Night."

Letterman is ending is 32-year run on late-night television on May 20. Comedian Stephen Colbert has been tabbed as Letterman's successor.

A normal round on the golf course turned into the memory of a lifetime for a retired police officer in Virginia after he hit two hole-in-ones in the span of an hour at the Ashley Plantation Country Club in Daleville, according to the The Roanoke Times.

The first shot was reportedly at the 182-yard seventh hole of the Meadows Course and the second came four holes later at the 118-yard second hole of the Hills Course.

The golfer, J.R “Butch” Blessard, told the paper he is normally an 11-handicapper and sadly he had no tips for other retirees looking to put up such amazing stats. "It's strictly luck," he said. "There's no skill involved. I'm a good average golfer and I got lucky."

According to the National Hole-In-One Registry, the odds of a player making two holes-in-one in the same round is 67 million to 1.

So how do we know it's real? Three of four of Blessard's playing partners told the newspaper they had witnessed the amazing feat. And for his part, the 67-year-old said he was willing to do whatever it took to silence the doubters.

“All I can tell the cynics is I will take a polygraph test. And they can televise it live on ESPN if they want!” he said.

No word yet if the Worldwide Leader -- or other golfers down on their game -- came calling.

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Golf fans should hope Tiger Woods's accuracy picks up over the course of the weekend at Medinah, otherwise it could be a long weekend for Team America.

The world's No. 2 has gotten off to a shaky start at the Ryder Cup, already nailing a pair of spectators with errant drives.

On Thursday, Woods mishit a drive on the 18th hole and conked a fan in the head. When Woods came over to apologize to the fan, the man told Woods not to worry because it wasn't his fault. Woods drew a big laugh from the crowd when he said that yes, it absolutely was his fault.

During Woods' morning round on Friday, he hit a bad drive on the seventh hole which went into the crowd and struck another man in the head. Once again, Woods introduced himself to the spectator and signed a glove for the man.

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Home field advantage takes on an entirely new meaning in golf. It's an individual sport, so fans aren't rooting against anyone in particular. And because tournaments shift around the country and the world, fans don't have the same loyalty to players as they do to their hometown teams.

But when you make golf a team sport, and you put it in one of the world's best sporting cities, you can expect an entirely atypical and at times hostile atmosphere. Team Europe isn't simply competing against Team USA at this weekend's Ryder Cup, the gentlemen from across the pond are also competing against tens of thousands of American fans.

Sure, European fans love golf as well. But, simply put, Europeans are used to a different type of fan. Perhaps Ryder Cup legend Colin Montgomerie explains it best in a column in The Telegraph:

"In Wales most of the 50,000 spectators were golfers, members of golf clubs, proper golf fans," Montgomerie writes. "I don’t think that’s the same in America. They’re just sports fans."

By that, Montgomerie means that American fans aren't afraid to yell insults at the European players or cheer in a manner that Europeans might consider impolite. And to make matters worse for the Europeans, Chicago fans are known for their passion.

"I have a feeling that Chicago might be even more boisterous than Louisville (Valhalla), so I'm expecting that," said Justin Rose.

The idea of the rowdy American fan dates back to 1999, when some Europeans were upset with the conduct of the American team and the crowd at the Ryder Cup in Brookline, Mass. The crowd was particularly unruly, prompting veteran broadcaster Alistair Cooke to ask whether the Ryder Cup was "a golf tournament or a circus?" In Cooke's mind, the 1999 Ryder Cup represented the arrival of the "golf hooligan."

The fact that the Ryder Cup is being played just outside Chicago -- as opposed to, say, Louisville -- makes it more imposing for the Europeans and comfortable for the Americans.

"This is a great sporting town to begin with," said Tiger Woods. "They obviously have supported the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, Blackhawks, you name it. For us to come in here and be a part of a U.S. team, I think is just going to add to that."

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While George W. Bush has kept a relatively low profile since leaving the Oval Office in 2009, one of his most noteworthy efforts has been assisting and honoring veterans.

The George Bush Institute created the Military Service Initiative, which "helps military support organizations achieve their missions more effectively by raising awareness and spotlighting best practices."

Part of that campaign involves emphasizing the role of sports in the rehabilitation process for wounded veterans. And among other efforts, Bush started a golf tournament for veterans wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan called the Warrior Open. On Monday and Tuesday, the 43rd president held the second annual Warrior Open, hosting 22 wounded veterans at at Las Colinas Country Club in Irving, Texas.

"You don't get to meet wounded veterans a whole lot throughout the real world," said retired Marine Corporal Michael Meyer. "So getting everybody together today and playing with them, it's really neat."


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U.S. Army Cpl. Chad Pfeifer won last year's tournament and is chasing the trophy again this year. Pfeifer, whose leg was amputated above the knee five-and-a-half years ago, says he has been playing golf constantly and it has been therapeutic.

"The competition for golf was good and to be able to hang out with President Bush -- it was great," Pfeifer said. "He's always thought about the troops and for him to continue to do that even when he's out of office is incredible."

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Sierra Harr might be too good for her own good.

The 16-year-old high school junior has succeeded at all levels of high school golf in Idaho. As a freshman she won the individual girls' state title for schools with fewer than 160 students. Last year there weren't enough girls at Castleford High School to field a team, so Harr competed with the boys. No matter, as Harr finished seventh in the state tournament and helped her team take the 2A crown in May.

But Harr's success hasn't been met with enthusiasm among all of Idaho's high school coaches. Some have argued that it is unfair to allow Harr to compete with the boys as well as as an individual in the girls' tournament. And now, high school officials are considering banning her from competing with boys.

"When this started, I only wanted to play golf," Harr told The Associated Press. "But I really started to believe that women should be given the same opportunity as men. I kind of became a feminist."

In deciding Harr's case, Idaho officials say they are taking into account the fairness of all athletes.

"There aren't any villains here," said Greg Bailey, the president of the Idaho High School Activities Association. "We try to look at things from a fairness perspective, fairness for that individual athlete as well as fairness for the other athletes involved. The question is, is she bumping out a boy? And if she wins in the competition, did she bump out a boy in the other school district?"

The group's decision may be made easier by the fact that denying Harr the opportunity to compete on a team could involve bucking a crucial tenant of Title IX. The landmark piece of legislation states that girls cannot be denied the same educational experiences that boys receive. Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a former Olympian who now practices law and teaches at Florida Coastal School of Law, told the Associated Press that competing on a team does indeed provide a different educational experience than competing as an individual.

Harr's case won't be decided for several weeks. And her appeal will be moot if enough girls show up for a team in the spring.

(H/T to Off The Bench)

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Blue, Caps, Golf

It's safe to say Rory McIlroy has some good memories from New Haven, Conn.

The world's top-ranked golfer was back in Connecticut this weekend to accompany his girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki, who is competing in this week's New Haven Open. And while McIlroy was there, he figured he might as well test his luck again.

The PGA Championship winner took to the field at the Yale Bowl for a special challenge. McIlroy attempted to whack a tennis ball into one of the stadium's famed tunnels. Unfortunately for McIlroy, and pyromaniacs everywhere, his suggestion of using a flaming tennis ball was denied.

This is probably McIlroy's second best trick shot. He did, after all, nail a cross bar with a golf ball.

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