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What's wrong with major sports isn't rocket science

Shooting from the hip with quick and easy answers for what's wrong with some of the major sports:

Pro football. Not that long ago, a 300-pounder was a freak. Now, he's "smallish." The NFL needs to impose a weight limit before it becomes sumo wrestling with pads.

I say 280 pounds would put a premium on speed and athleticism at all positions.

It would also be healthier for players, who wouldn't feel such pressure to find ways to get bigger and who wouldn't face as many health risks after their playing days are over (and during them).

College football. This is the easiest one of all. A playoff system would bring this sport out of the shadows of the NFL and do for it what the Big Dance did for college basketball.

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One obstacle so far has been the power of the bowls, who feel their existence threatened by a playoff system. But it seems this could be remedied fairly easily.

There are currently 28 bowl games for Division I teams, just about the right number for a 32-team playoff. The seven strongests bowls can take turns hosting the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship games. The title game could be a week after New Year's Day.

All 28 bowls, including the 21 "lesser" bowls, can keep their same financial arrangements, and the communities hosting those games would continue to benefit with attention and dollars, perhaps even more so as the games would have more meaning. That would leave three more sites that could be allocated each year to different cities with warm weather or domed stadiums, further spreading the excitement.

Major League Baseball. I grew up on baseball but even I find the pace ponderous. I'm not advocating "speed baseball," but how about giving the third-base umpire a stopwatch and calling a ball if the pitcher doesn't deliver in a reasonable number of seconds? And batters can't be allowed to step out of the box any time they want.

Pro basketball. This is a tough one, because the NBA's biggest problem is players not being sound enough fundamentally, which is a trend at all levels of basketball. I also think there's too much boring one-on-one play, and pro basketball offense is all about two things: the dunk and the three.

Two ideas. First, give them a bit more than 24 seconds to get off a shot. They'd be less apt to fall back on the one-on-one moves, or a desperate three-point heave.

Second, instead of a three-point arc, let's have a three-point band, say from 8 to 18 feet out. Defenses would need to stretch out, and offenses would find all kinds of creative ways to get that mid-range jump shot that kids aren't even learning how to shoot.

College basketball. Right now it's out of the hands of the NCAA, which can't force kids not to turn pro after one or two years in college. It's hard for a coach to keep a talented group together. Team play suffers. College ball is turning into a lower brand of pro ball.

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College basketball needs a minor league for the pro game. As it is in baseball, players could choose which track -- turning pro out of high school, or playing for a college -- best serves their career path. Those going pro out of high school who proved not ready for the NBA would have a place to play rather than languishing on the NBA bench.

Pro golf. Fans love to watch the pros get into and out of trouble. It's boring to watch them hit the ball insane distances and make birdies hole after hole. That's why the majors are so popular.

We don't need knee-deep rough for every hole on every tour stop, but the pros need a substantial penalty for an off-line shot. Enough of a penalty that they will more often have to think which club to use and not automatically put both cheeks into every shot.

Craig Swalboski is sports editor for the Post-Bulletin. He can be contacted at swalbo@postbulletin.com

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