Friday, March 09, 2007

Patriot League Championship on ESPN2

Spring sports are early in the season, and the NCAA Wrestling championships are net week. That means for Lehigh fans the most important game of the weekend is happening at 4:30 on ESPN2: the Patriot League championship in Worcester, Mass between Bucknell and Holy Cross.

It's fitting that the two teams that were head-and-shoulders better than the rest of the league should be playing in the final (though Holy Cross escaped on Sunday against feisty American, 55-53). What should be worrying Bill Simmons and the rest of the insane Holy Cross fans is that Bucknell is finally healthy, and if their inside-out game of screens, C Chris MacNaughton and F Donald Brown are clicking, it's hard to picture the Crusaders getting the win, even if Keith Simmons and Torey Thomas are doing their thing.

I did like this from Bill Simmons' Monday posting though:

• Get your TiVo ready for Bucknell at Holy Cross, Friday, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, winner advances to the NCAA Tournament! It's just too bad that Rob Stone and Bill Simmons won't be calling the action -- I could have broken Tommy Heinsohn's "most shameless homer of all time" benchmark for basketball announcing. They should have done an ESPN Full Circle and had us announce the game for ESPNU. Has an announcer ever gotten kicked off the courtside table for arguing with the refs before? Could have happened.

(Note: A few readers pointed out that Joe Lunardi's latest "Bracketology" column had No. 4 Texas pitted against No. 13 Holy Cross in Round 1. That's just cruel. I think Joe's trying to mess with my head.)

Note to Bill: I will gladly volunteer to do for free the first-round game with you should Holy Cross make the big dance. I personally guarantee you would get the most biased coverage on the planet. Picture this:

Chuck: Oden with the dunk over Clifford! Ouch! Bill, I think there was a DEFINITE change on that play.

Bill: I'd like to call Oden a student at OSU, but I have to keep the word student in quotes, since I can't prove he actually took any classes. Yes! Thomas for three!

Chuck: Are you freakin' kidding me? How could you not call a travel on Conley there? BOOO... Bill, are you leading the cheers from the announcer's booth again? That's not exactly kosher.

Bill: I'm going to give you a Tommy Point Chuck, just so you'll shut up.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The New Realities: Part III

This is going to still be Part III of my "New Realities" series exploring the Academic Index (or AI) for the Patriot League and football, but I won't be making any recommendations just yet to improve the AI. But I will share with you some of the thoughts I've been having while attempting to tackle this debate that has been raging pretty much ever since the inception of the Patriot League.

Two comments on Part I and Part II really stood out to me which made me re-evaluate some of what I had written about this topic.

The first (paraphrasing) was: "Your commentary on the AI was all well and good, but what does it have to do with Georgetown?" It caused me to reread my postings on this, and he's absolutely right. On this blog I talk about issues that impact Lehigh football, so frequently I slip into a Lehigh mindset when it comes to Patriot League issues. My original posts did try to talk about a league-wide issue from Lehigh's point of view -- the truth is it really needs to be looked at from all angles.

While trying to look at the issues, it dawned on me exactly how different each school really is within the Patriot League. If you look closely, the Patriot League is not nearly as homogeneous as the Ivy League in terms of history, membership or even in terms of selectivity. This excellent article printed in September of '06 by the Lafayette Alumni magazine, a member of Lafayette's athletics working group sums up the differences perfectly:

“You have schools coming and going and joining for maybe one sport and maybe not another, and that’s completely different from the Ivy League,” says Eric Ziolkowski, Dana Professor of religious studies and another member of the athletics working group. “Ivy League membership has not changed in fifty years. And all the Ivy institutions compete in the same sports. If you look at the history of the Patriot League, the frequent changes in membership are actually quite remarkable.”
In football, this is less true since the last team to drop from the Patriot League in football was Davidson in 1989 -- there's less of a sense of coming and going rather than incremental additions (associate members Fordham and Georgetown joined in 1990 and 2001). Yet there are still significant differences in all our members that are worth talking about.

1) Selectivity is different. As detailed in Part II, Lafayette, Lehigh, Bucknell, Colgate and Georgetown are considered "most selective" by US News & World Report, while Fordham and Holy Cross are considered "more selective".

2) Associates have different wants and needs. Fordham and Georgetown don't have to worry about the effects on the AI model in all sports since it only applies to them in football. They don't care about a "slippery slope" leading to scholarships since they already have full scholarship sports in other leagues, while other full-members may care.

3) Size of football budget. This runs anywhere from Georgetown's $1.7 milllon to Lehigh's $3.2 million. Think about that: Lehigh spends just about twice as much as Georgetown on football, and we're in the same league.

Although the Ivies do have differences in football budgets as well, the Ivy League have no issues with associate members or differences in selectivity - and these two factors make the importance of seeing the AI from all angles even more important.

----------------------------

There was one other comment that also made me feel like I was only scratching the surface on this debate. This one considered endowments. Paraphrasing, "What is the effect on overall institution endowments and athletic aid? Many Ivy institutions have such large endowments they could afford to accept all who apply and are more generous with all forms of aid than the Patriot League." He's right too - and was another aspect of the debate that deserves close scrutiny. However, I don't have that answer yet. Still, there's no doubt that this is an excellent point.

It could very well be that the Ivies also get an advantage in recruiting the same athletes not only due to academic or prestige issues. It honestly could come down to good old dollars. That really makes the debate interesting - you could make a case that we're not only getting squeezed by scholarship schools offering full rides, but Ivy League schools that can afford to give more aid.

Let me close this posting and say that there will be a Part IV of this series, and some sort of talk about "Where do we go from here?" It may be posted on CollegeSportingNews.Com as it's becoming quite a huge topic - a bigger topic than the big topic I initially envisioned.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Lady Hawks Battle And Lose

Lady Hawks can leave with their heads held high. But.. it was so close! Two shots at the win in OT with seconds to go!

A big shout-out to the Lady Hawks for ending their season on a high note.

Lady Hawks Go To OT

Lady Hawks had a chance to put the hammer down, but Holy Cross got a lay-up with 6.5 seconds left.

Can Lehigh do this? You can listen for free here!

Congrats to Matt Ciasulli and the Lady Hawks!

Yeah, it's way too late to be saying this, but big congratulations for Matt Ciasulli's EIWA title in the 141 lb weight class in East Stroudsburg this weekend. Although Lehigh's fourth-place finish was a bit of a disappointment, truth be told it's not too bad considering that most though this to be a "rebuilding year" for our grapplers. Next up: the NCAA championships where four other wrestlers will be joining Matt in Ann Arbor: Dave Nakasone (157), Matt Cassidy (197), David Craig (184), and Matt's brother Seth (133), who was a surprise fourth-place finisher. In addition, Matt Fisk (125) and Paul Weibel (Heavyweight) will be hoping to get wild-card spots for nationals as well.

As for the Lady Hawks, they gutted out a great game against the #2 seed and won a dandy, 57-53! Or maybe I should say senior F Adrienne Blount won the game, with an incredible 25 point performance! A see-saw affair, Blount iced the game with 2.2 seconds left with a clutch free-throw to win the game. A tremendous effort - and high praise from me! Congratulations!

With #8 seed Colgate pulling the first-ever upset up a #1 (the victim was Bucknell), all of a sudden every semifinal team will be sporting a losing record: #3 Holy Cross (12-17, 7-7), #4 Navy (12-16, 6-8), #7 Lehigh (10-18, 5-9) and #8 Colgate (5-24, 4-10). How big, though, is the Lady Hawks' win over Holy Cross at Stabler last Saturday? All of a sudden, it's one of those wide-open tournaments where anyone could win it. Two league wins separate every team.

Tomorrow afternoon Lehigh faces Holy Cross, and the winner makes the finals. You'll want to catch this one!
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