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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Final Foray

Just wanted to put down some quick thoughts before the Final Four begins. Who I'd like to see win, in descending order.

Notre Dame. Despite the fact that they are a thorn in my side vis-a-vis the whole expansion mess, I'll concede that their national profile, in conjunction with their location outside of the hotbeds, makes them an attractive choice for the growth of the sport.

Cornell. A hotbed team, but they haven't won in a while, breaking the stronghold of the Big Four of the past nearly two decades.

Virginia-Duke. Virginia's part of the old guard, and Duke is Duke. I'd rather not see any of them hoist the trophy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sports Canadians Love

I'm posting on lacrosse and hockey, so I figured that title was apropos.

First of all, as a lacrosse fan and an alum of an America East school, I'm a little embarrassed that I didn't know that Stony Brook's head coach is black. I had wondered to myself early yesterday if there were any black head coaches in D1 men's lacrosse, and answered my own questions with an "of course not"... or so I thought. Watching yesterday's Stony Brook-UVA matchup, I saw Sowell on the sideline and thought surely, he must be an assistant? But I looked it up and was delightfully proven wrong.

Also during yesterday's lacrosse action, Notre Dame defeated the Terps, denying them yet another Final Four. Shortly thereafter, head coach Dave Cottle resigned, leaving the head job in College Park open. I postulated earlier that hopefully UMBC's weak season this year would keep the Terps from sniffing around Catonsville, but Neil informed me that Coach Zimmerman can't stand AD Yow. Probably because they used to sit next to each other in homeroom.

Finally, I'm watching NHL hockey, where the Flyers could conceivably clinch an Eastern conference championship tonight.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Killer Mashup

On the college football front, I've been keyed in to conference alignment talk. Recent developments in DCI have me wondering about their touring and event structure. What happens when you put the two together?

Interestingly enough, I was thinking about the concept of conferences in DCI a few days ago, before the latest news came out. While nothing is operationalized, the 23 World Class corps actually fit rather neatly into three conferences. Consider:

Boston Crusaders
The Cadets
Carolina Crown
Jersey Surf
Teal Sound

Blue Stars
The Cavaliers
Madison Scouts
Phantom Regiment

The Academy
Blue Devils
Blue Knights
Pacific Crest
Santa Clara Vanguard

While what separates World Class corps from Open Class corps is their ability to sustain a nationwide tour, the use of these conferences could allow even the World Class corps to tour primarily regionally (while still staying on the road, leaving Open Class to weekenders), as an opportunity to preserve fiscal resources in tough times, while still traveling extraregionally for major competitions and big regionals.

What does this do to the proposal from The Undersigned (what will be my new denotation of the seven corps who put forth said proposal)? The could actually be worked into this structure. Their elite designation--essentially, attempting to create a BCS in DCI--would give them additional opportunity but also additional burden. These corps would be obligated to appear at the majority of competitions in their region, making their tour schedule more demanding. In addition, They would also be required to participate in x number of out of conference matchups in each of the other two regions. The Undersigned split out quite nicely between the regions--two each in the Central and the West, and three in the East--allowing for each show to potentially have 3-4 "BCS" corps at each show.

Is this punishing The Undersigned for their stance? Yes and no. It is giving them both additional opportunity and additional responsibility. Their choice to enter into this agreement is based upon those seven corps' recent and historical success. Their argument, though they may not voice this explicitly, is that they are the corps who put butts into seats; an argument with which  I can't say I disagree. This is an opportunity for additional service to the Association as a whole--something they claimed in the press release--as well as the opportunity to serve themselves, potentially commanding higher cuts of shows at which they appear. 

This does, unfortunately, create a BCS-like dichotomy among the World Class corps, where The Undersigned are the members of the auto-qualifying conferences and the other 16 World Class corps play the role of the other five conferences who are essentially shut out from championship competition. For the fun of continuing the analogy, Open Class = FCS. Occasionally a Boise State may emerge (Blue Stars?) or a BYU, with past championships before the current structure (Madison?) but by and large the rich will get richer and the rest will get left out. 

While at face value, I'd never advocate to create a new system to emulate the BCS, might it actually make sense in this case? For all of its flaws, never can it be said that the BCS doesn't make a ton of money--it's the primary reason university presidents and ADs hesitate to ditch it outright. And money is something that DCI and its member corps could use. And with representation from The Undersigned at each show, coupled with the fan-friendly experience the press release suggests, the real winner in all of this could be the fans. Finally, a potential good use for the BCS!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Suggestion or Secession?

I was thinking not too long ago about how it's about that time of year when my sports/activity calendar starts to segue from college lacrosse to drum corps. And as if the ousting of UMBC from any tournament hopes a couple weeks back didn't already do it for me, recent developments launched DCI into the forefront.

Apparently an "ad hoc committee" (or "rogue element," depending on whom you ask) made up of representation from Blue Devils, Santa Clara Vanguard, Phantom Regiment, The Cavaliers, Bluecoats, Carolina Crown, and The Cadets have been meeting--possibly in back rooms--to craft their vision for the future of the activity. What followed is a 60-page manifesto, and while I don't know if that will ever see the light of day, a peek into their thoughts can be found here. Basically, the proposal calls for new "super events," designed to be fan-friendly and feature the seven corps mentioned, who clearly, via this process, are denoting themselves as the premier corps. It also calls for two of these top corps to be guaranteed to make a west coast appearance with BD and Vanguard. In turn, DCI's executive director has responded here.

What remains unclear is if this is merely a suggestion, or seeds for secession. Are these corps saying "we have an idea..." or "adopt this model or else..."? While the press release describes this as something that will be good for all of the corps, it's hard to see at face value how this isn't primarily self-serving.

The language of the release is both troubling and exciting to me. On the one hand, the fact that The Cadets are among the undersigned and the proposal "...suggest[s] a plan to better marry drum corps to scholastic music..." makes me fear that it is an insidious plot to turn drum corps in to high school band, complete with electronics and woodwinds. On the flip side, the events that they propose, including pre-and post-event activities and fan involvement in voting, sound like they could be amazing for the fans and for the activity. But at what point does "the activity" become merely those seven corps?

The potential of realignment in major college football has kept them in the forefront during the offseason. Such a development in DCI may very well do the same for drum corps.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Power Play

--or-- Why the Big East May Be Doomed

I'm a Sixers fan. This past off-season, I watched in near-disbelief as the entire East made moves to improve their fortune. The Cavaliers added Shaq. The Celtics added Rasheed Wallace. The Magic added Vince Carter. With that, three of the strongest teams in the division made power plays to get even stronger. And the Sixers sat by and did nothing.

Now, as a Big East fan, I'm sitting by and watching my conference do the same thing.

Unless Marinatto is just playing his cards extremely close to the vest, I've got no reason to believe that the Big East is doing anything more than letting things play out as they may with respect to conference expansion and realignment. Trouble is, the could play out to playing the Big East out of existence. Meanwhile, other conferences are attempting to make power plays. The Big Ten's power play is setting this whole thing in motion. The SEC is a power play unto itself, and even with that is keeping a watchful eye on the landscape. The Big XII and Pac-10 are exploring the concept of a joint television network. The ACC is inking a major deal with ESPN that seeks to double revenues for conference schools. And the Big East? Sitting still, from where I sit.

Better minds than mine may have ideas on what they should be doing, but my priority points would be issuing an ultimatum (go all in or get out) to Notre Dame, extending a bid to TCU and/or others, and discussing a plan to amicably cleave BE basketball and football so expansion were possible without creating an unwieldy basketball conference.

Other than inaction, another reason the Big East is possibly doomed is geography. Despite the Big Ten's potential desire to change this fact by reaching east (or south with early Texas talks), the Big Six conferences as we currently know them are all regional conferences.

The Pac-10 is a Western conference.
The Big XII is a Heartland conference.
The Big Ten is a Midwestern conference.
The SEC is a Southern conference.
The ACC is an Eastern conference.

And the Big East? an Eastern conference. What this means is that when it comes right down to it, the Big East has to battle the ACC for regional supremacy, and it already seems the ACC is set up for victory. In fact, it was the ACC's expansion in 2005 that truly made the ACC an Eastern conference and not simply a low-res clone of the SEC. Adding Boston College (and, interestingly enough, Miami) is what stopped the ACC from being a Southern conference with Maryland as an outlier and made them moreso an entity of the East Coast. So yes, the ACC and Big East have gone toe-to-toe once before, and things didn't turn out so well for the BE.

That said, it's actually not the ACC, but the Big Ten who threatens the Big East this time. With no desire to stay in their lane, the Big Ten may look to snatch Eastern schools as it goes. As the Big East is already the smallest football conference, even the nabbing of one or two teams could prove fatal. At best, the Big East could hope for an Eastern merger. But one thing's for sure: If that happens, the new conference will likely look a whole lot more like the ACC than it does the Big East.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

So... did I miss anything?

I will not obsess over UMBC's new logo.

I will not obsess over UMBC's new logo.
I will not obsess over UMBC's new logo.
I will not obsess over UMBC's new logo.

*ahem* Hello there. Some good things happened this weekend, and I wasn't around to catch any of them. And I'm perfectly okay with that.

This weekend I was up in Baltimore for my bachelor party. And for the pieces that make sense to discuss in this blog, I went to Preakness on Saturday and an O's game on Sunday. In each case, good times were had by all, though the Preakness infield isn't exactly about the horse racing and the O's lost. But there were a couple of interesting things I didn't see, at least not live or televised.

For starters, the Flyers came back from being down 0-3 to beat the Bruins and advance to the Eastern conference finals. Since then, they've gone up 2-0 against the Canadiens. Never do I purport to be a huge Flyers fan or a huge hockey fan in general, but of course I always like to see Philly sports succeed.

But perhaps the bigger shakeups were in college lacrosse. It's no surprise to anyone that Hopkins, who very well could have missed the tournament, was a first round knockout this year, falling to Duke in what was far from the most intriguing matchup but nonetheless televised on the Mothership. A Tierney-less Princeton falling to Notre Dame is maybe a little more incredible. But no one saw two-time defending champs Syracuse falling in the first round to Army. Syracuse can usually back up their lacrosse mantra, "Death, Taxes, and the Final Four," but this year, death and taxes are all that are certain.

Don't get me wrong--I've got no thing against any of the fallen schools. But with their defeat, only Virginia remains of the four schools who have taken every lacrosse championship since 1992. Should both UVA and Carolina fail to win a championship, the sport will crown its first new champion since 1977. It's time for some new blood. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

If you can't be with the one you love...

Through all the talk of potential Big Ten expansion and whatever other issues that may lead to, I've been riding hard with the Big East. And why shouldn't I? I am, after all, a USF alum, and for the sake of both my alma mater and the conference that saw fit to call them up to the majors, I would like to see the Big East survive and thrive.

That being said...

I've seen any number of realignment scenarios out on these here internets. While they don't know a thing more than I do, it's still fun to speculate. Many have the Big East ceasing to exist and USF either being left in the cold to be scooped up by a non-BCSAQ conference, joining the ACC, or, in a longshot, joining the SEC. Clearly, should it come to this, my preference would be the ACC. I live in Greensboro, NC, where the ACC has its headquarters. With four ACC schools here in NC, they would be nearby each season, and road trips to Virginia Tech and Clemson would certainly be feasible as well. There would be USF gear in the Conference Store, USF banners in local establishments, and even green and gold in the Greensboro Coliseum where I go to see UNCG play.

I've had a couple of thoughts on expansion as it relates to areas beyond big time college football. One was lacrosse. If, for example, the Big Ten should acquire Notre Dame and Rutgers, do they, along with Ohio State and Penn State, start a Big Ten lacrosse conference? After all, the ACC teaches us that four teams = a conference.

The other thing worth pondering is: Could realignment shake enough trees to even impact non-major conference, non-football schools, like UMBC? It's actually possible. Consider this: Should the Big East be decimated into non-existence on the football side of things, it would affect the basketball side as well. While the football schools will run for the shade and shelter of the nearest BCS autobid league that will have them, Big East basketball will be left with some things to think about. No longer a 16 team superconference, the diminished Big East may look to other basketball powers to fill the void, potentially looking to other strong eastern leagues like the A-10 and the CAA. With that in mind, it's not hard to see how realignment could even touch America East and UMBC. If both USF and UMBC should get sent to conferences with representation in NC, I'll be in Bull/Dawg heaven.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I must lament

After many, many posts and a good deal of time, I should be over it, but I'm not. Tomorrow, UMBC's logo will be retired for another and I, for one, am sad to see it go.

Farewell and God speed, old friend.

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