SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Is There Any Doubt As To Which Sport Is The National Pastime?

Quick, name the #1 ranked college baseball team. Bet you can't do it without looking here.

How much time do you spend reading about Major League Baseball's draft when compared to the NFL draft or the NBA draft? Yes, I know, the latter two drafts have much more of an immediate impact on their league's teams in the following season than the first league's do, but, still, hardly any attention gets paid to the Major League draft unless a high school or college kid has selected Scott Boras as his advisor, and then, only to gauge how far the kid drops because teams don't want to deal with Boras.

In contrast, during the season, if asked, you could readily name the #1-ranked college football team. You wouldn't have to check on a link, would you?

This point isn't earth-shattering and wasn't meant to be. Yes, Americans have this special thing about Major League Baseball and it's fun to go to minor league games, but there's the "event-like" aspect of football that puts it on another plane. Perhaps it's because there are fewer games, perhaps because it's more made for TV than baseball. Whatever the reason, football has been on top for a while now. Since when is hard to say, but perhaps since 1994, when there was the baseball strike and no World Series. That's a convenient benchmark, but my guess is that it goes back farther than that.

At any rate, in case you didn't click on the link, the Rice Owls are the #1 college baseball team in the land. Yes, that brainy school in Houston reigns supreme, for now, in college baseball. Not USC, not Texas, but Rice.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Penn Has a New Hoops Coach

So reports The Daily Pennsylvanian.

The Philadelphia Daily News reported earlier today that Penn had narrowed its field to Cornell's Steve Donahue, Lehigh's Billy Taylor and Brown's Glen Miller and expected to decide within the next day or so.

The DP reports that Miller has been hired for the job and will be introduced tomorrow.

Miller makes perfect sense in the sense that over the past several years, he's been the second-best coach in the Ivies next to Fran Dunphy. The Princeton cognoscenti may argue this point for two reasons -- one, Princeton is the second-best program in the Ivies and two, Brown didn't have a great year overall last season (although most of their players were freshmen and sophomores last year) -- but they're wrong. Miller did wonders at Connecticut College, a hapless DIII school (hoopswise, that is) that he took to the DIII Final Four with an undefeated season his last season there. Likewise, he revived a bad Brown program and turned it into a force to be reckoned with, at one point fielding a team that had three first-team all Ivy players -- in the same season. Unfortunately for Coach Miller, while his teams contended for the Ivy title, they haven't won one during his tenure. If his teams have a weakness, it's that Brown's defense hasn't been good enough to get the Bruins over the top. Both Penn and Princeton have won their titles through playing great defense, and, at that, better defense than Brown played. The counter to this criticism is that if Miller gets to University City, he'll build on what he's done at Brown at Penn, especially given that the Penn brand name will give him many more recruiting advantages than the Brown name possibly could have. Don't forget, he had to spend much of his energy rebuilding at both Connecticut College and Brown; at Penn, he can focus solely on winning with top talent. That prospect has to be very exciting for him, and it should be very intriguing for the Penn faithful.

The Penn insiders might howl a bit. Miller isn't from within the Penn hoops family, as is Donahue or current top assistant David Duke, who appears to be out of the running. They don't know him as well, and, well, the Ivy hoops snobs could turn their noses up at Brown, which, after all, isn't either Penn or Princeton. Moreover, there is something to say for bringing someone in from within your coaching family, although Princeton is still waiting for Joe Scott to fulfill the promise that both his Princeton coaching family pedigree and his success at Air Force would have predicted for him in Tigertown. Donahue, in contrast, would have been a safer pick in terms of familiarity, but Miller's body of work has been, by far, more impressive. As with any family business, there comes a point where you can't hand it off to the next generation, because there might be no one there who can sustain the excellence to the degree to which family members have become accustomed. Penn was facing that issue with this hire.

Absent an obvious choice from within the Penn family or within the Philadelphia Big 5 community, Penn A.D. Steve Bilsky picked the best coach available. While I've been overly (and somewhat excessively) critical of Glen Miller's body of work at Brown, he has done a very good job there, and his past record both at Connecticut College and Brown predict success for him at Penn, where the pressure will be on, as Penn returns a veteran nucleus that should make the Quakers' a serious favorite to win the Ivies in the 2006-2007 season.

Oklahoma Hoops Recruits Should be Released from Their Letters of Intent

It's an old refrain, really. Coach recruits incoming freshmen, coach leaves for another school after the letters of intent have been signed, recruits want to be released from their commitments. Are the players picking coaches or schools? What was the material inducement to get the kids to go to a school -- the school itself, the extracurricular activity or the person who heads up the extracurricular activity? Making this analysis a bit more complicated is that the particular extracurricular activity is a revenue-generating sport that demands a lot of the potential student-athlete's time.

Three Oklahoma hoops recruits have asked to be released from their commitments to the Sooners. Kelvin Sampson opted for Indiana, OU replaced him with Jeff Capel, who came from VCU, and now the recruits want to go elsewhere. OU, by the way, has no obligation to release the recruits. While they have the upper hand, the kids can go there for a year, be somewhat unhappy, and then transfer. Does that give them some leverage? Perhaps. Clearly, though, no one wins if that will prove to be the end result. OU will have a roster crisis, and the kids who transfer will have to sit out a year at their new schools.

Is the NCAA's current rule the right one? That once the kids sign the letters of intent they're committed to stay with the school, even if the coaches who recruit them have no similar obligation and can bolt for other, and perhaps more prestigious and greener, pastures? Are the kids' best interests being put first? Or, rather, is the NCAA's rule designed to prevent a coach who opts to leave from plundering his now-former program by inducing the kids he recruited for his now-former school to go to his new school -- without any penalties attached either to the careers of the kids or to the coach's new employer?

In a vaccuum, it seems that the current rule is unfair and that the kids get shafted. After all, they're young and impressionable, and while they're supposed to put academics first, well, they're kids, very talented at hoops too, and who their coach will be is a very important part of their decisionmaking process. Sure, some kids have always wanted to play for Duke or Carolina, but to most folks the laundry isn't as important as the person who's running the team, at least to a degree. Better to play for a genius at a less well-known school than a butcher of a coach at a big-name program. At least that's the way many kids think.

So, if the analysis ends there, the kids should be released from their commitments because a material reason -- and perhaps the material reason -- why they chose the school in the first place is not true anymore. The coach is gone, and, therefore, uncertainty lingers. What's the new coach's style? How will he be to play for? Can he adapt from his mid-major conference to one of the top 6 conferences? Will we fit his style of play? We know we fit the now-former coach's style of play? Will he bury us ultimately in favor of his own recruits who come in next year and the year after? All are fair questions. After all, there have been many instances where the new coach runs off the former coach's players or relegates them to the bench because they don't fit his style. Moreover, the kids have gotten to know a coaching staff during the recruiting process, and they know very little about the new one.

That analysis certainly protects the kids and, perhaps, protects them in a way that few other college students would be protected. If Harvard were to jettison the Harvard Lampoon, would kids transfer to a school with the next best humor magazine? If Cal-Berkeley were to jettison three club sports, would students there automatically transfer to the UC school that maintained those club programs? If Wake Forest were to eliminate a choral group, would that group transfer somewhere else? The analysis differs for academic departments. If Syracuse eliminated its school of communications or Rochester eliminated its school of music, you would see that sort of mass exodus, but, again, the extracurriculars aren't the primary reason kids go to a school. The availability of a good amount of extracurricular activities is a major attraction, but the elimination of a single one shouldn't cause a mass exit.

Unless, perhaps, it's varsity football or varsity basketball, and, in certain places where these sports generate revenue, ice hockey, baseball and lacrosse.

Then what?

Look at the school that just saw its coach leave -- and not because he was terminated, but because he opted to go to another school. Typically, these coaches have rolling five-year contracts that are quite lucrative, and the reason that the contracts run for five years is so that a coach can say to a recruit, "I'll be here when you're a senior because I have a five-year contract." But most of them don't have stiff penalties if a coach were to leave (some do have to buy out their contracts, though), and in most, if not all instances, coaches are permitted to take other jobs even if they have a five-year deal with their current school. The coach that leaves to go to a different job might want to take his recruits with him, assuming, of course, that the level of competition is comparable and that the recruited players could step up and play at the coach's new school. In the case of Kelvin Sampson, leaving Oklahoma and the Big 12 for Indiana and the Big Ten is a lateral move, so it could well be that OU recruits can make the grade at IU. In contrast, I doubt that Jeff Capel's recruits at VCU would want to/could follow Capel to OU -- he's coaching on a higher plane now.

So who should get protected? The coach's former school from getting plundered or the student-athletes from trying to adapt to a situation that suddenly becomes unfamiliar to them? Should it be the case that the kids can get released if a coach gets fired, resigns and takes a job at a school that is a significant drop down in the RPI ratings (i.e., going from a high major to a mid-major) or if they agree that they won't immediatelly matriculate at the new school of the coach who recruited them but will sit out a year or if they go to a school other than the new school of the coach who recruited them (where they can play right away)?

I think that both should get protected, and here's how:

1. The kids should get released from their letters of intent.

2. They can matriculate at any school and be immediately eligible, except they will have to sit out a year if they matriculate at the new school of the coach who signed them to the letter of intent. The school where they signed the letter of intent might want to extend this rule to the entire conference, the way some conferences have rules that if a scholar-athlete wants to transfer within the conference, he/she actually has to sit out two years. In that fashion, the now former school doesn't get hurt twice -- by losing the kids and then seeing them show up to play for their archrivals. Meanwhile, that would still leave about 300 DI schools for these particular players to play their college basketball at.

3. I'd prefer not to inject any subjective rating system into the mix, whereby the kids would only get released if the now-former coach took a certain type of job. That would be too iffy, for certain recruits might want to follow the coach regardless of whether the competition is a step up or a step down. Better to abide by the first and second rules and see how everything works out for a few years before injecting anything more complicated into the system.

So, Oklahoma A.D. Joe Castiglione and new coach Jeff Capel, release these players from their commitments. It's the right thing to do. Your program will rebound in due time, but these kids only get one shot at their careers, and that fact alone should trump the shorter-term interest of your own program.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Settlement Achieved on 2004 World Series Ball

You probably remember this one -- the guy who made the last putout in the 2004 World Series for the Boston Red Sox was 1B Doug Mientkiewicz. After catching a throw from closer Keith Foulke, Mientkiewicz elected to keep the ball. After all, he caught it, and he joked that the ball would help fund his retirement.

The Red Sox, though, weren't amused. They wanted the ball and argued that it belonged to them because, well, Mientkiewicz worked for them. Mientkiewicz, though, didn't budge, even if he did loan the ball to the BoSox for a year while the dispute was ongoing.

Now the parties have done the right thing. Mientkiewicz donated the ball to the Hall of Fame, and he will not get a dime for it. All baseball fans will get to see this piece of baseball history.

If you think about it, the BoSox really won. The ball will be on display for baseball fans (okay, so it won't be on display at Fenway Park), and the team didn't have to pay a dime for it. The team still is in Boston, and it's a good team. Meanwhile, Mientkiewicz now toils for the Kansas City Royals, the Irkutsk of Major League outposts.

Sounds like something out of Greek mythology. Take something from your employer, where title is in doubt, and end up on the periphery. Sure, there are many worse jobs for a lot less money, but I'm sure that the combined home-game atmospheres for 81 dates in K.C. fails to equal that of one three-game series in front of the Green Monster. Now, it could well be that the BoSox have a built-in edge here, because they can keep re-shaping their team and making sure it's competitive, while all Mientkiewicz can do is age and watch his skills deteriorate.

Then again, he deserves some kudos for having done the right thing. After all, what really matters amidst all of this is not the ball the contributed to the last out, but the wonderful efforts of the Boston players to come back from a 3-0 deficit in the 2004 ALCS to win that series and then knock the St. Louis Cardinals silly in four straight in the World Series. Oh, sure, there will be those who covet game-worn jerseys, used bats and balls, but for those who participated, being there was what really mattered.

Doug Mientkiewicz figured this out and should be applauded for it.

So perhaps he's a winner in all of this too.

Penn Has a Final Four

Unless there is a stealth candidate.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported over the weekend that Cornell coach Steve Donahue has interviewed for the men's basketball coaching job twice, and that Penn also has interviewed Lehigh's Billy Taylor, Brown's Glen Miller and current top assistant David Duke. Previously, both Philadelphia dailys reported that Penn could have an announcement by the middle of this week.

The Daily Pennsylvanian reports that Taylor is probably the favorite, and that both Donahue and Miller met with groups of Penn players last week. Unless Donahue surges and grabs the job, it appears that Penn will be going outside its head coaching line for the first time in decades to hire its head coach.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Echoes Are More Than Just Awake

In Texas they say that there are two sports, football and spring football.

Many colleges have recently completed their spring practice, and for many hope springs eternal that the fall will bring gridiron glory.

February marked the signing of national letters of intent, the final indicator of how well schools did in the recruiting wars of 2006. College football fans watch the returns the way ward healers see whether their henchmen deliver big-city votes in a key race, and they want to see how many of the top 100 kids their school has landed. Those returns, like the NFL draft, have become an industry of their own.

Nowadays it's not unusual for high school juniors to commit after the conclusion of their junior year (thus creating a secondary sport, as the national-letter-of-intent watch is all about high school seniors). So eager are they to get on campus and learn their college's system that they'll forego the joys of the second semester of their senior year of high school, graduate early and then start their new college during that second semester. As a rapidly aging curmudgeon in training, I'd like to see the youngster play for the high school baseball team, but these days the kids who are really good focus on one and only one sport. The days of the three-sport athlete have gone the way of the afternoon newspaper and sales of baseball cards at the corner drug store (heck, the corner drug store really isn't there anymore either).

Notre Dame just landed the biggest recruit in the 2007 recruiting wars, a HS QB about whom I blogged at Christmas time because of the number of times he's "red-shirted" during his schoolboy career. In the movie "Field of Dreams", the protagonist, Ray Kinsella, heard a voice that said, "If you build it, they will come." It was a baseball diamond that he plowed out of his corn field, and they were reincarnations of deceased baseball players, including "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. At Notre Dame, A.D. Kevin White heard a voice a few years ago that must have said, "If you hire him, they will come." Sure enough, despite the legend of Knute Rockne, Touchdown Jesus and the lore of Notre Dame, "him" was Charlie Weis, and "they" are the nation's top recruits.

The Echoes were stirred last season.

They are wide awake now.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Demand for Duke Lacrosse Gear Soars

Click here to read Darren Rovell's article on ESPN.com.

After the movie "Animal House" came out in the late 1970's, toga parties were the rage at most college campuses around the country.

What's next, "Duke Lacrosse" parties at the most misogynistic of fraternities across the land?

Look, I live in a Philadelphia suburb, and the subject of Terrell Owens is a sore one. Owens' major transgressions were that he threw his teammates under the bus and was generally difficult to coach. For those sins, he was released. Plenty of people spent good money on #81 jerseys when he arrived in town, and you hardly find a sole wearing an Owens jersey. You'll see jerseys of retired players, players who were permitted to hit the free agent market and even disappointments, but you don't see people wearing T.O. jerseys.

And T.O. didn't come close to committing a crime, getting drunk in public or urinating in a public place. Yet, his jerseys are shunned objects, available for bottom-basement prices at Wal-Mart and populating thrift stores in the five-county Philadelphia area, South Jersey and much of Delaware.

Even if you argue vociferously that the serious charges leveled against two Duke lacrosse players are just charges and await their day in court, the fact remains that 15 of the 47 players have alcohol-related misdemeanors for on-and off-campus behavior, their coach had been warned about the team's overall conduct last year and was fired within the past month. The Duke student newspaper has called for the firing of the athletic director. Even if you say that the Duke lacrosse players haven't been convicted of felonies, their misdemeanors and general comportment have been such that you really wouldn't want to don a Duke lacrosse jersey, at least at this time. I can see family members and team members wearing their jerseys because they're either team members or connected to the team, they want to support the team, they hope that Duke lacrosse survives, and, yes, if it's just a "Duke lacrosse" jersey you could be supporting the women's team as well as the men's.

But still. Sales are up by about 400% or so? Why is that? Are sales up because people thrive on courtroom drama, on fights at hockey games, crashes at auto races? Are sales up because people have found the Duke women's lacrosse team and want to support them nationally? Or are sales up because somehow the Duke men's team has a perverse street cred that some people think is cool or even funny?

Given that these sales are up, I'm surprised that there isn't some vendor who isn't trying to contract with the federal government to get a license for all of the prison names and sell prison gear? Then again, while I like Googling topics, perhaps those brands exist and I just haven't caught up to the times yet. At the risk of not offending the Duke faithful, no, I don't equate even the entire Duke lacrosse team with violent felons that populate high-security correctional institutions, and I am not indicting Duke for the bad actions of a few.

There's freedom of expression and good taste. Even in an enlightened environment such as Duke, it's hard to reconcile the two.

Amazing, isn't it, that today a single college has both the best and worst brands in the country.

Duke basketball is a gold standard.

Duke men's lacrosse needs to get some standards quickly.

NCAA To Tackle Bogus Prep School Problem

The NCAA has announced that it's going to take steps to ensure that diploma mills that come cloaked in the veneer of prep schools but whose sole purpose is to field a top-flight hoops or football team get shut down. This comes after exposes in two different major-city newspapers about schools in Miami and Philadelphia that raised issues about the legitimacy of those institutions.

Now if they could only do something about the pressure to win that the member schools place on the coaches of the teams that are expected to generate significant revenues to help fund the rest of the athletic department and, also, give the school some national glory and brand recognition from time to time. Earlier this year, Iowa State terminated its men's hoops coach, Wayne Morgan, after he was linked to a scandal involving payments to a Los Angeles-area company that funneled players to major colleges. The pressure -- and the dollars -- are huge.

It used to be that you'd go to a school and try out for teams. Football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring. You'd play each sport during its natural season, even if you were great at one and bad at the other two. You didn't play one sport all year-round, and you didn't opt to go to a different school that recruited you to go there. These things were extracurricular activities, and, yes, if you were good they could help get you into college and if you were really good they would pay for college by way of an athletic scholarship.

Of course, that paragraph was painted with such a broad brush as to ignore some practical nuances. Some kids get recruited even if they're about as interested in class as Donald Trump is in shaving his head. Some kids get stashed in Bozo majors where they get partial credit for wrong answers on multiple choice tests and get academic credits for playing their sports. Some kids get into the college even if there were issues with their high school courseloads. Yes, the NCAA has a compliance function and yes, each college's athletic department also has one to make sure that the kids who play are eligible. Those compliance programs, though, don't stop the goofy majors that exist and shenanigans that go on to keep kids eligible.

And, up until now, those compliance programs had little if anything to do with the integrity of the institutions who were certifying that kids were actually eligible to get into a four-year school. You can't blame the kids for wanting to get into a four-year school and increase their chances to play for money somewhere. You can blame their parents, coaches, teachers and those who surround college athletics for creating an environment that takes the "extra" out of "extracurricular" and that emphasizes winning and revenues from TV, the post-season, merchandise, ticket sales and concessions over the university's overall mission of educating young people. At some point, adults somewhere have to break the hard news to kids, coaches, alumni, community members, fans and the media that some hotshot might not be ready for the big state university but would be better off working on his academics at a real prep school or at a community college. Would that be so difficult to do?

But what if you're job as A.D. is on the line? Or your job as coach? What if the potential revenues or revenue losses are just too great? How far do you push the envelope? How far do you go to get better players, get them into school and keep them eligible? Don't you just need that one extra kid? Or two?

All of these are fair questions, and no doubt the NCAA will make it tougher for member schools to admit kids who have no business being there in the first place. In doing so, they'll be doing the kids a service and getting them into environments that will care more about them than how good a backcourt a school might have or how good the defensive backfield can be. Sure, some schools might lose out on that one player who could push their program over the top, but it strikes me that those particular schools should stay where they are if they're so dependent on a corruption of the system that seems as epidemic as the NCAA has suggested (the NCAA representative quoted suggested that there are 100-200 prep schools that fit the profile of rogue schools that are more designed to rubber stamp kids into colleges than anything else).

Hats, headbands and helmets off the NCAA for taking a stand. After all, the last time I checked, colleges have athletic departments.

And not the other way around.

Update on Penn Hoops

Here's the latest on the Penn coaching job:

1. Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon took his name out of the running. The Philadelphia Daily News' Mike Kern wrote that O'Hanlon would have been the frontrunner had he stayed in the mix.

2. Cornell coach Steve Donahue had an on-campus interview, as did Lehigh's Billy Taylor, so reports The Daily Pennsylvanian. Then again, the DP also reports that Lehigh issued a statement that Penn hadn't asked Taylor to interview for the job. The DP article also reports the conventional wisdom that Brown coach Glen Miller no longer is in the running, but sometimes reports like that are a smokescreen to cover what's really happening. I wouldn't bet that Miller is out, at least not yet.

3. Former St. John's coach Mike Jarvis would be interested, but hasn't been contacted. The Daily Pennsylvanian spoke with Jarvis, who indicated that he rarely speaks with Penn A.D. Steve Bilsky, for whom he worked when Bilsky was the A.D. and Jarvis the head coach at George Washington.

4. There's an excellent article, in, yes, The Daily Pennsylvanian, about former Penn star and all-around good guy Ugonna Onyekwe, the Nigerian native who went to HS in London and who, after a stint in Spain, is now playing pro ball in Israel. He's faring very well there, and the article is a good read.

The linked Philadelphia Daily News article states that Penn could name a new head coach as early as the middle of next week.

Barry Bonds on a Postage Stamp?

Newmexiken has the latest scoop on this.

No mention of Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire or Rafael Palmeiro.

Click on the link and enjoy -- and then buy the stamps of the true baseball heroes who will be commemorated this summer.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Trouble With the NBA

Read this, which happened, of course, at the last home game, on Fan Appreciation Night.

And then you have permission to barf, yes barf, which is perhaps the strongest word I've used on this blog, all over the NBA.

Commissioner David Stern can talk in saccharine tones about how many franchises he's introduced, that the league has offices in 11 cities, how many hits their website gets, all the merchandise they sell and all sorts of metrics that belie one simple fact -- the league offers a bad product and the league's image is just plain bad.

Here you had two stalwarts, Allen Iverson and Chris Webber, not showing up until tipoff time. Great example, huh? They both decided that they were not going to play. Again, great example, right? Especially when it's rumored that the 76ers might finally deal Iverson after this season. Where's the respect for the fans who have cheered you for almost ten years? Where's the opportunity to say goodbye to them? As for Webber, it turns out that not only has he not been clutch during crunch time for his teams, he also shows bad judgment on fan relations matters when it matters most.

Yet the NBA now has a dress code, some of its players are more popular than rap stars, it's prevented the pro hoops version of juvenile delinquency by banning eighteen year-olds and you can buy a Tim Duncan jersey at a Wal-Mart. All of those dollars cannot buy the excellence that the league used to represent when players named Jordan, Bird and Johnson roamed the hardwood and played with an intensity that made every game worth going to. Commissioner Stern can talk in Hollywood's tones about packaging and merchandising, but remember that no matter how you dress up a product, if it's bad, people will stop buying it. There's more trademarked NBA merchandise than ever, precisely when the quality of play has weakened the strength of the brand from at least a basketball perspective.

And who cares about a jersey when it's hard to understand what it really represents?

I loved taking my son to his first NBA game and liked the fact that the bright lights, fast and athletic play really excited him. But at some point he'll figure out where he'll devote his attention, and I wonder how the NBA will continue to draw fans. The tickets are expensive, and lots of parents teach their kids that not everything that glitters is made of gold. I wrote in an earlier post tonight about my sports equivalent of Willie Wonka's Golden Ticket.

And somehow I doubt that spending $125 for two good seats to a game at the end of the season where the Nets leave Richard Jefferson at home and sit Jason Kidd and the home team's two best players don't play will be golden tickets.

More like lead ones to me.

Kids and Baseball Cards

I loved baseball cards as a kid and, regrettably, don't have nearly the treasure trove of cards that I played with as early as kindergarten. Somehow, I have a bunch of Andy Etchebarren cards from the late 1960's, but my first big grouping is from 1973. I used to look at my cards and relish the times when my parents let my sister and me spend say ten cents at the pharmacy near where we lived -- yes, the place with a soda fountain that sold great milkshakes -- and buy a pack or two of baseball cards. The sugar from the flat stick of pink bubble gum would dust one of the cards the way confectioner's sugar garnishes a sacher tort, and we would look at the photographs and see if we got cards of our favorite players.

Kids would flip cards (although I didn't see the logic) or put them in the spokes of their bicycles, not worrying that they'd be bending corners or doing things that would render, say, a '69 Nolan Ryan card worthless. They were toys that were meant to be played with, not collectors items for boys who were unable to keep themselves clean let alone make sure that cards' corners didn't bend. They also didn't have the hard plastic holders that permeate the collecting world today.

Fast forward a decade and a half, and I recall being at my mother's house about nine months after my father died on a cold, wintry February day, stopping by for Sunday dinner. She showed me an article in The New York Times about baseball cards, and the article referenced the ten most valuable baseball cards at the time. One of those mentioned was Mike Schmidt's rookie card, and the peaked my curiosity. I hadn't checked out my card collection in a long time, and I went up to my old room to see if they were still there.

Old rooms are interesting things, aren't they? Sources of comfort and discomfort simultaneously, they're reminders both of the comforts of childhood and the struggles of youth. There's stuff in there that brings warm smiles, and there's stuff that reminds you of awkward times when you were en route to becoming fully formed. Thankfully, my old room contained more good reminders (such as the pennants of pro football teams that my dad used to buy for a quarter and bring me after going to Eagles games with his friends) than bad, and I went to this small closet that was in the midst of a wall unit that had been in my room forever. That closet was always a space for things I treasured, and, yes, in old shoeboxes, my baseball cards were still there. (To my mother's credit, I figured they would be).

I went through the cards, and the '73 set were still of the stripe that saw the full set printed not at once but in series. Roughly translated, that meant that the higher number cards were printed at the end of the year, and there weren't as many of them (which can make them more valuable). At the end of the set were rookie cards, and that was in the day when there were three rookies to a card. As I might have predicted, I had perhaps ten rookie cards that featured current Major League coach Rick Stelmaszek, but what else was there? Would my childhood equivalent of Willie Wonka's Golden Ticket be there? After all, I grew up in a Philadelphia suburb, and Mike Schmidt was the man, the best third baseman ever, and, well, as a baseball fan and a loyal Phillies' fan, finding Schmidt's rookie card on this miserable February day less than a year after my father, my best buddy Phillies' fan, had died, would have been some wonderful First Aid for the soul. I needed some succor, some infusion of feeling after a post-mourning period of sadness that hits you once you have to put your life together after friends and family have gone back to theirs. As time passes, the memories of good times make you stronger, but in the year after the loss of the loved one, you can't help but thinking about what you used to do with them at that time. Especially on awful February days, where the rain hits you hard and makes your world seem small and suffocating.

So, I went through the box with care, found some old cards that featured teammates together, Kaline and Cash of the Tigers, Mays and McCovey of the Giants, and even happened on a Denny McLain card. Younger fans might not remember him or might have heard of him because of his post-baseball brushes with the law, but he was the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season, and I remember seeing him win his 30th on the NBC Game of the Week and the fans going absolutely bonkers. I think they gave him such loud cheers for a curtain call that they actually summoned him out of the locker room to cheer him again. That's what baseball cards do, when you look at them years later on a rainy day -- they bring back memories of seeing Buddy Bradford hit two home runs in a game for the Cards against the Phillies before a paltry crowd at Vet Stadium or Mike McCormick's winning 20 games for the Giants in the late 1960's, or Randy Jones and Steve Carlton hooking up for a 1-0 affair in the mid-70's in a game that took 1:30 to play.

After going through bunches of doubles and triples, including about half dozen of Carl Yastrzemski, I found the card. Buried amidst the Jim Crawfords, Jim Yorks and Rico Cartys was one genuine Mike Schmidt rookie card. Amidst the gloom of a cold winter's day and a period of my life I'd like to forget, I found that sustenance. Sure, it wasn't like I ran a marathon or struck out the side in high school or accomplished anything through my actions, but nonetheless finding this card struck a chord in me. It represented a piece of my childhood, a time when I went to ballgames with my dad, drank 32-ounce cokes in 90-degree weather on Sundays and heard a guy named Charlie Franks, a hot-dog vendor with a voice that sounded like razorblades on glass saying, "Dogs, get your dogs here." A time when dads just made things right and offered the assurance, however fleeting, that all would be okay. Especially at a time when all was not okay.

Yesterday a bunch of cards I bought at auction on eBay arrived. I purchased a set of 2006 cards for each of my kids, and they had fun poring over them. My daughter expressed glee at getting the rookie card of a Phillie, a shortstop named Danny Sandoval. I responded by saying that I didn't know who he was, privately hoping that he's some phenom that the Phils found somewhere who would offer insurance should injuries befall Jimmy Rollins. Later that night I checked out Sandoval in The Baseball Prospectus, only to review their verdict that only the paucity of talent in the Phillies' farm system enabled Sandoval to make the Phillies' 40-man roster. My son was happy to get Mets, Yankees and Phillies, because his friends in kindergarten root for those three teams. My daughter tried to convince him that he should only root for the Phillies, but my wife and I assured both children that they're free to root for whom they choose.

We went over the cards together last night, again this morning at breakfast, and once again tonight. We talked about Ichiro and why he didn't have a last name listed on a card, we looked at the photo of a mammoth Orioles' rookie named Walter Young, talked about A-Rod and Derek Jeter, Jim Thome and Albert Pujols, whom I advised is the best hitter in the game right now. We laughed at Julio Franco's card, for while the kids were in awe that there's a player older than dad they laughed because the photo focused on the butt of the Mets' back-up utility player. I talked about Greg Maddux and Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez and Tommy Glavine. I had a harder time explaining why it didn't look like any Phillies' pitchers will make the Hall of Fame. It's hard, at such a young age, to admit that the team to whom you show your blind loyalty isn't immortal. Kids resonate with super heroes, and the trials of a 162-game schedule and beyond make mere mortals of even a Pujols, whose wonderbat was reduced to a swizzle stick by Boston's pitchers two years ago in the World Series.

We keep the cards in the boxes that they came in on our dining room table. They're a great way to teach the kids the game and who the key players are, and their artistry always seems to work magic. True, the kids won't experience the fun of walking into the corner drug store with a few coins and purchasing a few packs, and, no, there's no stick of gum with the sugar coming off it. Come to think of it, it's hard to find places that sell packs of cards (the Wal-Marts and Targets sell pre-packaged boxes for $9.99 or more), and where packs are sold, they cost at least $1.99. There isn't much that pocket change will buy you any more, most certainly not baseball cards.

I've bought the kids some cards over the past couple of seasons, and I've given them some duplicates of cards that I have, including some good ones. They keep them in their rooms neatly in boxes, and every now and then they look at them. We're going to six Phillies' games this season, and I promised my daughter that I'll teach her how to keep score. Right now, I'm teaching her about the difference between singles, doubles and triples, and how runs are scored. My guess is that I knew this at about five or six, because we didn't have sports leagues for kids that young then, there were afternoon papers that my father brought home that had partial scores of games, and, well, there just wasn't much else to do. Baseball was the national pastime without a doubt, and we all picked it up like a second language. If we weren't playing it, we were watching it.

My heart warmed last night when I saw the glee with which my eight year-old and six year-old opened their cards and the fun they had looking at them. I love their child-like exuberance about the game, innocent as they are about steroids, players telling kids to buzz off when asking for autographs and the seemingly average ownership group that makes the Phillies baseball's perpetual Sisyphus, trying but not succeeding to get to the playoffs. None of that mattered to them.

"Hey Dad, I have a 'Ryan Howard Rookie of the Year' card."

"Dad, how do you pronounce this name?"

"Dad, is Charlie Manuel a good manager?"

"I have A-Rod."

"I have Derek Jeter."

"Is it okay to root for the Yankees? This boy in my class does."

Oh, how I love it so.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The NFL Draft

I've always enjoyed following the talk surrounding the NFL draft, especially because it always seems to me that teams seldom take the players that the draft boards and experts say they will. Perhaps the reason for this is that NFL teams adopt the strategy that the Allies did in 1944 regarding the potential invasion of France -- they spread lots of misinformation so as to confuse the enemy as to when and where the attack would take place. It seems to me that teams may go so far as to fly players in whom they have little interest to their facilities for a look-see with a view toward masking who they are really interested in.

Naturally, there are players who fall markedly and players who rise unexpectedly. One player getting a lot of press right now is USC tailback Lendale White, who announced that he had torn a hamstring, which probably explains why he didn't have the best day before the scouts at USC's Pro Workout Day. Does White fall in the draft? I heard Mel Kiper, Jr. on ESPN Radio this weekend say that White's body of work makes him a first rounder even after the bad workout day. Yet, another respected football person at ESPN is predicting that White falls to the second round. Sounds like a case where the rich will get richer, White will fall to the bottom of the first round, and, presto, the Steelers will have their replacement for Jerome Bettis.

What cocktail of analyses do teams really use? What algorithms do they come up with? How important are interviews, workout days, post-season bowl game performances, combine tests, the Wonderlic test and the entire body of work. One player, Mathias Kiwanaku, a defensive end out of B.C., was initially projected as a first-rounder, and a high first-round pick at that. Since that time, his stock has dropped as precipitously as anyone else's. Why? Well, when the Mel Kipers of the world analyzed his body of work, they found that he got his sacks in bunches and that some of them came against bad DI teams. In addition, Kiwanaku apparently had a bad series of practices at the Senior Bowl, where he was opposite UVA's uber-tackle, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, who is predicted to go in the top five picks. As a result, his stock dropped.

Everyone wants to avoid picking the next Ryan Leaf, who had all the tools but as it turned out didn't have the football brain to run them. Everyone wants to avoid picking the next Mike Mamula, who had all the workout scores but was a tweener who didn't have a real position. No one wants to be responsible for selecting the next Andre Ware, David Klingler or Akili Smith.

If it were a science, then parity would be even more the case in the NFL, because teams would re-load with some equality year after year. But given all of the factors that teams take into account, it's still more of an art. Which means that you really won't be able to tell how we'll your team did until you see the players play in real games. If I were picking, I would emphasize bodies of work over test scores at the combine, whether workout- or Wonderlic-related. After all, you find Zach Thomases through watching film and seeing kids make plays. If the kids don't make 'em in college, it's hard to say that they will in the NFL. Jimmy Johnson knew that in Dallas, and that's what made him so formidable.

So, if you're team talks about draft picks as projects, the bet here is that they'll continue to be the case three years down the road. With that said, mostly every player coming into the draft has some flaw -- not big enough, not fast enough, didn't do enough reps with the 225-pound bench press at the combine, didn't score high enough on the Wonderlic, might have one disciplinary incident on his record, got hurt his junior year, whatever the case may be. The art that the draft gurus work is to figure out what really matters and what doesn't. You can read in the draft manuals that they don't like someone's feet, that someone's arms are too short or what have you, but in the end, the question is whether they made the plays or not.

There is no such player as the perfect draft pick. Every year we hear about how great this one and that one will be, but most that go into the draft as potential Hall of Famers can come out as people who won't make Canton. So, when your team's front office starts talking about the draft picks its made, don't buy into all the hype, because the guys talked about on draft day aren't always the guys that show up come the fall.

For a variety of reasons.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Penn Men's B-Ball Head Coach Job Search Watch

I've blogged about it here and here, and so far this is what various newspapers have reported:

1. Cornell coach Steve Donahue has an interview.

2. Brown coach Glen Miller withdrew his name from the Hartford job to get considered for the Penn job. About a week ago, because of this move, The Harford Courant reported that Miller is the lead candidate for the job. The last time I checked, Harford papers don't scoop the Philly college hoops media about who the lead candidate is. Miller certainly is a serious candidate, but I don't think there's a lead one yet.

3. Fran McCaffery of Siena, a Penn alum, appears not to be a candidate because he recently inked a 5-year deal with his school. That said, I'm inferring that he's not a candidate because he endorsed his good friend, Lehigh's Billy Taylor, for the job (read the next paragraph about Billy Taylor). I still haven't read where McCaffery has stated that he wouldn't listen if Penn came calling. Still, from his actions, it would appear that McCaffery isn't in the picture.

4. Billy Taylor, the Lehigh coach, appears interested. McCaffery, who recruited Taylor to Notre Dame as a player, served with him as an assistant in South Bend and who was Taylor's boss when McCaffery was the head coach at UNC-Greensboro, has given his endorsement to his mentee. Taylor turned down the Delaware job, which St. Joe's assistant Monte Ross got. He also spoke with Ball State when its job opened up and might be a candidate for the Virginia Commonwealth job, which opened up when Jeff Capel took the Oklahoma job.

5. One of the area papers has endorsed current Penn assistant Dave Duke.

6. No word on whether the candidacy of former Penn star, NBA player and current Celtics' assistant Dave Wohl is serious. The linked article also talks about other candidates for the Penn job. Wohl declined comment on whether he was a candidate.

7. Fran O'Hanlon, the Lafayette coach, has said that he's very happy in Easton, Pennsylvania. While the reports are that it's 99 percent certain that O'Hanlon will remain in Easton, O'Hanlon said that if Penn came calling, he'd listen. (Click here for an interesting article that appeared today in a Lehigh Valley newspaper about both O'Hanlon and Taylor and some of the few coaches that used either Lafayette or Lehigh as a springboard to a bigger job -- if the article expanded its horizon to say a look-back period of 40 years, it could have mentioned one Pete Carril).

8. Former long-time Penn assistant Gil Jackson, now the head coach at Howard, has indicated that he's staying put.

8. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported that both former Penn State coach Jerry Dunn (now an assistant at West Virginia) and former George Washington and St. John's coach Mike Jarvis both have surfaced as candidates (click on the link and scroll down to the end of the article). If Penn were to hire Dunn, the Ivies would have two brother tandems coaching in the league -- Jerry and Terry and Penn and Dartmouth, and James and Joe Jones, at Yale and Columbia. Ironically, Fran Dunphy was a serious candidate to replace Jerry Dunn when he was let go at Penn State several years back. The Jarvis connection? His A.D. at G.W. when he was the hoops coach there was none other than current Penn A.D. Steve Bilsky.

As I've written before, there's no (relatively) obvious candidate for Penn the way Fran Dunphy appeared to be for Temple. As a result, it may take a few weeks before Penn A.D. Steve Bilsky determines who will succeed Fran Dunphy.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Hartford Names Leibovitz Head Coach

The University of Hartford named former Temple assistant Dan Leibovitz as its head coach. Click here to read all about it.

Leibovitz, 32, spent the last ten years as an assistant to John Chaney at Temple. Most recently, he was the top assistant and top recruiter at the Philadelphia school. This is a great opportunity for Coach Leibovitz and a great hire for Hartford.

To show what a class act John Chaney is, read the linked article and the quote from Coach Chaney at the end of it. Coach Chaney got a lot of press because of some volatile moments, but beneath those unfortunate incidents is a great mentor, an outstanding teacher and a loyal friend. The world seemingly has gotten less personal as the country has grown in size, and it's heartening to know that there are people out there like Coach Chaney who have taken such an interest in their assistants and their players. By the way, if you saw the photos of Coach Chaney at the press conference introducing Fran Dunphy as Temple's head coach, you'll have noticed that he looks more relaxed than ever before and perhaps 10 years younger.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Sad Ending

I blogged a while back on the story of an Alabama booster who was convicted in Federal court of paying a high school coach to steer a player to the Crimson Tide. You can click here and read that post. It's a sordid affair that you thought only could have emerged from an old gangster-type of film. I, for one, had difficulty believing that this type of thing could have happened, and then it left me wondering whether it happens elsewhere. In the overall scheme of life, the linked story explores the sad things that happen when people start taking a pastime and bragging rights way too seriously.

But now there's this. Logan Young was found in his home, murdered.

What does this mean? Well, on the one hand, during the preparation for the case, one of the lawyers working on it was mugged badly and files were taken from him. On the other hand, Young's son was taken into custody and questioned. The point of this paragraph is that it's way too early to read anything into this story other than Mr. Young was brutally murdered and the authorities are investigating.

Too often we read stories and then do not see any follow up on the participants. In this case, we didn't see what became of Mr. Young or the Alabama assistants who were suing Tennessee coach Philip Fulmer. We know that Coach Fulmer had his difficulties last year on the field and brought in a new offensive coordinator to help turn around his Volunteers.

And now, tragically, we know what became of Logan Young.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

47 DI Hoops Jobs Changing Hands So Far

And it will be 48 if Oklahoma, as reported, hires Virginia Commonwealth's Jeff Capel.

that's about 15% of the total number of DI head coaching jobs.

Click here for the link to the positions that opened up after the season ended. Many of the positions have been filled, but it stands to reason that if current head coaches fill some of these vacancies, the number could swell into the mid-50's.

Which probably suggests that newly anointed head coaches rent their residential real estate. Then again, some of them will make so much money that buying is a better alternative. After all, if you're in that rarified air, interest is something you earn, not pay.

Kudos to Fran Dunphy

Temple made a great choice in hiring Fran Dunphy. He's the right guy for the job, and he'll re-kindle the excitement on North Broad Street. While I remain a fan of John Chaney, I'm sure that by simply moving practices to afternoons he'll open Temple up to a larger potential recruiting pool. All kidding aside, I am a big fan of Coach Dunphy's coaching, and I think that he'll do a great job at Temple and make the Owls a perennial figure in the NCAA tournament in a short time.

Here are links to articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, Bucks County Courier Times and Daily Pennsylvanian. The Inquirer also reports as to who may be successors to Fran Dunphy at Penn, as does the Columbia student newspaper and the Daily News.

As for the candidates to replace Fran Dunphy:

1. The favorites: Brown's Glen Miller, Cornell's Steve Donahue, Dunphy's currently former top assistant at Penn, Dave Duke, Lafayette's Fran O'Hanlon and Siena's Fran McCaffery.

2. The intriguing/field: Lehigh's Billy Taylor, Bucknell's Pat Flannery, Davidson's Bob McKillop, Florida Atlantic's Matt Doherty (who's been taking courses at Penn's Wharton School), Georgetown top aide Robert Burke, Howard head coach Gil Jackson, a former Penn assistant.

3. The dark horses: Penn alum and current Boston Celtics' assistant Dave Wohl, who was the backcourt mate of Penn A.D. Steve Bilsky when Penn fielded nationally prominent, outstanding teams in the early 1970's and Williams College head coach Dave Paulsen, who has excelled at the DIII level and was a finalist for the Dartmouth job Terry Dunn got a few years ago.

When you read the linked articles, you'll learn the process that Temple A.D. Bill Bradshaw employed when looking for a successor to Coach Chaney (who, by the way, wholeheartedly endorses the hiring of Dunphy and was there at the press conference -- for what it's worth, Coach Chaney looks ten years younger in retirement). Bradshaw called up a bunch of basketball notables, including Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, and ran through a group of names with them. Fran Dunphy's name was among those mentioned, and invariably the answer was, "hire him if you can get him." Coach K went so far as to say that if Temple were to hire Coach Dunphy, they'd win a national title. That's a pretty good endorsement, isn't it?

Suppose Steve Bilsky were to do the same thing. What would the responses be? I think he'd get glowing reports on O'Hanlon and Miller, and probably Flannery too, given Bucknell's recent success. One paper doubts whether Brown's Miller could be a serious candidate because of his lack of ties to Philadelphia, while others have him as the favorite for the job. But if lack of ties to Philadelphia and Penn is not good, then how could Robert Burke, John Thompson III's top aide at Georgetown (albeit a Haverford College alum), figure into the mix? After all, he worked for Thompson III at Princeton, Penn's arch-rival. Now you could argue that if Penn went so far as to hire a Princeton provost, Amy Guttman, to be its current president, to extend itself to hire Burke to be its head men's basketball coach should be a piece of cake. You would argue that if you've never been to a Penn-Princeton game at the Palestra and have a sense of the strength of the rivalry. Somehow the general Penn alumni population is different from the hard corps hoops alumni, and that perhaps hiring someone from the Princeton camp, given how well Penn has fared against Princeton in the past ten years, would rub many the wrong way. While John Thompson III has done a great job at Georgetown, my guess is that Robert Burke's first head coaching job won't be in Philadelphia.

But let's get back to the question: which candidate for the Penn job would draw the rave-like consensus that Fran Dunphy did for the Temple job? And which coach can build upon the excellence that Fran Dunphy achieved at Penn?

There are many excellent candidates out there, and the bet here is that Penn will take less time to fill this slot than Temple did, even though the Temple choice, both at the time and now, was more obvious.

Somehow I still think that the gravity pull of the Palestra and Philadelphia would compel Lafayette's Fran O'Hanlon to return to his roots if offered the job. He's one of the best choices, and, for Steve Bilsky, one of the most politically astute. It's hard to say who the best choice is, because especially in this case it's a matter of opinion. Still, if Steve Bilsky were to poll significant members of the coaching community the way his Temple counterpart did, my hunch is that Fran O'Hanlon might draw similar reactions to Fran Dunphy.

This is great theater in Philadelphia, really, and has pushed aside most talk of the Eagles' strategy for the upcoming NFL draft and has even distracted fans from the Phillies' horrific start. For the Phillies' sake, Penn should grab a lot of press and drag the men's hoop coach search out for a while.

Myles Brand Available for Q&A at Double-A Zone

Josh of Double-A Zone wants you to know that the NCAA is making Mondays with Myles interactive. Click here for more details. this is your chance to ask questions of the head of the NCAA, and I think it's a great idea. More heads of sports leagues should make themselves available to the general public for this type of dialogue, and I applaud the NCAA and Myles Brand for doing so.

Monday, April 10, 2006

It's Official: Fran Dunphy is Headed to Temple

The AP, Philadelphia newspapers and The Daily Pennsylvanian all have reported that Penn's head basketball coach, Fran Dunphy, is headed to Temple. It's probably one of the worst kept secrets in Philadelphia, as speculation has run rampant for almost a month that Dunphy was the front-runner for the job.

While the list of candidates for the Temple job had some obvious contenders, the potential list for Penn is a big more perplexing. Candidates whose names have surfaced have included Lafayette's Fran O'Hanlon, Cornell's Steve Donahue, Siena's Fran McCaffery and Brown's Glenn Miller. To date, no mention has been made of Penn's top assistant, Dave Duke, who once was the head coach at Lehigh.

As many publications, especially The Daily Pennsylvanian, have pointed out over the course of the past month, each candidate has his issues. O'Hanlon, once Fran Dunphy's top assistant, had lobbied the Lafayette administration to grant a certain amount of athletic scholarships for basketball the way other Patriot League teams (Bucknell has benefited markedly from this practice) have done. This year, the Lafayette administration has granted him his wish. Will that make it tougher for him to leave Easton, Pennsylvania? Several readers of this blog have touted O'Hanlon highly, and, as you know, I am a big fan of his. I somehow think that if the Penn job were offered, Fran O'Hanlon would take it and return to Philadelphia.

Donahue was an assistant at Penn for 10 years and is very well-regarded in University City. Yet, as the DP points out, his record at Cornell is a collective 58-105. That's not necessarily a ringing recommendation for an otherwise good basketball man. Admittedly, Cornell is not exactly a hoops hotbed, but Donahue hasn't exactly turned things around in Ithaca. Sometimes it doesn't matter where you did your apprenticeship; the school, the tradition (or lack thereof) and the admissions climate also figure into the mix. Still, you're hired to win, and Donahue might not have done that enough in Ithaca to warrant consideration here. Penn AD Steve Bilsky will have to expend some capital to sell Donahue to the Penn fans at large.

McCaffery is a Penn alum, which is a big plus, but he's been away from the non-scholarship environment for a long time. Also, he just inked a contract extension to remain with Siena. That doesn't mean, necessarily, that he won't be a candidate for the Penn job, but it does suggest that he's happy enough in Albany not to want to move elsewhere. The extension, like O'Hanlon's having his wish granted, just complicates an otherwise strong candidacy further. Still, my sense would be that so long as McCaffery has an escape clause in Siena that a) let's him go to Penn and b) won't bankrupt him in the process, he'd take the Penn job if offered.

Miller has turned around the Brown program, there's no question of that, and his name has been mentioned for several coaching vacancies from New York up north (Manhattan, Hartford and Northeastern). He's done a very good job in Providence. One reader suggests that I'm not giving him enough credit by perhaps putting him on a short list for the Penn job, but there is one main reason for this -- he has no discernible connection to Penn. Penn hasn't hired outside its family in quite a while -- going back more than 30 years, so I'm not sure how Miller will fare in this sweepstakes.

Could there be other candidates? Lehigh's Billy Taylor? Duke's Chris Collins (the Collins name is a solid trademark in Philadelphia hoops, and he's ready for a head-coaching job)? Vanderbilt assistant Jeff Jackson, who is a Cornell alum? There are more Princeton diaspora in the coaching ranks than Penn family members, but I doubt that Robert Burke, a Haverford alum who is John Thompson's top aide at Georgetown (and was the top assistant at Princeton during Thompson's time there), or Craig Robinson, an aide to Bill Carmody at Northwestern and a two-time Ivy Player of the Year, would warrant consideration. That would be a little too weird, I think, for everyone involved. For my prior posts on this subject, click here.

What's interesting about this search is that people are focused on the "perfect" candidate? When Temple hired John Chaney in the early 1980's to replace Don Casey, he was coaching at DII Cheyney State. When Penn hired Fran Dunphy to replace Tom Schneider (whose teams were relative disappointments at Penn), he had been an assistant there for a year. It wasn't as though either school thought they were getting a big-name, top-drawer coach, although many thought that Cheyney would succeed because he had done brilliantly at Cheyney State (he won a national title there). Those who knew Fran Dunphy well were confident, but many didn't know him well (so for the Glenn Miller supporter out there who has posted on this board, you probably know something that I don't). Still, both turned out great, which meant that the athletic directors knew precisely what they were doing.

Temple looked for the best fit when it found Fran Dunphy (it didn't have to go too far to look). Penn might exhaust itself looking for a sitting head coach with an excellent track record. In doing so, the Quaker athletic administration might overlook an able sitting assistant or a Division III head coach who could continue the excellence that Coach Dunphy has established and who has built upon it. All schools want the big name at the right price, but had Duke gone that route it wouldn't have Coach K.

All that said, I'll continue my endorsement of Fran O'Hanlon. He worked at Penn, he's an excellent coach, and he embodies the Big 5 tradition. He'd make a great fit at the Palestra, and he'd be the one most likely to carry on the tradition of excellence that his one-time boss has established at the University of Pennsylvania.

Something tells me, though, that the successor to Fran Dunphy might not come from the group of names listed above. I can't put my finger on it, but as obvious as it was that Fran Dunphy was the right man at the right time for Temple, there is no such candidate at Penn.

And that's where things could get interesting.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Barry Bonds Is Lucky That

he doesn't play in the Serie A soccer league in Italy (that's the top league, for the uninitiated).

Read this and you'll see what I mean.

And the World Cup hasn't even started yet.

Lest anyone think that Americans' passions for their favorite sports are the most heated in the world, think again.

Imagine that, players getting attacked by their own fans at the airport? Their own fans.

Interesting in that Milan is one of the fashion capitals of Europe, so you only can imagine that some of the hooligans even risked ripping their fancy threads to get a piece of the team.

Literally.

What's going on in Italy? What will happen if somehow in the first round of the World Cup the Azzuri fail to defeat the Americans (and the Czechs, for that matter) and get into the next round. Will they use automatic weapons instead of their fists? Will all of Italy be in peril?

American sports figures are fortunate, relatively speaking, that they don't suffer this kind of scrutiny. They think that they might have it tough with the media and the fans, but they have no idea of what goes on in Europe.

During the NCAA basketball tournament, Richard Midgley, an Englishman playing for Cal, was asked who was more passionate, English soccer fans or NCAA hoops fans. Instantly and without batting an eye, Midgley's response was, "English soccer fans". I don't recall the article's precise wording, but the implication was that it wasn't even close.

Which means that the U.S. national team could be a dark horse to reach the round of eight or beyond in this year's World Cup. The pressure of a nation really isn't on them, as the event will take place in the heart of baseball season. (The pressure seemingly is on most other national teams who will be competing in the tournament).

And the thing about the U.S. team members is that they could pass through most airports without their own countryment recognizing them.

As for the others, well, it's a whole different story.

"If You Took Pennsylvania's MLB Teams and 9 Games. . ."

To quote sportscaster Warner Wolf, "You would have lost."

That's right, the Phillies are 0-4 and the Pirates are 0-6. The Sillies are the bigger disappointment, owing, if nothing else, to the fact that even the wonks at "Baseball Prospectus" identified the Philadelphia nine as a "dangerous" team (we'll leave about the perennially frustrating part of the comment). Right now, the married men in the infield had better watch out and make sure that their insurance coverages are current.

My guess is that the Charlie Manuel job watch is on in the City of Brotherly Love.

If the Phillies continue at this pace, look for new GM Pat Gillick to want to bring in his own man.

And pray desperately for pitching help.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Another Really Hot Coach K

And this one once played in the NBA, too.

Click here and read all about him.

And here's the question of the day: whose team has the higher GPA, Coach K's of the ACC or Coach K's of the Big Sky?

One does ads for Chevrolet.

The other works his trade in a land where many of the residents drive Chevy pickups.

Read the whole thing. Will the "other" Coach K end up in Los Angeles before the one who promotes for American Express and Chevy?

He just might.

A Little Boy's First Pro Basketball Game

Last Sunday I took my six year-old son to the Wachovia Center to see the 76ers play the Knicks. It was his first trip to a pro basketball game (I wrote about his first trip to a Major League Baseball game here). He had talked about wanting to go for a while, and I had virtually taught him and his big sister the lyrics to Kurtis Blow's "Basketball", which, while dated, is still a classic (the kids have taken to memorizing this song, and their renditions are pretty funny). Among the various lines are:

"I used to go to dinner to take my girl
to see Tiny play against Earl the Pearl
and Wilt, Big O and Jerry West
Playin' basketball at its very best.

Basketball has always been my thing
I like Magic, Bird, and Bernard King
And Number Thirty-Three, my man Kareem
is the center on my starting team."

Anyway, I have great memories of going to 76ers games with my father at what's now the Wachovia Spectrum and what used to be just the Spectrum. I recall one of my first games, seeing the 76ers play at Convention Hall, right near the Penn campus (there's now a big hole in the ground where it stood, and I blogged about that too). I remember going into the locker room after the game (my father had some business relationships with the team's owners) and meeting Wilt Chamberlain and coming away amazed by the experience. How big he was! And, to me, he was nice, too.

I recall vividly in the late 1960's when we were supposed to go to an NBA doubleheader at the Spectrum, which was brand new at the time, only to have the games postponed because a storm blew part of the roof off the building (you can look it up; it sounds strange, but it was true). How sad I was that I wasn't going to see two NBA games at once, and, yes, the tickets might have been something like $8 apiece -- these for seats on the first level, halfway up, near mid-court (my how times have changed). We went to a bunch of games, sat on the baseline behind the basket at times, and we followed the team like they were family. We were distraught when after the brilliant '66'-'67 season they were up 3 games to 1 on the Celtics in the Eastern finals only to lose 3 in a row, in one of the last great gasps of the Celtics' amazing dynasty. The trade of Wilt to the Lakers was a blow that jinxed the franchise for a while, and the nadir was the '72-'73 season, when the team went 9-73. Times were just awful.

Enjoyable, always, though, was the deep voice and amusing musings of the public address announcer, Dave Zinkoff, who is perhaps the only P.A. announcer in the history of American sports to have a banner hanging in the rafters alongside the greats of the team. Go to the Wachovia Center today and you'll see the banners of Chamberlain, Erving, Greer, Jones, Barkley and, yes, Dave Zinkoff. I remember in the late 70's, when Tommy Heinsohn was coaching the Celtics, and the 76ers were in a playoff game against them. The Celtics were up big, and then the 76ers rallied furiously to take the lead. Heinsohn called time out, and the place erupted so loudly (this was the Spectrum, which was a relative bandbox compared to the hotel-like Wachovia Center) that The Zink didn't bother to say anything. Then, as the Celtics were breaking their huddle, we all heard this in the Zink's unique voice: "As I was try-ing to saaaaay, the Cel-TICS call tiiiiiiiiiiiiime." The roar was louder than when the Celtics called timeout in the first place. (Now, before you get on The Zink for that, if you're a Celtics can you have to concede that the head of maintenance at the Boston Garden always kept the visiting locker rooms impossibly hot or cold, which was, I would think, a bigger sin than Mr. Zinkoff's rallying the crowd). His calls about cars that left their lights on in the parking lot were also part of the daily humor.

There were also the old Philadelphia basketball guys, the legacies from the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association, reverently referred to as the SPHAs, formed at a time when the poor urban Irish and Jewish immigrants populated the game. Eddie Gottlieb, a promoter and once owner of the Philadelphia Warriors, was one of their founders, and he had great seats at the 76ers games. Frequenly accompanying him was one-time SPHA Jules Trumpler, who reputedly was one of the best free throw shooters of his era. They would reminisce about the old days, and it was like taking a trip back to the hoops version of Jurassic Park. Neither man was very tall, and Mr. Trumpler always kept his hat on. These guys knew their basketball.

We went to the Spectrum a lot, and I recall eating at the restaurant downstairs (I think it was called "The Blue Line", "Ovations" and other things), I recall the narrow hallways, having to take a set of stairs downward to the restrooms, and seeing the smoke rise toward the big scoreboard that hung over the floor. I recall watching Fred Carter, Tom Van Arsdale (the less talented of the two Van Arsdale twins who had played their college hoops at Indiana), Archie Clark, Manny Leaks (he played at Niagara with Calvin Murphy), Clyde Lee and a whole cast of players who somehow came up short. Then, in the mid-1970's, Billy Cunningham returned from his self-imposed exile with the Carolina Cougars of the ABA, and the 76ers signed George McGinnis, taking him away from the ABA's Indianapolis Pacers. Then, after a few seasons with McGinnis as the star, the 76ers acquired one of the biggest names in basketball, the gravity-defying Dr. J., Julius Erving.

The team became a team of stars, but they couldn't forge the chemistry that a team with a great center, a tough power forward and a formidable combo guard did in Portland. While the 76ers might have had more overall talent than the Trail Blazers, the combination of Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas and Lionel Hollins, among others, was very tough, and they kept the title away from a great 76ers team. Those teams -- with Caldwell Jones, Erving, McGinnis, Darryl Dawkins and World B. Free, among others, broke our hearts. In one NBA Finals (I think it was '76-'77), they were up two games to none and then lost the series.

It's a franchise that at its best fielded one of the best teams in the history of the NBA (the '66-'67 team that broke a Celtics' streak, featuring Wilt Chamberlain, Luke Jackson, Chet Walker, Hal Greer and Wali Jones, with Billy Cunningham coming in off the bench), another great team (the '82-'83 team that featured Moses Malone, Marc Iavaroni, Erving, Andrew Toney and Maurice Cheeks as starters and Bobby Jones as the sixth man), some great second-places teams (read: almost every team that played against superior Celtics' squads in the 1960's), some teams haunted by having one great star and never the right combination to support him (read: those featuring Charles Barkley and then, later, Allen Iverson), and some plum awful teams (those in the early 1970's and those later on that featured none of Malone, Erving, Barkley or Iverson but featured guys like Darrell Imhoff, Archie Clark, Shawn Bradley and many others). All in all, being a 76ers' fan isn't an easy lot.

So it was with this background that I took my son, a bright-eyed, enthusiastic kid, to the Wachovia Center. I broke the news to him on Sunday morning, figuring that had I told him even a day earlier he would have had trouble falling asleep the night before.

He jumped up and down, hugged me, and said, "I love you, Daddy, I love you." Not that there was any doubt on that front, but the pure joy on hearing the news is something that I'll remember for a long time. The game was scheduled for 6 p.m. (which wasn't too bad given that it was the first day of Daylight Savings Time, so staying up even until 9 or 9:30 p.m. by the time we would get home wouldn't have been too bad). We shopped in the morning and practiced hitting off a tee in the afternoon, after which the questions came almost every ten minutes: "How much longer? How much longer?"

Finally, the time came, and our friends who were accompanying us picked us up for the ride to the arena. We parked pretty close to the building, and the size of the building and the atmosphere of everyone walking into a game struck both little boys as pretty awesome (my friend's son is 7). After all, these kids go to elementary school, where there are hundreds of kids in the same building, not over ten thousand, and even then all of the kids aren't focusing on the same thing. (By the way, that night the 76ers listed their attendance at about 18,000, but I doubt there were more than say 12,000 in the 20,000+ -seat building).

We made our way to our seats (in a club box, provided graciously by a close friend whose business couldn't find any more significant takers for tickets between the dysfunctional Knicks and the still-fighting-for-the-playoffs Sixers), saw that they were really good ones, and then made our way to the Food Court. Instead of having basically one offering -- a soggy hot dog -- for that's what the Spectrum offered when I was a kid, you get a wide variety, from sushi to barbecued beef, to hot dogs, to pizza, pannini sandwiches, you name it, they seem to have it. We ate there, rather civilized, before going back to our seats.

My son loved the pageantry; he couldn't understand the importance of the 76ers' dancers (and, quite frankly, neither can I except that they help confuse the message that the NBA wants to send as to whether they're more interested in world-class basketball or entertainment), and asked a bunch of questions about the banners hanging from the rafters. After the opening tipoff, he cheered every 76ers' score mightily and lustily booed the Knicks. At that point I explained to him that he had to conserve his energy, that the Knicks were bound to put the ball into the hoop about 45 more times, so he should focus on the positive aspects of the 76ers' play.

The good news was that the home team won, that the troika of Iverson, Chris Webber and Andre Iguodala combined for over 70 points, that no player really exclaimed audible curse words that the microphones that sound as though they're placed on the backboards pick up ("swish" has a whole new dimension now), and that he noticed the difference between the pace at times of the pro game and the average college game. He thought it was cool that a player as short as Iverson challenged the taller guys with little fear, marveled at the size of Samuel Dalembert and Jerome James, and didn't care that Steve Francis was relegated to the bench, that neither Stephon Marbury nor Jalen Rose played, or that Qyntel Woods has questionable hands. To him Kevin Ollie was the starting point guard for his favorite team, not a journeyman destined to play supporting roles for marginal teams at this point in his career.

At half-time we went downstairs, past the gourmet dessert cart, to stop at the Carvel stand for a sundae. Those clever devils at the concessionaires charge about $4.75 for the privilege and give a little kid enough ice cream to feed his T-ball team, which means that dad gleefully shared the treat. He walked off for a moment at the bar area where we sat to eat the ice cream (which seemingly others were doing as well; no beers for the kids!) to try to catch t-shirts that the DJ was giving away. As it turned out, you needed to be able some esoteric 76ers' trivia (it's hard enough to remember trivia about the great teams, let alone knowing it about a low-end playoff team that seems destined to be on the cusp of the lottery until Iverson's skills deteriorate markedly), so, while earnest, he didn't have a chance. Had it been "Star Wars" trivia, he might have come out of there with a wardrobe.

We had some time to spare, so we hit the souvenir stand where we bought a pennant to compliment his Eagles' and Phillies' pennants, and a biddy basketball with a 76ers' logo that we had to prevent him from dribbling inside the house when he got home lest he wake up his sister. Thankfully, it remained in the bag at the game, so there was no chance of losing it. Then it was time to watch the second half, and the 76ers proceeded to blow out the Knicks, and some of the gives and gos, blocked shots and threes were fun to watch.

It's great going to an event with your son, especially when he's a little boy. At this age, it's all about the experience. Going to the game is the thing. It goesn't matter whether your team is a playoff contender or champion; it's the going that matters, and everything about it is cool. It didn't matter that the Malone-Erving 76ers werent' playing, and it didn't matter that this year's version of the Knicks's backcourt of Francis, Marbury and Rose won't make anyone forget Frazier, Monroe and Barnett, it just mattered that we were there, together, father and son, high-fiving great plays and talking about basketball.

It was nice that they won.

It was nice that he got to see a future Hall of Famer in Allen Iverson (he's in an after-school program where eggs just hatched into chicks, and while most kids have named their little chicks things like "Sunshine" and "Tweetie", he and his buddy named theirs "Allen" in tribute to Iverson -- no word yet whether they tried to place a rub-on tatoo spouting a Confucian proverb on the small bird's neck).

It was nice that we had great seats.

And it was the best that we were just there, together, sharing the experience.

Days like those don't come too often, because there's soccer, T-ball, play dates and all sorts of other stuff. But when they do, you have to savor them and cherish the memories.

I look back very fondly on the times I shared with my father, and I hope that through experiences like these and others (outdoors, hopefully, although I've yet to convince my son that fishing is actually fun), he'll have the same warm memories that I have to this day.

The whole event was just great.

The time was priceless.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Baseball Predictions

I follow baseball more closely than you might think, but this isn't a specialty blog, so I couldn't tell you with great precision who the 23rd through 25th men are on most teams. I am preparing for my fantasy league's draft (the 19th year of our league, where we've all sat in the same place in the room during each of these years), and do know that there's a difference between Chris Young the pitcher and Chris Young the outfielder. All that said, here are my predictions:

American League East

1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

On the one hand, I don't know if either the Yankees or BoSox will make the playoffs, but the odds are that one of them will. The Yankees will hit, but they're old, they're pitching is one blown wing (or two) away from being a M*A*S*H unit, and I don't see a reason why they'll be any better this year unless Carl Pavano can stay healthy and prove his season two years ago when he was a Marlin was no fluke. A healthy Pavano could put the Yankees in 97+ win territory. The BoSox and Yankees will bedevil each other through September, but even though I'll be rooting for the Sox, the Yankees will come out ahead. This either will be their year or, failing that, they could be a much different team next year.

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Minnesota Twins
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Kansas City Royals

Okay, so the Sox pounded the Tribe last night, but I think this will be the year that Mark Shapiro's patience is rewarded -- with Cleveland nailing down the division title. The Royals now resemble the Kansas City A's of the 1950's, even though I doubt that the Commissioner would let them become the quasi-Yankee farm club that the A's were way back when (then again, the Commissioner did let the Florida Marlins dismantle themselves for the second time in ten years, so anything is possible), and the Tigers will make it clear that even with an outstanding manager, you still need sufficient talent to win.

AL West

1. Oakland A's
2. California Angels
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners.

This is the sports season for the bellwethers to prevail. The A's remind me of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Smaller market, keep on developing talent and losing it to free agency, keep on winning. So long as Billy Beane is the GM, he'll keep on altering the roster, keeping ahead o the other stats' gurus and rely upon metrics that the others won't find for a few years. The Angels are rock solid, though, and I would expect them to win the wild card.

ALCS Champion -- New York Yankees

I have no great basis for making this claim. I do contend, however, the AL is the stronger league, because several worthy teams will not get a playoff spot. In my predictions, those are the Red Sox and the White Sox, and I also think that Toronto and Minnesota are formidable teams. This is either the Last Hurrah for the Yankees or the year that King George VII has to make some hard decisions. If the Yankees don't win the Series, this year will mark the sixth straight year that they won't have done so. Their payroll is bloated, and their roster is old. At some point you're not getting outplayed, your getting outstrategized at the GM and player personnel level.

NL East

1. Atlanta Braves
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. New York Mets
4. Washington Nationals
5. Florida Marlins

Actually, I do think that the Mets could make a serious run for the division title here, but they also could suffer from overly high expectations. The bullpen might not work out, Pedro could fall off the table (and join Tommy Glavine somewhere beneath it), the defense still not might be sturdy enough, and the cast of middle relievers might not set up Billy Wagner as much as Omar Minaya hopes). I picked the Braves because they've won the division for 14 years in a row and, until someone dethrones them, they're the favorite. A vulnerable one, of course, but the favorite nonetheless. Their bullpen isn't deep and their hitting depth is iffier than they'd like, and they lost pitching guru Leo Mazzone to the pitching-desperate Baltimore Orioles, but they still have John Smoltz, Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones. That trio might be good enough to lead the Braves to another division title. The Phillies are an intriguing team. They will hit -- a lot -- and they need to answer for questions -- 1) Can Brett Myers emerge as a #1 starter? 2) How much of a contribution can they get from their #4 and #5 starters (currently Ryan Madson and Gavin Floyd); 3) How will their setup men fare this year (especially now that one of last year's best, Madson, is now a starter) and 4) How will Tom Gordon hold up as the closer? If they get positive answers to all of those questions, the Phillies will be the surprise team this year. That said, there are too many question marks on the hill -- and in their bandbox, to boot.

NL Central

1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Houston Astros
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Chicago Cubs
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
6. Cincinnati Reds

The Cards could well win this division by 15 games, as it's a rather weak one. The bottom three teams have huge question marks. The Cubs' biggest-name hurlers have damaged wings. The Pirates are in a perpetual state of trying to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse. The Reds will make no one draw parallels to the great Big Red Machine teams of the mid-1970's. That leaves Houston, which will need to throw a lot of shutouts and one-run games to have a chance, and Milwaukee, everyone's darling pick this year, even though its ace, Ben Sheets, will start the year on the DL. I honestly don't see anyone seriously challenging the Cardinals here.

NL West

1. San Francisco Giants
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. San Diego Padres
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. Colorado Rockies

The Giants are one of these dangerous teams that somehow manages to keep coming at you even when their pitching staff is limping along and their lineup has holes in it. Barry Bonds, despite all the controversy, returns, and the Giants have enough weapons to get 90 or so wins and take the title. As for the Dodgers, well, they have a lot of talent, but if you have to rely upon J.D. Drew to get you to the title, I think you're taking a pretty big gamble. The Padres just don't have enough, and the other two teams resemble field horses at the Derby. Sure, they could win, but if they do, it's on a long shot, and perhaps because the favorites stumble, get hurt or just prove that they weren't any good.

NLCS Champion -- St. Louis Cardinals.

So what will happen next? Well, Tony LaRussa did get his Series title with outstanding A's teams in '89, disappointing the faithful both in '88 (recall Kirk Gibson's home run) and '90 (the Nasty Boys of the Reds handcuffed the A's hitters). Odds are he should get one here, and I don't think that the NL is that challenging that the Cards, assuming Scott Rolen is healthy, won't go into the World Series rested, ready and full well knowing what it takes. The Yankees, as it were, will come in proud and haughty. Some of their players will be looking for a last hurrah; others will be looking for the first ratification that they are champions. The Yankees will be favored, but this time it will be the Cardinals who pull the upset and send the Yankees home, disappointed again.

Enjoy the season!

Is John Brady Leveraging the N.C. State and Oklahoma Jobs?

Or does he just want what's right, relatively speaking, in relation to his peers in the SEC?

Read this and make the decision for yourself.

My guess is that if Brady were to toss his hat in the ring, he'd be eligible for the remaining high-profile jobs that are out there. My further guess is that LSU will take all steps necessary to ink Brady to a long-term deal.

It all begs the question, of course, whether at $715,000 per year (which, according to the linked article at espn.com makes him one of the lowest paid coaches in the SEC), he's underpaid.

I sincerely doubt it, even if when you look at his compensation relative to his peers, all of whom are overpaid.

Look, it's not that these guys don't deserve to earn a living, but I question any school that pays any coach more than its president, provost and deans of its schools. Sure, I'm barking at the moon, I live on Mars, what have you, but where are a school's priorities? What's more important -- filling a gym, or turning out graduates who can help better society because of skills they learned in college. Yes, of course, the twelve kids fortunate enough to play for a Coach K will learn lessons that will last them a lifetime, fine, but the last time I checked the term was scholar-athlete and not athlete-scholar.

Perhaps John Brady is underpaid relative to his peers. In his world, that's not good, because he's a great coach, he's a competitive guy, and he needs to get a certain level of satisfaction. In the world of the rest of us, he's getting paid almost three-quarters of a million dollars to coach a kid's game. Last time I checked, Baton Rouge hasn't imploded because neither its men's hoops team nor its women's hoops team didn't make it to the national title game.

Sure, people in various states derive certain amounts of pride because their home state's team achieves prominence at the national level. That, in and of itself, is a good thing.

But at what cost?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

It Could Happen To Your School, Too

Meanwhile, David Steele of The Baltimore Sun posted his thoughts on the Duke lacrosse scandal the other day, and they are very much worth reading. Put simply, from many responsible accounts, the Duke men's lacrosse team was a runaway train en route to a major wreck before the rape allegations ensued. Unfortunately, it's taken the rape allegations to show what a disaster that program has become.

Let's not sugarcoat matters here. Where was the Duke Athletic Director when a third of the team was getting charged with misdemeanors for alcohol-related offenses? Where was the coaching staff? Where was the Dean of Students' office? If there were one or two kids implicated in incidents, you could argue that the incidents were isolated. But when 15 of 47 kids over a three-year period get charged with misdemeanors -- which, last time I checked, are different from -- and more serious than -- the university's disciplinary charges, there is a big problem.

And one that apparently no one took a meaningful stand on. If I were the Duke trustees, I'd order an immediate investigation regarding the behavior of the Duke lacrosse team even before the rape allegations (and, of course, involving those allegations). Most specifically, I'd want to know what set of circumstances permitted this athletic team to become the runaway train that it apparently became -- and why no one was willing to put the brakes on the program and kick kids off the team if not out of school, at least for a year (or more, if warranted).

Duke alums, you should take a stand too. The current disarray of the men's program will cheapen the brand value of the sheepskin you have if knuckleheads like these are permitted the same privileges as the large, large majority of you -- the benefits of a Duke degree. There are so many of you who have made, and continue to make, wonderful contributions to society, and you shouldn't let the current administration let a team commit these types of transgressions and get away with it. Duke faculty, the same goes for you, and Duke students, ditto.

You deserve better.

We all want to support winning teams, and but there is the right way to go about building a winning program. And that way has to involve not permitting any group to go around a campus -- and into the surrounding town -- with little regard for apparently anything other than their personal enjoyment at the moment.

Yes, I am being tough here. Because there have to be Duke men's lacrosse players who have nothing to do with the kids on the team who have behaved badly (and publicly at that). But you have a choice to make too -- you can stand up to them and to the coaches who seemingly have turned a blind eye to the overall problem this group of young men has -- and say that you won't tolerate it any more. Then again, for most people, it's far easier to steel yourselves for a tough game against Carolina than it is to stand up to the guys in your own locker room and tell them that they've been acting foolishly and wrongly. At the end of the day, the Duke and Carolina teams go their separate ways, but teammates have to live with each other.

But take a stand you must.

No one should take perverse pleasure that Duke has this type of problem. My guess is that the Duke men's lacrosse team isn't the only team in the history of college athletics that has had a systemic problem, disrespected other members of the University community and carried over their bad behavior into the town in which the university is situated, altogether bringing shame to the school and tarnishing the brand name of the athletic team to those who know it the best -- one's neighbors. So, if you're at a place where a core group of a team is really behaving badly, now is the time to take a stand. If you're afraid for repercussions, most schools have hotlines and ombudspeople, and you probably can complain anonymously. My guess is that if situations are that bad, those who field the complaints won't be surprised by what you say.

If you're administrators who know of these unfortunate situations, now is the time to act on them -- swiftly and strictly. My guess is that there are certain people in the Duke administration who could lose their jobs over the fact that the systemic problems on the Duke men's lacrosse team were permitted to ensue. If that's the case, then the job of no coach or administrator is safe if they don't do what they're paid to do -- encourage, teach and demand -- yes demand -- that the young men and women who are offered so many privileges on your campus act like adults and leaders.

All involved -- including the players themselves -- will thank you for the stands that you take. For if you don't take them, then they'll learn some tough lessons in a very hard way -- when they become the subjects of a national scandal and end up tossed out of their schools -- without scholarships and degrees.

This isn't a case of "Revenge of the Nerds" or the scholarly inclined taking it out on the athletic programs. What it is a case of is accountability and responsibility -- and making sure that the standards to which any school holds itself are applied evenly throughout a university community. No team honors its school if it dishonors the entire community in the process of achieving excellence on the field. Champions walk with their heads high on campus and in the college towns -- they do not run drunkenly through the major thoroughfares urinating -- literally and figuratively -- on their fellow students, their professors, their coaches and the townspeople.

Let Duke University show the way and turn this crisis into a positive for everyone.