Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wisconsin Lands Russell Wilson

Christmas came to Badgerland yesterday and fans were plain ‘ole giddy. Former North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson announced that he would play for Wisconsin this fall.

It’s rare for a college team to have a former all-conference player in another league land in its lap. Wisconsin beat out Auburn for Wilson’s services.

Badger fans believe Wilson could the missing piece of a well-stock puzzle in 2011. They weren’t happy with the other prospects at quarterback so now fans could look forward to a special season.

I have mentioned frequently in this space about Wilson’s talents. I watched the guy closely at NC State. As I have often said, he is a special player. Wilson is simply a talented athlete. He can make plays with his feet and also throw a good ball when necessary. He often willed NC State to a victory.

The rub with the NC State football program was basically his desire to play two sports. Then he signed a professional contract with the Colorado Rockies baseball team. Finally, NC State coach Tom O’Brien told him to choose baseball or football. But Wilson continued with the Rockies this summer.

Wilson apparently has had second thoughts about a baseball career. Struggling with a .200 average will do that to a guy.

It will be interesting to see how Wisconsin uses Wilson. Normally, the Badgers run a conservative offense with a large portion of running plays. If they only have Wilson generally hand the ball off his talents will go wasted. The guy needs plenty of freedom to make plays.

I predict Wilson will star at Wisconsin. He will just be performing for a different red-and-white team (school colors).

Monday, June 27, 2011

NC State's David Horning Calls It Quits

Senior NC State athletic administrator David Horning plans to retire in July. But this announcements deviates from the normal retirement. Horning, 52, is a real testament that you REALLY only live once.

Horning, who has spent 30 years working at NC State and played linebacker for the Pack, developed a brain aneurysm in 2009 and people wondered if he would live. Horning was in a coma for 11 days. His recovery begged the word miraculous.

So forgive the guy if he cherishes life more than many. He feels blessed to be thinking, breathing and simply living.

He will now trade in 80-hour work weeks for full-time status as a husband and father. Horning can now run errands for his wife and participate more fully in his son’s activities.

Horning is one of the good guys in college athletes and he will obviously be missed. But the home welcoming mat will be quite sweet one day at a time.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Darling Cal Magical Run Ends

This one had the appearances of a Hollywood movie.

The University of California (Cal) baseball program was dead. The administration told baseball and other sports last year that the curtain was falling on their programs. But as Lee Corso on ESPN says, “Not so fast my friend.”

People responded to the cries of Cal baseball to save its program. The funds streamed in and the curtain didn’t fall after all.

When you come back from a near death experience, you are just happy to be alive. The Cal Bears probably felt those same emotions. So an already special season became really special. The Bears made it all the way to this year’s College World Series.

Fans all across America were cheering for this scrappy bunch. America loves comeback stories.

Unfortunately, the dream of a championship ended yesterday for the Bears. Top-rated Virginia eliminated Cal after the Bears put wins together during the tournament.

But they say the journey is sometimes better than the destination. And hopefully Cal will receive another chance in the not-too-distant future to claim a crown.

The Bears proved this season that the most successful team doesn’t always finish in first place.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rites of Summer

We have officially come to the summer season here in the United States. The calendar declared it yesterday on June 21. Believe it or not, the daylight starts to get shorter.

Summer, shorter daylight and the thoughts of college football?

You bet.

It’s time for all the college football magazines to appear on a newsstand near you. Maybe in this digital age the preview magazine will become a dinosaur, but let’s hope not. It a rite of summer just like swimming pools and barbeques.

Growing up as a kid, I turned to Street and Smith for my college football preview fix. The old black and white photos and less than fancy feeling paper highlighted the magazine. Street and Smith was probably the king of preview magazine in a small environment.

But now there are a host of different publications competing for the preview audience. There are fancy color photos and highlighted teams and conferences depending upon the region of the country you reside. For example, in my region, the magazines focus on the Big Ten and Big 12 Conferences.

Most people think Phil Steele puts out the most complete preview these days. Steele also seems to have a knack for correctly predicting the finishes of various teams.

So if you are hungry for some college football and cannot wait until the fall, you can satisfy your craving with one of many magazine preview choices. You can even read it while you’re down at the swimming pool.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Nice Gesture

This is a nice story regarding college athletics.

Chris Ault is virtually unknown to most of the college football world. Ault serves as the head coach of the Nevada Wolfpack. He has quietly produced an outstanding program while helping his team to a top 25-ranking last season.

Ault recently received and certainly earned a two-year contact extension. But get this: he volunteered to also take a 4.8 percent pay cut. It will cost him almost $41,000. Ault reasoned that the bad state of the Nevada economy and other state workers taking their lumps prompted his decision.

Sometimes we hear about the selfishness of college coaches and players. In this case, we hear of the selflessness of Ault. I doubt if Ault is looking for praise, but I want to give the coach a virtual high-five for the sacrifice.

True, Ault probably won’t miss a meal for his salary reduction, but what a great example to his football team, his university, the state and the college football world.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

College Baseball in Madison, Wisconsin

Madison, Wisconsin is a city known for Wisconsin Badger athletics and in recent weeks and months, protesting.

But I discovered another gem in Madison last week—the Madison Mallards baseball team.

The Mallards are a Northwoods League team made up of current college players. Most of them have only completed their freshman or sophomore seasons. They hope to attraction the attention of some big league scouts.

There is a real love affair between Madison, nearby residents and this team. The Mallards draw between 4,000-6,000 fans per home game. The ballpark, nicknamed the Duck Pond, reminds me of a high-class minor league team.

Steve Schmitt, the owner, is a new friend of mine. He and I bleed St. Louis Cardinals red and bonded over it. Steve puts a good product on the field and offers various ticket, food and drink promotions plus entertainment during the game. He wants fans to experience a good time whether the Mallards win or lose.

The baseball is solid. The atmosphere is great. In a positive way, it’s baseball similar to my days as a child. Pure and simple.

I encourage you to check out the Mallards if you live in the Madison area or have reason to come to the city. You can even land an autograph or two.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Paying College Athletes

There has been plenty of discussion in recent weeks about paying college athletes. I think the mess with Ohio State and the situation with Cam Newton at Auburn helped fuel the talk.

The Big Ten Conference mentioned the subject. The ‘ole ball coach, Steve Spurrier, also gave his two cents. Some think if players are paid however, the power conferences will have a huge advantage because of their major resources.

In a sense, college players are already paid. They receive scholarships in the form of room and broad. We also know some players garner extra benefits from those who (boosters) want to buck the system.

Would paying players stop this under the table stuff? I doubt it. You would have to offer some kids plenty of legal money to stop that practice. And frankly, that will not happen.

I’m a sports traditionalist so I haven’t ever been too keen on paying players. But maybe a small monthly stipend all universities/colleges could afford would be okay.

This to pay or not to pay debate will linger for a long, long time. Maybe the NCAA powers should focus on cleaning up the infractions in college sports and then this pay issue might take care of itself.

Do you think college athletes should be paid?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Terrelle Pryor Makes Good Choice

Sorry about the lack of posting last week. I was in Wisconsin and then I fell ill during my time there.

Feeling ill might characterize the state of Ohio State fans. But consider the good news Buckeye fans. Things can only become better.

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor made a good decision last week and resigned from the program. Pryor was set to miss the first five games of his senior season anyway due to the famous tattoo incident. With more controversy swirling regarding his association with car dealers, Pryor declared an ‘uncle.” He decided to explore opportunities at the next level.

How that will play out is anybody’s guess, but it’s a good thing for Ohio State. The Buckeyes are like a player with a badly injured knee. Instead of trying to continue to play with many distractions, Ohio State is the now the beneficiary of a surgery. First coach Jim Tressel resigned and now Pryor. The healing may take a long time, but the necessary steps have occurred.

By the way Buckeye fans, there is still an outstanding quarterback available for one season. Russell Wilson could make fans forgot about strife off the field with his play on the field.

The problem is that Wilson will probably have many suitors. I can guarantee that if he ended up at Wisconsin, Ohio State and other Big Ten Conference schools won’t enjoy it.