Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

I want to provide you warm wishes for a great 2011. The year 2010 is about in the books here in the middle section of the United States. Lots of interesting stuff happened in the college sports world in 2010 and look for the same in 2011.

I'm thinking the Stanford women's basketball team will remember 2010 for a long time. The Cardinal will recall that Dec. 30 it ended Connecticut's 80-game win streak.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wolfpack Fans Shout One More Year

If Monday night was Russell Wilson’s last game as a member of the North Carolina State football team, he went out on top.

Wilson used his legs and arm to lead the Wolfpack to an easy 23-7 victory over West Virginia. It was vintage Wilson. The guy was scrambling and makes plays when most quarterbacks would have been sacked. Wilson is a special football player.

But the redshirt junior may say goodbye to football and follow the baseball path. Last summer he played in the Colorado Rockies organization. He has also played baseball for Wolfpack.

But North Carolina State fans were chanting “One more year” after Wilson’s MVP performance.

It sounds like Wilson and Wolfpack football coach Tom O’Brien will discuss Wilson’s future soon. My gut feeling is that he will trade in the football helmet for a permanent baseball glove.

And if he does, the Wolfpack team will move forward. Fans will remember No. 16’s contributions to a team that needed a dynamite player again to make it legitimate.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Say Goodbye to the Coach-in-Waiting

West Virginia didn’t look like the No. 22 ranked team in the country last night with its 23-7 loss to North Carolina State.

Did the mountain boys really want to play that game? We will obviously never know.

But if they want to use the distraction excuse, I will buy it. West Virginia announced near the end of the season that it was hiring a new offensive coordinator (Dana Holgorsen) and elevated him to head coach in 2012.

Does this coach-waiting thing ever work out? It is just a messy situation. Remember Florida State and Bobby Bowden/Jimbo Fisher? Remember Mack Brown/Will Muschamp at Texas. Ooops Muschamp got tired of waiting and left for Florida.

I feel sorry for Bill Stewart at West Virginia. You are the head football coach, but you are fired. But we are nice guys and you can say around for another year. Messy, messy, messy.

Why doesn’t West Virginia just end Stewart’s employment now and save the guy some misery. Pay the necessary money and move on.

There is a human element here and West Virginia does not understand it. Haven’t the mountain boys learned from other coach-in waiting situations?

It’s time for colleges to quit this coach-in-waiting process. It might be trendy, but this trend is worn out.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Watch NC State's Russell Wilson Tonight

The bowl season heats up tonight when North Carolina State (8-4) battles West Virginia (9-3) in the Champs Sports Bowl.

NC State surprised some folks this season. A difficult regular season loss to Maryland however put some dust on a good campaign.

Regarding tonight’s game, if you have never watched NC State quarterback Russell Wilson, you are in for a treat.

Wilson throws the ball well and is a gifted runner. He makes plays out of nothing with some amazing scrambling. He energizes his teammates.

Wilson is a difference maker for the Pack. When Wilson has a great game, NC State usually wins. When he struggles, they usually lose.

Some think this could be the redshirt junior’s last football game with the Pack. He played professional baseball last summer and might quit football to concentrate on that sport.

Wilson is a gifted athlete. NC State hopes for a late Christmas gift tonight with Wilson and into next season.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Shame on the NCAA

The NCAA’s handling of the Ohio State tattoo incident was just plain disgusting.

Buckeye players are accused of exchanging personal services for tattoos. The NCAA suspended the involved players for one game but not until the opener next season.

The NCAA deserves an unsportsmanlike penalty for that ruling. The players should have been suspended for the BCS bowl game.

But apparently the NCAA likes Ohio State. It really likes Ohio State. Ohio State must be one of the NCAA’s cash cows. The NCAA must have different rules for the big boys as opposed to the little boys. Can you imagine what the NCAA would have done to a school such as Arkansas State in a similar case? It would have not been pretty.

The NCAA is one powerful organization and some of its rulings are just strange. The NCAA forced many schools to change their Indian-based nicknames. All but one school as far as I know. Florida State wasn’t required to switch their nickname. Hmm.

So basically the NCAA has different rules for different teams. If you are Ohio State, Florida State, Texas or Penn State, you have grace. But if you are Arkansas State, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee or Florida International, you better keep your helmet on awaiting the collision.

Really, this development is all understandable. But it doesn’t make it right.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone

I wish everyone a blessed Christmas as we celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ who changed the future of this world. Glory to God.

Thank you for your readership.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pace Yourself for the College Bowl Season

By my count, there has already been five bowl games played heading into Wednesday. I have sat down and watched a total of zero. I have only seen a few plays in passing.

My suggestion to you is pace yourself for the bowl season. Like well-trained athletes, you need to get ready for this TV watching.

There are too many bowl games. So select your favorite team or teams, watch those and maybe a few others. But don’t burn yourself out.

Remember to walk around the house during commercials. Go outside during halftime. Do anything to keep active and your mind focused on your game. Drink plenty of water and do healthy snacks.

I noticed that there are four non-BCS games after January 1 this season. What’s up with that? In protest, don’t watch those games unless it’s your favorite team.

I plan on watching NC State-West Virginia and Iowa-Missouri. I’ll also probably watch Wisconsin-TCU and Oregon-Auburn.

Which game are you planning to watch?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Congratulations Connecticut Women

It was just another night at the basketball arena for the Connecticut women. Another opponent and another victory. The Huskies have won 89 straight.

But this one was SPECIAL. The victory broke John Wooden’s UCLA men’s team mark of 88 straight.

The debate will continue whether Connecticut accomplishments are the same as the UCLA feat. The bottom line is 89 straight in anything, including 4th grade basketball, is impressive. So a definite tip-of-the-cap to the Huskie women.

As I stated before, Connecticut women’s basketball keeps the women’s game in the news. The women’s game will never match the interest in the men’s game just like spring always follows winter. But that doesn’t mean women aren’t gifted players, they are just different. In the simplest terms, men bank on talent, women bank on skill. Men dunk the basketball, while women shoot better free throws.

It’s okay to celebrate and appreciate the differences. That’s why comparing the two winning streaks are unfair.

By the way, look for the Huskie women to grow their streak. Baylor is probably the only team with a legitimate opportunity to defeat Connecticut yet this season.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Coaching Involves More Than Winning

Maryland announced the firing of football coach Ralph Friedgen Monday.

Coaches get fired often, especially this time of year. But most coaches depart due to losing records. Friedgen was fired with a 74-50 record in 10 years with the Terps.

Coaching can be a tough business and this firing was a business decision.

Friedgen actually won the ACC Coach of the Year award after leading Maryland to a surprising 8-4 record in 2010. He leaves with a $2 million severance package.

Maryland is looking for more exposure, more fan interest, more ticket sales and more glitz.

Apparently, Maryland figured Friedgen was yesterday’s news. Frieden played as a reliable old car and the Terps want a sports car.

Rumor has it that Maryland wants former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. That would be a glitz hire.

But there is still something crappy about Friedegen’s firing. The guy wins games, shows loyalty to his alma mater and gets told “its business.”

Life is sometimes really cold. Friedgen received that lesson this week.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Norm Parker is an Inspiration

Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker met the media Friday to discuss his health condition.

I have written about Parker’s story before. The old, loveable crusty coach has had a rough 2010. He lost his right foot due to diabetes and has been in and out of the hospital. He was away from the team for most of the season. He came back late in the year on a limited basis.

So basically Parker is the kind of guy to think about when we consider our own struggles.

Parker walks with a walker these days. He plans to be at the Iowa bowl game. He vows to be healthier in 2011.

I love this guy’s sense of humor. It’s rare with football coaches. But Norm is Norm. He talked about getting out of bed without his fake leg. Ooops.

Football coaches are tough guys. Parker fits the mold, but life has humbled him now. He said Friday that for him football used to be about wins and losses. Now, it’s about the people.

Parker remains a tough guy, but in a different vein. He’s still battling on a field, but this time, it’s the game of life.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Big Ten in an Ooops Moment

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney said yesterday that the conference may have to call an audible regarding the name of the two new divisions.

People just don’t like Legends and Leaders. They really don’t like the names. As you know, I was one of those people. Remember my old Coke, new Coke comparison?

Traditionally the Big Ten moves slowly. But you have to give the conference credit for quickly owning up to its blunder.

Why doesn’t the Big Ten run a contest and have the fans vote on the names? Give the gal/guy with the winning names tickets to the Big Ten basketball championships or the new Big Ten title game?

Delaney said that he wants to promote the conference not drive fans away. My idea would promote goodwill and drive fans to the conference.

It will be interesting to see what happens. People are watching and waiting. They are really watching and waiting. Delaney has the outcries to prove it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

College Football's Most Interesting 2010 Team

The envelope please…Texas Longhorns.

Texas was the most interesting team in 2010 and definitely the most disappointing. Longhorn fans want to know how their team can play in the national championship game one year and slip to 5-7 the next season.

For my foreign readers, football is huge in Texas. Especially Longhorn football. According to one report, Texas has a $25.1 million football budget. Some college and universities don’t even have that much money for their entire athletic budgets.

So Texas fans want big returns on the financial investment. Texas doesn’t want to lose any games. Texas wants championships. They demand championships.

As expected, fallout has happened from the disastrous season. Head coach Mack Brown will have a revamped staff in place next season. For example, Brown needs to fill both offensive and defensive coordinator spots.

Change might be the best thing for the Texas football program.

Texas realized something this season. You cannot just show up every Saturday and take home the victory. The guys across the line from you want to win too. The days of entitlement in college football are over

So the question out of Austin, Texas becomes, “Was this a unique season or the start of a distributing trend?”

All of college football awaits the answer.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Iowa State Fans and Auburn's Gene Chizik

A friend (a former long-time sportswriter) was wondering the other day why Iowa State fans haven’t commented on the success of Auburn’s Gene Chizik.

Chizik is riding high these days with the Tigers. Auburn will face Oregon in the BCS championship game next month.

Chizik spent only two years as Iowa State’s coach. He went 5-19 and then accepted the Auburn job. Chizik may be the only coach in the history of college football to have a losing record and gain a better job with more money.

There were some bitter feelings in Iowa State land when this all happened. Cyclone fans felt betrayed.

But apparently, they have moved on with their team.

Paul Rhoads replaced Chizik and lead the Cyclones to a bowl game in his first season. The Cyclones slipped to 5-7 this year, but had a chance to become bowl eligible with a win in their final game.

So maybe Cyclone fans are so happy with Iowa native Rhoads that they have forgotten about Chizik.

Iowa State will never become like Auburn. Auburn has resources that the Cyclones can only dream about.

But coaching is a lot like good shoes. You need a good fit. Apparently this is the case with Chizik at Auburn and Rhoads at Iowa State.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Does the Iowa Football Team Have a Drug Problem?

Iowa Athlete Director Gary Barta and football coach Kirk Ferentz met the media yesterday to discuss rumors about the football program.

Earlier this week, rumors were flying around the Internet and in the media that Iowa would be suspending 10-15 players for its bowl game against Missouri. The buzz was alleged drug use.

This all came about because the Hawks leading receiver was kicked off the team last week due to a drug situation.

So Ferentz wanted to publicly address the matter after he said players’ parents contacted coaches about the rumors.

I watched the press conference yesterday and maybe Iowa fumbled the football by having it in the first place. Maybe Barta and Ferentz should have allowed the situation to run its course and do nothing.

The athletic director and coach said program doesn’t have a drug problem. It was an isolated case. Other player problems had nothing to do with drugs. Yes, like any other drug testing situation flaws occur.

But by acknowledging the rumors and facing the media bullets, the program is now under greater watch for problems including drugs.

I have said before that I believe Ferentz is a good coach and a good person. But this is strange behavior from a guy who guards his program like Fort Knox. He knows his program lives in a fish bowl and he has just created more fish.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What's Up With the Big Ten?

The Big Ten has always been a different kind of league. Who else out there in conference land had 11 teams for a number of years and still called itself the Big Ten? And now with Nebraska joining the conference (to make 12) the Big Ten is still, well, the Big Ten. And still has a logo depicting the Big Ten

But Monday’s announcements were real head shakers.

One six-team division will now be called “Legends,” the other “Leaders.” I hope the conference didn’t pay some marketing firm $4 million for their expertise with that. Wow. What’s wrong with a directional name? I know. It’s too simply and yet complex because the schools are in all directions. But, really, how are fans going to remember what teams are in what divisions with Legends and Leaders?

Didn’t the Big Ten learn anything from the ACC. The ACC calls its divisions “Coastal” and “Atlantic” and I would be hard pressed to tell you the breakdown. But again, the Big Ten wants to be a different kind of league.

And what about the new logo?

I think the youth of America would call it “retro.” Simply stated, it’s old-fashioned. There is no mention of the 12 teams in the logo. At least, the old logo had a small reference to the 11 teams.

I wonder if there will become a fan outcry or if these changes will just become a fact of life in the Big Ten.

Remember when the soft drink old Coke™ became new Coke™. People didn’t like it so much that the company brought the old Coke™ back. In this case, the Big Ten seems stuck in the old without even asking the fans about the new.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Different Kind of College Football

As most of us wait for the college football bowl season to begin in a couple weeks, there is still college football being played. This is championship time in the divisions other than Division I.

Case-in-point is Saturday’s Division III championship game involving Wisconsin-Whitewater and Mount Union (Ohio). A little research tells me these schools ARE Division III football. The schools are playing each other for the sixth straight time in the championship game. Both enter with 14-0 records. Whitewater won last season.

I will admit I don’t usually follow Division III. Yes, I do remember each year seeing this game in the TV listings and maybe watching a few plays. But I was in Whitewater recently and I decided to check this club out a bit.

It doesn’t take a genius to soon figure out that they take football seriously at Wisconsin-Whitewater. I strolled into a new athletic building and the first thing I saw was football trophies and special footballs. It was impressive. This was big time like something you would see at a Division I school.

Then I strolled out to see the football field on a brisk, Wisconsin day. I actually walked around the thing. Another impressive sight. The turf looked perfect. I felt it. It was field turf. The end zones were painted in purple—school colors. It looked like a great place to watch a football game.

These folks have an attitude—a championship attitude. They expect to play in the championship game. And they hope for their third national championship Saturday.

I think I’ll tune in.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

IowaState-Iowa Basketball

Anytime Iowa State can defeated Iowa in anything, Cyclone fans should celebrate.

It happened again Friday night when the Iowa State’s men’s basketball team topped Iowa, 75-72, on the Hawks floor.

I had an up close and personal look at this rivalry for a couple years. I remember Iowa State going into Iowa City and beating a ranked Iowa club.

Like most college state rivalries this is a big deal. Maybe it’s bigger here in Iowa because we don’t have major professional sports, so college sports are the main focus.

Iowa State is an agriculture school. Iowa produces doctors and lawyers. There is a definite dislike of each other in athletic competition.

Most Hawk fans don’t understand the big deal about Iowa State winning over Iowa. They think Iowa State focuses too much on the Iowa game, while the Hawks have other big games (in conference) to get excited about.


When I was at Iowa State the Cyclones played in the old Big 8. I sensed that the Big Ten schools thought the Big 8 was lower class with small cities and agriculture schools, whereas the Big Ten schools acted like they were from the urban, upper class places.


But in terms of the game, Friday night, it was excited. The Hawks won the first half and the Cyclones won the second half. Cyclone guard Scott Christopherson was the difference. The three-point specialist scored 24 of his 30 points in the second half. To put it mildly, he was hot.

So Iowa State and Iowa fans can return to their respective corners and look ahead to the next interstate battle in the future.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wisconsin Rewind

I mentioned recently that I was in the great state of Wisconsin last week. Part of my time was spent in Madison—the home of the University of Wisconsin.

Madison is a buzz about the football team’s trip to the Rose Bowl. This was even before the Badgers knew their opponent. Merchants are cashing in too. I saw plenty of Rose Bowl apparel.

It was fun to visit a couple specialty Badger apparel stories. Everything red and white. I didn’t know they could put Bucky Badger’s likeness on so many things.

But my main sports focus of the week was attending the NC State-Wisconsin basketball game. I have been a Wolfpack fan for years due to connections at the ACC school. We sat in a section with Wolfpack fans transferred to the Midwest. So it was fun connecting with some new people.

The game: not so much. NC State lost by 39 points. It was over at halftime. The Wolfpack has a bunch of young, talented players. But as one coach once said, “The best thing about freshman (players) is that they become sophomores.” Senior Tracy Smith is out with a knee injury. The Wolfpack needs his big body, experience and scoring. Until that happens, NC State will struggle.

I was dressed in my Wolfpack apparel. I think the Badger fans actually felt sorry for me after the game. But to top it off, a waiter at a restaurant saw my Wolfpack sweater and deadpanned “I’m sorry.”

But hopefully someday, the Wolfpack can return the favor to the Badgers. Then red, black and white will triumph over simply red and white.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Is Urban Meyer Really Done Coaching?

Urban Meyer’s announcement yesterday that he was leaving the head coaching position at Florida was not surprising. He quit last year for a brief time.

Meyer obviously has been soul searching for a while and decided to give up football for his family. He leaves on his own terms and has the memories of two national championships at Florida.

He says he wants to attend his daughter’s sporting events because he has missed many of them. Plus, he has a son coming up the sports ranks.

But from all appearances, Meyer is a 24-7, motor guy. He’s only 46 years old. Will the coaching fire ever return?

Don’t bet against it.

I know a prominent former college head football coach. He told me the first two years of football retirement were difficult. He referred to head coaching as “intoxicating.”

Ponder this. As head coach, you are the football CEO. You are in total charge. People answer to you. Fans generally look up to you. The media records what you say. You get to meet important people. You go to the finest country clubs to play golf and socialize. Even if you have a small ego, it’s as my friend said “intoxicating.”

Then it stops.

Meyer deserves time away from the game if he wants it. But I’m guessing someday he will get that urge to find another coaching job. He will think about the intoxicating part.

He and his wife might have a great marriage. But don’t be surprised if in the future, Mrs. Meyer says to Mr. Meyer, “Honey, it’s time to return to coaching. You’re spending too much time around the house.”

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Can the Indiana Hoosiers Really Win?

Indiana introduced Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson as its new football coach yesterday. The fact the Hoosiers were looking for a new coach is no surprise. They do it frequently.

But it begs the question; can Indiana really win in football? Does the Indiana administration want to put a competitive product on the field?

In recent years, the Hoosiers have played some entertaining football. They have recorded the occasional upset and have also scored points on offense. But if I am an Indiana football fan, I keep the depression pills handy.

When you think of Indiana football, a couple of coaches come to mind. Lee Corso was a colorful coach (you know kids the College Game Day guy) and won some games. Bill Mallory was a tough-guy type and won more games. That’s about it for the history of Indiana football.

Indiana needs more commitment to its program. Wilson is now the highest paid football coach in Hoosier history. That’s a start. But how about improving that high school-type stadium? How about scheduling some games with big time non-conference opponents?

Granted, Indiana is a basketball school. For reference, ponder Duke, Kansas etc. But why not use basketball to make the football program better? Give the football program some money. Tell high school football players that Indiana can win.

Come to think about it, maybe Wilson should hire me as his promotions man. Wouldn’t it be great for the Big Ten and college football in general if the Hoosiers could field a decent team?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Minnesota Gophers Go for the Kill

My neighbor to the north, Minnesota, hired a football coach recently.

The Gophers selected Northern Illinois Coach Jerry Kill. Isn’t Kill a great name for a football coach? Isn’t destruction a major part of football?

But anyway regarding Kill, he obviously isn’t a big name hire. There were rumors that Minnesota wanted a big name guy. Well, I’m guessing none of the big name guys wanted Minnesota.

Minnesota is an okay Big Ten job, not a great job. I would rate the Gopher program slightly above Indiana. It’s pretty low these days.

But sports are sometimes about selling hope and Minnesota will now get the hope campaign started. It’s time to put some interest back in the Gopher program and sell some tickets.

Will Kill bring success to Minnesota? It will be tough. It sounds like he is a good football coach with a successful background. So the credentials should not be a problem.

But Kill’s biggest hurdle will involve changing the culture. As I stated earlier, the Minnesota program is in bad shape. Will the administration give Kill the money and support he needs?

Minnesota fans are hoping Kill’s program isn’t another Glen Mason or Tim Brewster bunch. The fans yearn to say goodbye to that kind of suffering.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wisconsin-TCU: An Interesting Match-Up

All the bowl pairings are set and let the discussion begin. Discussion is the only thing we have these days as the first bowl game is Dec. 18.

Yes, I was disappointed that someone didn’t defeat Oregon or Auburn so that another team such as TCU could have appeared in the national championship game. But the saying, “It is what it is” applies.

But of all the actual bowl pairings, I like the Wisconsin-TCU game the best. It should be a competitive contest.

Frankly, I haven’t watched much of the Horned Frogs. The Mountain West Conference doesn’t receive great exposure, so that is part of it. But being a non-BCS school brings a natural curiosity to this game. TCU will bring the offense, but will it be able to stop the Badger offense.

Wisconsin has been a scoring machine this season. The Badgers put up basketball numbers. And yet the Wisconsin plays old fashioned Big Ten football with emphasis on the run. It throws the ball too, but if the Horned Frogs don’t stop the run (or control it at least), forget about the victory.

I was in Madison (home of Wisconsin) last week. There is a real buzz about the Badgers Rose Bowl trip. People are making travel plans. Now Wisconsin actually has an opponent.

And I think a very good opponent. This promises to be a punch-in-the-gut game. You would think Wisconsin will provide the most punches. Will TCU respond and deliver a few of its own?

Stay tuned for the outcome on January 1.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I'm aTraveling Man

Sorry about the lack of blogs this week. I'm traveling in the great state of Wisconsin. The plan is to attend the NC State-Wisconsin basketball game tonight. Look for more blog frequency next week and go NC State.