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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pasadena, Ohio

Apparently the state of Ohio has quite a few reasons to focus their sights on Pasadena this New Years Day.  Most everyone knows that Ohio State will be playing in the Rose Bowl on Friday for the first time in 13 years, and of course, with that, TBDBITL will be marching down Colorado Boulevard once again. But the Buckeyes won't be the only ones representing the Buckeye State. Also making the trip to Ohio are the Pickering High School Central Marching Tiger Band, making their fourth Tournament of Roses Parade performance; The Ohio University Marching 110; and the Ohio State School for the Blind.

The Ohio State School for the Blind actually works along with Ohio State's marching band; they even have a "Script Braille Ohio" patterned after Ohio State's Script Ohio. See below:



Perhaps the most curious of these selections is the Marching 110. Make no mistake, they are an amazing marching organization that I always enjoy watching. What's interesting is that as a school that plays in the FBS, upon signing up for a Rose Parade performance, they took the chance of setting themselves up for a scheduling conflict. While the MAC doesn't have any New Year's Day bowl tie ins, they very well could have landed themselves in the International Bowl, played on January 2, with a Battle of the Bands that takes place in Toronto just hours after they step off the street in Pasadena. As it stands, they made a trip to Detroit for the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl on December 26, only to head to Pasadena less than a week later.

But there's something else at play here, and it's not just the title of hardest working band in the state of Ohio. While any marching organization would be foolish to turn down an invite to the Rose Parade, I'm sure somewhere in conscious or subconscious of the powers that be at Ohio was what this could mean as it related to Ohio State. Knowing Ohio alumni, former employees, and many other Ohioans, my understanding is that there's no love for the Buckeyes in Athens. Then, upon accepting the invitation, the folks at Ohio had to know one of two things--either: The 110 would take to the streets in Pasadena, giving them bragging rights, since Ohio State hasn't been there in 13 years; or, as has happened, Ohio State would win the Big Ten but not head to the national title game, leading to a 110/OSUMB showdown in the Rose Parade. It's a win-win if you're at OU. The rest of us win by getting to see these two among the usually outstanding lineup on New Year's Day.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Live [sic] TV

I mentioned before how I tend to get an early idea of UMBC's lacrosse schedule by seeing other schools' schedules when they come out. This year, when the schedule came out, once again, I had a pretty good idea what to expect. Since I live in NC, I was pleased to see four games televised nationally on ESPNU.

Recently, Inside Lacrosse put out a press release talking about increased lacrosse coverage on the ESPN family of networks. So again, I go looking for UMBC's games. It turns out all but one of them, a conference game against Hartford, are on tape delay. So for the other televised matchups--anticipated showdowns with Carolina, Hopkins, and College Park, I have to either keep a watchful eye on scores as the games take place or isolate myself so as to be surprised when watching the gam hours later.

In mostly unrelated news, my two alma maters shared an opponent over the past 10 day period. the ECU women's basketball team was down at USF for the USF Shootout, where they walked away with a victory from my Bulls. Eight days later, up in the Bronx, the Lady Pirates  ran into the UMBC Retrievers at the Fordham Holiday Classic, where the Dawgs handed them their second loss of the season. Not a bad coup for the women's hoops team, especially while our men's team hasn't been given us anything to write home about.

So since I fancy myself a blogger, I suppose I should do something like a year-in-review type post. But I don't have any real angles at hand. To all the folks (ha!) reading this: Any suggestions? I suppose I've got about a day and a half to crank it out. If not, everyone have a happy new year!

Hybrid Wideout

Part of this year's Christmas loot was a long-sleeved Eagles t-shirt, courtesy of my future step-sister-in-law ( that's a lot of qualifiers). She went with the personalized name on back, but she did my first name instead of my last name, and chose to give me the number of this coming year, since she knows it'll be a big year for me (I'm getting married, for one.) The result is a jersey that says Curtis with the number 10. For the Eagles fans paying attention, you'll recognize Curtis as WR Kevin Curtis' last name, and the #10 as DeSean Jackson's. It's definitely a worthy hybrid.

Better video than the last one




Respect.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Weapon X Returns

As I expected, Brian Dawkins received a warm welcome from the Eagles faithful upon returning to the Linc with the Broncos this Sunday. Video here. (ht: The700Level.)

And since the Redskins offered no help, the stage is set: Eagles and Cowboys at JerryWorld this coming Sunday night for the NFC East Championship. The stakes are high, not just for the Eagles, but for me personally in this one. Trust me.

Who Shot Mr. Burns?

He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was then taken to a better hospital where his condition was upgraded to "alive." -Kent Brockman, from the Simpsons episode "Who Shot Mr. Burns"


Rumors of Urban Meyer's retirement were greatly exaggerated, as Meyer has since stated that he instead is taking a "leave of absence", and if all goes well, he may just be on the sidelines to start next season. In the mean time, offensive coordinator Steve Addazio is the man up front.


It sounds like an amicable system, if the Gators are committed to working with it, as it seems they are. My only questions are the continuity of such a system. On the one hand ,the same key players remain in place. But then, what is Addazio--Head coach, Interim head coach, or seat warmer?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Football Sunday in Philadelphia

First of all, I realize I forgot to congratulate the Villanova Wildcats for winning the Division I football national championship and in doing so, bringing another football championship to Philadelphia.

In pro news, it's a big day in Philly: The day when Brian Dawkins returns to the Linc with his new team, the Denver Broncos. I'm interested to see what the reaction from the crowd gathered will be, but I'm thinking it will be on the cheer-heavy side of things.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Wow.

No clever title here. I'm just honestly stunned by the fact that Urban Meyer, the head football coach at the University of Florida has chosen to step down for health reasons. You may remember back over the summer I wrote about how monumental Bill Tierney's departure from Princeton was, but this... wow.

I first must express a sincere concern for Coach Meyer, his family, and his health. Here's hoping that whatever the health issue may be, it is resolved quickly. I wish for him whatever he may desire for his future to hold, whether that be a return to coaching or more time spent with love ones, but most of all I hope that he is healthy.

That said, I can't not mention the immense sports implications here. My very first thought is that it means next year, the Gators will be without Meyer AND Tebow. The loss of Tebow was already threatening to be huge, but Meyer is arguably an even bigger loss. The tandem could be devastating. Naturally, my mind also turned to September 11, 2010, when the Bulls make their first appearance in the Swamp. I will say I'm happy they'll be going through this transition, though certainly not for these reasons.

Another thought that could conceivably be very telling about how rapid the onset of this decision was is one of the other largest questions: Who's next? I would imagine that if this weren't a decision made a very short time ago, Florida's own Charlie Strong, now the head coach at Louisville, would have surely been in the running. So who will be the next head man down at UF? It's certainly a destination job, perhaps moreso than Notre Dame at this point. I know it will be followed very closely by many, including myself, over the days to come.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hokie Hi, Retriever low

There are some inconvenient truths in the world of college sports. For example, if you play in the America East conference, you can reasonably expect to lose to an ACC team in college basketball. Those odds increase astronomically if your team is 1-9 and your opponent is 9-1. But I can’t say I expected to catch quite the whooping I witnessed live and in person as UMBC played Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and the Hokies prevailed, 71-34..

While I'm sure it's not a stat that's kept anywhere, allow me to note one that I think is fairly telling about the game as a whole: It was with 2:41 remaining in the first half that UMBC's offense finally broke into double digits. We were extremely turnover-prone and couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. Surprisingly enough, though, our defense wasn't too bad, all things considered, but giving them the ball for myriad opportunities certainly didn't do us any favors in that regard. By the end of the game I was hoping we'd either break 30 or break records for our performance--at least then I could say I was there when...

I can't speak much to the Virginia Tech experience, although I wouldn't mind going back. Before making the trip, I talked to a high school friend of mine who is an alum to find out where to grab a bite to eat when I got to town. He recommended several places, and I went to a Champs Sports Bar on Main Street, half expecting to rub elbows with the Hokie faithful and take some good-natured ribbing for being in black and gold. Instead, we arrived around peak dinner time and were the only patrons in the whole place. The food was delicious and it seemed like it would be a hopping establishment, but of course it's three days before Christmas.

The Cassell Coliseum is about half the size of the Dean Dome, and from what I can tell (from my vantage point in the very last row) there's not a bad seat in the house. Again, I can't really judge the audience based on the timing. But I was disappointed that there were no pep band, dance team, or cheerleaders present. I recognize the timing, but even UMBC was able to pull together the key players for the games over break. I know--I was the one on the road from Wilmington to Baltimore on many a December or January evening.

All in all, I think if there's anything we can take away from this game, it's that you can't take anything away from this game. It was horrendous on UMBC's part, but I think, despite our current record, this was truly a fluke on the part of the Dawgs. Here's hoping they pick it up when they get into conference play.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Get them before they get you

The Big Ten has recently announced its renewed efforts to seriously consider expansion. There's fear in the Big East that it could lead to a raid of the conference, much as the ACC did a few years back, as Rutgers, Syracuse, Pitt, and WVU have all been mentioned as potential candidates. Such a raid could be fatal to the Big East as a football conference, and certainly as one with an BCS automatic bid, unless a plan is put together to keep the coffers full.

I'll first state that if I were the Big Ten, none of the schools mentioned would be my first choice. To me, being a Midwestern conference is a crucial part of the Big Ten's identity. Penn State is the one outlier, and some would argue that their piece of Pennsylvania has quite a bit in common with the Midwest anyway. So while they may want to reach further east--particularly if Syracuse or Rutgers can give them some headway into the New York media market--it would dilute one of things that defines them.

To me, Mizzou is the obvious choice for expansion. They have an identity similar to many other Big Ten institutions as a flagship, land grant institution in the Midwest. Their university, team, and band would fit right in. And the conference rivalry they'd lose with Kansas on their western border would be replaced by Illinois to the east.

Still, while the possibility looms that the Big East could be raided, perhaps we should be proactive, not reactive. It is tough because the Big East has more to consider than just football. Fielding an unwieldy mega-conference in basketball makes it hard to think about adding a 9th member for football, knowing that we'd balloon to 17 in basketball. But awaiting a raid and reacting would leave us in the same 8 team predicament we currently have, and there's no guarantee that whoever we add would add value to the conference, particularly if a heavy hitter like West Virginia should be taken.

My thought? Send a care package down to Fort Worth and invite TCU. Granted, it leads to a loose interpretation of the word "East" in Big East, but then again, the Big "Ten" hasn't let mere definitions stand in the way of expanding to 11 and possibly 12. For that matter, TCU's Dallas-Fort Worth neighbors the Dallas Cowboys play in the NFC East, so there's precedent. TCU brings a proven winner in football who would only get stronger in a BCS auto-qualifying conference. They bring fertile recruiting ground in the state of Texas. And they bring the DFW media market, which is the fourth largest metro area in the United States, giving the Big East presence--between football and basketball--in four of the top five metro areas in the US.

Granted, there are challenges. In addition to the struggles of a 17-team basketball league, there's also travel to consider, and TCU would certainly be an outlier. Still, the increased stability for the Big East and the BCS autobid and legitimate shot at a national championship that TCU has lacked makes this a potentially strong move. Let's be proactive, not reactive.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Stealth National Championship

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that both Texas and TCU both win their bowl games, and, for clarity's sake, Cincy loses. Jerry Jones has a big stadium in Texas that won't be in use come January and money to blow. What's to stop him from inviting his state's two undefeated teams to play in a *wink wink, nudge nudge* "exhibition" game a week after the MNC game?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Boise State and TCU to the Back of the Bus

OK, perhaps it's in poor taste  comparing this country's unsavory history with race relations to college football, but Boise State and TCU were certainly put in the "Colored Only" section of this year's BCS. Matching the two of them up was clearly quarantining the schools from non-auto-qualifying conferences so they couldn't get out and infect (read: beat) and of the big boys. 


It's ridiculous, and it's an entirely transparent move to continue to consolidate the power amongst the power conferences. After all, one BCS buster a year makes for a good Cinderella story and great television. Two threatens the very system they swore to uphold.

LaGarrette Blount = Devon Miles

OK, it's a band-nerdy analogy, but follow me on this. Both got in trouble for an on-the-field incident. Both were removed for what was originally thought to be the rest of their season/career. And yet, both were given the opportunity to come back when the stakes were high--Devon for the drum-off at the Big Southern Classic, and LaGarrette with the Rose Bowl on the line.

Let Sleeping Dawgs Lie

UMBC is looking to change its athletic logo, and is currently letting students, faculty, staff, and alumni vote for one of three choices for the new logo. After carefully examining all of the options set before me, I cast my vote--by writing to my dear alma mater and requesting that they keep the current logo.

I don't necessarily hate the new logos; I just don't think any of them are demonstrably better than the current logo. But to me, there are several issues with the thought of making this change.

The first two are procedural. This may or may not be a tenet to logo redesign, but it's one that I believe in, and I personally think is somewhat intuitive. Rule number 1: Go hard or go home. Each of the designs presented features the same design elements as the current logo: The "UMBC" arc with the retriever's head in front of it. IT would seem to me a small change is no change at all. For a contrasting example, I arrived at USF right around the time that they were changing  from the "Iron Bull" logo to the new "Iconic U" logo. This change was significant, and even included a change in the school colors--from green and gold (yellow) to green and gold (tan/metallic). It was truly a rebranding, as opposed to the current proposal which is, at best, a reorganization.

My second issue I hope will not offend anyone. I mean no disrespect to the folks in creative services at UMBC, at least one of whom is a friend of mine. They do great work and always make UMBC look good. But for a logo redesign, I think it would be prudent to go with someone from outside the university; someone who can look at the opportunity to rebrand with fresh eyes and from an outsiders perspective. it may be that the team responsible for the redesign was already quite close to the situation, both as employees and potentially as alumni as well. This could be part of the similar looking options.

That said, I realize that we don't have the easiest logo to overhaul. We lack one identifying characteristic that is utilized in a lot of university logos: A "power letter," or single identifying letter. We are a university of four letters, no one more important than another. Even emphasizing the "BC" highlights the fact that we are the only non-community-college with "county" in our name, not to mention looking like Boston College. It also doesn't particularly help that we are a very specific breed of dog-- a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and as such our logo being at least a distinctive likeness is important.

Nowhere have I seen it said why there is a need to even change the logo, but if I had to guess, I would think that part of the reason is that they feel the current logo looks too "friendly." Granted, it's not the fiercest, but hey, it's ours. What's more, if that's the concern, there are derivatives of the logo that can be used: Simply the UMBC arc, or an unsanctioned but sometimes used alternate logo: A dog's paw.

This brings me to another point: UMBC has never really utilized a "logo family" concept--that is, several related logos that are derivatives of the same piece. Here at UNCG, where I work, the logo family concept is in full effect; USF supplements the iconic U with the USF wordmark and the bull shield. UMBC really only has the arc as an offshoot.

In each of the proposed new logos, white is a prominent color. While white is used by nearly all athletic programs (often for away football uniforms and home basketball uniforms), the issue comes with the fact that athletically, UMBC's colors are black and gold, while Towson University across town utilizes black, gold, and white. Why would we want to be so close to the school in the Baltimore metro area that is probably the most like us?

The page that shows the options for the new logo also links to logo trends as a means of justification for the change. If the double-stroked text is important as they say (and mind you, the options here are triple-stroked, or perhaps double-stroked and shadowed) why not either stroke in black-gold-black or use the white simply as one of the interior strokes?  The logo trends page also points out that schools are using more cartoonish and proper-colored mascots, which explains the brown dogs on the options. In addition to further serving to de-emphasize our colors as black and gold, this poses a problem for cheap reproduction in the form of one-color imprint t-shirts. I own UMBC shirts that are a one color black imprint on a gold shirt, which suffices for an accurate display of our logo while still keeping the cost down. This is no longer an option when black, gold, white, and brown all need to be incorporated.

Now on to the selfish pieces. As an alumnus, I stubbornly want to see the logo stay as it was when I graduated (though I would welcome a marked improvement). As a donor, I donated a custom bass drum head to the pep band a couple years back and would rather not see it rendered obsolete. And I've got a good amount of UMBC merchandise which, of course, bears the current logo.

Interestingly enough, the page that shows the options also shows the current logo amongst logos from the area and from the rest of the America East conference. In both cases, our logo fits quite well. Why, then, is there a need for a change? While I mentioned in this post a change I'd welcome, I see no reason for that or another change that this point. Still, at the end of the day, I love my alma mater, and I'll support whatever new logo we may have. Here's hoping they hold on to what we've got.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Just like the real thing

I'm watching the Civil War and I'm rooting for the North... Oregon State, that is. I tend to like Oregon a bit--maybe a bit of Stockholm Syndrome from the whooping they handed us in the Sun Bowl--but this is all in the name of Politicking. Oregon State as the Pac-10 champs means that Cincy--who I want to see in the BCS title game--will have defeated a conference champion and Rose Bowl representative. It'll strengthen their resume, and while I don't think anything will propel them into the title game should Texas win the Big XII title game, it puts Cincy in the drivers seat should they falter, provided they can still take care of business against Pitt. Besides, should they go undefeated, beat a conference champ and still get snubbed, it gives the Bearcat faithful something to bitch about, and after all, isn't that what college football's all about?

Champions Live Here

Interesting note: five of the six BCS conferences will engage in de facto championship games this weekend, with  the Big Ten being the odd man out. In the Pac-10 and Big East, Oregon State and Pittsburgh hope to make Oregon and Cincinnati share their crowns while snatching the BCS bids; the SEC, Big XII, and ACC, of course, all have proper championship games. It's an exciting weekend.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

215 is The Answer

It's official--Allen Iverson is once again a Philadelphia 76er. And it's like welcoming an old friend home.

True enough, AI isn't always the nicest person to have around. But the fact is, neither are Philly sports fans.  It's a match made in Heaven. or Hell. or Philadelphia.

Regardless of whether he would have never played another 48 minutes or played on for 48 more years, AI was meant to retire a Sixer. The one year he got in Philly may be enough for him to get his swan song and maybe even bow out gracefully.

This seems to be essentially a cut-buddy situation that both sides know about. I don't think either side has the delusion that AI + Sixers = championship. The East alone is too strong for that, and it would have taken a lot more work from the Sixers in the off-season to even be competitive. But AI'll get to be a starter and get adulation as long as the Philly fans can stand him (and let's face it, even once that's up, there'll be love in the boos), and the Sixers will get the butts in the seats that come along with the last Sixer we ever truly loved. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tiger Pride


Following a 10-0 regular season, a #1 seed, and a first round bye,  A.I. duPont High School stepped into the state playoffs for the first time in 27 years and first ever in Division I.  Me, Megan, and my younger brother James, a fellow AI alum headed down to Tiger Stadium for the game.

The first thing we noticed was the insanity of the entire scene. Parking was no longer available anywhere on AI’s grounds, and we ended up packing with many others in the shopping center across the street. Because of this, I missed all of St. Mark’s pre-game field show, save for what I heard through the windows when finding parking, so I don’t have any band smack from that. Upon entering the stadium, our first pass was in from of the band, where I got to say hello to Mr. Parets, my former band director, and Rich, the assistant director, who I marched with back in my high school days. Mr. Parets made it a point to call up to the band and introduce me as the 1999 president of bands, which was quite well received by a band who, if nothing else, knows the importance of history to this great organization. Similarly, Rich mentioned my cymbal acuity to the drummers who were right up at the front. It was cool and humbling at the same time.

From there it was off in search of seats, of which there were none. We ended up settling into some standing room near the end of the stands, partially obscured by other fans, though we were able to move up when some folks who clearly were unfamiliar with AI football games actually left the stands during halftime.

AI lost the game. The team ran an option offense with no true passing threat, and St. Marks had it sniffed out fairly quickly, prevailing 10-8 in a defensive battle. What was interesting is that in our immediate vicinity were quite a few adults who didn’t seem, at least not based on their commentary, to be the parents of current players, but rather were other adults who had, for whatever reason, hitched their hopes and dreams to AI football. The feeling of desperation and futility from some of these grown men made me feel like I was among Eagles fans, which, given the locale, I probably was. Still, while there was plenty of yelling going on, I was pleased at least that it was directed towards the coach and not towards the teenagers playing their hearts out on the field.

As for me, despite the scoreboard, I had a great time. I saw quite a few folks who I hadn’t seen in years, got to see the Tiger Marching Band perform a field show for the first time in nearly a decade, and got to  once again set foot in a stadium where I spent so much of my high school career. And yes, I watched AI lose a football game, but I had done plenty of that in my days as well. While I’m not a believer in moral victories and truly believed we could make a run at states, it was awesome to be playing football on Thanksgiving weekend.

The loss brings me to an interesting topic however; Generally I don’t believe in curses or jinxes, and I’m certainly not arrogant enough to think that if they do exist, I’ve got anything to do with them. Still, merely by observation, every time I’ve gone to see one of my alma maters play in the postseason, they have lost. UMBC lacrosse lost in tournament games I attended in 2007 and 2009. UMBC basketball lost in their one and only men’s basketball tournament appearance in 2008 in Raleigh. USF lost its first bowl game in the 2005 Meineke Car Care Bowl. USF men’s soccer lost in the Elite Eight at Wake Forest in 2008. And of course now AI football lost a playoff game where I was present. That’s quite an unfortunate track record I’ve got. Still, it won’t prevent me from getting out and supporting my teams whenever I can—here’s hoping I get the chance this upcoming bowl season.

Live from I-70 Westbound


Or rather,  “recorded live”, as the old oxymoron goes. I’m on the way back from the mid-Atlantic for Thanksgiving (don’t worry, I’m not behind the wheel). To continue the TV analogy, this will be a clip show of sorts; a few things I had intended to write about at one point or another but never got around to.

-Several weeks ago, I made my way out to a UNCG club lacrosse game. I know a couple of the guys on the team, and I’m a lacrosse fan,  so I had been meaning to make my way out for some time, but only just now got to it. This particular game they were playing App State and were raising funds for the HEADstrong Foundation.

The club scene was a marked but welcome difference from varsity athletics. There was a decent crowd for the intramural field space where they played, and near as I can tell, it was mostly parent and friends of the players, a decent sized contingent from App, and maybe one or two who just longed for live lacrosse—I don’t know if the guy in the O’s shirt and Hopkins hat was related to anyone, but something tells me he’s a fan of the game.

I always enjoy being with people who are watching their first lacrosse game.  I’ve done it a few times, and one of the first reactions is always, “you mean they can hit each other with sticks?!” This rang true for one of the students in the stands, who later added, “I think this is my new favorite sport!” It was an enjoyable enough game, and it was good to se the guys play for at least a bit (I left early for a fraternity meeting). That said,  with all due respect to all the players on the field who played their hearts out, there’s a marked difference between watching club lacrosse in NC and varsity lacrosse in Baltimore.

-Slightly less long ago, I headed west to Winston-Salem to go to the Wake Forest-Florida State football game. My buddy James is an FSU alum and lives in Charlotte, and I told him if he comes up for the game to let me know and I’d come on over. I was rooting for FSU both because I was there with James and because it helped USF’s strength of schedule—in the grand scheme of things SoS was obsolete for us at that point, but  FSU was already having a down year, making our win against them look weak, so I wanted it bolstered for perception’s sake.

It was a noon game so we hit the lot at around 10 in the morning.  There was a decent FSU contingent there—so much so that James was unable to get tickets through his alumni association and had to buy them through Wake, though our seats in the stadium were still pretty strongly in garnet and gold territory. Maybe it was just the lot we were in, but it seemed the FSU folks were much heavier in the tailgate lot than the Wake folks were. It could be a function of FSU having a stronger football tradition than Wake, or, more broadly, Florida having a stronger football tradition than NC, but the Noles fans came to play. The Noles did the same on the field as well, leaving Winston with a win. The Marching Chiefs, however, did not show up. Wake’s band made a decent showing in the stands, but they committed a cardinal offense on the field: Their show was Spring and Summer (I learned later that they actually did all four seasons, but likely curtailed it because it was senior day and introducing all of the band seniors  cut into their time) and they played several pieces fitting the theme, including Appalachian Spring, Summer of ’69, and School’s Out for Summer. They had announced DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s Summertime among the lineup; them playing that consisted not of a band arrangement, but PUSHING PLAY on some sort of playback device and pumping it over the loudspeakers. Seriously?! Not even Hopkins has lobbied for that yet!!

Wake did have a couple of cool traditions. In one endzone is a grass hill known as “Deacon Hill” where spectators can sit out on the hill and watch the game. As we were preparing to leave the game, the announcer game over the loudspeaker to remind folks that anyone who came down onto the field would still need to leave through the stands. James and I both looked at each other to be sure we heard that right, and one of the security guards confirmed for us: They do invite fans down onto the field following each game. This isn’t hop the gate and risk the tasers, this is open invite. I thought that was really cool—the fans are not the enemy to be separated from the teams, but rather a group to be embraced. I don’t know if this is a function of them being a private school, or a smaller school, or in a not-particularly-football-mad area, but this certainly wouldn’t work in some of the more football-mad stadiums.

-Last Friday, UNCG men’s basketball began their home slate and with it their first season in the Greensboro Coliseum. We opened with Clemson, one of four ACC squads who will be visiting the Spartans this season and one of the six on the schedule for this year.

The student scene was electric, at least leading up to the game. In my campus programming capacity, I worked on the Basketball Kickoff Party, a campus tradition in its fourth year which was in transition as well with the move to the Coliseum. It went extremely well, and featured performances from the cheerleaders, dance team, and pep band—all affiliated with UNCG athletics—and Spartan Force Marching Band, a student organization that functions as an independent marching band in an HBCU style.

The atmosphere outside was no less vibrant. Last February 5, when UNCG played a one-off at the Coliseum, and student organizations made the most out of the opportunity to tailgate, despite the weather being below freezing. On a much more manageable November day, they were once again out in force. I only made a couple passes through the tailgate log, but it seemed that good times were had by all. The only problem? Some didn’t make it to the game in time. Still, when all was said and done, the student section was over 2,000 strong—more than student capacity for our entire on-campus gym—and I hope showing up is a tradition that continues in a big way.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

From Dixie With Love

Glory, Glory Hallelujah... the South will rise again?

There's been trouble a-brewin' down at Ole Miss, and it all stems around a song, From Dixie with Love, that has been played for two decades by the Pride of the South, the University of Mississippi's marching band. The song may have reached its last refrain, as the Ole Miss chancellor has ordered the song ceased after the student section made a new tradition of chanting, "The South will rise again!" Understandably, there are mixed feelings in Mississippi and nation- and world-wide about this.

Before I go much further, I want to lay all my cards on the table: Things you may or may not know about me, Curtis, the author of this blog, whether you've been reading for a minute or a year. I'm a Black man. I'm a native yankee, but now live in rebel territory. I consider the Confederate States of America to be a terrorist organization. I'm a student affairs professional who works in higher education. I have a passion for tradition and school spirit. I'm a musician and a band dork, and I spent a significant portion of my life in either marching band or pep band. While I wouldn't consider myself a Civil War scholar, I think I do know a little something about the subject. Ditto for race relations in America. And while each of the facts above informs my opinion, I speak for none of the groups above when stating it.

First, let's talk about the song in question, From Dixie with Love. It's a beautiful piece of music with perhaps an even more beautiful symbolism. A staple of Ole Miss' pregame for some time now, From Dixie blends Dixie, the unofficial anthem of the Confederacy, with Battle Hymn of the Republic, the anthem of the Union Army (which, despite that, has become quite popular down south--right Georgia? Auburn?) It takes its basis from An American Trilogy, popularized by Elvis Presley, a Mississippi native, which also included both songs. Its intent was harmony between the two once-warring factions. But recently, Ole Miss student have begun chanting, "The South will rise again!" over the last stanza. The controversy embroiled in this new tradition led to the Pride of the South altering the arrangement so as not to leave room for the phrase, Ole Miss' student government to pass a resolution discouraging it, and ultimately, the chancellor asking the band to refrain from playing the song at all. This didn't make some too happy, including Ku Klux Klan themselves, who staged a demonstration on Ole Miss' campus. (Many Ole Miss students, faculty, and alumni wouldn't stand for this, however.)

My thoughts? I think it's much ado about nothing. First of all, the removal of the song with the intent to remove the phrase is but a small gesture when it comes to things that could be construed as offensive vis-a-vis the Confederacy. First of all Ole Miss' mascot is still the Rebels. Their slavemaster "southern gentleman" mascot, Colonel Reb, has been official retired by the University, but can still be readily seen and associated with the school. And perhaps most egregious, Ole Miss is the flagship of Mississippi, the one state in the union to continue to incorporate the Confederate battle flag into its state flag. Given these facts, what's "The South will rise again" in comparison? Besides, what's to say there aren't some who use the phrase simply as a shorter form of "The South shall rise again as a tolerant and progressive region that celebrates differences and seeks through understanding to lead this great nation to an even better place"? OK, that may not be exactly what they mean, but at face value, I don't see a problem with being proud to be a southerner, and I think some are expressing exactly that. To me, the South--a geographical direction and a region of the country since its inception--and the Confederacy--a terrorist nation [sic] that existed for precisely four years for the sole purpose of opposing and attempting to defeat the nation I love and call home--are two different things.

I'm also intrigued by the manner in which the University is seeking to remedy the situation--by eliminating the song to which it was latched to me, that's cutting off your nose to spite your face. This isn't College Park, where Rock and Roll Pt. II was banned to prevent chants of "Hey, You Suck!" (though they Terps among us will vouch for that as a campus tradition as well). From Dixie with Love was an integral part of the Pride of the South's pregame, and while it's only a 20 year tradition, it has clearly been seen through generations of students, including generations of the band members who play it. What will become of their pregame? A campus tradition threatens to go by the wayside because some students saw fit to hijack it.

Now I will admit, I make these statements sitting a comfortable distance from Oxford. Some of the stories have been speaking of strained race relations otherwise at Ole Miss (really? No...) and if this helps in some manner, large or small, it may be the best thing to do. But from where I sit, it seems to me we're making a mountain out of a molehill.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why Cincy must win the Big East outright

And no, it's not for conference bragging rights or their potential for upgraded facilities or for Brian Kelly or anything else you might be thinking. In fact, the answer it quite selfish (if by "self" I mean the University of South Florida). Currently, the only alternative to an outright Cincy victory is a co-championship with Cincy and Pitt, which would take place only if Pitt wins out, including beating Cincy, giving Pitt a share of the championship and the BCS bid.

The problem with this? A Pitt championship would mean that since USF joined the Big East in 2005, five of the eight schools in the conference will have won a share of the conference championship. Those without? USF, Rutgers, and Syracuse. Not company I'd like to be in.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

You just can't hide that Tiger Pride

I believe you've rarely, if ever, heard me talk high school football in this blog. That is for several good reasons. One is that I haven't lived in my hometown during football season since, well, high school, (and I've got a 10 year reunion coming up this year, for reference) so the one team I'm most inclined to follow hasn't really been on my radar. That said, as with most of the other sports I follow, keeping an eye on a program from a distance is not a problem for me, if I have reason to care.

The top reason? A.I. duPont football, for as long as I've had reason to follow it, has not been good. I don't know the exact numbers, but a friend of mine from my graduating class stated that we won seven games in our four years there, and I'm inclined to believe him.

I feel pretty confident when I state that my high school's social hierarchy was not at all like yours. The biggest reason I'm the band dork I am today (and mind you, I wasn't even fully aware of the concept of "band dork" until I left high school) is because of my high school band experience. Our drum major used to play football and quit the team when he was selected. Young women tried out for the cheerleading squad only after they found out that didn't make band fronts. And it wasn't that varsity athletics weren't important at AI. To the contrary--the majority of the band members were varsity athletes. We held multiple state championships, including winning every year in girl's soccer throughout my high school career. But when it came to the battle for Friday nights, that competition ended with the halftime show.

That's why I've been appalled and pleasantly surprised as I've seen the facebook updates from those who are still close to the football program (mostly my old band director): Still undefeated at midseason. 6-0. 7-0. and on and on until yesterday I see that AI ended the regular season undefeated--a perfect 10-0--and is bound for the state playoffs for the first time since I was an infant. What's more, they've allowed 20 points all season long.

To put it simply, the Tigers are beasting on the football field, and not just during halftime anymore.

As you've no doubt discerned if you've read this for any significant amount of time, I follow my high school band (who, by the way, is headed back to the Fiesta Bowl Parade this year) like I follow my sports teams. Now I've got a reason to keep an eye on my football team as well. I hope to be able to make a game when I'm up home for Thanksgiving, but whether I can or not, Go Tigers!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Disgusted

This is the first time I can recall turning off a Bulls game in utter disgust. I can't watch this. Not on a Thursday night. Not against Rutgers.

I'm turning to Project Runway from LA instead of Project Runaway in NJ.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's the same old song...

One of my favorite podcasts is the ESPNU College Football Podcast. But something struck me this morning that just seemed like not being able to change one's tune. On Mondays (they come out mid-day, so I usually listen to the previous day's podcast during my commute) Ivan Maisel is joined by Gene Wojciechowski to discuss the world of college football. After revealing their own personal top fives, each of which contained Cincinnati this week, and continuing on to inquire if Cincy plays anyone. Granted, what are likely to be their two toughest conference matchups--WVU and Pitt--still lie ahead, but I think at this point in the season we should be beyond the thinly-veiled Big East bashing. Currently, the Big East has 4 teams in the BCS standings: the three named thus far plus South Florida. That's as many as any conference and more than the SEC, Big XII, and ACC. (ht: Brian Bennett of ESPN) What's more? Each of those teams climbed from the unranked ranks, as the Big East had no teams ranked in either the AP or the Coaches as the season began. Not too shabby, eh?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Score one for the little guys!

Honda Battle of the Bands has announced its lineup for the 2010 invitational showcase, and it's a little different than you may have expected.

For the past several years, Honda has been a 10 band showcase, featuring two bands each from the MEAC, the SWAC, the CIAA, the SIAC, and HBCU independents. Earlier this year, Honda changed the format: eight bands, featuring one band from each of the conferences above (plus one independent) and three at-large bands. Think the BCS, except that there's no cap on the number of bands that can participate from one conference.

All the prognosticators figured that the MEAC and SWAC (to continue the BCS analogy, think SEC and Big XII) would snatch up all of the at-large bids. The biggest conference thumpers imagined their conference snatching all three, dominating a full half of the Honda lineup. Realists reasonably expected three bids for one conference and two from another.

The results surprised everyone. The SWAC got two bands in, in Southern and Prairie View. The MEAC? One, with an asterisk. FAMU is clearly the MEAC's representative. Judging from the rest of the field, NC Central, which is in its transition to Division I and the MEAC, was counted as an independent.

The CIAA did as expected and put one band into Honda with Virginia State. But the SIAC made out like bandits, with Clark Atlanta, Tuskegee, and Albany State each heading to Atlanta in January. Not only did Boise State and TCU both make the BCS, but Houston snuck in as well.

Voting for Honda participants is a combination of HBCU presidents, band directors, and fans. This may nor be the entire picture, however; there's no telling if there were other bands who turned down their invitations. It's interesting to see this shift in dynamics and I wonder how it will be received by the HBCU bandhead faithful and the fans in general. On the one hand, while Southern, FAMU, and Prairie View are there, perennial star power from the likes of Bethune Cookman will be missed. On the other hand, there are bands who won't "act like they've been there before"--even though each of the bands there has--and may bring out fans for the experience. And of the SIAC bands in particular, Atlanta is an easy trip from Albany, Tuskegee, and of course Clark Atlanta.

Regardless, I'm sure this has been and will continue to be fodder for the folks over at The 5th Quarter, and in fact they've got a new podcast coming out the evening of Tuesday, 11/10. It'll be great to get the perspective from the serious bandheads.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Drumline Effect?

When the movie Drumline came out nearly seven years ago, it was the first major motion picture where the primary subject was college marching bands. Love it or hate it--and just about anyone who has ever marched does one or the other--it is undeniable that like any other Hollywood depiction of a subculture, what we saw on screen is beginning to leak into what we see in real life.

If I may oversimplify things for a moment: There are primarily two styles of marching band: Traditional/"show" and corps style. Drumline depicted a show style marching band, and more specifically, an HBCU marching band. In general--and again I'm oversimplifying--traditional style bands are more likely to play popular music and HBCU bands in particular are more likely to borrow from rap, R&B, soul and jazz music.

Since Drumline came out, however, there has definitely been a shift of certain bands moving their repertoire and/or style closer to that depicted in the movie. Anecdotally, I've heard tell of corps style bands that switched their entire style after the movie came out. More often, bands interpolate a bit of imagery Hollywood made more popular into their shows or stands performances. For example, USF's Herd of Thunder plays "Shout it Out", straight from the movie, in the stands now.

I've seen other sharing that goes a bit deeper in emulating the style. I did a double take a couple years ago when I first heard LSU's Golden Band from Tigerland play "Neck". Talking Out the Side of your Neck, an album track by Cameo, is an otherwise unremarkable song that garnered its most attention as a popular tune for HBCU marching bands. At first I joked about a contingent from LSU sneaking across town under cover of darkness to Southern University's practice. More recently, I heard the University of Florida's band play Crucial Conflict's "Hay". Hay is also played by FAMU and Bethune Cookman, the two most prominent HBCUs in the state of FL. A friend mentioned to me that the Herd of Thunder plays this one as well.

At first I was inclined to give these bands the side-eye for appropriation, but truly, it's part of the continued evolution of the activity. And if you believe that a marching band's purpose is to thrill an audience, as I do, it's nothing but a win for all parties involved.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pirates of the Carolinas

The ECU Pirates unveiled a new midfield logo today for their matchup with Virginia Tech:


Via CBS Sports

I love this for a couple reasons. For one, it looks extremely badass. Secondly, for those who haven't caught wise, I have an advanced degree and career in higher education. I won't get all thesis on you, but I do believe that colleges--particularly public colleges--exist to serve the greater societal good. As such, it's great when states embrace their institutions of higher education and vice versa. I especially like when schools that aren't the flagship feel empowered to use the state's images or likeness.

I'm also a geography nerd, so the state outline speaks to me. Similarly, the vexillology nerd in me really enjoys College Park's MD flag end zones and Clemson and Carolina's battle over the palmetto and crescent.

In a similar vein, I've thought I'd love to see UMBC incorporate the MD state flag in some way, even if it's just the Calvert banner black and gold as used in the Baltimore flag. The confederates in College Park can have their red and white. Some time ago, I also put together a green and gold mock-up of the Florida flag with the USF seal.

2009: The Year of Chalk

The New York Yankees just won their 27th World Series. My first thought as a fan was that with Lakers and Yankees wins in the same year, perhaps the sporting universe isn't too happy with me right now. But then I looked a little closer at a confluence of this year's championships. So far, in 2009:

  • College Football: Florida Gators
  • NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Men's College Basketball: North Carolina Tar Heels
  • Women's college basketball: Connecticut Huskies
  • Men's College Lacrosse: Syracuse Orange
  • Women's College Lacrosse: Northwestern Wildcats
  • NBA: Los Angeles Lakers
  • DCI: Blue Devils
  • MLB: New York Yankees
What do all of these teams have in common? These are all teams which, either historically or recently, have been the banner carriers in their respective sports. In each case, it would have been entirely reasonable, before a ball was ever kicked, tipped, or pitched, to pick the team above as the champion and had a pretty good shot, or at least not have had everyone look at you like you were crazy.

2009: The Year of Chalk.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Like Christmas in Philly

Normally, I hate to look at the home stadium on TV and see an abundance of another color in the stands. But it pleases me to turn on Giants-Eagles and see an abundance of red in the stands. Right now, the Philly sports faithful serve two masters. They've shown any number of people in the stands in Eagles jerseys and Phillies hats, who no doubt will be just as jacked after this game ends in anticipation for tonight's.

Game 3 of Philly-NY weekend is under way. So far, it's 1-1, with the Sixers beating the Knicks and and the Yankees beating the Phillies. Hopefully we can get out of this weekend 3-1.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's gonna be a good weekend

Nothing like a win on a Friday (or Thursday) night to know the weekends gonna be A-OK.

The Bulls got a big one tonight against West Virginia in Tampa to halt the mid-season skid and notch one against a team that's perennially the class of the league but is now 2-3 vs. the Bulls, with two of our wins coming on Friday nights in Tampa. Hopefully this helps us right the ship and we can be competitive for the rest of the season.

I've never talked high school football in here. A brief history of my high school's team: It was standard practice to come to AI football games and leave after the band's halftime show. Tonight was our Homecoming game, and clearly I didn't make it back up to Delaware, but I was compelled to go online and check the scores. Turns out we beat Brandywine 55-0 to improve on the season to 8-0. Way to be, Tigers!!

Also going on this weekend: Game 3 of the World Series tomorrow night from Philly. The fact that this runs up against college football probably affects a surprisingly little amount of people. Sure baseball fans want to see the World Series, but consider the teams competing: the mid-Atlantic and Northeast aren't exactly hotbeds of college football. That, and the teams that do have regional interest there will all play earlier in the day. A game with Tri-State implications, Rutgers vs. UConn, will be played at 12 noon. Other New York schools in action, Syracuse and Army, also play early games. In the Phillysphere, Penn State and Temple (ha!) play early as well. 

And if you're a New York sports fan looking to take a road trip, Sunday in Philly is the place to be. May I suggest setting up your tailgate right between Citizen's Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field. Eagles play Giants at 1, and then it's Yanks at Phillies at 8. Sounds like a helluva day!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Trunk or Treat!

To continue on the regional theme: I currently live in the South, which, I'm willing to wager, is the region of the country with the most churches per capita. I've lived in NC for over four years now, and before that I lived in Tampa (which I consider my gateway drug to the South). It's been since I've been here in NC that I've been seeing church signs advertise for "Trunk or Treat." I'm surprised it's taken me this long to actually look it up, considering how quick on the google-fu I tend to be, but I've always thought: What in the heavens is Trunk or Treat? I figured surely it was a church attempt to get out of the witches-and-devils view of Halloween, or maybe even the mean aspect implied in the "trick," but couldn't for the life of me figure out what the "trunk" part referred to. I just figured I hadn't spent enough time with my bible and was missing something.

On my way home from work today, I passed one of the churches that's been advertising and saw what most certainly must have been Trunk or Treat. I came home and googled it to be sure that's what I had briefly witnessed and came across this Trunk or Treat article. It describes Trunk or Treat as "a Halloween event that is often church or community-sponsored. People gather and park their cars in a large parking lot. They open their trunks or the backs of their vehicles and decorate them. Then they pass out candy from their trunks. The event provides a safe family environment for trick or treaters."


Well I'll be! Halloween tailgating! Sign me up!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Getting Territorial

I am a native mid-Atlanticker and I wear it proudly. For reference, my personal definition of the mid-Atlantic is the states on the I-95 corridor between DC and NYC; inclusive of DC metro, and exclusive of NY metro. It includes NoVA, DC, MD, DE, PA and all of Jersey but North Jersey, where, in my definition, the Northeast begins. As such, I cling pretty hard to that which I consider to be mid-Atlantic, however rationally.

Utz Potato Chips are a product of Hanover, PA and widely associated with the mid-Atlantic. A clever billboard in Baltimore, for example, depicts National Bohemian's Mr. Boh proposing to the Utz girl. And, of course, Utz is widely regarded as part of the snack food industry in its home state of PA, which includes Snyders of Hanover and Hersheys chocolate.

I say all that to say: When the Phillies take on the Yankees in the World Series, I don't want to see a damn Utz advertisement in Yankees Stadium.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Intercollegiate Athletics at its Finest

I'm not a Potterhead. In fact, to the disbelief of most, I started reading the Harry Potter books and stopped somewhere in the middle of one. I've seen all but the most recent of the movies and enjoy them, and from knowing people who are bigger fans I think I know the general gist of the series, but I wouldn't consider myself a Potterhead by any means.

That said, to use the series' native British vernacular, intercollegiate quidditch is bloody brilliant.

The mental_floss blog wrote all about the Quidditch World Cup, which took place this past weekend. I'll let you read the link for the details, but essentially, 20 collegiate teams faced off in a competition which was as quidditch as you can get without the ability to fly.

Professionally, I work in the field of student activities, and I look forward to the moment a quidditch club walks through our doors looking to form.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Time Is Now

As I've said in this blog before, of my four major "sports" seasons (football, basketball, lacrosse, drum corps) basketball is the sport I follow the least in the off-season. It's not that I care any less about basketball than the others, but to me, basketball is a lot more about the now, where in the others there's so much for me in the antici... (say it!) ...pation.

That goes double for the NBA, because I think I anticipate college ball a little more than pro ball, but I did pay a bit of attention this off-season, and what I saw? Stagnation. The Sixers were a playoff team last year (which I realize is no huge feat in the NBA), but in the off-season, when the big players in the East were making moves, the Sixers were decidedly quiet. The Cavs added Shaq. The Celtics added Sheed. The Magic added VC. The Sixers? Added a new logo--which, by the way, was the old logo. OK, so we did add a new head coach, and I'm looking forward to the Eddie Jordan era, but let's be honest--he's a Rutgers alum.

That said, as we speak, I'm watching the first game of the season, as two of the Eastern conference players, Cleveland and Boston, battle it out. The season is pregnant with possibility. Anything can happen. The time is now.

Monday, October 26, 2009

But who needs New Jersey anyway?

The World Series is set, and it will feature the two largest metro areas on the East Coast, just over 90 miles, and nearly the entire state of New Jersey. It could tear the state in half.

No big loss.

My allegiances in this World Series are simple. Let me share with you two simple truths:

1) I am a Boston Red Sox fan.
2) I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware.

So yes, I will be rooting for the Phillies to repeat as World Series champions. You'll note that I say I'm rooting for the Phillies, but never claim to be a Phillies fan. I'm a Sox fan and don't intend to change that, but as a fan of Philly sports in general I of course want to see them do well.

That said? It's almost like a tease. The Phillies are the one Philly team that isn't my primary team in its respective sport--I don't follow hockey, but in a pinch I'd identify as a Flyers fan, and I definitely ride with the Eagles and Sixers. So for all of the city's sports success to go to the Phils does little to satiate my needs.

But I'll take it--especially at the expense of the Yankees.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Groundhog Day

GOTDAMMIT BULLS!!! Different year, same result. USF went up to Pittsburgh for a noon kickoff with Pitt, and we got run out of the Steel City to the tune of 41-14. Once again USF football nets a big OOC win in September (though the FSU win is no longer quite as lustrous) and once again we roll over once conference play begins. And once again, we're off to a 1-2 conference start, this year having beaten only Syracuse.

In the interest of not having to flag this blog for "adult content", I"m just going to say that I'm sick of this mess and spare you the profanity-laced tirade I'm prepared to embark on.

To be somewhat fair, I will note that Big East didn't do us any scheduling favors, lacing our October slate with consecutive games vs. Cincy, at Pitt, and vs. WVU. Each of those games is entirely winnable, but as two of three have shown thus far, they're also entirely losable. Especially by the Bulls, in the month of October. I'm starting to fear October as a Bulls fan like I fear the NFC Championship Game as an Eagles fan. But in either case, we need to get over that to actually be something. Unless, as I've half-jokingly suggested, we start stacking our non-conference games in the month of October. I don't know what it is, but it needs to change. I'll feel a whole lot better if we can manage to beat WVU on Friday night in Tampa, but I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Let me make one thing clear:

Cincinnati is not a potential BCS buster.

I'll say that again.

CINCINNATI IS NOT A POTENTIAL BCS BUSTER!

Cincinnati plays in a BCS auto-qualifying conference. Lord knows I'd like to see them drop two (or one in a favorable tie-breaker scenario) but should they run the table and be one of only one or two teams to do so, they deserve to play for a national championship. Period.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Looking ahead

Around this time each year, I find myself feeling compelled to look forward to UMBC's lacrosse schedule for the coming spring. Perhaps fallball whets my appetite. Perhaps I've figured out that this is about when things start coming out. Maybe, just maybe, this is when USF football schedules its annual skid and I have to find something to look forward to.

Herein lies the rub: It'll still be over a month until our schedule is released. So I get a little stalkerish. Whenever teams release their schedules, I look to see if UMBC is on it. Last year, I had pieced together nearly all of our schedule before I first got confirmation via the Inside Lacrosse Yearbook. While I want to see our schedule, my ultimate goal is to see if the Dawgs'll be anywhere within easy reach, which essentially means Duke, Carolina, VMI, or in a pinch, UVA.

So far no big surprises: We'll be at Princeton this year as the second half of a home-and-home, and continuing to play Towson. The big one is that Carolina will be coming to town, which leads me to believe we'll probably be down this way in '11. The Carolina game is actually the first game of our spring break here, so if we make the trip up north, I may catch that game at UMBC. Maybe I'll just ride Carolina's team bus up.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

On the sporting landscape, there are a few times throughout the year that could deemed the most wonderful time of the year. Bowl season and March Madness immediately come to mind. But this past weekend certainly gets an honorable mention. Here's why:

-College football and the NFL are in full swing
-The NHL is getting underway
-The NBA is wrapping up the pre-season
-League championship series are taking place in MLB
-College basketball practices begin with Midnight Madnesses across the country
-College lacrosse is playing fallball
-NASCAR's Chase is at "home" in Charlotte
-Major League Soccer is in season

Essentially, every major sport in this country (and a few less-than-major ones) is in some form of action this weekend, and a lot of it is action with implications.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kelly/Green

One final thought about last night's game against Cincy. Coach Brian Kelly is the real deal. What I think impressed me the most is that he had two quarterbacks with completely different skillsets who played in last night's game, and his offense completely changed looks, barely skipping a beat.

Inevitably, someone will offer Kelly a considerable amount of green to take an opening this off-season. As much as I don't look forward to losing to Cincy year in and year out, I hope Kelly sticks to his druthers and builds them into a powerhouse. As he said recently, Cincinnati is a top ten team, but not a top ten program. I think that if he continues with them, they can be both.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

They are who we thought they were!

#8 Cincinnati walked into Raymond James Stadium this Thursday night. And much to my chagrin, they walked out with a W.

I knew they were coming in highly ranked, unbeaten, with a Heisman hopeful at the helm and a quick pass attack that ran the risk of baffling our usually strong pass rush. They got the better of us, but not how I was expecting.

Pike (who, by the way, looks like he touches little children... just saying.) gave us the offensive attack that I expected, but I was quite impressed with Cincy's defense. "What if"s and "If only"s don't get you far, but I will note that Pike's offense, while potent, was one dimensional. Honestly, it was backup Collaros who came in after Pike was injured who truly picked us apart. He made us respect the run--both from him and his backs--and set up the passing game well. It's possible we could have figured out Pike, but again, who knows?

BJ Daniels looked a bit more like the redshirt freshman he is than he has in the previous two games. That's not a knock on him, but unfortunately, it's not necessarily what we thought we'd be looking at at this point in 2009. That said, he gives me a lot of the same cardiac arrest that Grothe did--did anyone else find them yelling at him to throw the damn ball away?! And yet actual misfortune in the form of sacks and turnovers didn't come often, at least not from his ill-advised scrambles.

Cincy's a damn good team, and I hope that either a) they lose two and USF wins the Big East, or barring that, b) they run the table and head to the national championship, where the Big East hasn't had representation since the exodus of Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College.

As for USF, we have yet to have a winning record through our first two conference games since joining the Big East in 2005. Each year we've started 1-1, and in each year but the first, we'd continue on to at least 1-2 before rebounding. Here's hoping we can pick up the pace next week and win at Pitt to get off to a better start.

Thursday night games are an interesting beast. First off, they make it really hard to concentrate and get anything done at work on Thursday. Win, and you're riding high on Friday, and sitting content by the Saturday games. Lose, and you've got a few more days to fester, though the Saturday games can help drown your sorrows and give you something to hope for as you root against teams ranked ahead of you to hopefully soften the plummet. Either way, you either fear that the pollsters forgot your win, or hope that the pollsters forgot your loss.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Eye of the Tiger

I'm watching the LSU-Florida game, which is easily the most anticipated game of the weekend. With the Bulls off until Saturday, I've adopted this as my must-see game of the weekend (which isn't to say I didn't watch several others as well). I don't even have a dog in this fight, I'm just hoping for a damn good game, and so far is has not disappointed.

I've got a decent sized TV and a pretty average sound system, but man, you can feel the energy from the stadium! It just makes me think of the fact that some day, when I'm independently wealthy (riiight...) there are a whole lot of stadiums I intend to one day visit.

I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the Golden Band from Tigerland. I think part of it has to do with my past as a Tiger myself (from high school) but they definitely put an exciting product on the field and in the stands. Every time I hear them play Neck though, I can't help but wonder if someone snuck across town to Southern to commandeer that tune.

Deja Vu

As your leading source for parallels between USF and UMBC (what can I say, it's a niche market) I'm sad to report that UMBC soccer is continuing to look like USF football of the past couple of years. I already mentioned the loss to UVM to start the conference slate 0-1. After winning vs. Stony Brook during the week, we just today dropped one vs. UNH, which means that despite starting the season 9-0, we're 1-2 in conference. Let's step it up, Dawgs! Meanwhile, USF has only had one conference game thus far, and it was Syracuse, so it's not beyond me that USF could very well stagger into the same fate. Cincy on Thursday under the lights at RayJay will be a hell of a test.

And now, for more yin and yang: On the offensive side of USF's premier Fall sport, we recently lost quarterback Matt Grothe in his senior year to an ACL injury. on the defensive side of UMBC's premier Spring sport, lockdown defenseman Bobby Atwell will be returning for his senior year after an ACL injury. Atwell could very well be starting his year of competition as we speak; UMBC lax is up outside of Philly right now competing in the 3rd annual Nick Colleluori Classic, where they'll play both Hofstra and Villanova today.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Different School, Same Tricks

This past Saturday, when USF opened Big East play at the Carrier Dome, I was a little nervous. Sure, it was Syracuse, who has been a cellar dweller in the Big East for a few years now, but the past two years USF has gone through the OOC schedule like gangbusters only to fall flat when conference play came around. So much as I'm trepidacious of the NFC championship game as an Eagles fan, the beginning of conference play caused a little anxiety for me as a Bulls fan.

We did, however, make it through the Cuse game. It remained a little close for comfort throughout the first half, but the Bulls pulled away in the second half. We're now 1-0 in conference and have a bye this week on our way to a Thursday night showdown with #8 Cincinnati.

UMBC, however, didn't fare quite so well. After starting the men's soccer season an unprecedented 9-0-0, they walked into Vermont, who at the time were a paltry 0-6-3. It was the Catamounts who walked out the victors, giving them a 1-0 conference record and starting the Dawgs off at 0-1. Here's hoping we don't go on a skid a la USF football the past two years. We get the first chance to redeem ourselves tomorrow night at home under the lights against Stony Brook.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Woman Up Front

As you well know, when it comes to college sports, I talk mostly about my two alma maters, USF and UMBC. This weekend, there's no shortage of things to talk about. USF football is trying to break into a yet-to-exist "Big 4" in the state of Florida, while UMBC men's soccer heads to LaSalle in hopes of improving their record to 9-0. But I also work at UNCG, and not only are we in the midst of our FallFest/Homecoming weekend, but we've got some other big news.

UNCG has a new athletic director. Long-tenured Nelson Bobb left the institution at the end of this past school year, and after a comprehensive national search, Kim Record is our new AD. Record was most recently at Florida State as Sr. Associate AD, and from what little one can glean from an introductory press conference, she seems as though she's going to be a great fit for our University and its present and future growth.

Record joins the ranks as one of 29 female ADs in Division I. It's worth noting that UNCG was founded as a women's institution, first co-educating in 1963, and that our current chancellor is the second female chancellor in school history, immediately preceding our first. Of those, only 3 are at schools in BCS conferences--Maryland (whose AD Debbie Yow used to run UNCG's booster club), Arizona State, and Cal.

Some other interesting breakdowns of this group of 29: 15 are at schools with football (5 are FBS, while 10 are FCS). Five are at HBCUs. And interestingly enough, five are right here in North Carolina, in the UNC System. NC Central, Charlotte, UNC Wilmington, UNC Asheville, and now UNCG all have female ADs. That's 5 out of 16 schools, and not all of them are D-I. Way to be, NC!

So welcome to UNCG, Kim Record! We've got a great thing going here. Damn it feels good to be a Spartan!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Ocho

USF's past couple of games have been lower-profile, so watching them on TV hasn't been an option. So this Saturday, I was getting score updates by text, as I always do, while at a marching band competition. I saw we won 59-0, and was pleased that we did what I feel we should against a I-AA opponent. Little did I know at the time that an injury had occurred that would end the college career of the face of the program, Matt Grothe.

You hate to see anyone get injured, much less in the career-ending manner, but certainly it being Matt Grothe, a young man who has given so much to our program, particularly stings. I have no doubt he'll continue to provide leadership off the field, but I'm sad--perhaps for no one more than Matt himself--that he will no longer be on it.

Matt Grothe is the all-time total offensive leader in the Big East, having surpassed Pat White earlier this season. He's been known to be USF's leading passer AND rusher, and will undoubtedly be missed behind the line of scrimmage.

Waiting in the wings is redshirt freshman B.J. Daniels, and he's got a steep hill to climb right out of the gate, when the Bulls head up to Tallahassee to take on FSU, fresh off of a takedown of #7 BYU. It's anyone's guess how this game will go, but this may be Daniels' opportunity to start a career as a giant-killer. After all, Miami comes later in the season, and next year, in what will be a matchup between a Grothe-less USF team and a Tebow-less Florida, B.J. will have a leg up on whoever succeeds Tebow. And we've still got an entire conference slate to go this year. I'm confident that should this team do what it sets out to do each and every year and win a Big East championship, Grothe will be a huge part of that title, regardless of whether or not he's the one slinging the ball.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mission vs. Tradition

Yes! I'm not gonna lie, when I knew I was going to be talking about BYU vs. Florida State, I started thinking of a moniker in the mold of "Catholics vs. Convicts" for a matchup between a traditional Florida powerhouse and a school with religious affiliation. Mormons vs. Meatheads? Churchies vs. Cheaters? Native Americans vs. Manifest Destiny [c'mon, Seminoles? Westward expansion of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints? You love it, nerds.]? Finally it hit me: Mission vs. Tradition.

BYU is on a mission. Not just for themselves, but for every little guy who wants in. For every onlooker who wants to thumb their nose at the system. BYU's mission: An undefeated season and what will be the most legitimate shot any team from a non-BCS auto-qualifying conference has ever had. Many, myself included, are watching with bated breath. And their next big BCS conference roadblock is Florida State.

Florida State has a mission of their own. the Seminole lost a tough one to their archrivals Miami to start the season, then had a too-close-for-comfort game against the Gamecocks... of Jacksonville State. BYU will be a gut check and a chance at a victory over the #7 team in the nation and what could be the springboard for a return to their traditional prominence.

The two clash in Week 3.

I've honestly got reasons to want to see both win. For FSU, they're on USF's schedule this year--next week, in fact--and I want them to look as strong as possible to get the most mileage out of a USF victory (or close loss, for that matter). I could also stand not to see them come into next week's game full of piss and vinegar after losing this weekend and starting the season 1-2. No, I'm not above rooting for FSU to be all fat and happy on a BYU hangover and be surprised when the Bulls come to town. We'll be on the road in Doak; I'll take advantage.

On the flip side, I'd like to see BYU keep living the dream and scaring the BCS powers that be. at #7, with a win over Oklahoma and potentially FSU, as well as TCU and Utah still to come on the schedule, the national championship game is a potential reality for BYU in a manner that it never has been for a non-auto-qualifying school in the BCS era. I'll be the first to admit, as a Big East alum, I find the Mountain West's continued cries for relevancy--often at our expense--annoying, but I can't deny the real deal. I'd love to see them take it all the way.

Plus I've got quite a few friends who are BYU alums. Though to be fair, I've also got several who are FSU alums/fans, and then others who are FSU rivals/haters. So the friend comparison is a bit of a wash. It may be a gametime decision who I'm pulling for, but one thing's for sure: I'll be paying attention.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Welcome to the Dawg House

UMBC alum and pro laxer Drew Westervelt was featured on Inside Lacrosse showing off UMBC's athletic facilities and campus.


In somewhat related news, UMBC men's soccer is off to a great start, notching a win against Baltimore's wrong black and gold (Towson) to improve to 5-0-0 on the season. Once again, Go Bulls!

And in completely unrelated news, I'd like to give a shout-out to Reser's Fine Foods. They are a west coast property, so I'm sad to say I haven't actually tasted their stuff, but they ran a contest on Facebook where you were to post a picture of yourself tailgating. I submitted a picture of us tailgating at NightBEAT this past year, and I got a set of folding tailgate chairs out of the deal. Good stuff!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Finally...

I had been awaiting this past Sunday since the schedules came out: Eagles vs. Panthers in Charlotte, a mere hour and a half from my home in Greensboro. I had talked to a bunch of friends to see who was in, but by the time I realized I had to go the StubHub route and pay a little more for the tickets than the casual fans were thinking, it just ended up being me and my boy Ian heading down the road.

I picked him up just past 8am to get down to the lot around 9:30 to begin tailgating. IT was the perfect day for it--low 80s, sunny day... I was reminded that football season is the most wonderful time of the year. We pulled into the lot next to some boisterous Carolina fans who feigned disgust at my Eagles attire but were quite soon wonderful hosts. We acknowledged that this is one of the most wonderful days of the year, football was back, and at least for the time being, both of our teams were undefeated. They were down from Kernersville (not too far from where I live). On my other side, up pulled a couple more Eagles fans who had made the trip down from Virginia Beach. Our plot was just me, Ian, and soon my boy James who lives in Charlotte and came over to hang out, but very quickly us and our two neighbors were one group. Such is the neighborhood of tailgating.

While I came to love sports up north, I came to love tailgating in the south. I'd like to think I put out a pretty decent spread nowadays--I've gotten pretty methodical about packing up the ol' Honda Civic, I've got a nice assortment of foldable chairs, and even added a pop-up tent to the array. I've also graduated beyond mere burgers and dogs and started throwing a few more things on the grill. This time around some more creative things on the grill. This time around featured skewers with steak, shrimp, and peppers in addition to the burgers and dogs.

That said, I can readily admit that this here Yankee is still an amateur. Our Panthers fan neighbors had perhaps THE best ribs I've ever tasted--I watched them fall off the bone on the grill--as well as some amazing potato salad. And there was no fancy equipment involved either. They had a propane grill about the same size as my Old Faithful charcoal one that's been seeing tailgates since grad school at USF. These guys just knew what the hell they were doing, and again, we were all generous with the food. I aspire to be that guy with the awesome food at the tailgate one of these days.

Eventually, it was game time, and we packed up and headed up to the stadium. It was a fairly short walk from our lot; it was probably longer once we got into the stadium and trudged our way up to section 548, row 26. There was actually a pretty sizable Eagles contingent both in the lots and in our section and elsewhere throughout the stadium, so while we were clearly the road team, it felt like a bit of home. It was nice to have enough folks to strike up a rousing chorus of "Fly Eagles Fly" after each score.

And score we did, with no small help from the Panthers themselves. Eagles won easily 38-10, with the vast majority of those points coming off of turnovers--5 INTs and 3 fumbles accounted for 28 points, if I remember correctly. It got to the point where the Panthers fans were booing Jake Delhomme (wait, I thought only we Philly fans boo our own?) and the loudest cheers of the day came when his backup trotted out to lead an offensive series. Overall it was an enjoyable game to be an Eagles fan, save for injury to McNabb.

I heard tell from a coworker of mine that someone on a local radio show was talking about how he saw firsthand how rude the legendary Philly phanbase is, but honestly, I didn't see it. I did see a couple Eagles fans being escorted out by the police (which evoked, I'll admit, cheers of E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES! from the Eagles fans in the surrounding area) but I saw the same with some Panthers fans. I think there was plenty loud, boisterous support, and maybe we didn't cower as much as we should have in an opposing team's stadium, but at least from where I was sitting--and our area was pretty evenly mixed, so there was plenty of opportunity for interaction between Eagles and Panthers fans--I didn't witness any assholian behavior.

I will say however, that got DAMN we can be annoying. Yes, we pretty much outnumbered the Panthers fans by the time the game was over, but there only so many E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!! chants that are necessary.

All in all, though, helluva day. If only I could make it happen more often...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A word to the wise:

If you're filming what's probably the most well-known marching maneuver in all of college sports, do your homework so you don't get whacked with a sousaphone.

Start watching at 2:40 and see the the "i" isn't the only thing that gets dotted.

Friday, September 11, 2009

In Remembrance of 9/11

As the country reflects on the events of September 11, 2001, I think it's appropriate in this blog to acknowledge one way in which the day was commemorated back in 2001.

On November 17, 2001, Auburn University and the University of Alabama would meet in the Iron Bowl, their annual rivalry game. What happened at halftime made history. For the first time, the University of Alabama Million Dollar Marching Band and the Auburn University Marching Band took the field together in a showing of the unity of the American people.

I've expressed before my view on mass bands: In most cases, I don't like them. Regardless of how buddy-buddy two programs may be, the fact remains that on game day, you are supporting teams that are lining up on opposite ends of the field, and, at least in game sense, you are enemies. But that was one of the things that made this performance that much more meaningful. These weren't just two teams that happened to be matched up with one another for one night of football. These are schools that hate each other 400 days out of every 365 day year. And yet, their two bands came together for something larger than themselves in a showing of unity.

I wish it was possible to find on Youtube or somewhere, but I do have it on mp3, and I'll leave you with the words that introduced the two programs:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, today is a special day in Iron Bowl history and the great state of Alabama. For the first time, our two great universities share the field at halftime in an unprecedented event and come together as one as we pay tribute to the greatest country on Earth in a salute to America. Under the joint direction of Kathryn Scott and Dr. Rick Good, the University of Alabama Million Dollar Band and the Auburn University Marching Band open with the Theme from 2001, a year in our nation's history when we put aside our differences to stand together in support of our great country, the United States of America."

Monday, September 7, 2009

And we're back!

Welcome to those who made their way over from the link The Bull Gator! If you're not already reading his blog, definitely check it out. If you're a Bull or a Gator, the connection is obvious, but even if you're not, there's still quality sports coverage and enjoyable reading to be had.

College football's opening weekend took off just as I expected, and it was glorious. I got up for the start of College Gameday and was pleasantly surprised to hear Big & Rich leading off the show. I mentioned the fears of the Chesney song in the last post, and after having heard it on Thursday night I was even more afraid. Instead, it seems they're leaving Big & Rich for the opening and using "This Is Our Moment" as a commercial lead-in, which I can support.

My fiancee chose to excuse herself from the house and spend some time with a friend of hers while I gorged on college football. My future brother-in-law was in an out of the room, but largely, the big screen was all mine. This was also my first full football season with HD--I got it hooked up in early January, just in time for the BCS championship game last year.

A good deal of my early day was spent bouncing around, though I spent a significant amount of time watching our conferencemates Syracuse with their new point guard quarterback Greg Paulus. They're actually looking pretty good, and suffered a tough loss in OT. I also watched a good deal of tOSU/Navy, and Wake Forest/Baylor (after looking for UGA/OK State and being reminded that "regional action" = ACC here). In the prime time spot, I was relegated to Gamecast for the Bulls game (no love, Time Warner Cable) and I started watching BYU and Oklahoma in the House that Jerry Built before switching to the game The Man told me to watch, Bama-VT. Clearly I should have stayed in Arlington.

Sunday I got to embrace the one thing I miss the most watching college football on TV: Halftime shows. I headed west to Winston-Salem's Bowman Gray Stadium, home of the Winston Salem State Rams. It's Aggie-Ram weekend, the weekend of the annual matchup between the Rams and the North Carolina A&T Aggies. Both HBCUs play in the MEAC and are both here in the Piedmont Triad, with A&T here in Greensboro. The related festivities include a battle of the bands that featured four high schools and three college bands: WSSU; Livingstone College from Salisbury, NC; and Shaw University from Raleigh. The three college bands are all HBCUs and march in a traditional, high-step show style, but the high schools were evenly split between traditional style and corps style.

This made for an interesting dynamic. It's been my experience that it's fairly rarely that these two worlds intersect, and for the most part they don't know quite what to make of one another. See also: corps style kids and the movie Drumline. In this case, it was a traditional style crowd who didn't know quite what to make of the two corps style bands that were there. For that matter, neither did the host, a local on-air personality at the hip-hop station. I should clarify that the "battle" is really for the court of public opinion, as there is no declared winner, but it was clear which way the crowd was leaning.

True enough, once upon a time, I had no particular love for corps style bands. After growing quite a bit and particularly since becoming a DCI fan, I've come to respect excellence regardless of what style it comes in. That said, I will note that corps style bands are more likely to have judge-pleasing as their focus, while traditional style bands are more likely to have a crowd-pleasing focus, and my bias remains for traditional style.

Another interesting point: One of the high school bands there, Harding University High School form Charlotte, marched in the Inaugural Parade, and their pre-show included a letter from President Obama. I smiled smugly knowing that there's a high school band up in DE with a similar letter.

Back to Monday and college football action. Cincy beat the piss out of Rutgers, which I, for one, was glad to see. USF doesn't have any true rivals. I hold mental good natured rivalries with WVU and Louisville, but I just plain don't like Rutgers. I'm sure this clip has something to do with it.

I just watched a helluva game between FSU and Miami and a heartbreaker for the Nole faithful out there. And watching the game, it looks like USF really needs to be ready for September 26 and November 28 to escape one or both of those with a win.

A brief look at fall news for my other alma mater: UMBC men's soccer seems to be doing well, and as a USF alum, it amuses me that our leading scorer is Andrew Bulls. Go Bulls!

Finally, I think I conjured up some bad mojo with that Rutgers clip. Let's hope this clip here clears the air.

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