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Final Press Roundup; My Favorite 1-AA Columnist; Problems in Easton

Final Press Roundup
A few more articles on this weekend's tilt:
Express-Times:
Kicking Game Gets Emphasis for Stretch Run
Morning Call:
"O" Line is Enjoying the Possibilites
Lewisburg Standard-Journal (Bucknell):
Bison's Gridiron Karma Due to Change

Your quotes:
"Bucknell head football coach Tim Landis has to shake his head in amazement when he looks back at the Bison's three losses this year, realizing that each loss basically hinged on one key play.

"The Bison... lost their first heartbreaker in Philadelphia against nationally-ranked Villanova - the season opener - when a fourth-and-goal play from the Wildcat 1-yard line was snuffed out. Bucknell dropped a double overtime decision to Penn on its home turf in week five - a decision that would never have come to overtime were it not for a holding penalty that negated a Daris Wilson 30-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter. "

[Rough.. no matter how you look at it.]

"[Bucknell coach Tim] Landis said Wednesday, ''We need Darius in there because he makes things happen. He's just putting too much pressure on himself right now to make big plays. I'm sure both he and John Henry will play this week. As for who will start, it will be based on how practice goes.''

"When you play a very good defense like this," Bucknell coach Tim Landis said, "you actually have to go in with a little more in your passing arsenal."

[Yeah, right. ]

"Quarterback Mark Borda and tailback Eric Rath, among others, have praised an offensive line that has remained consistent while absorbing injuries and position shuffling."

''The biggest difference in Bucknell is their defense,'' Lembo said. ''It's remarkably improved. Last year , you could count on them being in an eight-man front. It was a pretty simple package they were running. But they have gone through a metamorphosis in the offseason. It's much more of a risk-taking defense and our offense is in for a big challenge.''

[I don't see the turnovers they're getting by being opportunistic... but that's just me.]

"Bucknell, you can never count them out," [Justin] Terry said. "Obviously, they have the potential to burn you in a couple of ways. You definitely can't overlook them."

"A team that's 3-3 but really just a couple plays away from being an undefeated football team," Lembo called the Bison. "This is a team that's very, very capable. We have to be at our best. We have our hands full."

[But demoralized...]

"With both sides of the ball running like well-oiled machines, a faulty kicking game has the potential to turn Lehigh's smooth run toward the top of the national rankings into a frustrating sputter... 'Our kickoff situation continues to be a work in progress," Mountain Hawks coach Pete Lembo said.

Struggling Justin Musiek had one field goal blocked and suffered the same fate on an extra point try last weekend, turning a nail-biting 30-24 comeback victory over Yale even tighter. What's more, his short kickoffs became such a concern that Lehigh turned to backup offensive lineman Charlie Giacamorro to handle the kickoff duties against Yale.

Highly-regarded freshman Matt McNelis, an all-state kicker at Altoona (Pa.) High School last season, has missed the past few weeks with mononucleosis.

"I'm optimistic he'll be back this year," Lembo said. "Whether or not he'll be back this week, I can't say."

"They've got perhaps the best kickoff returner in the country in Dante Ross," Lembo said.

[The kickoff game is definitely a concern going into this week.]

My favorite 1-AA columnist
Scott Garner of 1-AA.org is a Georgia Southern grad who shares my passion for 1-AA football. He writes a regular column called the "Cult of 1-AA" that is far and away the best national column about the sport today. There are others that are more informative, or know more obscure statistics, but you can't beat his column for at least 4 or 5 genuine belly-laughs.

For example, take his diary of the Georgia Southern/Appalachian St. game last week, a must-read piece if there ever was any:

"In this very column, I’ve explained how “homers” (sportswriters who are little more than glorified cheerleaders) are snickered at by their fellow sportswriters. And when guys who go through life looking like sportswriters snicker at anyone—anyone—then something is terribly awry. "

"To say that I drink my fair share of beer is an understatement. The fine people at Budweiser would send flowers to my funeral if I expired suddenly. They would also cut production at both the Jacksonville and Atlanta plants."

"Sports writers can get on their high horse and talk about how nasty fans are or how stupid the discourse between two sets of rival fans is, but the truth is that the fans are what drive the rivalry. The fans pack the stands and yell and curse and brawl, and although it’s not very sporting, it keeps the rivalry fueled and burning. If App State fans didn’t tear down goal posts and GSU fans didn’t end every argument with “yeah, well how many championships have you won,” then the rivalry would die out and this would be just another Georgia Southern-McNeese State or Appalachian State-Eastern Kentucky game. Sure, the opponents would be better than average, but fans add the real zest to all these proceedings. I’m not advocating hooliganism, here, but I say the fans should keep lighting into one another. May the victor taunt the loser. May the loser swear revenge on the winner."

Enough quotables - just read it. I really liked it since more than just the Xs and Os of a game, he gets the whole feel of the game down pat, from the first sip of beer in the parking lot to the last play from the press box.

I'm thinking, Lehigh/Colgate. I should do the same thing.

Lafayette troubles
Speaking of kicking a school when they're down, an ugly Lafayette boardroom fight on athletic scholarships has now erupted onto the pages of the Morning Call.

Lafayette Lags in Hoopster's Grades
Key Lafayette Donor Wants Rothkopf Out Now
LC Fumbles the Ball Once Again

Here's the timeline, for those of you that are not in the know. A few weeks ago, the Lafayette board of trustees had a vote on whether they should offer limited athletic scholarships in some sports, notably basketball. It was defeated by a 21-11 vote, with those 'no' votes very bitter and angry. As a matter of fact, two trustees reportedly quit the board over it, and will stop give money to the college.

You know things are bad when a paper quotes one of the board members as saying, "'I'll double Arthur Rothkopf's salary if he steps down now, and I'll give five times his salary between now until the end of his term as a gift.'' Ouch!

Furthermore, a study has come out illustrating that, paradoxically, "Lafayette men's team has failed to meet the school's own academic goals for freshmen recruits in three of the last four years." Since Lehigh started offering limited scholarships in basketball in 1999, Lehigh has met their academic goals for their athletes every year. Offering scholarships, the study asserts, actually attracts a better caliber of athlete to the university scholastically.

What does this mean? It means there is a war going on in the boardroom in Easton, and it's extremely ugly. There are a significant number of alumni, and some board members, who feel that Lafayette is falling further and further behind the rest of the Patriot League in athletics. Even worse for Lafayette fans, Lehigh seems to be pulling away from them in a multitude of sports. Last year's Patriot League Men's basketball crown may have been the final straw.

For football, this hasn't had too much of an impact, since all teams don't offer "athletic scholarships" (though they do offer grant-in-aid which sometimes functions effectively as a scholarship). But who knows how much worse this boardroom rift might get - might it infect the whole athletic department? It must be.

There is an impact, however. To me, it seems like a prospective football player looking at Lehigh versus Lafayette would see it this way. Lehigh has brand-new facilities, a brand new endowment from Murray Goodman, top-flight training rooms (good enough for the Eagles to use in August), and a seemingly unwavering commitment to athletics. At Lafayette, you have warring between the athletics department and the university, an older stadium, people hinting not so long ago that the football team needed to be dropped to Division III.

Pretty compelling case for Lehigh, even though all this nonsense doesn't directly impact football, eh?

Having said all this, I think Lafayette needs to wake up and smell the coffee. It seems to me Rothkopf is clinging to a vision of the Patriot League as "Ivy League Lite". To me, it has grown well beyond that original vision into a full-fledged quality sports league.

Scholarships have come to the Patriot League in basketball, and I feel ultimately it will spread to all other sports (including football). Scholarships won't make us a big-money, corrupt football program like Miami(FL) at our level. What it will do is allow Lafayette to compete against, say, Drexel for that very good 5'6 point guard with a 4.0 GPA by evening out the playing field.

Tomorrow: Lehigh/Bucknell! Tune in here for predictions of other games, and commentary!

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