One Shot

I had completely forgot about this, but back in 1996 tiny Western Carolina, a 16 seed, nearly knocked off 1-seed Purdue. They had a three at the end to win. It bounced off the back of rim. They got the rebound and put up one more shot for the tie. Off the back rim. So close.
Fast forward 11 years, the head coach of the ’96 Catamounts, Phil Hopkins is still a head coach. At a junior high.
His top assistant? A young Thad Matta who is now the head coach of 1 seed Ohio State.
Pretty incredible how things can change. If that shot had gone in, Hopkins would be legend. Instead, he’s forgotten.
It’s a great story.

Big Four Hegemony Over?

Growing up as an ACC fan outside of North Carolina, I quickly learned to resent the Big Four schools. I mostly hated UNC, of course, but I was also really annoyed at how the conference really only seemed to exist to serve the schools in North Carolina. The ACC Tournament was nearly always there, players from those schools littered the all-conference teams and the media focused on Tobacco Road. It felt like Virginia, Maryland, Clemson and Georgia Tech were just around to fill things out a bit, like we were part of the club, but still couldn’t go into the VIP Lounge in the back.
Over the years, I grew to learn that things weren’t really artificially tilted toward the Old North State. Yes, North Carolina was and still is the main focus, but that’s for a very good reason – the conference (and I’m talking basketball here) has been dominated by those four teams. In addition, it’s served the ACC very well over the years to have this geographic and cultural center. It’s here in North Carolina where the ACC matters the most and where the league’s heart truly lies. Expansion has diluted things, but make no mistake, the ACC still revolves around the Big Four.
But the absolute dominance might be wavering. David Glenn wrote a brief piece today echoing a fact someone told me last week – this could be the first year in ACC history that fewer than two Big Four teams will finish in the top four of the ACC standings. That will happen unless Boston College, Virginia or Virginia Tech slip and Duke moves up. Of course, that’s probably exactly what’s going to happen.
If things do hold like they currently stand, I don’t really think it means much in the long term. For one thing, the ACC simply has more teams now. For a long while, finishing in the top four only meant you were in the top half of the league, and considering that the Big Four made up half (or so) of the ACC, it’s really not that surprising. Hell, UNC alone has only missed being in the top three a handful of times in league history. Also, both Duke and Carolina are still among the nation’s top five programs. They aren’t going anywhere and they’ll be fighting for ACC supremacy for the foreseeable future.
So, non-North Carolina teams, you better resign yourself to more of this:
ACC Men’s Basketball Championships

Duke — 16
North Carolina — 15
N.C. State — 10
Wake Forest — 4
Everyone Else Combined — 8 (Georgia Tech 3, Maryland 3, South Carolina 1, Virginia 1)

Pay To Play

The Boston Globe ran a great, disturbing article the other day about the relationship between Pop Warner youth football leagues and Disney. Each year, Pop Warner hosts age-group national championships at Disney’s facility in Orlando and charges the teams ridiculous amounts of money for the honor.
The agreement between Pop Warner and Disney stipulates that each participant on every team stay four nights at an official Disney hotel and buy at least two day passes to a Disney park.
From the article:

While rooms were available at a nearby Comfort Inn through for $51.43 a night during Pop Warner’s championships, Disney’s least expensive package for the Pop Warner teams required a three-night stay (four persons per room) at Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort and a four-day theme park pass for $319 per person. At that rate, Disney received $1,276 per room, or nearly $425 a night.

Given that Pop Warner often caters to inner-city kids (the league are only $30 to join for a season) and the teams have a short time to raise funds for their trips (and find flights), many teams and coaches take on tremendous debt to get the kids to the tournament.
The whole thing makes me sick. First up on “deserves an ass-kicking” podium is the Disney spokesman who had the balls to say “We understand it can be difficult for some teams. That’s why we do all we can to work with them.” Please. For Disney, “doing all that they can” would include making it free. I understand that they are a business, but extorting kids is bad enough. Don’t lie to us too.
Next up on the podium are the Pop Warner leaders who agreed to this ridiculous arrangement. They claim that no other venue can handle the tournament, but that’s ludicrous. There are probably hundreds of locations that could support the tournaments. Maybe they wouldn’t quite as nice as Disney, but they wouldn’t require volunteer coaches to max out their credit cards to get the kids there either.
Last up are all the parents and coaches who agree to go through with all of this. Why would you go to debt for a damn youth football tournament? So little Johnnie can get another trophy? Do they really think the kids wouldn’t be perfectly satisfied with a regional or state title? Is it really worth having no Christmas for or having your heat turned off? Somehow I don’t think the power company is going to be sympathetic that you just had to take a week’s vacation to Orlando so you can’t pay the bill this month.
People piss me off sometimes.

Chuck The Ex

According to the News and Observer, Chuck Amato has been fired at NC State. The news is evidently not official, but N&O cites several unnamed sources. While I used the verb “fired,” the N&O doesn’t quite put it that way, but I seriously doubt that Old Chuck resigned unless it was with a revolver at his temple.
This coaching search should be a hell of a lot of fun. State searches always are, but considering that Carolina just ran a very successful search a few weeks ago, well … I think Lee Fowler is going to be under a hell of a lot of pressure. How will he top Butch Davis? Bill Cowher is a pipe dream. Norm Chow might be as well, and won’t be available for at least five weeks. One name I never really heard in the UNC search, but I think should be near the top of State’s list is Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster. That man can coach!
BTW, I learned of this news on my own site from veteran poster Ed-Hoo!
Other Amato fired links:
Pack Pride
850 The Blog


Looking for a little something special for your little something special this holiday season? Well, how about some music from basketball star and Christian crooner Jerry Stackhouse (scroll down a bit)?
Word on the street is that following the huge success of this limited release single, he has a new track hitting stores in January. It’s a cover of a classic – “Eight Days A Week.” The B-Side is a original, “Slapping Laettner On A Plane.”

Miami Lineman Shot, Killed

This is a terrible story. Miami defensive tackle Bryan Pata was shot and killed shortly after practice today.
That’s awful for Pata’s family, friends and teammates and the program in general. It’s been a tough, tough year in Coral Gables, but this is by the far the worst thing yet.
At some point, you have to wonder if all the shootings and violence that surround that team will affect their ability to recruit. Would you want your kid playing there?

Brian Davis Is The Man

You’ve probably seen the story by now, former Duke basketball players Brian Davis and Christian Laettner are teaming up (again) to buy the Memphis Grizzlies. Davis and Laettner are putting up $40 million of a $252 million purchase of 70% of the club. The two found other investors to fill out the rest of the money, but Davis will be considered the owner.
Now, I remember Brian Davis as a player on those legendary Duke teams. He was a bad ass. A small forward, he could guard four positions and could score when the team needed it. In fact, it was Davis who scored the final critical basket in Duke’s famous 1991 upset of undefeated UNLV.
Davis went on to play one season in the NBA and probably a few more overseas, but he really excelled in business. He and Laettner founded Blue Devil Ventures, a real estate company that has successfully rebuilt large chunks of Durham’s downtown. Clearly that development was not just good for Durham, but profitable for Davis and Laettner.
We all know that Dukies are supposed to be flops in the NBA. Now it turns out that maybe they can’t dominate it on the court (although that myth has largely been shattered by Elton Brand, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and others), but they can literally own the league.
That says some pretty good things about Duke University and Mike Krzyzewski’s program doesn’t it? I know they hardly need any more good news and it’s much more fun to hate on the Blue Devils, but you can’t deny that this story is impressive.
Unfortunately for me, Davis’ success says some things about my career as well. You see, I graduated from college the same year that Davis did… Let’s just say I’m a few paychecks away from buying any pro sports franchises.

Chad Johnson Got POPPED

Man, did you see the hit that Chad Johnson took last Sunday?  That was incredible.  As a poster on the Sports Frog wrote, the guy knocked the color out of his hair.
The Mighty MJD, while writing for AOL, has a nice post up that shows a video of the hit along with another showing Johnson trying to give an interview after the game.  Ever watched someone try to convince their girlfriend that they aren’t really drunk?  That’s what Johnson looks like in that interview.  I’m not sure he has any idea what is going on.

Laces Out!!

Perhaps you’ve been following the drama surrounding UNC’s quarterback for the upcoming season.  Actually, probably not.

The situation is that, UNC has only two guys who are viable candidates, Joe Dailey, who transferred from Nebraska and Cam Sexton, a redshirt freshman.  Now, normally when a school like Carolina has a transfer from a school like Nebraska, it’s a no-brainer. He played – started even – for Nebraska?  Get that kid on the field!  But with Dailey, it’s not that easy.  Yes, he started for a whole season for the Huskers, but he threw more interceptions than touchdowns and he lost his job the following spring.  Didn’t just become the backup, he fell to fourth string.  Ouch.

But now he’s in Chapel Hill and apparently he’s the starter, although they are going to play both guys.

So why am I writing about this?  Because of this picture, found at the Sports Frog –>

Good googily moogily!  What is he doing?  Not only is the form kooky-looking, but look at the ball!  Uh, Joe?  The laces are there for a reason.  I know that some QBs like to put their fingertips on the laces and some prefer to have them more under the first knuckle, but completely facing the other way?

If that guy won the quarterback battle, I have a hunch it’s going to be (another) long year in Chapel Hill.

Now THAT’s A TV!

GodzillatronHoly crap!  That right there is one big ol’ television set! 

The University of Texas decided to celebrate their 2005 National Championship by buying the largest Hi-Def screen in the world and sticking that thing above their stadium.  I wonder how many times the players will miss what’s going on in the huddle to watch their 50-foot-tall image?

Maybe Duke should put something like that in Wallace Wade.  They could show other games during their games.  They’d probably finally sell some tickets.  Ooh, or they could put The Lion King or Ice Age up there and see if they can’t get some families to bring their kids.

Thanks to 850 The Blog for the find.