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Thursday, February 21, 2013

I heard you like championships...

After having only referred to it as a "special series" in an earlier announcement, DCI recently announced the return of the Tour of Champions, this time featuring just seven corps; unsurprisingly, the same seven who keep throwing their weight around. This year, there's a potential new wrinkle - Santa Clara Vanguard's Jeff Fiedler shared the following:

“The scores for each Tour of Champions event will be based on the DCI judging system, however, we've been discussing a sequential scoring system that will result in a season-long champion at the end of the series” 

To be honest, this doesn't make a lick of sense to me. The Tour of Champions, by their own bombastic naming convention (never mind that not all corps have been champions at the World Class level), is already almost certain to yield the DCI champion. If the TOC events are using the DCI judging system, what does a series champion prove? Either one corps will win both this championship and the World Championship, making the former redundant, or one corps will happen to catch fire for these seven specific events, giving them an also-ran title that will ring hollow in the face of the actual championship.

There are a few ways that a new title could be introduced to DCI in a way that makes sense. If DCI were to break into conferences - a move which could ease the tour burden on some of the less prominent corps - it would make sense to crown a champion of each conference, not unlike the way major sports operate.

Crowning a Tour of Champions champion would make sense if and only if it uses a difference scoring rubric than the tour in general uses. Otherwise, you're simply re-rewarding that which the system is already set up to reward.

There's one more championship that could make sense. If the Tour of Champions corps truly wish to be separate, fine. Why not add a "best of the rest" championship? You could make the TOC corps their own division (or subdivision, a la college football) and reward an additional champion from the remaining World Class corps. This way, perennial finalists who have little shot at winning it all have their glass ceiling removed in a way that could add intrigue to the activity.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

B1G Tobacco

First, I understand firsthand that the rumor mill is on overdrive when it comes to conference realignment, and some of what's out there is just an exercise in flinging poo against a wall to see what sticks. Still, the latest is intriguing, if only for regional interest and an exercise in "what if".

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reportedly has an offer from the Big Ten. It's been given a slightly higher level of attention because it's being reported by the same folks who broke College Park to the Big Ten, though to be fair, they're a Maryland blog, so having the inside track on that one made more sense.

Carolina makes sense as a national brand, a power in basketball, decent in football, and strong academically, though we'll get into the caveats with that a little later. It expands the Big Ten footprint southward, which is ok, because, well, geography be damned. While the Big Ten isn't at all in danger in this game of conference Survivor, this strikes a powerful blow against the ACC, which could be effective if the end game is the continued pursuit of the great white buffalo we know as Notre Dame. This could prove interesting; Notre Dame could be school 17 if the other half of the rumor - UVA to the Big Ten as well - is to be believed. This makes sense, if Jim Delany is to be believed that it matters to keep the footprint contiguous.

Still, while the Big Ten touts their academics, there is that little matter of the recent investigation with academic issues and UNC athletics. The Marching Tar Heels would continue to water down the Big Ten marching tradition, which says nothing of UVA (if the Virginia Pep Band were still the primary marching organization of Virginia football, John Phillip Sousa might roll over in his grave). And of course, if UNC splits with Duke, yet another major rivalry goes by the wayside in the name of realignment. Following Duke's basketball game in College Park, Coach K said of the Terps-Duke rivalry: “If it was such a rivalry, they’d still be in the ACC." Will he have the same retort if their archrival leaves without them?

If there is indeed a decision to be made, it may hinge upon whether or not the exit fee is upheld for College Park. Any ACC school with a wandering eye would do well to watch closely to find out whether or not a leap will cost them $50 million. Regardless, a UNC exit would head down the road of the sort of instability that doomed the Big East. After all, a Big Ten expanding to 16+ would likely prompt a move from the SEC, and the logical target is the ACC. The Big 12 may jump into the game as well, and you head down the road to the end game I spoke about here - East Coast irrelevance.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Crooked Letters of Intent

Mississippi's an easy target. They're a mainstay near the bottom of the state rankings in education. They're the only state to still contain the Confederate battle flag as part of the state flag. The governor himself blocked integration of the state's flagship university. They decided in 2013 to finally getting around to ratifying that pesky 13th amendment. So while I try my best to steer clear  of depicting southerners of dumb, backwoods hicks, I've been known to make exceptions for the state of Mississippi, despite personally knowing individuals who exemplify the opposite.

In the world of college sports, Mississippi and Mississippi State are  as Player 2 as it gets. The two schools tend to be the most likely to join in the "SEC!" chant without contributing to the gross domestic product. In the past three seasons, five of the seven SEC West schools have played in BCS bowls. The outliers? You guessed it. The Mississippi schools. There are now seven SEC schools with Sudler Trophies; five are in the West. The two without? Yup, the Magnolia State. Only once has Mississippi had to look more than a state away to see the crystal football since 2007, yet no championship has graced its borders in half a century.

All hope is not lost, though, and while the south certainly hasn't been down, Rebels and Bulldogs alike hope the state will rise again in their respective favors. Ole Miss may have stricken a blow with this year's recruiting, pulling in a consensus top-10 class (though to be fair, there are as many as three divisionmates ahead of them, depending on the site). One class does not a dynasty, or even a winning record, make, but Hugh Freeze certainly has things trending upwards for the Rebels. Seasons to come will see if the fruits of this labor will be realized.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mass Changes

The latest rung on the realignment ladder comes directly into a conference near and dear to me, and this time, it's not the Big East. The UMass Lowell River Hawks are making the move from Division II to Division I and with it, adding men's and women's lacrosse and joining America East. The move will keep conference membership steady, as the River Hawks will replace the Boston University, who is departing for the Patriot League.

I'm happy for UMass Lowell. As a school, they first hit my radar about a decade ago as one of the few schools to have a marching band and no football team (coincidentally, BU is another). They're clearly looking to raise their profile with the move to Division I, and more power to 'em.

That said, their addition pings on what frustrates me about UMBC's continued affiliation with America East. The Retrievers joined the conference in 2003, making the move the season after I graduated, and to hear those more in the know tell it, the plan had always been to bridge the gap between MD and the rest of the conference in New York and New England. A few changes to conference membership have taken place since then, yet nearly a decade later, we still don't ha ve a conference foe closer than Stony Brook, some 250 miles away. I'm not sure if our eye is strategically wandering as realignment continues to roll along, but it ought to be.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Taken to the Mat

Is wrestling - the real kind - in danger of going extinct?

It's been said by some to be the oldest sport, depicted on cave paintings and a mainstay at the ancient Olympic games. Wrestling has been a part of the modern Olympics since it began in 1896,   but by the 2020 summer games, it will be no more.

This isn't the first blow that's been stricken against wrestling, but it may be the last. For decades, wrestling has meant, to the common person, a scripted spectacle put on by Vince McMahon rather than the olympic sport. Boxing has had its commercial heyday, and MMA is at the forefront now. At the college level, wrestling has been a Title IX casualty at a number of schools. As opportunities continue to diminish, what will make young men (and women) in the US want to take to the mat in the first place?

I'll be honest, I'm speaking a bit out of turn here. I don't follow wrestling closely, and can't pretend I know the entire climate that led to its omission from the games. Still, to me, this just seems like a slap in the face of the tradition I've always believed the Olympics to stand for. It's jettisoning one of the original sports, and while I'll stop short of throwing any specific sport under the bus, it would seem to me there are other, more newer-fangled sports that could stand to see themselves in this position other than wrestling.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


It's extremely rare for a road pep band to visit an opponent's arena in college basketball. The short distance and the frenetic nature of the Duke-UNC rivalry would make it a prime candidate, but of course the inclusion of the band in either arena would take away precious seating from patrons. This matchup'll have to wait for the ACC Tournament.



Sunday, February 10, 2013

Claiming Championships

You may have noticed, especially if you also follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter, that I seemed to be going extra hard for the Ravens during their recent run to a Super Bowl championship. But why? As I recently laid out my sports allegiances, you'll notice that the Ravens are my #2 NFL team, but you'll also notice I've had relatively little opportunity to root for my own  team on the grandest stage.

One of the most poignant was Allen Iverson dragging the 2000-2001 76ers on his back to the NBA Finals against the Lakers. The Philadelphia Daily News cover commemorating AI and crew thwarting what all expected to be a sweep still hangs on my wall - never mind that, save for the opening game, they did indeed sweep that.

In 2002, the Terps made it to the mountaintop, with men's basketball winning the NCAA championship. Still, at that point I had far more interest in sitting back in Catonsville and taking bets on property damage in College Park after having witnessed the riots the year before after the Final Four loss to Duke.

I did get to see "my" team break an 86 year streak in 2004. After a monstrous ALCS comeback over the hated New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox went on to win the World Series. Still, baseball falls pretty low on my depth chart of major sports, and besides, at that point I was in school with folks who actually lived and died by the Sox. This championship was for them, not for me.

My real shot came in early 2005, as my own Philadelphia Eagles finally got over the NFC Championship hump and headed to the Super Bowl to face the New England Patriots. Sadly, the Birds fell short in that one, failing to quench a then-22 year championship drought for the city of Philadelphia.

Then, it seemed nearly a tease in 2008 when the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series. I was nothing but happy for the city of Philadelphia and for the entire Delaware Valley that roots for its teams, but the Phillies are the one Philly team that isn't my primary in its respective sport, so once again, this one wasn't for me.

So as this postseason wore on and the Baltimore Ravens inched ever closer to the Super Bowl, I found myself once again once again rooting less for a team and more for a city. This past Tuesday, I proudly watched a city I love celebrate with a championship parade, just as I did back in 2008.

But once again, it wasn't my championship. Maybe next year.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

On Allegiances

In several recent posts, I've alluded to several of my allegiances and rooting interests, especially as the Baltimore Ravens were en route to the Super Bowl. While one could probably construct a pretty solid idea of my teams by my posts and tags, I realize I don't believe I've ever laid it all out in one place. So here it goes:

NFL: My Wilmington, DE upbringing makes me solidly a Philadelphia Eagles fan. Having gone to school in Baltimore and married a woman from there, I tend to root for the Baltimore Ravens as well, as is well documented these past few days.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers, near exclusively.

NHL: While I don't follow hockey much, my Philly area kneejerk makes me a Philadelphia Flyers fan. I'm never mad to see the Carolina Hurricanes succeed, since they're the current home team.

MLB: I probably reached my peak of baseball fandom in elementary school, which is why, to the degree I care, I am a Boston Red Sox fan, having been born in Boston. As much as I'd like to, the Philly kneejerk just doesn't make me care about the Philadelphia Phillies; the fact that my wife cares about the Baltimore Orioles makes me pay a bit more attention to them.

MLL: Now that we have a home team here in North Carolina, I pull for the Charlotte Hounds, though before that one of my few extraregional rooting interests was the Denver Outlaws, because of their tendency to field UMBC alumni.

DCI: Carolina Crown is the home team, though I became a fan, mostly for their brass sound, before I ever live in NC. Extraregionally, I've also been a Santa Clara Vanguard fan for as long as I've followed DCI, both because I got to see them during a teach-in and because of their cymbals.

MLS: Don't care. Kneejerk Philadelphia Union.

NASCAR: REALLY don't care. but Jeff Gordon's car says Dupont on it, and I'm from Delaware.

College: Here's where it gets interesting. I first, foremost and always follow my alma maters, UMBC and USF, in that order, in the few occasions that call for it. I work at UNCG, so I follow their programs ex officio. And though it's a love-hate relationship, I tend to pull for the University of Maryland, College Park, especially in men's basketball.

Marching: While there's not a particular program to which I hitch my wagon, I have a strong bias towards traditional and show-style marching, which often aligns me with the Big Ten and HBCUs. I also lean in the direction of pretty much anyone with a Sudler Trophy.

There you have it. All biases on the table.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Digging Up Roses

I may have inadvertently uncovered a wrinkle in the new playoff format and what it means for the New Years Day traditions that surround college football. After reading that with the new playoff format the Rose Bowl would be be on New Years Eve instead of New Years Day following the 2016 and 2022 seasons, I asked, of no one in particular but tagging two parties:

Several days later, @roseparade responded that it would follow its typical Sunday rule and hold the parade on January 2. For as long as the Rose Parade has existed, long before there was an NFL to conflict with, it has been tradition never to hold the parade on a Sunday, holding it instead on the next day. To this I responded:

Strangely enough, shortly after that last tweet, Rose Parade deleted their previous tweet to me. Did I stumble upon a not-yet-explored incongruence in the plan? Consider this: If the parade and game follow normal syntax, it would mean putting the Rose Parade on December 31, a departure, albeit slight, from a century and a quarter-long tradition that would result in both years having two Rose Parades. If, as the Twitter account stated, the parade is held on January 2, it poses an even larger problem. By that point, the game will have been played. There will be a winner and a loser. Would either institution, especially the losing school, keep their band in Pasadena for an additional two days for the parade? Even with a parade of this magnitude, that's quite a tall order.

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