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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Back To School Shopping

That's what Will Yeatman of Notre Dame's football and lacrosse teams is up to these days. And I'm not talking a new outfit. I'm talking a new school. Yeatman is transferring out of Notre Dame after a few alcohol related incidents in the past few years at Notre Dame. At this point it's unclear where he is headed; it's looking like College Park right now, and it's been made clear that he wants to be somewhere where he can compete both in lacrosse (immediately) and football (after having to sit a year, if he seeks another IA program).

While the transfer has made significant headlines now in the lacrosse offseason, it is the alcohol issues that lead me to this post. Allow me to step into a world only tangentially related to the sports and marching about which I claim to blog.

*Cue "A Very Special '80 Minutes of Regulation'" music*

Many who follow the news or are currently involved in higher education are familiar with the Amethyst Initiative, a consortium of college and university chancellors/presidents who urge for a reexamination of the current US drinking age. The obvious alternative, of course, would be lowering it back to the previous age of 18.

Back in late August, on my way into the office (I work at a university) early for some Welcome Week programming, I was listening to the local hip-hop station I usually tune in, and in their early-morning weekend show, they were talking about the Amethyst Initiative. There were two parties, a man and a woman, carrying the conversation, with callers adding to the discussion, but the general gist was that it was a travesty that such a thing would even be discussed. The conversation went as far as to condemn a certain HBCU president (I had remembered it being the chancellor of NC A&T, but as I look at the undersigned, I think it may have been Beverly Daniel Tatum of Spelman College) for signing on.

At this point, I wanted to, and would have if time would have allowed, call in and note to the decriers that the Initiative states that one of its purposes is "To support an informed and dispassionate public debate over the effects of the 21 year-old drinking age." (emphasis mine). How can one blame a president of an institution of higher education for a call to public discourse? There are presidents who have signed not necessarily out of agreement with the lowering of the drinking age, but out of a desire to have the tough conversations--this much can be seen at the site in these presidents' own words.

Personally? It's not an issue on which I have too much of an opinion. I tend to agree with the camp that says "if you're old enough to vote and die for your country at 18, you should be able to have a beer". On the other hand, 18-20 year olds are by and large slightly post-pubescent assholes, and are moreso with something to drink in them. The rub? Nothing magic happens when they hit the age of 21.

Still, this Initiative being spearheaded by college presidents seems to me to be quite self-serving. The obvious is this: The demands on campus security and resources related to underage drinking change drastically if a relative handful of your charges are under legal drinking age, vs. roughly 3/4 of traditional college-age students, as it currently stands with the drinking age at 21.

Hmm... college presidents? Self serving? Sounds like a big part of the reason there's no playoff in Division I-A football.

And with that, I've brought it all back around to the sports with which it began.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

BCS Games: Not Just for Football Anymore

So I've posed this question to the college football community on LJ the past few years, and thought I'd get it some burn over here (if anyone's paying attention):

What BCS Bowl game marching band matchup are you most looking forward to?
Rose Bowl: Penn State's Blue Band vs. USC's Spirit of Troy
Orange Bowl: Cincinnati's Bearcat Band vs. VT's Marching Virginians
Sugar Bowl: Alabama's Million Dollar Band vs. Utah's Marching Utes
Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State's The Best Damn Band in the Land vs. Texas' Longhorn Band
National Championship: Florida's Fighting Gator Band vs. Oklahoma's Pride of Oklahoma

Among those who have taken it so far, the Orange Bowl matchup seems to be the least desirable, not unlike the football game.

In related news, I must once again leap to the defense of the BCS. I was listening to the AP College Football podcast, as I often do, and one of the hosts went on at length about how the "boring" matchup between Cincy and VT and why the BCS was to blame. Sorry, wrong again. Are there more exciting matchups? Certainly. But consider that the BCS exists for the purpose of pairing the #1 and #2 teams with one another to determine a national champion. Then, why is the BCS to blame for matching Cincy and VT? Following the 1/2 pairing, what teams go to which bowls (barring tie-ins), INCLUDING BCS bowls, is at the discretion of the bowls, often with input from conferences and other bowls. Plus, the alternative to the BCS is a playoff. With the exception of a plus-one model, all of the playoff proposals that people kick around include at LEAST the champions of all six BCS conferences. Want to know who that would include? Big East champion Cincinnati and ACC champion Virginia Tech. You could quite possibly end up with this same "boring" matchup in a playoff!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Movin' On Up

Just over a week ago, I had the pleasure of attending the press conference at which UNCG announced its intentions to raise the profile of its men's basketball program, starting with a move from the on-campus Fleming Gym to the Greensboro Coliseum and the aggressive scheduling of high-caliber opponents from the ACC and other conferences who share our state, including the A-10, C-USA, and CAA. This is part of a plan from the new chancellor, who believes that raising the University's athletic profile goes hand in hand with raising its profile overall.

Regarding this move, I feel both cautiously optimistic and proud that UNCG dares to be great.
Interestingly enough, I recall a similar feeling about four years ago, as I attended a pep rally in the Marshall Center's ballroom at USF at which it was announced that USF would be making the move to the Big East sarting with the Fall 2005 semester. In the 3 1/2 years that followed, USF is the proud owner of 3 conference championships and has been in contention for others. While we're admittedly drowning in the depth of the conference basketball-wise, by and large we're holding our own, and the amount of times you'll hear from and see us in national sports media have increased quite a bit from our Conference USA days.

So what does this move mean for UNCG? For starters, we'll move from the pit that is Fleming Gym into one of the premier sports entertainment complexes in the Southeastern US. Believe it or not, however, my referring to Fleming as a pit is actually a term of endearment. Fleming seats just shy of 2,500, and with its steep seating and below-grade playing surface, that place can get rocking when packed out. In contrast, the Coliseum, in the manner it will be arranged for UNCG home games, will seat about 7,500, meaning that for larger games it could be at best a neutral court and at worst a hostile environment for the home team. In fact, the Coliseum won't be a strange land to some more prominent teams and their fans; it has served as a regular host for NCAA Tournament action and the ACC Tournament. And, of course, since the ACC is the primary basketball currency here in NC, you can expect plenty of fans present when we play them.

The Coliseum sits about 8/10 mile from Fleming Gym (driving--less if you're on foot and cut across campus) and about half that distance from the closest UNCG residences. It's worth noting that this is less than the distance to the Dean Dome from parts of Carolina's campus, and less than that to the RBC Center from parts of NC State's. The Coliseum, which will have its first viable home tenant since the ECHL's Greensboro Generals left in 2004, is committed to truly making this the Spartans' home court, with a UNCG hardwood court, navy blue seating, and state-of-the-art locker rooms, all of which were also unveiled at the press conference. There's been a visibly increased presence of billboard and television advertising here in Greensboro, which will be crucial in ensuring perhaps the most important part of this equation: community support. With that, there'll be no question that Spartan basketball is on the rise.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

How the BCS Screwed Texas

Answer: They didn't. I'm no BCS apologist, but I give credit where credit is due, and this one's not on them. If you feel Texas was wronged (for the record, I do, but I can clearly see both sides) it was NOT the BCS that did it. It was the rules of the Big XII Conference. For once, the BCS is innocent.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One more reason to look forward to 1/20/2009

The Inauguration Parade is shaping up to be a band dork's dream. Among the marching units I've heard so far are FAMU's Marching 100, Grambling's World Famed Marching Band, Howard's Showtime, Hampton's Marching Force, DelState's Approaching Storm, UD's Fightin' Blue Hen Marching Band, TBDBITL from The Ohio State, The Cadets, The Colts, and Punahou High School from Hawaii.

And of course, the icing on the cake, my dear alma mater, The Alexis I. duPont High School Tiger Marching Band!

It's worth noting, also, that bandfans (especially ones located in NC, roughly equidistant from ATL and DC) can attend the Inaugural parade and then four days later head to Atlanta for Honda.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I'd like to thank the little guys

Thanks to USF Football, I know who to see to get my car serviced, order a pizza online, smell good, or get free local and long distance.

The past four football seasons, USF has attended the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Bowl, the Brut Sun Bowl, and will soon be playing in the Magic Jack St. Petersburg Bowl.

Far be it for me to look a gift horse in the mouth, but damn there's alot of bowls.

In other postseason news, I went to see USF face defending champion Wake Forest in men's soccer. We got blown out, 5-0, on Wake's home pitch. We were clearly outmatched and it was cold, but it did feel good to be able to be there and support my team.

USF's first bowl game, Meineke Car Care in 2005, was the first in a string opportunities to support one of my teams in the postseason. Since then, I've had the opportunity to attend:

UMBC vs. Delaware-Men's Lacrosse quarterfinals, 2007
Delaware vs. Delaware State-Football first round, 2007
UMBC vs. Georgetown-Men's basketball first round, 2008
USF vs. Wake Forest-Men's soccer quarterfinals, 2008

I also missed a few USF bowl games, a few UMBC lacrosse tourney appearances, and a few UNCG soccer tourney appearances. Sadly, each of the games I attended featuring an alma mater of mind ended in a loss. UD/Del State I attended just as a fan of football, history, and the state of Delaware. They've also all been games of convenience--the bowl game, the basketball game, and the soccer game, were all here in NC, while UMBC-UD happened to be in MD while I was up there for for my cousin's graduation, and UD/Del State was over Thanksgiving break when I was back home in the First State. I need to step my game up and make the postseason road trip a reality!
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