Saturday, August 02, 2008

Patriot League Media Day Report

Patriot League Media Day was Thursday, July 31st and serves as the official kickoff of the 2008 Patriot League football season. As you can tell from the picture, intrepid reporters were eagerly (and handsomely, if I may say so) attacking the stories of the players, the upcoming season, and the Patriot League issues on the table - while most interviewees, like senior RB Matt McGowan pictured here, look to the side in complete boredom. (Maybe I had better think up better questions next time.)

Much was discussed at the Green Pond country club. My initial impressions of the goings-on on Thursday are below. They may mean more when I release my complete interviews with Patriot League executive director Carolyn Schlie Femovich on College Sporting News, and my interviews with coach Coen, senior RB Matt McGowan and senior DB BrendanVanAckeren, but it's still worth simply blogging my from-the-gut impressions of the proceedings.

Oh, for the record, Lehigh placed fifth in the Patriot League preseason poll. Here are the results of the poll:

Patriot League Preseason Poll Results
1. Fordham (9) 68
2. Holy Cross (4) 56
3. Colgate (1) 53
4. Lafayette 48
5. Lehigh 35
6. Bucknell 18
7. Georgetown 16

Patriot League Preseason Award Winners
Offensive Player of the Year: Dominic Randolph, QB, Holy Cross (Sr., 6'3, 223, Amelia, Ohio/St. Xavier)
Defensive Player of the Year: Andy Romans, LB, Lafayette (Sr., 5'11, 215, Allendale, N.J./St. Joseph Regional)

Here are my impressions.
  1. Newspapers everywhere are hurting. This isn't really an observation about the Patriot League per se, but when folks were joking that the only press that were likely to be at Media Day were the two local papers and some College Sporting News and Sports Network journalists, I thought that would be a serious exaggeration. It was - but not that much of an exaggeration. It has nothing to do with the League, really -newspapers everywhere are struggling and cutting staff. Still, it was highly disappointing to see that zero New York City media members made the trip to Bethlehem to see Fordham be the preseason pick to win the Patriot League. I know Fordham is second banana in the Big Apple to the latest in the Stray-Rod saga, but c'mon, not one lousy reporter? Couldn't a New York Times guy hit media day in the morning, hit Eagles training camp at Lehigh in the afternoon and go home? (I mean, it's not like Eagles training camp lacks drama... with collapsing "D" linemen and all-pro's not showing up.) Patriot League people know Fordham is the real deal... come on, not one person?
  2. The Academic Index Reforms Are Coming... But Lack Critical Details. I came to Media Day hoping for more information on the Academic Index changes for 2008 (or AI for short), but some of the key details did not appear to be totally ironed out yet, which was disappointing to me. Athletic staffs need to know, for example, what the AI floor for the league is going to be, and I thought it odd that the floor for the league hadn't been calculated yet. They should be done sometime in the fall - hopefully they will come in time for the football staffs. Having said that, however, it is very clear that the AI reforms are seen as a critical first step to any future steps for the Patriot League.
  3. Folks don't seem happy with removing the bye week. Removing the bye week in 2010 when the FCS Playoffs expand means that games like "The Rivalry" will be kicked up to, say November 13th, 2010 instead of the weekend before Thanksgiving. The folks I talked to don't seem happy at all about this, and are secretly hoping that some accomodation can be made to keep a bye week and the traditional rivalries on the same weekend they were before. The Patriot League is only one league, of course, but stay tuned on this. ESPN (and, to a lesser extent, Chattanooga, the site of the FCS championship) has dictated in the past the date of the game: many FCS schools seem pretty upset about no bye weeks. Will FCS and ESPN get a game in between Christmas and New Years instead? It sure would be better for the players of FCS.
  4. Expansion is being discussed - at the presidential level. Calling them "exploratory discussions at the presidential level", Ms. Femovich in her opening statements talked about league expansion - for football, mind you - in a very specific way. While not calling anything "imminent", it's clear that discussions are happening at the highest levels of the league about expansion. It's a topic worth its own blog posting in the future. This subject really struck me, especially considering last year when nothing seemed imminent even though Marist seemed to very much want to join the Patriot League (and, importantly, live with the same AI rules and aid rules as the rest of the league).
  5. Football Scholarships? Although folks were generally tight-lipped about this subject this time around, one thing appears pretty clear: the subjects of expansion of the league and football scholarships are linked. Think of it this way: what president with a team in, say, the Big South, NEC or CAA would want to transition to the Patriot League with largely need-based aid when they have unrestricted scholarships now? Imortantly, I think folks at the highest levels of the Patriot League are finally aware of this fact. If the Patriot League is to get a new football-playing school, some form of scholarships have to be a part of that mix. That was not always clear in recent years. That appears crystal-clear now.


More will be clear in my CSN interview with Ms. Femovich, but overall my impression is that it seems like things are heading towards change. Perhaps not as fast as some folks want things to go, but change appears to be comin'. It appears at the presidential level folks have concluded that expansion is something to pursue vigorously - and if that's the case, then some form of football scholarships seem likely to be a part of that package.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Patriot League Media Day is Tomorrow

I'm ready for the unofficial kickoff to the Patriot League season tomorrow.

The Patriot League released the names of the Lehigh players who will be there, and they are senior RB Matt McGowan and senior DB Brendan VanAckeren.

Look for a report here sometime tomorrow evening about the goings-on - and reports on our two senior captains, coach Coen, the Patriot League commissioner, and more, over the coming days!

Fear not, Lehigh fans. The long, dark night since the loss to "that school in Easton" last November is nearly at an end.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Wouldn't a Mountain Hawk Eat a Copperhead?

Lehigh announced yesterday they are changing the venue of their weekly football luncheons to the Copperhead Grille on Airport Road, despite the fact that snakes and Hawks are mortal enemies. (Well, Mountain Hawks and Leopards are mortal enemies, but you know what I mean.)

I'd love to tell you some of the specialties that the Copperhead Grille can serve up, but unfortunately I can't since their web site is under repair. To be fair, their home page does offer a "Lehigh Valley Steak" (or is it a "Ranch Steak"?) featuring ribeye, cheese and marinara sauce sauteed over... a stock photo of another dish. Hopefully their site will be up and running soon - Lehigh fans await!

The press conferences move from where they had been as long as I can remember, Starter's Pub in Bethlehem. No ill will here, I'm guessing - I believe Starter's is owned by the family of a star Lehigh QB you might remember (Lehigh's radio voice, QB Marty Horn).

I'm sure Starter's and the Copperhead Grille appreciate the free spots. No, nobody's paying me to push them.

Oh yeah, the press conferences are also streamed all year via Lehigh Broadcast, too.

Monday, July 28, 2008

For You, the Lehigh Football News Junkie

The football season is almost upon us, and you want information. Information about Lehigh football, information about Lehigh (and other FCS games) on TV, and even the places where you can find out about the stuff that, well, isn't so well reported. This post will detail pretty much everything you'll ever need.

At Lehigh, the sports fan is blessed with (of course) this blog - which gives a common place for news, game previews, and commentary. After you're done reading all the content on here (and at the official Lehigh athletics web site), you might want to check out some of the other media out there. Thankfully, the Mountain Hawks are blessed with two local media outlets (The Allentown Morning Call and the Easton Express-Times), and one school paper (The Brown & White) with very good Lehigh football coverage. Additionally, I like to check out the Groller's Corner blog at the Morning Call (by Keith Groller) for those extra Lehigh tidbits that don't make the paper.

If that isn't enough Lehigh coverage for you - or if you want to look deeper in the offseason than the archives allow - you can look at the archived articles from 2008 at the CSN Log at this link (which filters the view to be only Lehigh-related articles). Not only does this archive writeups of Lehigh's spring game, you get national articles involving Lehigh folks that you may not know existed, like this recent report from the Charleston Post & Courier detailing a tradition that the Citadel head football coach Kevin Higgins took with him from his days at Lehigh. (Note also the presence of three Lehigh football alumni on his coaching staff: Dave Cecchini, Matt Mohler, and Aashon Larkins.)

Want more? Two message boards - the Voy.com message boards and Any Given Saturday - serve as a posting place for many a Lehigh fan. They also give you important bits of breaking news too: for example, the news that freshman WR Travis Artim left the team and has transferred to D-II Shippensburg. (He joins DL Charles Brallier and RB Kwesi Kankam as players who have either quit the team or transferred this year.)

By now, you probably also want to know about Lehigh on TV. Locally, Lehigh games generally show up on Service Electric 2 or WFMZ 69 Allentown, while games are also either broadcast live or an tape delay at Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh (or Fox College Sports Atlantic). WFMZ also televises the Lehigh Sports Magazine every Monday.

Can't get to a TV? Listen to the game on ESPN Radio AM 1230 or 1320 in the Lehigh valley.

Through the Lehigh broadcast package (powered by Yahoo! broadcast), you can not only get audio and video of all the televised games (handy if you don't live in the area), you also can get access to exclusive audio and the Lehigh Sports Magazine shows - and the weekly press conferences, too.

(Lehigh games will also be listed in the complete composite FCS TV schedule, which I maintain. This lists all the FCS games on TV in 2008.)

If you need more media than this, then, well, you're obviously way sicker than I am.
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