Friday, March 14, 2008

Patriot League Men's Basketball Championships, 5PM Today

I always enjoy watching the Patriot League men's championship game every year. Colgate faces American this afternoon (5:00PM, ESPN2) to determine who will be going to the big dance.

I love watching it, even if Lehigh's not involved. There's something about watching the game, in a real arena with approachable players. There simply is something soul-sucking watching the ACC quarterfinals, where the sixth-best team is hoping to make the tournament with a late run with uber-talented players who have underperformed most of the year. Contrast the game on ESPN2 before ours - the Miami/Virginia Tech game - to the Patriot League championship, and the difference couldn't be more stark.

(You'll probably get a chance to watch this game, unfortunately - if history is any guide, no matter how insurmountable the lead, ESPN2 will probably again pre-empt the beginning of the Patriot League final to televise the agonizing end of the quarterfinal game. Ever feel like a second-class citizen?)

It's on at a good time - right after work ends, I can rush home and watch the best teams in our league duke it out. This year, it's a surprising 18-13 Colgate team (who were very fortunate to squeak into the #3 seed) taking on the strongest team this year in 21-11 American. G Kyle Roemer has taken his Raiders on his back (16.2 PPG) and has simply been putting away his shots. He'll face a very tough challenge with American's great backcourt in Garrison Carr (18.2 PPG) and Derrick Mercer (12.7 PPG, 4.2 APG).

Key will be turnovers. Both teams have not always done a good job protecting the ball. And then there's the intangibles. American has come oh-so-close year in and year out for their first-ever Patriot League crown, but fallen heartbreakingly short year after year (including a loss to Lehigh in 2004).

I'll be watching.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Football On The Down-Low

There's been some movement in the world of Lehigh football recently. Quiet movement, but movement nonetheless.

First, the Mountain Hawks quietly announced the results of their football banquet a few weeks ago. Over 300 people attended this event to celebrate the achievements of the seniors last year, sponsored by the Lehigh Athletics Partnership.

Congratulations to all the award winners:

Program Awards:
Alexander G. Hahalis (top lineman): senior OL Jimmy Kehs
Barry Fetterman (courage, dedication): senior TE Joe Sutherland
James P. McConologue (all football): senior C John Reese
John C. Whitehead “Big LU” (leadership, performance): senior FS Ernest Moore
Scholar-Athlete: senior WR Pete Donchez
Archibald Johnson Cup (team MVP): junior LB Tim Diamond

Position Awards:
Offensive Line: senior OL Jimmy Kehs
Offensive Back: senior QB Sedale Threatt
Receiver: junior WR Sekou Yansane
Defensive Line: junior DL Brian Jackson
Defensive Back: senior DB Brannan Thomas
Linebacker: sophomore LB Matt Cohen
Special Teams: senior FB John Piascik
Scout Team (offense): freshman RB Jay Campbell
Scout Team (defense): sophomore LB Troy Taylor

The last name on that list - Troy Taylor - caused some Lehigh football fans to comb through their recruiting lists of the past to try to find out - exactly who is this guy? Well, I did some sleuthing and found out who that might be: and I found this bio from the University of San Diego. A 6'1, 230 lb linebacker, he was originally recruited by Lehigh. He could have been a freshman in 2006 with the non-scholarship Toreros and transferred to Lehigh - and he's not on the Toreros current active roster. In 2007 he would have had to sit out a year, by rule, and he should have three years of eligibility remaining.

2008's Schedule
No formal announcement, but the inclusion of Drake on the 2008 schedule was added - once again, quietly - to the official Lehigh website.

Basketball Boosters
In somewhat related football news, while watching the first round of the men's basketball tournament when Lehigh fell to Army, I caught the fact that quite a few football players went to the game and showed their support. With Army's noisy fan contingent, the football players' presence was very welcome. It was great to see them there.
And Now... Spring
Spring practice opens a week from today on March 20th, and Lehigh added to their website their official spring roster. Conspicuously absent was oft-injured junior RB Josh Pastore who decided to call it a career on the gridiron. As a transfer from FBS Kent State, he still has a year of eligibility remaining but appears to have ended his career for medical reasons. It's a tough reality to face for Lehigh fans, who were fans of his wild-eyed, "reckless" (his word) play running the football.

The silver lining is that at running back, we are in very good shape anyway with senior RB Matt McGowan returning along with super sophomore RBs Kwesi Kankam and Jaren Walker, all of whom saw significant action last year. Add sophomore RB Jay Campbell to the mix, and add three deep at FB with junior FB Anthony Fossati, senior FB Adam Watson, and junior FB James Tyree (a converted linebacker), and you've got a pretty deep backfield! Now, if we can keep away from those injuries...

[UPDATE: One day after posting this, Tyree was removed from the roster - if the rumors are true, medically he's not cleared to play. If I had to make a call for 3rd string FB, I'd look at a converted LB like junior LB/DT Darrell Ray or sophomore LB/DE Bill Dokouslis. But as of right now, there's no third FB on the spring roster.]

Look for a spring preview next Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Must-Read Article On The Ivy League

Yesterday over at the Big Green Alert blog Bruce released a riveting Q&A with Chris Lincoln, author of the riveting book "Playing The Game" about the cutthroat world of Ivy League recruiting. It's a highly recommended read.

They talk about a plethora of subjects: the "Amaker Affair", next year's retirement of the executive director of the Ivy League, Jeff Orleans, and the new aid policies being put in place by Harvard and Yale.

Of most interest to followers of the Patriot League is this juicy question:

Whether it's a love-hate thing is debatable, but The Patriot League and Ivy League definitely have a relationship. Will this give the Ivies the clear upper hand and if so, would you anticipate the Patriots would finally add football scholarships?
Adding football scholarships is expensive. At $45,000 a year per student-athlete, that’s $1.8 million a year for 40 players, $2.7 million a year for 60 players. How will Lehigh alumni feel about that? What about talented engineering students who need financial aid? Would spending all that money on football make any Patriot League school a better educational institution? Do you want 40-60 students on campus enjoying a different status than everyone else?

There isn’t a single Ivy League board of trustees enacting these new aid policies to make their sports teams more competitive. The motivation at Princeton, where this trend began back in 2001, was to help its students graduate without the burden of loan debt, so they could have a wider variety of career options, including public service and teaching, rather than feeling forced to seek high-paying jobs in order to pay off their loans. In the case of these other schools, I have read that their motivation is less altruistic and based more on a fear of Congress forcing them—and other wealthy non-profits—to spend a percentage of their endowment or risk losing government funding. “Spread the wealth” appears to have been the message. The bottom line is the same for students: schools can now attract a broader group of talented students to their campuses, from a wider economic spectrum, and relieve more of their graduates of loan debt.

You know, in light this financial aid issue, and looking at the current Harvard basketball recruiting controversy and the realities of competing Division I athletics today, you have to wonder why the Ivy League remains a Division I athletic conference. To what end? How is this improving your educational mission?

And, if the Ivy League wants to remain a Division I athletic conference, then everyone who’s not working at Harvard, Princeton and Yale needs to stop whining about their lack of money to spend on aid for athletic recruits—because the bottom line is that your academic institutions are enjoying the benefits of being associated with the top academic brands in the country. Your school’s reputation is being lifted by being in the Ivy League. Where would you be without Harvard, Princeton, and Yale?

All interesting questions. And in terms of the Patriot League and scholarships, he's right: it would be expensive. But to me it signifies an important shift in the debate. Last year, this type of question might have been dismissed as "against the principles of the Ivy (and Patriot) League". Now, in light of the academic aid largesse of Harvard and Yale? It becomes more of a question of economics.

Could it be that the principle of football athletic scholarships being taboo is a thing of the past - and now it's all about the money?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Heartbreak For Lady Hawks, But Five Wrestlers Make Nationals

In a game that was played four hours late in an entirely different venue, the Lady Hawks' domination by Holy Cross continued, this time with a heart-wrenching 46-44 defeat ending with a block of sophomore G Alex Ross at the buzzer. At 18-13, though, the season can't be considered a disappointment at all: and with only three graduating seniors, the future couldn't look brighter for next year.

The big news out of the weekend comes from wrestling, where 157 lb senior Dave Nakasone upset top seed Jordan Leen to become the surprise individual EIWA Champion in that weight class. By doing so he punched his ticket for the nationals in St. Louis, along with 174 lb freshman Alex Caruso (4th place) and 184 lb sophomore Manuel Schubert (an amazing 4th place). With wild cards in 133 lb sophomore Seth Ciasulli (5th) and 149 lb junior Trevor Chinn (5th), Lehigh not only had one EIWA champion but also had five qualifiers for nationals - something that may have seemed impossible months ago. Matter of fact, with sophomore 165 Mike Galante placing 6th, we came within a whisker of placing six.

Congratulations to all, and to all the winter athletes for an exciting winter season for Lehigh. Now, onto spring football...
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