Archive for January, 2011

Founder’s Day and W&L Athletics: What do they have in common?

January 28, 2011

By: Jan Hathorn
Athletic Director

An excerpt from some prepared remarks for a Founder’s Day event in Columbia, SC.:

One of my favorite duties as Director of Athletics, is to tell the story of our department and the philosophy behind what we do. Driving down here today, I couldn’t help but be struck by the fact that tonight we’re celebrating Founder’s Day/R. E. Lee’s birthday, but also we are honoring the many enduring values that R. E. Lee instilled in W&L.  Additionally, President Obama will be delivering his “State of the Union” address this evening. Although I don’t presume to be giving an “address”, nor do I believe that what I’m speaking about is remotely as important as what’s happening in our government today, I did find it a funny coincidence that it has been my plan to speak to you about what R. E. Lee and the W&L Athletics department have in common, as well as to highlight the “State of the Athletics Department” tonight.

During the 24 years I’ve been at W&L, I’ve been privileged to see a lot of change in the University, as well as in the Athletics department.  Here’s a brief chronology of the change that I have seen and experienced in athletics.

• When I was hired in 1987 to become the first women’s soccer coach and to establish the women’s lacrosse program, W&L’s first coeducational class was two years old and there were four sports for women (tennis, swimming, XC, and golf) and 13 sports for men.

• Fourteen years later, in 2002, when then- Athletics Director Mike Walsh removed my soccer coaching duties and promoted me into the position of Assistant Director of Athletics / Director of Physical Education, we had 23 teams – 12 for men and 11 for women.

• In 2007, I was given the opportunity to become the Director of Athletics and become the first ever female AD in W&L’s history.

• And in 2011, we added our 24th sport – women’s golf.

In my opinion, all of this change is for the good and has improved the overall quality of the University and the athletics program.  And that’s because the change has constantly been measured against the high standards and principles of leadership, integrity, honor, and excellence, the very tenets for which Robert E. Lee is known.

When I accepted the job as Director of Athletics, I did so with the clear understanding that I have a very large responsibility before me – to maintain a program of athletics that has been high-achieving for an exceptional length of time. (Or you might catch me saying in my more private moments – it’s my job to make sure I don’t screw this up!) As a woman leader in a man’s world, it has been a challenge to put some of our alums minds and expectations at ease and to help them try to understand that I am indeed hell-bent on making sure we maintain our tradition of excellence. And as easy as that may sound, I learned in my days as a coach that it is one thing to build a program; it’s a whole other thing to build a program that maintains excellence on a daily basis.  The seemingly small difference between good enough and excellence is actually a very wide chasm that takes diligent, vigilant and intentional work to overcome. I am committed to doing this work and so are the coaches whom I oversee.

This is where the Athletics Department has so much in common with R. E. Lee.  The philosophy of our department is based on four things: leadership, honor (or respect), integrity and excellence.

1.) Leadership
It is safe to say, that of the many principles that define Washington and Lee – the institution as well as both of the men – leadership is very probably the one characteristic that we most espouse. W&L’s reputation for developing leaders and leadership is renowned.  And I’m proud to say this tradition of leadership is alive and well and of great importance to me and to our coaches today.  Those of you who are athletes, (or former athletes, if you’re my age!), know first-hand that athletics participation helps to shape leaders and leadership qualities.   And our student-athletes today continue to be shaped by their sport experiences and thus continue to lead in so many ways.  They lead in the classroom: 170 student-athletes were named W&L Scholar-athletes for achieving a 3.5 GPA or higher during the 2010 fall term. A total of 21 of those students achieved a 4.0 or higher.  And they lead on the field: Last year W&L won the ODAC Commissioners Cup for overall athletic excellence for the 14th time in the past 16 years and captured the women’s overall cup for the seventh straight year.  So far this year we have two ODAC Championship teams – women’s Cross Country and football.  And I feel certain we’ll have a few more ODAC Champions before the year is through.

2.) Honor and Respect
You know better than I that Lee instituted honor and respect at W&L.  We take honor and respect very seriously, too.  In our world it’s called sportsmanship.  Sportsmanship is very important to me.  I meet with every team prior to the start of their playing season to let them know that I expect the coaches and the players to be good sports at all times.  I want our student-athletes to hear that it starts at the top and that it is not just a good idea, it’s an expectation.  And our athletes do an excellent job of meeting the high standard.  This fall I was standing on the sideline of our football game vs. Bridgewater, which was held at Bridgewater this year.  At one point during the second half, one of the local policemen, who was patrolling the sideline, came up to me and asked who I was and why I was standing there.  So I explained.  He then began to tell me that one of the men working the chains that day had just come up to him to tell him that the W&L football players are the most well-behaved, disciplined team they had seen that year.  It was a very sweet moment for me – and it became even sweeter about 10 minutes later when we beat them by one point because they missed a field goal at the end of the game!

3.) Integrity
In my estimation, you are nothing if you don’t have integrity.  At W&L, we play by the rules.  We are a NCAA Division III institution, which means we do not give financial aid to students based on athletic ability, only on their academic merit.  We also do not admit any student who does not meet the academic criteria that is required for admission, even if that student is an incredible athlete.  These two facts alone make it a very difficult job to recruit and be competitive in sports today, but we’re proud of our reputation of being a school with integrity.  I’ll tell you a brief story: I was traveling to a funeral with my men’s basketball coach last year when out of the blue he says to me, “You know, we’re probably the only school in DIII that follows the rules.”  I said, “Okay.”  He said, “No, really.  Like, we follow ALL the rules, and I don’t know of another school that does that.” I looked at him for a bit and wondered what is he trying to tell me?  Finally I said, “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”  He said, “It’s a good thing… it’s a very hard thing, but it’s a good thing.  But here’s the deal: I can put my head on the pillow at night and know that I don’t have anything to worry about.  And that’s a great thing.”

4.) Excellence
Excellence is so intertwined with all the other principles I’ve just named that it seems I am repeating myself.  You can’t really talk about leadership, honor, and integrity without talking about excellence.  W&L is known for its excellent academics and it is only fitting that we be known for our excellent athletics. And I believe that is happening.  Due to the hard work of former AD Mike Walsh, and the generosity of our alums, particularly, Dick Duchossois, W&L is known for having one of the best outdoor facilities complexes in the DIII and in the country. And here’s a new, really exciting fact that you may or may not know:  President Ruscio announced this fall, during the launch of our current capital campaign, that $50 million will be raised to build a new indoor athletics and recreation facility.  I’m also pleased to announce that two donors who wanted to help meet the Lenfest Challenge gave generously to fund endowments to support coaches’ salaries.   Just more evidence of W&L’s commitment to excellence in all that it does.

You know better than I that W&L is what it is today because of the many, many people who gave, and who give, of their time and their talents.  One group of people that we owe so much to is you, our alums.  I want you to know that the coaches and student-athletes are grateful for the many ways in which you support what we do. And on their behalf, I want to thank you for your commitment to the principles of leadership, honor, integrity and excellence that have been the foundation for our ability to be all that W&L is today.


Jay Cutler

January 25, 2011

By: Nate Jervey
Assistant Sports Information Director

Jay Cutler. The quarterback of my beloved Bears and, currently, the epicenter of the largest media hurricane since a guy named Nixon and a few innocent tape recordings. Ok, so it’s maybe not that serious, but the guy has come under some serious scrutiny of late and I am struggling with the reasons why. For those of you who don’t live in a sports-centric world the way that I do, Cutler was removed from the NFC Championship game on Sunday with a left knee injury. FOX Sports did not do a great job of reporting the severity of the injury and the repeated shots of Cutler looking disinterested and pouty on the sidelines led many fans, media types and fellow players (both past and present) to unleash a media maelstrom on the guy.

Many people questioned his toughness, his “teammateness” (yeah, it’s a word) among other things and it has become the lead story on a variety of sports-themed websites and televisions shows. Really, we are debating a guy’s toughness and the validity of his dejected look while on the sidelines? I find it nauseating that this trivial bit of information has become such a hot-button issue.

I, as a Bears fan, have no issue with him not playing due to a knee injury. With the league’s increased role in injury prevention and the “kid gloves” that players are treated with these days, is it any surprise that when a team’s franchise quarterback has a knee injury that the medical staff deems serious enough to keep him out of action that they do so? That’s what they get paid to do. So, no, I have no problem with Cutler not being able to play. Would I have liked to see him play? Absolutely. He gave the Bears the best chance to win. Am I willing to mortgage the future for a chance to go to the Super Bowl this year? Nope. At the time of the injury (what has now been called a grade II tear/sprain depending on you ask), nobody knew the extent of it, just that Cutler and the medical staff felt it serious enough to keep him off the field. ‘Nuff said, I am cool with that.

Cutler always looks so thrilled to be alive, but that is simply his personality.

The other thing that Cutler has come under fire for are his actions on the sidelines….or, rather his lack thereof. Cutler was largely shown as a disinterested and aloof bystander on the sidelines. Often having a dejected and pouty look on his face while interacting little with his teammates. As I stated in a debate in the office this morning, that’s how I would have looked. I get hurt and can’t play in the biggest game of my career (thus far) and I am supposed to look happy and content on the sidelines? @#%& that!!! Would I, as a fan or even a teammate, like to have seen him be a little more engaged and leader-like? Yeah, probably, but that’s Jay Cutler. Look at him when he is introduced as a member of the Bears. He ALWAYS looks that way, I mean ALWAYS and while outwardly he may appear to be disinterested, I can’t seem to remember any of his Chicago teammates saying as much this season. Me, personally, I would have seen an enthusiastic and ultra-engaged Cutler as disingenuous, as though he was hiding something. To me, he acted the way I would have expected and while it may not be what the media wanted, he is not catering to the media. He is not even catering to the fans, and those that think he should be are mistaken, he is to be held accountable by one group of people – The Chicago Bears Organization. Starting with the players, followed by management/ownership that is the only group of people that should have a valid opinion on his injury. As long as they are happy with his effort and him as a teammate, why should the media care?

The media and the analysts for ESPN and Sports Illustrated etc… get paid to analyze on-field performance and why plays happen for a reason. Some are asked to give informed opinions on a subject, like an off-the-field incident and how it should be handled, for instance. I don’t know of any analyst that was hired with the idea in mind that they would speculate about someone’s toughness and or ability to play based what they saw on television. Not a single analyst, or current/former player spoke to Cutler before the hurricane whipped up and the feeding frenzy began.

7:52 after the Bears – Packers game ended:

Analyst A: “Well Bob, he looked a little pouty on the sidelines and that leads me to believe that he isn’t hurt too badly and he is a giant wuss.”

Analyst B: “Thanks for that Steve. That was Steve Dorkus reporting from his couch in Ceder Falls, Iowa. Sportscenter will be back after this.”

Crack reporting fellas.

Sad state of affairs when a few screen caps from a football game can lead someone who was not there to determine the ability of a player to play. If you are watching from afar, keep your observations to how a player ran a poor post route, or why the pulling guard missed his seal, or how that holding penalty stalled a drive. Leave the comments about Cutler’s ability to play to those who matter – Cutler himself, the medical staff and the players/coaches. They were there and their opinions are the only ones that matter to me.

I guess that, in the end, it’s not the Cutler issue that bothers me, it’s that there IS a “Cutler Issue”. I have heard more about Cutler in the last few days than I have the impending State of the Union Address, the bombing at the Moscow airport that killed 35 people and the not guilty plea of a certain Tucson, Arizona native. That’s just sad th…..wait, er, you mean to read about those other “things” I have to change the channel from ESPN? I should try CNN? Oh, so you mean the Cutler thing hasn’t been everywhere, just primarily on sports television and Internet? Wait, they make non-sports television and Internet? Wow, this changes everything.

Ooh, look…a tv station all about food. This is awesome.

Television Taste

January 21, 2011

By: Brian Laubscher
Sports Information Director

This week I was having some trouble coming up with some topics for my blog entry so I decided to ask for help from my facebook friends.  There were some terrific ideas thrown out there and they definitely helped to stimulate the thought process about what to pen for all those interested readers out there.

In the end, it was a suggestion by Grove City College SID Ryan Briggs that ultimately led to my blog topic.  Briggsy, as he is affectionately known, suggested that I write about what it is like to have grown up in the “real Jersey Shore”, playing on the name of the hit MTV show that it seems everyone except me has watched.

What Briggsy meant was to write about my hometown, Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania.  It is nowhere near New Jersey and worse yet it is hundreds of miles away from the nearest legitimate shoreline (unless you count the West Branch of the Susquehanna River).  I guess I could write the entire blog about how life in Jersey Shore is pretty much the antithesis of the fascinating lifestyle of such characters as “The Situation” and “Snookie”, but how interesting would that be?

Digital Video Recorder - The Greatest Invention Ever

Briggs’ suggestion did give me an idea for something that could be far more engaging for the 10 or so people who may end up reading this – breaking down the television shows that are watched in the Laubscher household, specifically, what is currently in our DVR and what is in our DVR schedule.  Hope you enjoy it and thanks to all those who wrote in with ideas (Jane Beall, Scott Musa, Austin Calhoun, Melissa Wiggins, Scott Harris, Dan Lunger and, of course, Briggsy).

First, the shows that are currently recording: I’m sure you can guess which ones are mine and which ones are my wife’s.  I must first state that she pretty much only watches her shows when I am not home or am engaged in other activities so I am extremely lucky for that.  And, when there’s nothing of relevance to her that is on, the remote is pretty much mine and I make full use of all the buttons.  Now, without further ado, our DVR lists:

I find there to be nothing redeeming at all about the Monday programming.  Probably because nothing can compete with ESPN’s Big Monday this time of year.  Go Villanova!

This Fox show belongs to my wife and although I’ve tried to watch, I’ve limited myself to just a couple of episodes.  It does well at the award shows and the music is pretty innovating (especially the Christmas episode where Chris Colfer sang a male-oriented version of “Baby it’s cold outside“).  However, I would say that the show lacks something for most male viewers.  Then again, Rachel talks smack about the show any time she can so I guess its lack of appeal isn’t simply gender-related.

If you’ve never watched, you may assume that Parenthood is one of Mindy’s selections, but you would be wrong.  We both love this show and NBC gets it right with this one.  It has the same great family interactions that make Friday Night Lights a tremendous watch, but it also has a terrific cast including Craig T. Nelson (Coach), Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Monica Potter, Erika Christensen and Dax Shepard.  Truthfully, what guy doesn’t like seeing Potter or Christensen too?  I feel like this will eclipse Friday Night Lights in my TIVO importance order sometime soon.

Ed O'Neill portrays a much more likeable character in Modern Family.

Modern Family

This ABC show is my favorite new comedy.  I love this show.  Good acting and writing and a good concept.  Mindy and I started watching this show this fall and loved it so much we bought the first season on DVD.  I was a little depressed when we finished the DVD because we couldn’t watch new episodes of the show any day of the week.  The beauty is that it is PG/PG-13 humor that everyone can relate to and enjoy.  Ed O’Neill does a good job of reinventing himself as something other than Al Bundy and Sofia Vergara’s voice may annoy some people, but I find it addictive in the same way that some like British accents.  She’s not bad on the eyes either, nor is Julie Bowen.  The gay couple played by Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson are hysterical as well.  If you haven’t watched it, please start!  There’s something for everyone though I must admit that I don’t really like the Manny character played by Rico Rodriguez.

Top Chef
I didn’t start watching this until I moved in with Mindy, but I’m glad she turned me onto this Bravo show.  As you may have noticed if you’ve met me, I enjoy food way too much and this show provides plenty of examples why.  It has the great elements of reality TV mixed with some good cooking challenges and some fantastic dishes.  The current season is an all-star show and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.  I started with Top Chef Masters and then moved onto Top Chef DC.  I’ve also seen Top Chef “Just Desserts” (which was not nearly as good) and so this is my fourth season of Top Chef.  If you enjoy reality TV and food, you’ll love this show.  I like Tiffany Derry and Tre Wilcox the most out of the remaining contestants this season.  I’m still wary of Angelo Sosa.  I either love him or hate him depending on the episode.

Off the Map
This is a new series that just started on ABC.  Mindy says its good but all she needed to do was tell me that it had some parallels with Grey’s Anatomy and I was immediately disinterested.  I believe it is on at 10:00 PM if you want to watch and give a scouting report in the comments section.

Grey’s Anatomy

Obviously this ABC show is all Mindy.  I’ve seen a few episodes by proxy (hazards of marriage) and it seems like there is always some sort of dating drama among the doctors.  Didn’t anyone ever tell them it might not be a good idea to date the same people you work with every day?

Private Practice
Umm, yeah.  This is another one that doesn’t really get played while I’m in the living room.  Again, I’ve casually observed pieces of a few episodes and I know that it is a Grey’s spinoff, but not much more than that.  The two episodes I saw involved a 700-pound teenager who was eating himself to death to keep his mom from molesting him and a brutal rape scene.  These were not encouraging signs for me to continue watching (that’s why the playstation is hooked up to the TV upstairs).

At least Monday has basketball games.  The only good thing about Friday programming is that it generally is a night when we watch our DVR’d programs.

Well, Saturday has never been a great day for television programming.  Thank god for sports and the occasional HBO Saturday Night Premiere that I haven’t already seen (like when they had Avatar and we were the only two people on Earth who had yet to see it).

Sunday afternoon is about one thing: Football.  When football season is over it’s about some good college basketball. Not too long ago Sunday evenings would have been packed with things like Boardwalk Empire, Entourage or The Pacific, not to mention How to Make it in America.  The HBO Sunday programming is terrific.  Too bad the shows that I enjoy watching have already ended for their seasons.   Currently, Sunday programming is just fine with Mindy as her Sunday evening selections are below.

Big Love
I tried watching this a few years back, but just couldn’t get into it.  Mindy loves it.  I had trouble with the polygamist lifestyle.  Kind of freaked me out.  I mean if you are going to mix with several women at the same time, why would you possibly want to marry them all?  Where is the fun in that?

Desperate Housewives

If Emmanuelle Chriqui is on Desperate Housewives, I'm watching!

You can guess this isn’t my choice.  Again, I’ve been in the vicinity when this has been played on the DVR and it’s not my cup of tea.  I saw enough to see all the neighbors turn on each other as things escalated into a full-scale riot because a halfway house was opening on the block.  Riveting if it had Blake Lively and Emmanuelle Chriqui as part of the lead cast, but Teri Hatcher and Felicity Huffman’s acting skills just don’t do it for me.  🙂

Brothers & Sisters
You guessed it, another one not ticketed for my free time though out of all the shows that Mindy enjoys exclusively, this is the one that I would be most likely to watch.  The Ally McBeal broad (Calista Flockhart) is in it, which makes it lose some appeal.  However, Forest Gump’s mom (Sally Field) is also part of the cast, which gives it some credibility.

So there’s the current DVR listing that Mindy and I funnel through each week on the HDTV in the living room.  We have another DVR that records on the non-HD playstation TV, but there’s a reason those shows are recorded in the auxiliary room.  Even Mindy has no problem calling “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and “Bethany Getting Married” trash TV.  I happily pay an extra $5 per month for those gigabyte-eaters to not live on the HD box and therefore find their way into my everyday life.

This blog is getting more like a novel every minute so I’ll spare the expanded details of the other shows scheduled to record throughout the year.  Here is a small sampling with a simple comment:

Mad Men (a Mindy fav courtesy of Rachel’s recommendation and I actually like it too even though it’s not really a joint DVR show yet)

Friday Night Lights (Easily one of our mutual favorites.  Best writing and acting on TV though the plot lines are a little far-fetched and every game ends with a successful hail mary)

Man vs. Wild (Man trash TV.  I’m coming to grips with the fact that it’s not real, but again the accent would always keep me coming back)

Project Runway (I tried to watch one episode for the models but that dude Casanova completely freaked me out)

Survivor (A Brian Laubscher staple since Richard Hatch won in 2000. The new season includes both Russell Hantz and Rob Mariano.  Going to be fun!)

The Amazing Race (I’m still surprised that I never fell in love with that show)

Boardwalk Empire (Great acting/sets/filming.  If it re-runs, watch it!)

Entourage (Starting to lose its appeal but once held the title of No. 1 favorite show.  It’s still up there in my priority list though)

Army Wives (Umm.  No comment other than the character played by Drew Fuller looks a lot like former W&L men’s basketball player Brian Ricketts)

Grill it! With Bobby Flay (Who doesn’t want to learn more recipes for the grill.  Got a killer flank steak recipe from this show)

NCAA Convention

January 18, 2011

By: Shana Levine
Associate Athletic Director

This past week was the NCAA Convention down in San Antonio – the NCAA Convention is one of those events that is both exhausting and energizing all at the same time.  We arrived in San Antonio on Wednesday – after significantly fewer travel issues than we anticipated.  Apart from the ridiculously early departure times, it was pretty smooth sailing from Charlottesville to Charlotte and then onto San Antonio.  Once we arrived, we realized that most of our colleagues in the northeast did not experience such a smooth trip.  There were three of us from W&L that headed out to San Antonio – Jan Hathorn (Athletics Director), Ellen Mayock (Faculty Athletics Representative) and I.  It’s great to be able to have so many representatives attend!

So, let’s talk about some highlights…and what actually goes on at the NCAA Convention.  First of all, it’s important to note that the convention is not division-specific, but a place where all three divisions get together and work on association-wide topics and then break into divisions and vote on legislation.


President Mark Emmert at the Opening Business Session

• Opening Business Session.  This was President Mark Emmert’s first Convention as President of the NCAA and the first in a long time without the late Myles Brand.  Right off the bat, the session had a much different feel than in recent years.  President Emmert wore a wireless mic and walked around the stage engaging the audience in his presentation.  He then interviewed three student-athletes to illustrate the values he believes are core to the Association.  The student-athletes featured were Ashley Karpinos of Kenyon (swimming), Robert Griffin of Baylor (football) and Neely Spence of Shippensburg (cross country, track and field).  It was nice to see all three divisions highlighted!

Bo Jackson at the Honors Dinner

• Seeing Bo Jackson at the bar.  Bo was one of the award winners at the Honors Dinner on Friday evening.  But, on Thursday night, he was just hanging out at the hotel bar.  Kinda cool.  I congratulated him on Auburn’s National Championship.

• Seeing the Convention through the eyes of a first-time attendee.  I am lucky enough to have a law extern from the W&L law school that is interested in getting into intercollegiate athletics.  The externship allows students to get class credit at the law school through experiential field-learning working in the W&L athletic department.  My extern for the Winter 2011 term is Megan and she took the initiative to get herself to the NCAA Convention to see (1) what really goes on there and (2) if she really wants to work in college athletics.  It was great to see her reactions to all the events and meetings – and I think we have another lawyer to athletics administrator convert.  Excellent!

• Catching up with old friends over good food and drinks.  While the River Walk is usually the highlight of any trip to San Antonio – it rained for 3 straight days, making the River Walk considerably less appealing.  So, instead we took cabs to a few places and mostly hung out at the hotel bar – it’s always amazing to me how many great people work in college athletics.  And I love catching up with my friends from the NCAA – miss you all!

Division III Session photo

• Division III Sessions.  The Division III Business Session always amazes me.  This session is Saturday morning and where representatives from every Division III school and conference come together in one room and vote on the legislative changes for that year.  It ends up being a room filled with about 1500 folks and is the best example of how the NCAA really is a member-run organization.  So cool.

• Steelers Game at the Hyatt Bar.  Sooo…since we had meetings until Saturday afternoon and we were very limited by the number of flights into the happening Charlottesville, VA airport, we stayed over Saturday night as well.  Obviously, this meant that I packed my Steelers jersey in preparation and then headed down to the hotel bar to watch the game.  I was ready to retreat to back to my room at halftime, but I stayed and then was able to heckle some Ravens fans with other hilarious “yinsers” from Pittsburgh.  Turned out to be a great evening!

So, now we are looking forward to Indianapolis in 2012 and San Diego in 2013!


January 14, 2011

By: Megan Moore
Assistant Women’s Lacrosse Coach

“Come tournament time, we remind each other of winter, come winter, we remind each other of tournament time; and in between, we’re looking forward to both.” Inside Lacrosse writer Tommy Kehoe, and former Gettysburg Bullet, captured the essence of a lacrosse season last January in his article “Pre-Season Lacrosse isn’t for the Weak.” When a former teammate of mine and current assistant coach at Gettysburg passed the article onto me last winter, I got chills reading it, and not just from the memories of fighting brutal battlefield winds on Clark Field or the foreboding thought of what awaited me on Liberty Hall Fields.

Now, before I hear a peep out of those claiming there to be parts of the world SO much colder, (you know who you are), let me agree with you. There are locales more worthy of braving the elements than both Lexington and Gettysburg, and my hat goes off to those of you who’ve endured, but spending two to three hours in 30 degree temperatures is taxing, no matter the latitude. But it’s worth it. This is my favorite time of year. That’s not true, early April when the first 60 degree pre-game practice arrives and we can spend the last 45 minutes of daylight playing seven v. seven because we finally look that good, that’s my favorite time of year. This is a different kind of favorite. It’s the hate part of the love-hate relationship almost every athlete has with their sport. It’s the uphill mean that justifies the end.

And what Mr. Kehoe said is exactly that, lacrosse players spend a month’s worth of practice with what seems like no end in sight reminding each other that this will be worth it, and when it is worth it, they look back and remember the bitter practices and early morning wake ups that got them there.  They laugh at the drills they trudged through with snow bunches on their sweats and at the sprints they ran for not executing when the wind drowned out their coach’s directions. This is “team bonding” in its truest form, when teammates come to call each other best friends. They will get sick of each other, but they’ll get over it and be brought together, mostly by their less than pleasant feelings for the person screaming at them to get back on the line. Only screaming to be heard over the wind though, right.

So, in the name of lax, I say bring it on winter.

Now, if we can just get through Formal Rush…

Just one more quick thing: “tournament time” for another sport is upon us. Although it’s more commonly known as the NFL Playoffs.  Go Ravens.

Hockey Talk

January 11, 2011

By: Rachel Buck
Sports Information Assistant

Warning: if you’re not a hockey fan, you may want to stop reading this post.

Alright, with that out of the way let’s talk hockey. Those of you who know me are aware that hockey is by far my favorite sport. I talk and watch the game obsessively, and try to share my love of the game with as many people as I can.

Alas, even with all of my talking (which I do a lot), hockey still struggles to appear on the radar as a major mainstream sport in the United States. Obviously more of a regional game, its followings in the Northeast and Midwest are much larger than anywhere else. But it seems as though the NHL is trying to change that appeal…in ways other than placing a team in a desolate warm-weather climate.

Just over a week ago, the NHL hosted its fourth-annual Winter Classic outdoor game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. The contest pitted rivals (well, let’s clarify: a loose rivalry mostly fueled by the NHL’s insistence on comparing Alex Ovechkin and Sydney Crosby, despite their significantly differentiating styles of play, positions and personalities) the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Minus the terrible NBC commentary from Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury and some questionable intermission promotions, the Winter Classic lived up to it’s expectations: a competitive and gritty game, showcased nationwide during primetime. Even under such bright lights, it maintained quaintness about the game and its outdoor roots for so many players – past and present.

For those of us who grew up skating on the ice of frozen ponds and other outdoor surfaces, it brings back fond memories of youth, when you couldn’t wait for the ice to be thick enough on the pond so dad could drive the plow and clear a spot. Granted, the surface wasn’t polished because we didn’t have access (or time) to water to spray down and even the surface, but it got you outside. If you wanted to skate on a smooth surface you would go to one of the many rinks maintained by the city or the indoor sheets. But if you were just looking to skate or play small shinny hockey close to home, it was the best day of the year.

Hockey at Lambeau Field

I had originally planned on attending the Winter Classic, but due to unforeseen circumstances with my travel companion I did not make the trip. But I have seen outdoor hockey, and the experience is everything that makes hockey, hockey. In 2006 the University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers faced the Ohio State Buckeyes at Lambeau Field. Lambeau has an amazing aura standing on its own, but partner that with 10-degree temperatures, great college hockey and amazing Sconnie tailgating and it was one of those experiences I’ll never forget. The college world has been playing outdoors for years, and the NHL has finally caught on to the success of those games. For a traditionalist and huge hockey fan like myself, bringing the game outdoors on a consistent basis (let’s all remember the failed attempt to play in Vegas in 1991 and the 2003 Heritage Classic in Edmonton) is one of the best decisions the NHL has made.

On the other side of the rink for those who aren’t big hockey fans, the outdoor game has helped put the NHL on national, mainstream sports radars, if only for a day. Ratings for the Winter Classic were released last week and they were one of the highest hockey ratings ever – even surpassing past Stanley Cup Finals. While the NBC platform may not necessarily be the best for the regular hockey fan (I had to turn the radio feed on around the fourth time Milbury called a wrist shot a forehand) it is definitely a great access point for the general sports fan that wants to learn more about the game. Giving the game a national spotlight on a day usually reserved for big college football games made it seem even more accessible. I would like to think that if the league can continue to produce quality matchups with great venues and a national audience more and more people might gain an interest in the sport (ah, the eternal optimist in me).

The NHL also got it right when they worked with HBO to produce the 24/7 Penguins/Capitals Road to the Winter Classic four-part series on the network. Instead of placing a similar series on the fledgling NHL Network, they allowed a major television power into the arena, giving fans a glimpse into the world of hockey.

And was it eye opening. Everyone expects explicative language to be used in the locker room and on the ice, but the way that Caps Head Coach Bruce Boudreau dropped f-bombs would make even Rex Ryan rosy in the cheeks. Everything that happened on and off the ice was fair game. Fans saw players lose teeth, have a root canal during intermission and go back on the ice for the next period. They also saw them on a personal level, interacting with friends and family off the ice (including Ovechkin enjoying a homemade meal prepared by his mom). The grit that hockey players possess was fully demonstrated, and I believe it gave people a better appreciation of how difficult this sport can be to play and how the guys who play it are some of the toughest athletes. Even “squeaky-clean” Crosby had a scene where he dropped numerous f-bombs to the ref after he was called for a penalty.

Next up is the reformatted All-Star Game format. If you haven’t heard, this year’s ASG will not be the typical East-West format, but instead a throwback to elementary school gym class. Basically, after fans select a “top line”, hockey ops and general managers from around the league will complete the 42-man roster. Two players will then be chosen from the participants to serve as team captains, and pick their teams based not on conference, but rather who they want to compete with on the ice (making the last guy picked feel like the kid who was always picked last in gym class). Not only will the captains pick their teams for the game on Sunday, but they will also select the matchups for the skills competition.

I’ll admit I’m managing multiple fantasy hockey teams right now…and not doing too shabby. This format makes the uber-nerdy fantasy player in me excited to see the outcome. Could it turn out as poorly as my team in 2007 that finished dead last even though I thought I had an amazing team? Sure. Superstars playing together don’t always equal success (*cough*New Jersey Devils*cough*). But I can’t help but get excited thinking about the drama that will surround the player draft (Crosby didn’t pick Malkin? The Sedin brothers are on opposite teams?). Will players pick teammates because it will assist with their comfort level on the ice? Will style of play be a factor? What about whether or not to pick a divisional/conference foe? So many questions! That excitement is exactly what might be able to attract the casual hockey fan, allowing the best of the best to choose who they want to play, and waiting for the final result of where everyone falls (and the fallout of those choices). Right now I’m thinking the draft may be more exciting than the game, but we shall see.

Alas, even with so many good things, there is some bad. My one problem with the NHL right now is the fact that they moved the 2011 Heritage Classic in Calgary, outdoors. It’s almost like the NHL saying, “we’re sorry we haven’t put a Winter Classic outside in Canada yet, so here’s your turn.” If the league continues to add outdoor games to its schedule (yes, one more game does make a difference) I think there will be a slight loss in the interest of the outdoor game, a loss of the mystique and honor for the players and fans in attendance. There is such thing as ‘too much of a good thing’…keep the fans wanting more and they will keep coming back year after year.

Will hockey ever be as big as the NFL, MLB or NBA? Even the most optimistic hockey fan doesn’t think so, but I think they are making some steps in the right direction. Even though the NHL may keep me (and other die-hards) from seeing a Minnesota-Dallas matchup in the State of Hockey, a Montreal-Toronto clash that gives our neighbors to the North a fair shake with a storied rivalry or a sequence of Original Six matchups, the NHL needs to make sure they keep the marquis matchups coming.

On a random endnote: a few blog posts ago I wrote about many of the superstitions that I have with my favorite teams. Well, it turns out I’m not the only person who has publicized their quarks. I recently finished reading Extraordinary, Ordinary People – A Memoir of Family by Condoleezza Rice (highly recommended, by the way). In the book she mentions that when watching sports she starts on one side of the couch, and if the team does poorly she moves to the other side of the couch in the second half. Guess I’m not the only crazy one!

Like Father … Like Son … Like Son

January 6, 2011

By: Bryan Snyder
Assistant Athletic Director/Head Volleyball Coach

I have often heard the saying, “the only sure things in life are death and taxes”, and for most people that is true.  However, some folks find ways around taxes, so really death, or more accurately, the passing of time, is the only truly constant certainty that we can count on.  Time is an amazing concept if you really think about it – it moves forward at the same rate forever, regardless of all other factors.  Some people would claim that time is quantitative since it can be measured, while others would claim it is more of a concept since it has no tangible physical qualities.  I believe both to be true, and am truly amazed at the power of time.

I have thought about time quite a bit recently as I just celebrated a birthday a few weeks ago, and I am seeing my children grow up at what seems to be an alarmingly fast rate.  I have thought quite a bit about when I was a child and have had some great memories revived in my mind.  One such memory is of sharing “favorite” songs with my father when I was young.  Two songs in particular remain forever etched in my mind as “our songs”: John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt and Three Dog Night’s Joy to the World.  I am pretty sure I liked the former for its silly lyrics and simplistic pattern, while the latter most likely appealed to me because of the opening line, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog, he was a good friend of mine”. (Come on, how could you NOT like a song that started off like that!)  I have many memories of singing those two songs with my Dad, and it always brings a smile to my face to think about that.

My son, Devin, who will be five years old in April, has always really liked music, and within the past several months, he has been picking up lyrics in songs and beginning to sing them.  Any time we hear John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, he immediately announces, “hey Dad, this was your favorite song when you were little”, and then we sing a few stanzas together.  Several weeks ago while we were riding in my truck, we heard the song Crazy Town by Jason Aldean (a country song for those of you who are not into Nashville), and once we got home, Devin started “singing” it as he was doing different things around the house.  He had a few of the lyrics correct, but was substituting his own lyrics for some of the others (a talent he DEFINITELY inherited from his mother), so I asked him, “Devin, are you singing that song we just listened to on the ride home?”  He said that he was, so I taught him the correct lyrics to part of the chorus:  “we love it, we hate it, we’re all just trying to make it … in this crazy town”.  Ever since then, he has been singing that song almost every day, and any time we hear it on the radio, the computer or the I-pod, we sing it together, once again bringing back memories of my Dad and I singing “Jeremiah was a bullfrog … “.

I don’t know if Devin will remember any of this 30+ years from now, or if we will develop another song in the future that he will remember as “our song”, but I hope that one day he gets to experience the joy of remembering singing with me as well as sharing a favorite song with his children.  The one thing that is certain is that as time continues to pass, my memories of “singing” (I put it in quotes, because none of us will be winning American Idol anytime soon) with both my father and my son will continue to make me smile.

P. S. – both of my children (my daughter, Geneva, is 21 months old) are starting to discover the beauty of  We Will Rock You by AC/DC, and seeing them sing that together is quite a fantastic (and hysterical) image as well

Goodbye 2010 and Hello 2011

January 4, 2011

By: Kelly Mathis
Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach

As my first semester as an assistant coach comes to an end and the beginning of my second semester begins, I have nothing but excitement and thanks filling my heart.  This past year, the opportunity to coach at the collegiate level has been the best experience and opportunity I could ever ask for.  From playing coach in my kitchen as a little girl, there has been no doubt in my mind that this is exactly what I desire to do.

This first semester of coaching has come quick.  It was filled with observing, learning and implementing a daily routine.  Along with a complete adjustment, as for the first time in my life, I have had to pay monthly bills, cook for myself and really learn to live on my own as an adult.  However, the opportunity to work for and work with some of the most extraordinary people has only guided me in becoming better each day.

2011 has snuck up on me, and I am very anxious for the heart of the season to be in full swing.  Today, we begin that part of the season;  I am looking forward to watching our team grow and go above and beyond our season goals.  As all the anxiety of a new assistant coach has started to dwindle, the beginning of 2011 has led me to look at a year of excitement!