Saturday, January 12, 2008

Former Lehigh coach Dave Clawson to Tennessee

One of the Lehigh head coaching "family" just got a big-time promotion. Richmond head football coach Dave Clawson has accepted an offensive coordinator position at Tennessee.

Here's what Tennessee head coach Fullmer had to say:

Today is an exciting day for the Tennessee football program as we introduce Dave Clawson as our new offensive coordinator. Dave brings experience both as an offensive coordinator at Lehigh and Villanova and a head coach at Fordham and Richmond. During his eight seasons as a head coach, he has proven himself as a program builder, being named national Division I-AA coach of the year twice.

Dave brings a great work ethic, high energy and is a great teacher of quarterbacks. His multiple offensive system using the talents of the players available to their fullest has been impressive. He has a great passion for recruiting, which is important for Tennessee, and his experience as a head coach will serve us well.

Congratulations to coach Clawson for an incredible opportunity at one of the highest-profile coordinator jobs in the country.

Now that the Richmond head football coaching job is open, folks are now wondering: who's next at Richmond? Perhaps looking at Clawson's Lehigh connections, two early names lifted as possible candidates are former Lehigh head football coaches Pete Lembo at Elon and Kevin Higgins at The Citadel. Chances of them going to Richmond? Pretty slim, if you ask me - but then again, stranger things have happened.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Diversifying Through Football

For anyone who's interested about Patriot League athletics, this article from "Inside Higher Ed" is a must-read not only because Lehigh athletics are mentioned fairly prominently, but it talks about something I've talked about before - how football is, whether people like it or not, a vital way for college campuses to be diverse.

Data drawn from the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s annual survey of graduation rates, analyzed by Inside Higher Ed, show that scholarship athletes make up at least 20 percent of the full-time black male undergraduates at 96 of the nearly 330 colleges that play sports in Division I, the NCAA’s top competitive level. At 46 of those colleges, according to the data, which are from 2005-6, at least a third of the black male population play a sport. And at 31 one of them, football players alone make up at least a quarter of the black undergraduate men.

The trend is most evident at [a type] of institution...where the proportions of black athletes are highest is private institutions, mostly those that have selective admission standards and are small compared to other sports powers, yet still try to compete with the big boys. This includes institutions like Northwestern University (where 43 of the 163 full-time black male undergraduates are athletes), Lehigh (31 of 78), Rice (47 of 99) and Wake Forest (69 of 128) Universities, and the University of Tulsa (68 of 95), among others. (One other group of selective private institutions that competes in Division I — those in the Ivy League — are excluded from the data below because the NCAA collects information only about scholarship athletes, and the Ivies do not award sports scholarships. The same is true of the U.S. military academies.)

Basically, of the 78 male African-American students on campus, 31 of them are athletes in Lehigh's case (26 of whom are members of the football team). Here's the numbers of other al--sport Patriot League schools:

Bucknell 17/52 (31%), 11 on football team
Colgate 31/66 (47%), 17 on football team
Holy Cross 23/53 (43%), 18 on football team
Lafayette 30/71 (42%), 26 on football team
Lehigh 31/78 (40%), 26 on football team

Compare these numbers to associate members of Patriot League football:

Fordham 50/141 (35%), 34 on football team
Georgetown 35/188 (19%), 21 on football team

And of other private Eastern FCS schools with football scholarships:

Villanova 50/115 (43%), 32 on football team
Richmond 23/64 (36%), 20 on football team

And comparing against comparable FBS schools:

Duke 53/244 (22%), 46 on football team
Vanderbilt 61/201 (30%), 49 on football team

In every case, over 20% of the African-American student body is involved in athletics (and if you take out Duke and Georgetown - two teams with national championships in men's basketball - the number shoots up to 30%), and nearly all of them are on the football team. It doesn't matter if they're offering scholarships, they're competing in the ACC or the Patriot League: they all face the same challenges. (Although, oddly, in this piece they lump together Northwestern and Lehigh even though Lehigh has academic standards to uphold, financial aid restrictions to apply, and have additional spending and scholarship restrictions as a part of FCS football - they are in no way similar in terms of athletics spending.)

I am all for Lehigh (and all Patriot League schools, for that matter) to do a better job of diversifying their campuses with the best and brightest, including African-Americans. The numbers paint a picture of Patriot League campuses that have a small percentage of African-Americans on it. Why? Well, cost could be a major issue - the average yearly tuition at a school like Lehigh is $46,960. Compare that to less than $10,000 for an in-state freshman at Penn State.

But the activists interviewed for the article don't seem to really be interested tackling the spiraling costs of higher education. In fact, some of the solutions the article floats are simply scary:

But some advocates for minority students are troubled when they look at the numbers, which they say suggest that some colleges are more interested in recruiting black men with exceptional athletic talent than they are mere hard-working students. “It’s absolutely shameful that these institutions obviously could do such a great job of expending the effort to recruit black male athletes but can’t seem to get their arms around the recruitment of other black male students,” says Shaun R. Harper, an assistant professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.

“At a lot of institutions,” he says, “there’s a very limited expenditure of effort” toward recruiting black students generally, there’s no strategy, there are no real goals that are written down. Yet when it comes to the recruitment of black male athletes, all those things are in place. It’s hard not to think that that’s because they’re interested in winning, so they’re going to put forth the effort to recruit students who will enable them to win.”

Adds Kevin Carey, research and policy manager at Education Sector, an education think tank: “If a very large percentage of your students of color are athletes, what that suggests is that you’re using your athletics program as a proxy for achieving your diversity goals. That’s different from an institution that both pursues its athletics goals and also tries to recruit and retain significant numbers of students of color who are aren’t athletes.”


In his paper last year, he wrote that the the “NCAA should consider a policy requiring that racial representation on any sports team should minimally correspond to a certain percentage of undergraduate student enrollments at the institution. For example, if black males comprise four percent of the undergraduate students on a campus, their representation on an intercollegiate sports team should not be permitted to exceed a certain percentage (e.g., 20 percent, which would be five times more than black men in the general student population). The introduction of this policy will surely compel university admissions officers to more aggressively recruit black male students who are not brought to the institution to play sports.”

The folks who talk about this want to achieve the goal that everybody wants - improved diversity across the whole campus. But some of the arguments that they use are ludicrous. I seriously doubt Patriot League football coach sets out to list in numbers the African-American students they are to recruit. I think coaches are setting out to get the best possible athletes for their teams, and making the necessary efforts to get those students. If there was ever any process that is blind to race, the quest for athletic talent is that. If a kid is purple, can handle the academics and can throw the ball 70 yards downfield across his body, schools are going to recruit this kid.

If anything, the rest of admissions need to approach the coaches to tell them how they have been successful recruiting minority students. Let me get this straight - the football team, in general across institutions, has been the most successful section of the school in being diverse, so these guys therefore are telling us that schools need to guard against it being a proxy for campus diversity? If the word "football" and "athletics" were taken out of the discussion, you get the impression these same people would be falling over to praise the schools about their diversity. Talk about logic being backwards.

Proposals like the one above - to mandate that sports teams need to reflect the student population on campus - would not only quite literally destroy athletics at a school like Lehigh, it would have the perverse effect of making the campus even less diverse than it is now.

More importantly, it obscures some great findings that need to be trumpeted: that minority students in athletics graduate at a higher rate than non-athletes:

“In our case, black male student athletes graduate at a higher rate than our black male students,” said David Shi, president of Furman University, where 46 of the 77 full-time black male undergraduates in 2005-6 were athletes, and fully half played football. “We have never had a problem with the academic performance of our football players in general, much less our African-American football players. We’ve had the good fortune of being able to recruit some very high performing student athletes and not feel worried that somehow we’re compromising the integrity of the institution.”

Minority enrollment is something that clearly can and should be improved. What would be the best way to do this? The answer to that is easy: scholarships. Schools should offer many and diverse scholarships from everything from football to cello. I'm no professional, but to me a great way to improve diversity is to offer free education.

People who are studying these trends ought to be looking to football as an example on how to diversify college campuses, not demonizing it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hawks of the Year

This offseason, five Lehigh players got national recognition as a part of the Sports Network All-America team, while ten Lehigh players garnered all-League awards.

Of course, all these pale in comparison to the real awards: the LFN awards for "Hawks of the Year". The awards were based on my nominations, and you, the fans, got your vote as well. By compiling my nominees for "Hawks of the Week" and counting your votes weekly for the MVP of each week, I present the winners of the 2007 Mountain Hawk team.

Offensive Hawks of the Year
With the struggles on offense Lehigh had this year, it's officially a tie: the winners are freshman RB Jaren Walker and junior RB Josh Pastore. Walker, the freshman from Las Vegas, NV, gave Mountain Hawk fans a tantalizing look at the future after forging for 375 yards and 1 TD in three starts, while Pastore battled injuries all year but showed flashes of the dominating runner he can be with 251 all-purpose yards in two starts. Both Walker and Pastore flashed the type of ability that could be dominating in the Patriot League - and Lehigh fans are eager to see what this dynamic duo can do in 2008.

Defensive Hawk of the Year
A member of the all-Patriot League first team, big plays on defense and special teams led senior DB Brannan Thomas to come away with Defensive Hawk of the year honors. His 32 tackles and 3 interceptions led the defense, but equally important were his 335 return yards and a key punt return for a touchdown against Harvard that was the difference in that game. Battling injury most of the year, the senior truly laid it all out on the field this year and deserves the honors he got this year on defense.

Special Teams Hawk of the Year
A member of the all-Patriot League second team and Sports Network all-American honarable mention, junior P/K Jason Leo dominated games with his punting prowess. With his "rollout" punting style, Leo ended up 3rd in the nation in net yards per punt (42.1 yards) and the Harleysville, PA native put 19 punts inside the 20 yard line. He also would have 6 touchbacks on kickoffs and convert 11 of 18 field goals, including two over 40 yards. Fans are very interested to see how Jason will do next year as well after winning this year's Special Teams hawk of the Year honors.

Hawk Of The Year
The winner of this year's "Hawk Of The Year" goes without a doubt to another junior, a first team all-Patriot selection on defense and another Sports Network all-American honarable mention. The winner is junior LB Tim Diamond.

Diamond patrolled the middle in the Hawk defense and racked up 107 tackles, 7 1/2 tackles for loss including 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 3 fumble recoveries. His forced fumble directly contributed to the win over the eventual Ivy League champion in Harvard: his strip of quarterback Chris Pizzotti was scooped up and returned for a touchdown in a 20-13 victory, also giving him College Sporting News Player of the Week honors as well. In an amazing 22 tackle game, he also fell on Harvard's final pitch to seal the victory for the Mountain Hawks that week.

Diamond's tough play, solid tackling and leadership on the defense earned him "Hawk of the Year" honors. Congratulations to all the winners!

Other postseason honors:
Junior DT Brian Jackson
, first-team all Patriot League, Sports Network All-American (second team)
Senior C John Reese, first team all Patriot League, Sports Network honrable mention
Senior OL Jimmy Kehs, second team all Patriot League
Freshman DB/KR John Kennedy, second team all Patriot League
Senior DT Kyle Adams, second team all Patriot League, Sports Network honrable mention
Sophomore LB Matt Cohen, second team all Patriot League
Senior DB Ernest Moore, second team all Patriot League

Congratulations to everyone!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Two Minute Solutions: Steroids In Baseball

In the first of my "Two Minute Solutions" series to the aggravatingly complex problems in pro sports today, I feel compelled to weigh in on the steroid allegations dogging Roger Clemens and hundreds of other major league baseball players.

There's been lots of ink spilled since the Mitchell report connected the dots. "The Rocket" has been issuing not very convincing denials of his use of HGH and steroids as far back as 1998, attempting to distance himself from his former trainer Brian McNamee who allegedly injected him with steroids and HGH. Aside from not passing the "smell test", this slow-motion disintegration of Clemens' and baseball's legacy is not only shameful, it ruins baseball.

Similarly, Bonds' farce of a "victory tour" in the shadow of his own HGH allegations have made a mockery of America's pastime. The debate instead because "should we could the steroid era records the same as the real baseball records?"

People may still go back and watch and follow baseball after the Mitchell report. But through history the "athletes" of this generation - my generation - will always be tainted by the "did he or didn't he". An entire generation has been shown for suckers. We bought tickets to the games, collected the baseball cards, reveled in the records, put life-size posters in our rooms. And it's all a fraud.

For our generation, it is too late. Baseball has been one giant fraud from the mid-1980s to today. But there is some very small hope that for my son's generation, the sport can be saved from WWF-like freaks.

This is why Bud Selig - known for being a feckless, toothless commissioner - needs to ban Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds from baseball now.

Sometimes, you have to put people up as examples. Banning both from baseball would send the powerful message that the court of public opinion doesn't matter, the players' union, and the lawyers don't matter - sometimes, like in the Pete Rose situation, you have to simply ban a player to show people that you simply can't get away with cheating.

Folks say there's not enough evidence - they say McNamee is somehow lying about Roger Clemens, but was telling the truth about Pettite and countless others in the Mitchell report. They split hairs about Bonds, saying there is not enough evidence that he "knew" the cream would make his head one and a half times bigger - yet a book exhaustively details BALCO and the products Bonds took.

A house subcommittee is going to weigh in on this in February. But Selig doesn't even need to wait for that. Doesn't Selig know all he needs to do is issue this statement, and there's no need for congressional meetings and he is seen as the savior of baseball?

"I've looked over all the evidence, and I have decided to ban Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds for the good of major league baseball. Their presence in the sport is slowly killing it like so much arsenic. By banning them, it should send a powerful message to new and existing players alike: if you choose to run with McNamee and BALCO, be prepared to pay the consequences. Steroids and HGH have no place in baseball, and I condemn anyone who uses them or who ever used them."

Monday, January 07, 2008

Scholarships And Recruiting In 2008

I've been spending the past two weeks recovering from the "worst cold I've ever had in my life", so apologies for not talking about the upcoming week in Lehigh sports (although I'm beginning to think I shouldn't, since as soon as I skipped the preview the wrestling team, men's basketball team and women's basketball team all sported big upset victories).

As we're in the long offseason, we catch glimpses and rumors of players that may be committing to the Brown and White for the class of 2012. Starting next week I'll start posting more information on some of these "potentials" as more information starts to become available.

But deserving of equal time is the ones that don't choose the Patriot League - over, presumably, a free education. Looking for Lehigh recruiting information, I stumbled across this:

Two-way linemen Austin Kugler of Toms River River North and Mike Murphy of Toms River East said Saturday they have made oral commitments to play football at Monmouth University.

Kugler, a 6-3, 225-pound defensive end/tight end, and Murphy, a 6-4, 254-pound center, defensive end and defensive tackle, were 2007 Asbury Park Press All-Shore first team selections.

Kugler said he was impressed with the scholarships offered by Monmouth and with its plans for a new athletic facility.

"They're building that new sports complex for basketball and for football locker rooms and things like that," he said.

Kugler said he was recruited to play defensive end.

"I really didn't care what position," he said. "I liked them both. Whichever one they thought I was better at was fine with me."

Kugler said he also was recruited by Albany, Bucknell, Lafayette, and Lehigh.

This is becoming a more familiar refrain around the Patriot League these days. Division I football athletes, "impressed" with scholarships, picking a less selective school because his education at Monmouth is paid for.

It's just a stark reminder: scholarships at schools like Monmouth are truly taking a hefty slice out of former Patriot League recruiting strongholds. And it's probably going to take more free education to have these same athletes -who obviously have the grades to be considered at Bucknell, Lehigh and Lafayette - consider going back to a Patriot League school.
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