Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Moving Soccer To The USA Big Leagues

Imagine a space that’s eight yards wide and eight feet tall, a rectangle of sizable but not of vast proportions. Put in the middle of that two dimensional area a person who is about six feet tall with a wing span width of about six feet. Even with that obstacle of a human in front of that rectangle frame, there should be plenty of room to regularly kick or head butt a perfectly round sphere which is approximately just a little less than nine inches in diameter past the person and into the soccer goal.

But, since the person usually has excellent quickness and superior reaction time and a sixth sense of knowing where the ball is going, the results are final scores of 0-0, 1-0 and 2-1, and an American viewing public largely not interested.

Soccer, as we Yanks call the British born game of football, may be a huge participation sport in the United States, especially the youth players, but it takes a vast backseat to American football (college and professional), basketball (college and professional), baseball (college and professional) and some others when it comes to the interest required to make soccer a major sport from sea to shining sea plus Alaska and Hawaii.

Every four years, with the World Cup, we are reminded through patriotism that soccer’s excitement is in the eyes of the beholder. ESPN, with its wall to wall coverage on its outlets and on ABC, has thrust the sport on us this year but my guess is that the ratings for the game played by Team USA were relatively enormous, for televised soccer, but that only cursory viewing has been tabulated for the other games. My guess is the ratings for the USA’s loss to Ghana will remain higher than the upcoming World Cup Championship game will be.

USA sports fans take an interest any time we have the chance to whip a team of foreigners. Years ago, when the America’s Cup went from its longtime home of Newport RI to somewhere down under in Australia, ESPN showed it live in the middle of the night Eastern Time. The all-sports network was amazed at its viewing audience which was filled with Americans who were less interested in tacking and more interested in beating those damn Aussies.

While driving Monday to an appointment, I was taking in a short radio discussion on soccer. The question from the host was: What will it take to make soccer as popular in the United States as it is worldwide? The answers were way far off. For instance, one caller said it would take a superstar soccer player to capture the imagination of the Americans. We’ve tried Pelé, and we’ve tried Beckam. Neither captured anything other than bad press when their presence did nothing for increasing interest in the game though there was an amplified curiosity in the two individuals and their private lives.

Soccer is really a good game and more along the line of what Americans like in sports, more so than ice hockey. The idea of speed skating, slapping a little piece of charcoal with sticks to give us 0-0, 1-0 and 2-1 scores, in a haphazard way, is far less appealing the than the developing strategy of soccer. We know that the NFL is the biggest sport for viewing and add-ons in the United States. There’s nothing fast about football (college or professional) but there’s a lot of strategy. Basketball can be a fast sport or it can be at a slow tempo, but there’s lots of developing strategy and we can actually see the ball without a red glow around it while watching it on TV. Baseball (college or professional) is as slow as it gets but it’s a great spectator sport because it’s full of strategy and there’s no clock and plenty of time for bathroom breaks without missing anything other than so-called experts telling you things that are not expertish.

I’m not the constant or rabid soccer fan, but I can watch the game and get excited at good play and frustrated at bad passes and quick shots that are surely to miss, and I understand that keeping offensive pressure on throughout the game is the key to wearing down the opponent and celebrating a come-from-behind tie. However, if I were soccer czar in the United States, I would be doing what it takes to keep our better players in the United States instead of them fleeing to the European leagues where the public appreciates the sport a lot more than we do. It’s where the money is for salaries and endorsements, so when this World Cup is over, most of the stars of Team USA will be playing for Manchester United and other teams across the pond.

As USA Soccer Czar, my moves would be to give the sport more offense and less defense which equates to more scoring. And, more scoring means more interest from Americans who feast on the three primaries. And, maybe enough interest to sell more tickets and bring in better TV rating which equates to more money to the league and more salaries to the players.

While one of the great things about soccer is the length of the game with two 45-minute periods with a continuously running clock which means a game, with a short halftime and even with additional minutes, is over and done in two hours, just the right amount of time for a sleeper score, even if the racing up and down the field and the battles for the ball are somewhat enjoyable, suspenseful and exciting.

But, if soccer wants more money to make the sport more successful in the United States, there must be TV timeouts, say, at the 12-minute, 24-minute and 36 minute marks, breaks that should be limited to 60- or 90-seconds with the game clock stopped. There could be other times which would also be used for substitutions. This is very much the Americanization of the sport but it would allow ESPN and others to have in-game time to sell and, at homes and in the stadiums, time for the fans to use the restrooms and make purchases at the concession stands.

The biggest change I would make, though goes back to that 8-yard wide by 8-feet tall rectangle that fronts the goal which needs more balls going into it during the game if the sport is to be more appealing to the American football, baseball and basketball fans. So, I propose increasing the size to 10-yards wide by 10-feet tall, a more than generous increase in the frame. It would really open the game and attract the casual viewer who thirsts for more scoring from the most popular sport in the world but low on the list in the United States.

While most soccer players and fans would probably oppose the ideas, these changes would increase interest and the fan base, and the alterations would only apply to United States soccer, of course. When it comes time for the World Cup, Team USA would have to play under the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) rules and regulations, but that’s okay, as long as we win.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Par Four From The Sidewalk, Oh My!

With no out-of-bounds stakes in sight, with no lateral hazard lines around, with no idea that the inside line of the curb of Country Club Road is officially designated as out-of-bounds because no rules are written on the Forsyth Country Club scorecard, I made my way through the row of tall holly trees along the right side of the 16th hole at the 1913 designed Donald Ross layout in Winston-Salem to look for my tee shot that had veered in that direction.

It had not been a slice with one of those clock-wise spinning balls that seems to take a quick turn to the right. It was simply a straight shot down that side of the 427-yard, par-4 hole and high enough to get over the hollies and yet long enough that had it been in the fairway, my guess is the approach shot would have been around 145 yards. That’s about where I started the search, carefully diving through the prickly barrier and then watching for traffic along the narrow yet busy road.

Wearing bright yellow shorts with a white, blue and yellow shirt and a wide brim “straw” hat adorned with the block “S” logo of my NC State Wolfpack, I peered into the area just short of the curb, hoping to find the ball, a Titleist ProV1x with two distinct Sharpie red dots and two obvious Sharpie red lines which would help me identify it as mine. As I carefully walked along the edge of Country Club Road, I looked under the trees but then along the street. After walking about 75 yards from where I originally thought I would find the ball, I glanced up the roadway. Another 50 yards beyond, across the street, sitting in the middle of the sidewalk was a white dot that I just knew would prove to be my tee shot.

I made my way back through the hollies after grabbing my 54-degree Vokey wedge, the one with age and scares of battles past, and I was soon back on the street, walking towards the ball. Cars and trucks, seeing me, I’m sure, slowed a little, thank goodness. Now on the sidewalk, as I got closer, there were the red marks. It was mine. Again, no out-of-bounds was in sight. I studied my lie, an aged sidewalk with lots of nooks and crannies on its surface, but I had a clean position, and now I needed to determine, if I am to hit from that spot, what is the line to take, and how do I negotiate passing traffic.

After a little surveying, it was obvious I was just 25 yards from the green. Talk about a hard fairway with lots of roll. Wow! A drive in excess of 400 yards. But I was just a few feet from the trees and I knew I needed to hit a pick shot and not attempt to take a divot unless I wanted a broken club and a stressed set of wrists, or may the reverse. And, I knew the pick shot would have a lower trajectory. My swing would not be as up-right as is normal for me, therefore the lower ball flight.

Then there was the bus. After taking a couple of practice swings, again I looked around for traffic. From the right, a car or two needed to pass, but from the left, there was a city bus approaching. I’m not sure if I was near a bus stop or not, but as the bus drew closer, it appeared to slow, and I’m certain if I had not shown my club and pointed to the ball, I would have had the opportunity to be a bus rider. I saw the driver smile as he added speed and moved past my location on the sidewalk, golf club and ball ready to try to save par.

With traffic cleared and two of my playing partners already waiting on the green and my golf cart riding companion trying to fill every divot in the fairway with the little bit of sand in the jugs supplied on the golf cart, I took my stance and one more practice swing. Another look around for traffic, and then the swing. As I took back the club, I reminded myself to stay focused, to keep my head down and my eyes on the ball. There would be no peaking to see the results. To scull the ball or to hit it “fat” was not an option. The swing was as perfect as I could muster, with the club barely glancing the sidewalk made of concrete and the ball rising towards the top of the holly trees and on a undeviating line in the direction of the green.

The flight was too low as it clipped the top of the very last leafy obstacle and darted nearly directly downward. But then the sound I wanted to hear: The ball hit the cart path just beyond the trees and bounded toward the green. It stopped short by the few yards, and my subsequent chip came up about six feet short of the hole. The other three in the group were laughing at most of this but returned to their own seriousness, attempting to make birdie putts. One made, the others missed, and it was soon my turn to try for my four. I struck a good putt but it looked to me it would miss slightly right.

At the last moment, it rolled left and hit the bottom of the cup. A par-four from the sidewalk! Or at least I thought. At least we all thought. It was part of the conversation the remainder of the round. Based on what had happened, the others tried to give me a new moniker, either Sidewalk Jim or Bus Rider Jim. Neither stuck, thank goodness.

Unfortunately, after talking with the golf course professional after the round, I was disappointed to learn that the inside edge of the curb nearest the course is indeed out-of-bounds. “It’s posted in the clubhouse and written on the rules sheets for tournaments,” he said. I had hit a provisional ball from the tee just in case my original teeing had been OB. In theory, I should have played the second tee shot, then hitting my fourth shot towards the green. But in reality, I didn’t.

It wasn’t a tournament, so there was no disqualification. My score on the hole didn’t mean anything to the friendly match among friends. It was written on the scorecard and remained throughout the round and is part of the score I posted in the handicap system, whether I should have or not. It was unique, an experience I’d guess most golfers have had at some point in at least one round at some time, maybe not from the sidewalk, but something unique and just outside the rules, experiences that will be part of their own golf lore for years to come.

Forsyth Country Club is ranked only as the 42nd best course (too low if you ask me) in North Carolina by the North Carolina Golf Panel (scroll down further and clink link to the right of this column), the enjoyable layout with lots of different shots from tee to green will be closer to the top of my list for years to come. A “par” from the sidewalk along Country Club Road will have a lot to do with that.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Winning Will Make Debbie Yow Popular

“I, fortunately, do not have a great need to be popular. I’d rather win than be popular.” —Debbie Yow.
It was with disbelief AND skepticism (if you can have both at the same time since the meaning of each is each other) that the appointment of Debbie Yow as the next Athletics Director at NC State University greeted me. Maybe it was because during the last couple of months as I considered possibilities for that Wolfpack leadership position, she never crossed my mind prior to the moment I received a text message late Thursday night as I enjoyed dinner and a beer or two while watching the College World Series at Shuckers Bar & Grill on the 79th Street Causeway in North Bay Village FL.

When the Blackberry, sitting on the bar next to the plate of lightly-fried calamari and the cold glass of Yuengling, started to vibrate, I put down my fork and reached for my hand-held access to the world. What I found was an instant message with two words: Debbie Yow. I knew immediately the meaning of the IM and, instead of responding, I started to surf the web for confirmation. It didn’t take long to realize the messenger knew what was to be announced the next afternoon.

A few exchanges of typed words and phrases of disbelief went quickly until the person on the other end said I was playing the part of the river that runs through Egypt. I was told I was in denial. Maybe so, but again, this was not a name or a person I or anyone else other than maybe a handful of people with the ear of Chancellor Randy Woodson and the official Search Committee along with the hired consultant used to seek and find the person to lead the Wolfpack Athletics Program to the Promised Land had considered as a possible replacement for Lee Fowler.

As noted in this space last Friday, I wondered if this—Debbie Yow—was the best selection. I admittedly was disappointed not to see Bobby Purcell get the chance to prove he’s the right person for the job. Even into Friday morning and before the official announcement was made Friday afternoon, I continued to read across the Internet to see how this was playing in Raleigh, in Maryland, and in other places just short of Peoria. Most reaction was, “What were they thinking?” That was the theme among many in attendance at the memorial service for the late Fred Barakat, the former Atlantic Coast Conference Associate Commissioner who passed away recently. You can imagine the number of college athletics savvy people at that gathering.

My long-time friend, John Feinstein, a writer for The Washington Post and an author of so many books that I’ve lost track of the number and titles, wasn’t kind at all to Debbie Yow when he heard of the choice by NC State. Friday, in his blog, Feinstein On The Brink, he combined the selection of John Wall by the Washington Wizards and the departure of Yow from Maryland as a reason for Washington area athletics fans to celebrate. Of the Maryland Athletics Director, he said: “Yow won’t be missed by many in College Park. She’ll have a certain honeymoon period at State because her sister Kay, who died in 2009 of cancer, was a beloved coach there for 34 years. My guess is that honeymoon won’t last terribly long.” FYI: John is a personal friend of Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams.

There was a lot more reading throughout the day and beyond the announcement, some positive towards the naming Yow and some not so flattering. Maybe the most humorous was on the WRALSportsFan.Com site where Jeff Gravely interviewed 99.9TheFan host Adam Gold who said this was a great hire. Two things: Gravely and Gold work for the same company and reduced journalism to its lowest levels with that story (if you don’t understand, well it would be like Chip Alexander of The News & Observer interviewing Ron Green Jr of the Charlotte Observer, both members of the shared sports staff of the two papers, about the renovation of Pinehurst #2 golf course) and Gold is a graduate of Maryland (or at least an attendee) and may have his own motives for Yow to move away from College Park.

While questions about the hiring and the process will persist, I was impressed with two short phrases Yow strung together when she was introduced to the public last Friday at Carter-Finley Stadium. “I, fortunately, do not have a great need to be popular,” she said. “I’d rather win than be popular.” That reminded me and others of the way Willis Casey, as far as I’m concerned the standard when it comes to being a college Athletics Director especially at NC State, was in doing his job. He ruled that department with an iron fist, kept pushing the program forward, demanded a lot of his coaches and created an overall winning atmosphere. He hired Debbie Yow’s sister, Kay, to head the women’s basketball program in its infancy.

As said earlier, questions will persist about the hiring, and, like it or not, both Yow and Chancellor Woodson will be under the microscope of Wolfpack fans. For instance, Woodson, from all we know, only met Yow for the first time earlier in the week last week and, with the recommendation of the Search Committee and the consultant, decided to offer her the job that day without the due diligence of talking with other athletics officials from across the nation. He also talked excitedly about Yow’s academic record at Maryland though Maryland ranks under NC State in the two major sports of football and basketball when it comes to the most recent Academic Progress Rate. This is something I mentioned in Friday’s posting.

Obviously, Debbie Yow is smart. In moving to NC State she will be working for a Chancellor who sought her employment, who wants her and who offers what it takes to be successful. Chancellor Woodson had to have said all the right things to get her to leave behind what she had at Maryland. And, if she had stayed at Maryland, she would have to convince a new President to like and keep her as the one who hired her is retiring.

At Maryland, part of Yow’s success was balancing a budget sorely in need of such and improving facilities, also needed for the Terrapins. She has expertise and success in two areas that do not need addressing at NC State. A solid, non-deficit budget and excellent facilities (as good as or better than any in the Atlantic Coast Conference), she said, “are two important elements to have in place.” So she comes into a program where her concentration can be on winning. In doing so, her efforts start with evaluating coaches and determining if the right people are in the right place. She said it is “critically important to match resources with expectations, to determine the needs” and to make sure everything is in place to give the coaches the opportunity to be successful.

This—asking the coaches what it will take to be successful and then providing it to them—is very much how Willis Casey governed: just enough rope to hang themselves unless they can avoid the noose. He would constantly ask the coaches, especially football and basketball, if their budgets were large enough, if the staff was right, if there was anything else they needed. The prospect for success was squarely placed on the coaches. Debbie Yow does not have to be another Willis Casey (not liked by all but respected by most), but right out of the gate she seems to be headed that way in her own style and fashion. And that’s a good thing. Maybe she’s not who I wanted as NC State Athletics Director, but then in the overall scheme of things it really doesn’t matter what I want.

But, I believe I speak for most Wolfpack fans when I say I want Wolfpack athletics—especially the football and men's basketball teams—to thrive, to win games and championships without sacrificing academics and good character. And, with a thriving program—especially the football and men's basketball teams—of winning games and bringing home championships, Debbie Yow, in winning over naysayers, will not only have her cake but she'll get to feast on a wave of her own popularity, needing it or not.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Is Debbie Yow The Best NC State Can Get?

It’s interesting to watch the media and how it handles a story. A look yesterday and this morning at the site has Debbie Yow as the next athletics director at NC State, and a glance at The News & Observer website pages say the search for the position has focused on Yow without saying it’s a done deal. Both are using reports from media outside the Raleigh area and primarily in Washington and Maryland. But, is more specific with “Sources say the announcement is expected to come at a news conference Friday afternoon.” I dare to say those are NC State sources except that Wolfpack Sports Marketing is owned by Capitol Broadcasting which owns WRAL.

So, if what WRAL says is true, it appears Debbie Yow, current Athletics Director at Maryland and sister of late NC State women’s basketball coach Kay Yow, will be named Director of Athletics at NC State University, replacing Lee Fowler who was chased away by friends and foes who agreed he was running a mediocre program at best. The blame for mediocrity was laid squarely at his feet.

The hire of Yow will/would be interesting to say the least. Except to return to her native North Carolina, one must wonder why she would leave Maryland for NC State and how well received she will be on and around the Raleigh campus as well as at Wolfpack sports venues. And, we all must wonder if NC State is getting the best it can get with Yow. With all due respect to Debbie, her sisters Kay and Susan, and her parents, all of whom I’ve known—not very close though—since Kay was hired at State in the 1970s, Debbie is qualified but maybe not the best sitting Athletics Director or other athletics related executive NC State can get.

On the surface, it appears Maryland has done rather well since Yow was hired there in 1994, winning 17 national titles in five different sports, but, while one was in men’s basketball (it takes a six-game winning streak to do that and that championship was in 2002 so what have you done for me recently which is more than has been done at State), and one was in women’s basketball (okay, you fill in the blank), there were also eight in women’s lacrosse (who cares and how many schools play women’s lacrosse) and five in field hockey (see writing in parenthesis about women’s lacrosse).

A win is a win is a win, but, if performance of teams is the search focus and while better and positive reputation in the minor sports at NC State is desired, consistent success in the two majors—men’s basketball and football—should be the primary view on the resume. Without actually looking at the record, I’d guess Maryland has performed better in those two sports since 1994, but the success has been fair at best. In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately category, Yow has had a public personality clash with basketball coach Gary Williams and suffered through losing seasons four of the last six football campaigns. At the same time, Lee Fowler at NC State hasn’t had public disputes with either of his major sports head coaches, but the results have been similar to that at Maryland. All things being equal, give me public-perceived peace and harmony.

On the other hand, it appears Maryland has run a clean program during Yow’s tenure, but so has NC State. And, looking at the most recent multi-year Academic Progress Report by the NCAA, in football, Maryland was at 929 and NC State at 937. In men’s basketball, Maryland was at 913 and NC State at 990. Advantage NC State.

If Yow is the new NC State Athletics Director, she’ll have to immediately address the bread and butter revenue sport of Wolfpack football. Head coach Tom O’Brien is in his fourth season and has a three year mark of 16-21 overall and 9-15 in the ACC, not acceptable by any standards especially by those set by the Wolfpackers who continue to open the wallets when asked to do so. The flow of money will not last forever even if Yow would be willing to keep Wolfpack Club Executive Director Bobby Purcell in that position, and if he wants to stay after being jilted twice when it comes to the Athletics Directorship.

With O’Brien, Yow will/would find a coach who doesn’t consider being up against a wall, despite miserable records of wins against loses. “I don’t think there’s ever a make-or-break season,” O’Brien said recently according to Caulton Tudor of The News & Observer, who continued to quote O’Brien, “But the situation has changed. The chancellor I came here with and the athletic director I came here with are no longer here. Things have changed a lot. How that’s going to affect our situation won’t be solved until the chancellor and new AD decide what direction — or if there’s a new direction — they want to go in. Certainly you get evaluated differently because it’s not the people who brought you in, who did the research to bring you in.”

While those statements, if indeed O’Brien said those words that way, are harmless if said by a casual observer supporting the football coach, but, as stated by the head football coach, the words strung in that order could be the start of a public disagreement and dispute, especially if his stance is one of his being hired to do a job in a certain way and that’s what he’ll do come hell or high water. Of course, O’Brien is also assuming Fowler did research before deciding to hire the coach away from Boston College where we are told they were glad to see him go.

O’Brien shouldn’t wait until Chancellor Randy Woodson and Yow, if she’s the choice, get together to discuss direction. Mediocrity should not be the standard with the current football team, even with full seats at Carter-Finley Stadium. For various reasons outside his coaching ability, I was not a Dick Sheridan fan, but with the results of the last three years, I yearn for the days when the Wolfpack was 7-4 or 8-3 annually. O’Brien, if he produces and if he follows the company line established by his new bosses, will have the job for life until there’s grumbling to get to the next level, actually winning conference titles and playing in a BCS bowl game. Wins go much further in college athletics than excuses, especially with the fans.

Whether he believes it or not, O’Brien’s back is up against the proverbial wall, if not with administrators then with fans who buy the tickets, fill the seats, contribute to the Wolfpack Club and offer optimism that’s unparalleled across college campuses in the United States. On that front, maybe NC State fans in general are okay with a mediocre program, but that’s doubtful. If Yow is indeed selected to lead the NC State athletics department, there’s no assurance mediocrity will change across the board. In general, it appears Maryland’s athletics program is no better than NC State’s. It’ll be interesting to see how this develops and, though no NC State fan really cares, how the mainstream area media handles it as well.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Now, I'm A Soccer Fan, a USA Soccer Fan!

Watching soccer in person or on television or playing the game is not near the top of my to do list, but Wednesday, as I made my way south on Interstate-95 between West Palm Beach and Miami, shuttling between business appointments, I found myself scanning the radio dial on the rented car in search of the United States third and final group game of the opening round of the World Cup being played somewhere in Africa.

I’m not really a fan of the sport but my recent obsession with a game I’ve always considered as organized keep-away is much the same as that of thousands, maybe millions, of Americans. I’m rallying around the flag, not only wanting the USA to win but wanting to be a little part of it by watching and saying later that I saw it live. Wasn’t that great!

For me playing soccer has been no more than kicking a ball around the backyard before getting more interested in the tetherball game because it was my turn, or grabbing a bat and glove to play baseball or a football to toss or a basketball toss at a basket or a golf ball to hit with a club as far away me as possible and then chase after it. My first real involvement in the sport came in college while taking the physical education version of the course and trying to watch the college team. As a spectator sport, it was slow; it didn’t include a lot of action as far as I was concerned; it was boring.

Then, along came my son and his desire to play youth soccer. Good exercise for him; drudgery for me, though, to drive every Sunday from the west end of Cary to somewhere on the north side of Raleigh to the weekly game. I think he was pretty good at what he was doing, but my limited knowledge of the sport other than when I was a fair goalie in the PE version and knowing that yellow and red cards were in my future were reasons I declined to help coach though repeatedly asked.

But as a sports fan, every four years, a similar cycle to the Olympics competitions, I take a cursory interest in soccer, but only as a selfish American wanting my team to win no matter the quality of the players or play. And, I’ll also root against another team just see the United States advance. Here’s to the Red, White and Blue! I hope England loses. Damn Brits!

So yesterday, while I’m driving the shuttle, my traveling salesman partner was staring at his iPhone and mumbling things such as: 22 minutes and no score; scored but was disallowed; doesn’t look good; England is up 1-0; got to do something. I soon realized he was reading a running commentary about the soccer game in which the United States had to win to advance to the next round of the World Cup. While he knew how to get what he wanted to appear on his sophisticated mobile device, I knew there had to be an ESPN radio affiliate somewhere on the dial and, since we were in south Florida, the game must be on live. And there was.

Though unfamiliar with the names of the players on the United States team, it took only moments to realize which team was which. The announcer, who thankfully was an unbiased homer (I could tell he was pulling for the USA but he never questioned decisions by the referees such as “contact but no foul” as I hear in area basketball games all the time), was terrific. He painted a picture that put me on the field of play. I knew where the ball was at all times and who was attacking which goal. And, he enunciated the names of the players so over a few minutes I knew the names of several USA teammates, but don’t ask me now. That was yesterday. And, he kept me clued in about the time of the USA game, the score of England’s game, and how the results of both would affect the USA’s chances of playing again, keeping the overwhelming “Yankee” patriotism alive.

I was enjoying the ride so much that the 60 minute drive to the next stop seemingly went by much faster. The only downside was my riding partner who was overly concerned about the time remaining in the game. Even in the first half. With the score 0-0. “We need to do something,” he kept saying of the United States’ effort. I countered with “plenty of time. There’s an entire second half to play. There are always additional minutes at the end. And, it doesn’t take but a second to determine a winner in this sport and sometimes by mistake.”

My interest in the game continued but the appointment was waiting so we exited the car and the radio. He went back to the iPhone; I found a television in the building and watched for all of 30 seconds before our prospective customer appeared. Then we went into the dungeon of the building, the location we were required to see and study to determine if our product would fit and work. We, at least I, forgot about the soccer game. I believe if it had been a Wolfpack sports event on television, I would have delayed the appointment, but this was soccer and my interest subsided as I thought about the potential commission check if the visit resulted in a sale.

There had been little time remaining in the 0-0 game when we went out of range of communication, even for the iPhone, but when we made it back to higher ground, I darted for the television and the iPhone was back in operation. The game was over but United States had scored the winning goal in the 91st minute of play. We were both amazed and, with pride, mentioned it to everyone else along the way the remainder of the day. We watched replays several times as we sat for dinner in a sports bar. I couldn’t get enough of it.

Just that one moment in time, when that ball made its way into the Algerian goal, I was a proud United States soccer fan. At that point, I knew more about the sport than I ever have. I wanted to know our date, time and opponent for round two of the World Cup. Will I watch Saturday at 2:00 p.m. eastern time on ABC? Maybe, if time permits. If so, I’ll be chanting: Go USA! Beat Ghana. Right now, I’m a soccer fan. OK, a USA soccer fan.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Politics Just Ain't The Same, Thank Goodness!

It was in early May when I predicted Elaine Marshall would win the Democratic nomination for United States Senate, and yesterday, about six weeks after she almost won in the opening primary, the current North Carolina Secretary of State won overwhelmingly over Cal Cunningham, the darling of the Washington Democratic Senatorial Leadership. Can you say Harry Reid?

This result shows how little influence President Barack Obama and the “new/old Democratic leadership in Washington has in North Carolina. And, that may be a blessing in disguise for Marshall as she heads into the fall campaign and a date with incumbent US Senator Richard Burr, the Republican nominee. And that Burr is the incumbent, even though he’s the closest of the two of being an activist conservative, may work against him.

Marshall, who has been in entrenched in North Carolina politics for a lifetime, was not the establishment candidate, the one that challengers point to as the leaders of the problems facing our country today. Marshall had the support of many longtime members of the North Carolina Democratic Party but it was Cunningham who was tabbed as the Democratic salvation, the anointed one who would lead the Party of the Donkey to a second US Senate seat in North Carolina.

What the Party bosses in Washington did not figure was that a low-key campaigner without much money such as Marshall would get into the race, much less lead the initial primary. Once that happened, there was no way short of a scandal that would keep Marshall from the appointed victory because in the run-off there was no big deal confronting the voters, and the only voters that really cared were those with long-time ties to North Carolina Democratic politics who wanted one of their own in place and not one of Harry Reid’s selected few. Those voters went to the polls Tuesday.

Even though in reality Marshall is the establishment, it seems as if the electorate is tired of the status quo, and we’re seeing a huge change in who will be in charge of our elected spaces next year. Just a short look at some races of interest in our backyard:

In the 8th Congressional District of North Carolina, former sportscaster Harold Johnson, who I remember as a jovial broadcaster who was less than controversial on any sports subject, won the runoff yesterday for the Republican nomination to meet democratic incumbent Larry Kissell, a first-termer who knocked out established GOPer Robin Hayes two years ago. This will be an interesting race in the fall because the national Democratic Party has decided to target the 8th District to try to make sure it stays in the “D” column.

But, with Democratic leadership tossing the rabbit in the briar patch, there’s a good chance Johnson can win in November. Here’s what NC Democratic Party Executive Director Andrew Whalen said of Johnson: "His admission that he shares the extreme views of his right-wing primary opponent is downright scary and something that should give pause to voters.” From where I sit, that’s one of those high and mighty statements that Democrats, if the intention is to win, should not be made. At some point, the leadership will realize that the extreme views are those coming out of the Democratic leadership in DC and that North Carolina voters in general do not relate.

Even after just one term, Kissell will be one of those “through the bums out” candidates, one of the problems not the solutions, by fall. Here’s what Johnson said after the win last night: “Is there a plan anywhere in this administration or from Larry Kissell that says: We're going to put this district back to work? We have people in this district who are eager to work, who want work, and what is the plan?” Unfortunately, even if he had the best ideas in the world, Kissell is having to toe the Nancy Pelosi line and will be tagged as her man in the fall elections.

In the 13th District, Bernie Reeves, who is a likeable fellow who I’ve known for a long time, was the establishment candidate (even in his first run for office), trying to give the GOP a leader with more of a business slant than a Tea Party look. It didn’t fly, even though the first primary vote has been close between Reeves and eventual winner Bill Randall who moved to North Carolina just 19 months ago. Randall took hold of the Tea Party banner and ran with it. He now faces Democratic incumbent Brad Miller. What’s really interesting is that Randall is black and a Republican.

Which brings us to South Carolina where Republicans chose Tim Scott, also black, over Paul Thurmond (Strom’s son) to lead the GOP in the 1st District race. Scott, who was the first black Republican in the South Carolina legislature in over 100 years when he was elected two years ago, received 69 percent of the vote in that race yesterday. He was endorsed by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and will be heavily favored over his Democratic opponent who is also black. Scott wants to cut federal spending and simplify the tax code. Bingo!

When the fall results come in, we may well have a new United States Senator, but we may also have new Congressmen, not only in North Carolina but throughout the nation. There's a chance the Republicans can take over the US House. The electorate is on a roll when it comes to national leadership. When Obama was elected, it was for change, we were told. The voters thought the change would be in the way government functioned and the way laws are made. That has not and will not happen until those who were are there now are defeated and those who are elected now do not win re-election.

Hopefully we are beyond voting for candidates who say to vote for them and they’ll take care of us when they get to office. We are definitely beyond voting for candidates because the Party Leadership says so. As a matter of fact, in today’s political climate, that’s probably the kiss of death. Just ask Cal Cunningham. His results in the US Senate race might have been different had he not been the establishment—Washington or not—candidate. Today, it’s simply a bad label to have.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

NACDA Honors Lee Fowler With ADOY

In the for what it’s worth department, Lee Fowler, the embattled NC State University Athletics Director whose days are numbered (is June 30th his last day on the job?), will be receiving a very nice honor and award this week from the National Association of College Directors of Athletics (NACDA) during the organization’s annual convention.

Fowler, who got the boot from former temporary interim transitory NC State Chancellor James Woodward, whose decision was upheld by Chancellor Randy Woodson when he took office in April, has been named one of the 29 winners of the NACDA’s Under Armour AD of the Year (ADOY) Award. His selection is for the southeast regional honor in the Football Bowl Subdivison. There are only four regional honorees in that category, of course, considered the highest level of being an Athletics Director. Other honorees come from these categories: Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA); Division I (formerly Division I-AAA); Division II; Division III; NAIA; and Junior/Community Colleges, along with one International winner.

From the NACDA new release: The ADOY award highlights the efforts of athletics directors at all levels for their commitment and positive contributions to campuses and their surrounding communities. Said Executive Director Mike Cleary: “Before the program’s inception, our Honors and Awards Committee recognized a need for an award such as the AD of the Year. The program brings to light the exceptional jobs done by athletics directors across the country. These 29 winners exemplify that, providing us with a group of outstanding athletics directors who excel at their jobs.”

In the same category as Fowler, the honorees are: Morgan Burke, Purdue University, Central; Bob De Carolis, Oregon State University, West; and, Jeff Hathaway, University of Connecticut, Northeast.

Also from the NACDA release and website: All NACDA-member directors of athletics in the United States, Canada and Mexico who met the criteria were eligible for the award. Among the criteria were service as an AD for a minimum of five academic years; demonstration of commitment to higher education and student-athletes; continuous teamwork, loyalty and excellence; and the ability to inspire individuals or groups to high levels of accomplishments. Additionally, each AD's institution must have passed a compliance check through its appropriate governing body (i.e., NCAA, NAIA, etc.), in which the institution could not have been on probation or cited for a lack of institutional control within the last five years during the tenure of the current athletics director.

Nominators were NACDA-member directors of athletics, institutional presidents and conference commissioners. Special Selection Committees composed of current and former directors of athletics, present and past NCAA and NAIA presidents, current and former commissioners and other key athletics administrators voted on nominees for the award.

Fowler will be honored this Thursday at the NACDA’s Awards Luncheon in Anaheim CA. For what it’s worth: Congratulations, Lee! You deserve the recognition.

Monday, June 21, 2010

ESPN3? Not On Time Warner Cable Internet

While Luck DeCock, a sports writer/columnist for The News & Observer, continues to beat the drum loudly to get MASN—the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network—onto the basic cable of the Time Warner Cable systems in North Carolina, especially in the Raleigh-Cary-Durham-Chapel Hill area, he should be as concerned about Time Warner Cable Internet allowing access to ESPN3.

My guess is, eventually, the outrage from customers of Time Warner Cable Internet in this area will be much greater than it is for the MASN cable television sports offering. Eventually. Right now, because I’m a NC State football and basketball season ticket subscriber, there’s little concern here about the lack of being able to connect to ESPN3 through my internet provider—Time Warner—to watch NC State’s opening football game, Saturday, Sept 4 at 6:00 p.m., against Western Carolina or any other home football or basketball game for that matter.

But, if and when the new contract with ESPN is signed sealed and delivered by and to the Atlantic Coast Conference, and when part of the contract includes numerous games on ESPN3, especially when the deal includes several Wolfpack away games, that’s when my concern level—and that of most Wolfpack fans in this area—about not being able to watch the away games on the computer screen will increase.

ESPN3, which used to be known as ESPN360, according to the ESPN3 website, “is available at no charge to fans who receive their high-speed internet connection from an affiliated internet service provider. is also available to fans that access the internet from U.S. college campuses and U.S. military bases.”

Time Warner Cable Internet is not an affiliated internet service provider. There are 162 such affiliates; that’s the number shown on a list when trying to access that programming. Time Warner Cable Internet is not in the list, and the sign-in says so: “Your current computer network falls outside of these categories. Here’s how you can get access to Please select your internet service provider from the list. If you can't find yours, select "Not Found" at the bottom.”

That’s when the list of 162 provider affiliates appears in a pull-down menu. And, when “Not Found” is selected, ESPN3 tells you: “Switch to an affiliated internet service provider or to contact your internet service provider and request”

If you’re thinking when I thought, don’t waste your time contacting Time Warner Cable Internet. Calls to customer service are routed to sales and technical support, and those who answer your call are among the clueless, wanting to sell you something or to know of the nature of the technical problem. They have no concern whatsoever about being able to get ESPN3 through Time Warner Cable Internet.

You can get through with a different number (see end of this story) to the Office of the President of Time Warner. The nice lady who answered my call knew immediately of my concern once I mentioned ESPN3. “My husband complains to me all the time. We have Time Warner Cable Internet and he wants to see programming on ESPN3. We can’t get it either,” she explained as if that’s life so live with it.

When ESPN360 was thought of, it was a service of Verizon Wireless, available through mobile devices. That was shut down due to lack of subscribers but when it was brought back to life, it seems as if Verizon still owns the basic rights and those other 161 internet providers including AT&T internet negotiated with Verizon and offer ESPN360, now known as ESPN3.

“There’s no way that Time Warner will negotiate with Verizon,” the nice lady in the Office of the President told me. “We’ll make a deal with ESPN but not with Verizon.” Damn stubborn corporate America!

This is where I appeal to the people, though the nice lady said the Office of the President of Time Warner has heard from lots of people who want access to ESPN3 through Time Warner Cable Internet. She said calls from North Carolina include requests for both ESPN3 and MASN. (Luke’s writing must be doing some good.) She said most are concerned about getting ESPN3.

Now, back to the ACC and its contract with ESPN. My guess is that ESPN will dictate the games it carries on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3. My guess is that no basketball games involving North Carolina and Duke will be shown on ESPN3. For ratings, for the money, that has to be a pretty good guess. For football, there’s no telling.

Imagine the public relations nightmare for the ACC when ESPN tosses games on ESPN3 and there’s no coverage in most of North Carolina. It’ll probably be hit and miss, but if ESPN would put a handful of games involving UNC and Duke in basketball on ESPN3, there would be a huge uproar probably all the way to the General Assembly. In addition to the Raleigh area, Time Warner has a vast presence in Charlotte and Greensboro.

So, if there anything anyone can do? Maybe, the least of which is to make telephone calls to the Office of the President of Time Warner asking for access to ESPN3 on its cable internet service. And, you might want to call the ACC and encourage the league to persuade ESPN work out something with Time Warner. You may not be concerned with it now, but when your team is relegated to ESPN3 and you don’t have access, you’ll wish you had placed calls to one or the other or both. Of course, you could always change your internet to AT&T which is not a bad idea at all. Here are the numbers to call to voice your concern:

Time Warner: 800-950-2266. (Press 2) Office of President
Atlantic Coast Conference: 336-854-8787

(If you want to read Luke DeCock’s latest poke at Time Warner to include MASN, go to Strasburg interest could benefit fans. If you want to encourage Luke to write about the ESPN3 concern, email him at

Friday, June 18, 2010

Who Are You? and The Small People

Someone emailed me today and asked if I am missing in action. My answer, of course, was no, I’m still here but real work has temporarily taken the place of the fun and joy I get when I write for this space. This is just the third day of posting this week, and, thank goodness, someone missed me.

It took those three words—missing in action—for me to decide to post today, and while I haven’t run out of information or topics or whatever about which to pen, it was just three words that inspired me to write about three words. Actually, there are two new three-word phrases, or at least two three-word phrases that are in the news these days that are today’s topic:

Who Are You?
The Small People.

If you’re not familiar with either, then please tell me the size of rock you’ve been under the last 48 to 96 hours. Or tell me you’re as dumb as the customer service person I talked with this morning who knew what time it was in Washington state but had no clue what time it was in North Carolina. I can imagine confusing some of the time zones running through various states, in the Mountain time zone but if you live in Washington state and do not know it’s three hours later in North Carolina, then I’d say you are as dumb as the rock you might have been under the last 48 to 96 hours.

As it turns out that customer service person didn’t even know where North Carolina is within the United States, but because of the phrase, “Who are you?” a millions of people now the name of one of the United States Representatives from North Carolina. And, that would be Bobby Etheridge, the man of many grips. If you missed it, here’s his latest campaign commercial, or at least the one coming to a television this fall in his campaign for re-election:

Etheridge shows in that video he has a strong wrist grip, and a neck-grasp grip and an I’m-your-buddy-around-the-shoulder grip, all inappropriate when used in the video, no matter who was assaulting him with the camera and the question: Do you fully support the Obama agenda? From watching the video, viewed now my more than 2.5 million people at that site and probably many, many more through other outlets to where it has been downloaded, if you know Congressman Etheridge (D-NC, 2nd District), you realize this might be out of character for him, at least in public. But it will probably come back to haunt him this fall.

Etheridge may be tall in height but after this video, after his reaction to being questioned on the street by people who he knew not, he might as well be one of the little people, not to be confused with the small people of the Gulf of Mexico region of the United States. In this case, we’re not talking about height or weight.

It was Wednesday when BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg met with President Obama to discuss the oil disaster in the Gulf. When he emerged, he spoke to reporters and said the president was “frustrated because he cares about the small people. We care about the small people. I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies or greedy companies that don't care, but that is not the case at BP. We care about the small people."

Of course, that caused a storm of reaction across the nation. The Chairman became the subject of jokes. John Stewart forgave him because Svanberg is Swedish and a BP spokesman said the remark about “small people” was a slip in translation. Based on how difficult it is to assemble furniture from IKEA, Stewart said he understood how easy it would be for a Swede to make that slip.

Etheridge apologized as well, in a short statement, taking full fault for the way he reacted. But, he did react wrongly, and it’ll part of his record, part of his credibility for a long time to come.

Maybe after writing this, I should be missing in action. But, my point here, if there is one, is that three words in two cases made a huge impact in communication. If Etheridge had said, “How are you?” instead of “Who are you?” and if Svanberg had said he cared about “all the people” along the Gulf Coast instead of “the small people,” the impact from both would have been a lot less than what it was, is and shall be for a long time to come.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

University of Texas Drives The Bus

MY NOTE: Yesterday was a business travel day, so posting was tough. If you missed me, thanks. If you didn’t, oh well…
There’s a popular story, a riddle more or less, that goes like this: You’re driving a bus. It starts out empty. After two blocks, it stops and picks up 17 people. Two blocks later, six people get off and 12 get on. A mile down the road, 13 get off and seven get on. And, at its last stop, everyone gets off and no one gets on. Question: What is the age of the bus driver?

At this point, let’s change that question, thank you, to:
What is the name of the bus driver?
The answer is obvious: the University of Texas.

And, that’s what happened in the rush to shuffle the intercollegiate conference line-up. The Big Ten talked about expanding, making overtures to several schools including Texas which dismissed that notion long ago: Not enough power and money. Then Nebraska, which has never been comfortable in the same league with Texas, at least in name, because Texas, with power and money demands, made itself the bus driver there, found the opening and decided the Big Ten was a better fit than the Big 12 and an easy excuse to rid itself of the Longhorns and jumped.

Then the Pac-10 came a calling, trying to rush to 16 teams and made eyes with six Big 12 players, wanting Texas, with its powerful draw for money, to lead five others to the west coast. Colorado, desired by the Pac-10 but in a possible squeeze play by Texas politics, took an early Pac-10 offer and a quick Big 12 exit, leaving the latter with just 10 schools, a very nice number when it comes to conference size.

The bus driver at this point was still Texas because Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas A&M (which actually was looking east to the Southeastern Conference) weren’t going anywhere without the bus driver. By the way, wasn’t Jackie Gleason a bus driver in the Honeymooners sketch? Hey, maybe Mack Brown can play the Jackie Gleason role when he decides to step down as football coach. Think about it.

Anyway, when Texas, wanting more power and money, walked into the room the other day, when the Big 12 got together—in person or in conference call—Texas was the driver. And, the Longhorns were given a big new bus with bells and whistles that, at this point, are not hard to fathom because it’s the only type of bus Texas would ever have. They get more money; they get their own TV network and get to keep all that money; Texas gets more power; they do not have to play in a conference championship game once the Huskers and the Buffs depart.

For me, that last item is the best. Indications are that the Big 12 will not replace Colorado and Nebraska and stick with just 10 members. With that, each league team will play nine conference football games and 18 conference basketball games. And, with that, a true conference football champion will be crowned and a true regular season basketball winner will result. With 12 teams, as most Atlantic Coast Conference fans have discovered the last few years, is cumbersome and does not conclude with anything that resembles truth in advertising, or whatever I’m trying to say here. You decide.

This situation may just spread nationwide, depending on the strength of the conference and willingness to keep down the greedy. The Big Ten, when setting up its own conference network, preempted the members from going the TV network road, working a deal to bring in megabucks and increasing member revenue and exposure. (Imagine this: the Big Ten Network is on my cable package, in North Carolina, though I rarely watch. But, maybe I’m paying for it. I just don’t know.)

In the ACC, there are certain drivers which bring in high dollars when negotiating television packages. In basketball, Duke and North Carolina are those players. In football, they remain Florida State and Miami, though North Carolina has a huge national appeal as a school. When TV schedules are announced, those teams usually dominate the prime spots. By the way, many years ago, there was discussion of UNC developing its own TV network for basketball.

The current round of conference re-alignment seems at an early end except the Pac-10 probably will add a 12th member to coincide with Colorado’s shift. It’s doubtful without a bunch of big names that the left coast league will push to 16 colleges and universities. The ACC and the SEC seem to be set. The Big Ten now gets its conference football championship, if it wants it, but that’s still up in the air. It may not need it but it’ll be interesting to see how that league’s football and basketball scheduling works out. The Big East? Who cares? The other conferences? Same answer.

Playing the expansion guessing game was interesting and fun. All along, most everyone knew that the name of the bus driver was Texas. And, that's not all bad. If you didn't know, I'm a New York Yankees fan and I believe that the rich should get richer. just thinking, but has anyone ever accused the Yankees of buying a second place team?

Anway, back to the original questions about the age of the bus driver: From my perspective 58. You figure it out.
-Winner of the US Open: Phil Mickelson (easy choice).
-US Open non-cut-maker: Tiger Woods (easy to say).
-Winner, NC Democratic Primary, US Senate: Elaine Marshall.
-Most watched political video, either by desire or through broadcast commercials from now through the fall elections:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Was Kessler Over-Looked On Purpose?

At NC State University, two major personnel searches—one for the Athletics Director and the other for the Provost—are in process, and, curiously enough, University Advancement, the department headed by Mr. Non-Personality and Mr. Persona Non Grata, Nevin Kessler, the Vice Chancellor in charge of raising money from outside sources as well as through an internal tax from University-related foundations, is not represented on either Search Committee.

Some may say this was just an oversight by the person—Chancellor Randy Woodson—making the committee assignments, but according to a source from deep inside the administration, it was purposely set up that way.

The email came late last week: “Want proof that your analysis of Nevin Kessler is being heard? Look at the search committees for AD and Provost. There is no one from development on either committee. Every other major department is represented. Nevin may be feared but he is not respected. In six months, he won't be feared or respected,” the email-author penned.

A quick review of the committees reveals the obvious once the obvious is stated. On each are representatives of the Board of Trustees, Faculty Senate, the Staff Senate, Department of Finance and Business, and the Student Body President (counted as a representative of Student Affairs). On the AD Search Committee are individuals related to NC State but not employed thereof or currently serving in an appointed position, University General Counsel, and athletics-related and/or employed individuals. On the Provost Search Committee are professors, an academic department head, a College Dean, a couple of representatives of Research and Graduate Studies, and one of extension and engagement.

Gosh! That takes care of every department under the Chancellor except for University Advancement and Kessler, the Robin Hood of the University in a weird sort of way. He knows not of how to take from the rich and give to the poor. With his 5% tax, he’s actually taking from the poor—the various University-based foundations—and giving to the rich, his own department which is supposed to be, under his leadership, the be-all and end-all in University fund raising. His lack of ability and disappointment efforts prove that to be untrue.

Missing from those important selection groups are representatives of University Development, Alumni Association, Advancement Services and University Communications, all under Kessler’s Kingdom. Of course, in keeping with his arrogance, Kessler may lay claim to any Alumni or member of the Alumni Association on either panel. Sorry, Nevin. You do not get the benefit of the doubt here.

Especially since at the last meeting of the Alumni Association Board of Directors your 5% tax, passed by and approved for implementation without all the details worked out by the NC State University Board of Trustees, was on the agenda for discussion but for some reason, hopefully soon to be known, was tabled for discussion at a later meeting. Not everyone on that Board is happy with you and your antics. Considering Alumni is or should be your major source of Advancement dollars, you really should be nice to them and not turn them against you, exactly what you and Lynn Daniel did when the two of you convinced your lackey, temporary interim Chancellor James Woodward, to fire Lennie Barton from the Executive Director’s spot there. Thank goodness Daniel’s term on the Alumni Board expires at the end of this year.

And, speaking of the 5% tax, about a month ago, I asked the chair of the BOT to answer some questions. There has been no response directly to the questions, but a response none-the-less: “Sorry, I have really been out of place and busy with business as I do have a real job. I will respond but give me a day or so to make sure I have the latest as this issue is still being sorted out. I can tell you that the 2% came from a request by the development officers of all the colleges and one of them told me personally that they could support it that way,” wrote Lawrence Davenport on May 22.

Still being sorted out? His response: “Please don’t try to read too much in to my ‘sort it out’ comment. It is a done deal as far as BOT is concerned however there is still some discussion around some of the details i.e. how to present it etc.,” he responded two days later. A telephone call soon followed with his apologies for not supplying detailed answers to the questions. He did tell me the BOT member who chairs that related committee was originally against the proposal from Kessler but was convinced enough to agree to it. But, there’s still no lengthy response to the questions several days later. (Read the questions at Taxation Without Complete Explanation.)

The 2% is the bone tossed to the University-based foundations to get them on board, even if they did so kicking and screaming. The way I read his response is that none of the development officers wanted to take part in the tax—none wanted to give up any of their financially successful efforts—but if they had to, getting a 2% rebate was better than getting nothing. From my own conversations with development officers and with those who are close to all of the development officers, very few have much regard or respect for Kessler.

And, maybe neither does Chancellor Woodson. He seems to have over-looked Kessler and University Advancement when making appointments to the search committees for a new Athletics Director and Provost.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Duke, North Carolina To the SEC? It's Possible

Wow! I didn’t see that coming so quickly: Colorado jumps from the Big 12, now make it 11, to the Pac 10, now make it 11 as well. By the end of the day, Nebraska, as expected, may also leave the Big 11, formerly the Big 12, to go to the Big 10 which actually has 11 but the Cornhuskers would make it 12. Here we are, not supposed to make sense of conference re-alignment, and I may have just made it even harder to consider and comprehend. Let’s face it; it’s just a number game, a television ratings, dollars and cents numbers game.

And, then with the same numbers game theme, as I suggested yesterday, watch for Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to follow Colorado which bolted before Texas Governor Rick Perry could pull the arm-twisting routine and make sure Baylor was part of the movement, just as the governor of Virginia did to get Virginia Tech into the ACC which may have turned out to be a better addition than Syracuse would have been, even with its better appeal and television market in New York and as a twin accumulation with Boston College. (Okay the sentence is over; take a breath.)

Also, I said something yesterday about neither the Southeastern Conference nor the Atlantic Coast Conference needing to worry about adding four more universities to each conference because television contracts are in place and there’s no more money to be had. Think again. Shortly thereafter, I received one text message and two telephone calls from different people with their reviews of the SEC and ACC situations. It’s interesting and could be startling. Might be believable, especially if, as you read on, you keep an open mind.

Imagine North Carolina and Duke leaving the ACC for the SEC. What!?!? No way! Those two schools would never leave the ACC. NC State would have to go with UNC. Blah, blah, blah…

Okay, now after the shock, let’s break it down. It’s all about money and operating two very expensive athletics programs: UNC and Duke. I said yesterday this expansion gig is based around football and money but, with North Carolina and Duke, it would be about basketball, giving the SEC two more anchors, along with Kentucky, to dominate television revenue from round ball on the hardwood and all the other clichés that go along with it.

Without megabucks, neither would leave the ACC without assurances that basketball would be on equal footing with football in the SEC. This isn’t about how fans would perceive the league which today they recognize as football and football only. Florida and Kentucky can win all the basketball titles they wish, but an SEC team losing the BCS Championship game is bigger and more important news to SEC fans than winning NCAA back-to-back basketball titles would be, except if it were South Carolina that played in and lost the BCS title game because no one in the SEC, except for Garnet and Black fans, really gives a hoot about the Gamecocks. And, besides, that will never happen anyway.

The SEC would have to do something extraordinary to convince North Carolina and Duke, not only to turn their backs on the legendary league they helped to establish in 1953, but to make it so positive, other than the money, that it would be an easy decision. Well, with those two—Duke and UNC—that would make 14 and by adding—are you seated—Kansas and pick one—Kansas State or Missouri—that takes care of two other important items. It takes the SEC to 16, today’s magical intercollegiate conference number, and it brings one more internationally known and respected basketball program into the SEC fold. Again, with all due respect to any of the other SEC teams and to all of the ACC institutions of higher learning, having Duke and North Carolina on the SEC East roster and Kansas and Kentucky in the SEC West division makes for a mighty strong basketball presence.

The TV networks, especially ESPN which holds those SEC TV rights and does so for a time frame to be determined, or so it seems, would have a gold mine. Of course, so would the SEC. However, is there space on television and more television money around to cover this?

In simple terms, YES! Who, what, when, where, how and why, you may ask? Well, that’s simple: From the potential revenue and television space inventory hanging out there for the currently proposed but, I believe, not-signed-sealed-and-delivered contract the ACC is supposed to have with ESPN and it’s other broadcast partners. If the contract is not a done deal, the idea of Duke and UNC going to the SEC is very much a possibility with ESPN lowering the dollars for the ACC to increase the pot for the SEC which could then dangle an additional $4 million or more a year in front of UNC and Duke. With big coaching contracts in place at both schools, another $4 million here and another $4 million there adds up nicely and helps with the legal separation papers to be served on the ACC. (Even if the contract is complete, there must be a stipulation somewhere that releases ESPN if Duke and UNC are not in the ACC.)

You may think this is far-fetched but don’t for one minute thinks it’s stuff of fairy-tales. It could happen, and if it does, NC State will try to cry foul as a sister institution and a primary rival leave the Wolfpack in the trail dust. Pressure will come from many parts to join UNC and NC State at the hip and to require UNC to drag the Wolfpack along with them, but, when all is said and done, even Marc Basnight and his pressure tactics that forced UNC and NC State to play East Carolina in football would not be able to stop it.

From where I sit, NC State is not now in the mix for any league at or above the ACC level to come a calling. The building of spectacular venues for its program has been like adding a new trophy case, but the Wolfpack has forgotten about adding trophies for those cases. Oh, there have been a few here and there, and there have been some good seasons off and on, but overall, NC State’s athletics program is mediocre at best, which is disappointing and which makes the Wolfpack a non-factor in conference expansion and re-alignment. Just wait, though, after a national search, there’s no doubt that the new Athletics Director will make it all better in short order. Right?

A few weeks back I said the ACC could be picked apart with Clemson, Florida State, Miami and Georgia Tech going to the SEC and Maryland and Boston College parting for the Big East, both obvious geographical movements, leaving UNC, Duke, NC State, Wake Forest, Virginia and Virginia Tech to fend for themselves and try to rebuild the league. That would be six gone and six remaining. But, now, and please do not take this lightly, imagine Duke and UNC going to the SEC resulting in the other 10 ACC teams to try to rebuild unless Maryland, heads north to the Big East, etc., etc., etc.

If Duke and UNC go, there would be major devastation to the ACC. The gains in television revenue would shrink and the exposure of the league would diminish. The idea of the ACC breaking apart is not very pleasant. All this movement in conference membership, all this talk about teams re-aligning their loyalties, even a thought about a possible Duke-North Carolina-SEC marriage is about the money, and that’s okay with me, the money part that is. But it would still be disappointing to see the mighty ACC take a giant fall.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bigger Concerns Than Conference Expansion

Take a deep breath and put it all in perspective: By sometime Friday, the Big 12 Conference, a league formed in the early 1990s when four schools located in Texas and a part of the then disbanded Southwest Conference joined the eight members of the Big Eight, may be history, or at the very least on the way to major renovation. It appears Nebraska has been invited to join the 11-school member Big 10 and has accepted.

If that happens, there’s a huge possibility that Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and either Colorado or Baylor will bolt to the Pac-10 to form a mega conference with 16 universities, leaving the Big 12 with just five: Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Missouri and either Baylor or Colorado.

With apologies to the multitude of college basketball fans, especially those in the Durham and Chapel Hill backcourt, it’s all about football and its relation to television and contracts thereof. While North Carolina and Duke rake in mega dollars because of basketball, the football program of the Texas Longhorns produces that much green in a couple of games. And, it takes a lot of green to support the college athletics habit. It was football dollars that encouraged the ACC to expand to 12 members a few years ago.

The idea of mega conferences for mega dollars scares some, especially those who believe conferences should be somewhat regional. The states of Texas and Oklahoma would be contiguous to an expanded Southeastern Conference (imagine the football schedule if the SEC added Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State), but not to the Pac 10 since the state of New Mexico is not represented in the 10-member Pac 10 which wants expansion to gain the football championship game, just as the Big 10 does in adding Nebraska.

To those who dislike the idea of a 16-team league (and even those who despise a 12-team conference), take a look back at the formation and expansion of what is usually referred to as the “old” Southern Conference, not today’s collection of “minor” schools but an impressive list of majors. It started with 14 members, expanded to 23, reduced to 10, increased to 17, dropped back to 10 and from there, it’s changed a lot. From the free, on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia:

The (Southern Intercollegiate) conference was formed on February 25, 1921 in Atlanta as fourteen member institutions split from the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Southern Conference charter members were Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Washington & Lee. In 1922, six more universities - Florida, LSU, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tulane, and Vanderbilt joined the conference. Later additions included Sewanee (1923), Virginia Military Institute (1924), and Duke (1929).

The SoCon is particularly notable for having spawned two other major conferences. In 1933, thirteen schools located south and west of the Appalachians (Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Sewanee, Tennessee, Tulane, and Vanderbilt) departed the SoCon to form the Southeastern Conference (SEC). In 1953, seven schools (Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina, and Wake Forest) withdrew from the SoCon to form the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

Other former members (in addition to those listed above) include East Carolina (1964–76), East Tennessee State (1978–2005), George Washington (1936–70), Marshall (1976–97), Richmond (1936–76), William & Mary (1936–77) and West Virginia (1950–68).

And, that’s just the movement of the Southern Conference. The Southeastern Conference has changed a little over the years; the ACC has changed a lot. So, what’s happening today in college athletics association is not surprising. And, that television is a driving force is not startling or a concern. College athletics, much to the dismay of college academicians, is the singular most driving force for recognition of colleges around the world, and that’s somewhat directly related to the media, yet the increase in media popularity is also related to the success of sports.

In newspapers, there are sections devoted to college sports. There are radio networks broadcasting athletics contests statewide, nationwide, and worldwide. There are television stations, channels and networks that emphasize college sports. When any university wins a national championship, especially in football or basketball, interest in attending that university, even if just to study and learn and not play on a sports team, increases. Ask any college president and, though they may not want to admit it, they’ll tell you that college athletics is important to the financial stability of their college even with the huge expense of operating such.

With Nebraska’s shift and the movement by the others, there’s more discussion about possible expansion of the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Southeastern Conference to get to 16 teams. But with TV contracts in place or very close to completion, it’s just not necessary for those two intercollegiate aligned associations to increase their membership rolls, unless, for some odd reason, the Texas group turns to either and shows immediate interest in moving east instead of west. In that case, all bets are off.

On the other hand, if Nebraska goes to the Big 10 and the others join the Pac 10, there will be five mid-land colleges wandering in their own wilderness. I can’t imagine the ACC or the SEC being interested in Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Missouri and either Baylor or Colorado, but stranger alliances in collegiate athletics have come before now.

The death of the Big 12 is at hand unless the leftover nucleus can convince Notre Dame and a few others of join their cause. Confused enough? Me too. Do you care? Me neither. Let’s just wait and see and not worry. Talking heads will keep talking and bloggers will keep writing, and, long after this time’s conference realignment is over, much bigger issues in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and on the lands of the Middle East will remain.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Food: Crawdaddy's Good; Spicy Chick-fil-A Not

If first impressions are lasting or at the very least have an impact on future relations and return visits, the new Spicy Chicken Sandwich at Chick-fil-A is low on my list for repeat performances but a visit to Crawdaddy’s West Side Grill in Cookeville TN will be a must the next time through there for a night or maybe an hour or so for lunch.

Yesterday, as I started one of my distance-extended-in-a-short-time business travels, I sampled fare from both and came away with thoughts about each that will impact the economy of each one. While I’m not a professional food critic, a job that would have a huge detriment on any effort to keep my weight in check, I know what I like and desire more of and dislike and will tread lightly for return tastes.

Though the Chick-fil-A visit came several hours before the Crawdaddy’s experience, here’s a little about the latter before I get into the former, which is probably of a bit more interest to most of my readers than a restaurant in downtown Cookeville TN, a small town about 80 miles east of Nashville, about the same west of Knoxville and the home of Tennessee Tech University.

It was the hotel desk clerk who suggested Crawdaddy’s among others. Just about a mile and a half from the interstate-located Fairfield Inn & Suites, all possibilities were near the Courthouse square. Driving past three possibilities before rolling a few blocks to the west, Crawdaddy’s, from the outside, had somewhat of a casual New Orleans appeal. There was lower level outdoor patio seating for about 80 patrons and upstairs, just outside the happening bar, was deck seating, overlooking the patio, for 40. Inside was interesting as well but this summer evening was not so muggy and hot so I chose upstairs and was escorted there by the owner whose name I quickly forgot but who remembered my first name. He offered menu suggestions and checked back with me regularly but not overly to make sure the food and the experience was up to his standards.

When I selected the Frenched Cut Pork Chop (not to be confused with a French Cut of the same), the waitress, Chelsea, gave the obligatory “nice choice” but soon admitted she had never tried it. “Pork chops are not my thing, but a lot of customers get it and love it,” she said. Adding the roasted potatoes and a side of asparagus along with a Fat Tire draft (on special Tuesday night for $1.50 for a 12 ouncer), dinner was set.

And, it was delicious. The owner had also suggested my selection along with three other popular items which included a beef, a chicken and a seafood offering or each. I think that anything on the menu would have been scrumptious. The pork chop was a little crunchy outside and juicy inside and spiced just right, not hot by any means, just tasty. The potatoes were hot and seasoned as should be; the asparagus were grilled and a little over done, not as crunchy as some may prefer.

The experience and food at Crawdaddy’s West Side Grille make it worth a return visit. On the other hand, the jury is quickly out on the Spicy Chicken Sandwich at Chick-fil-A is a new item on the Atlanta-based “fast-food” restaurant chain’s menu as it battles for a spot in the growing zesty food desire spreading across the land if not around the world. In these (my) parts, the Bojangles’ Cajun Fillet Biscuit is the standard for succulent success when it comes to a snack with a little nasal clearing kick.

It was at the just-off-Interstate 40 Chick-fil-A in Statesville NC that I tried the new selection, new since about a week ago. It was about 12 noon straight up and the drive through was busy so I went inside. Busy there as well. Lots of the new sandwiches were coming off the assembly line, and, in due time, I had my bag of food (got the meal with waffle fries and a sweet tea), and headed out the door, to the car and back to the road, eating as I drove, probably worse than texting and emailing with one hand on the steering wheel and one eye on the highway.

First impression: the sandwich was over-cooked, much tougher than the standard, soft and succulent Chick-fil-A sandwich. It had a lot of crunch due to the extra coating of whatever-that-is (some sort of breaded substance) required in this particular situation to keep the spicy taste on the meat. If the weight of the meat in this sandwich is the same as the regular selection, then there’s less meat and more breaded coating.

Maybe if this were a grilled selection, there would just be spicy spices sprinkled on the chicken and not the substance that is required for frying. The soft bun was usual. The pickles were the same but as usual not enough. I forgot to ask for more but wanted to give the Spicy Chicken Sandwich at Chick-fil-A a proper and fair review. Right now, it’s a thumbs down but I’ll probably give it another try at another location.

Along the same thought line, there are times when I either want to return my Cajun Chicken Biscuit at Bojangles or at the very least complain. No doubt, I enjoy the Bojangles taste over the Chick-fil-A newbie, but on closer inspection, many times, there’s little or no chicken inside that tasty biscuit. Lots of crunch but no substance. On the other hand, I’ve had plenty of the Cajun-style with substantial meat and less crunch. This has less to do with Bojangles and more to do with the supplier cutting corners, I’m sure, but those with the power should keep the standards high.

For those who eat either or both of these chicken filled offerings, here’s a look at some of the nutritional stats, as shown on each website. Click the links for your closer look:

Bojangles’ Cajun Filet Biscuit:
Calories 454; Carbs (gm) 46; Protein 20; Total Fat 21; Saturated Fat 6; Cholesterol (mg) 41; Sodium (mg) 949; Dietary Fiber 1.

Chick-fil-A Spicy Chicken Sandwich:
Calories 490; Carbs (gm) 46; Protein 31; Total Fat 20; Saturated Fat 4; Cholesterol (mg) 60; Sodium (mg) 1730; Dietary Fiber 4.

For my health, maybe I should be more concerned with these numbers statistics instead of first impressions and taste. Too much of either will result in body stats that would cause me greater problems.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

25 Years Ago: Golf And Emily's Birth Day!

NOTE: It was 25 years ago today. But instead of me trying to explain why I played 32 holes of golf that day instead of tending to a very pregnant wife, here’s my account which was published in an edition of Pack Power, a quarterly newspaper published by the Wolfpack Club for which I was the Publications Editor. Remember, this was 25 years ago. No cell phones, just land lines. Here’s that account:
The annual Wolfpack Club Summer Jamboree is a special time for recreation, though also because so many of the coaches and staff are there including football coach Tom Reed and his entire staff and basketball coach Jim Valvano and his entire staff. Also, many wonderful members of the Wolfpack Club take part.

The Jamboree was once again held at Foxfire Inn and Country Club near Pinehurst June 7-9, and there were about 40 Wolfpackers present, all ready and eager for some enjoyable golf, great fellowship and lots of fun.

Little did I know, even though I had a good indication before I went that this weekend would be one of my greatest ever. You see, my wife was about nine months and two days pregnant before I left my Cary home for Foxfire. That was on Friday (June 7) before breakfast. Nancy was fine and didn’t think the baby would arrive within the next couple of hours, plenty of time to get to Foxfire and back if she happened to call while I was on the road.

The drive to Foxfire was peaceful except for a few thunder showers along the way. Being from Sanford, I know the area rather well and enjoy traveling through Moore County, an especially picturesque area with peach orchards and golf courses. From the road, the course at Foxfire looked inviting, and I knew breakfast would be good, especially since departure time was early.

Several staffers knew of my expected child, so they questioned my participation in this year’s event, but since I was only just over an hour from home it was okay. Sometimes it takes me an hour to get home in the afternoon, so this hour’s drive away was no big problem.

Friday went by just fine; no calls from home. All the Wolfpackers and staff members there once again enjoyed the golf, fun and food on Friday. Jim Valvano spoke at dinner Friday night and was once again his usual great self. The pairings for the Saturday Super Ball were announced, and, as usual, there was a lot of moaning and groaning. Everyone said their team was unfairly put together and everyone had a favorite to win the next day.

I went to bed that night knowing there were no labor pains and not worrying about my foursome. And, then came the dawn.

After a 6:30 a.m. breakfast, I was standing in the lobby at Foxfire, waiting on The News and Observer. I’ve waited on that paper since I was knee high to my big brother. One of these days I will learn to go ahead without all those words of wisdom, if you know what I mean. Anyway, about 7:00 a.m., the phone at the registration desk rang. In a split second, the desk clerk said, “Jim, it’s your wife. Pick up the lobby phone when it rings.”

“Yes, dear,” I said excitedly.
“I’m going to the hospital,” Nancy said with caution.
“I’m on my way home.”
“No, this could be a false alarm, or it might not be time and then they’ll just send me home.”
“Well, what do you suggest,” I said.
“Just stay there. What time do you play,” said Nancy.
“I’ll call you before then and let you know what’s going on.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, Jim, there’s no reason to come home. It’s probably a false alarm. I’ll call you later. Goodbye,” Nancy said.

After hanging up, I turned to the small crowd that had now gathered in the lobby to answer the questions. “She’s going to the hospital,” I told them.
“Want me to drive you to Raleigh,” someone asked.
“Can I do anything for you?” someone else inquired.

Turning down all offers, I thanked them all and told them the situation. Then I returned to my room and found myself in a discussion of the situation with Jim Valvano, one of my roommates for the weekend. He said Nancy really wanted me to come home but that she was playing hard to get. Best way out was to do as she said and not as she might be implying, I said.

However, just to be safe, I packed my bags and put all my stuff in the trunk of my car. As the 8:30 shotgun start approached without the second phone call, I got a little nervous, but not for the reasons you may now be thinking. You see, I was the “A” player in my group which was made up of “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D” players, or those who shoot in the 80s, 90s, and 100s, just as every group had. Some of the groups had golfers who scored in the 70s Friday. The problem was that if I had to leave, Valvano would have to play in my place instead of spending the day rotating among the foursomes and playing a few holes in the Captain’s Choice Tournament.

This tournament is designed for each of the golfers in the group. Everyone hits a tee shot. The best one is chosen and everyone else picks up their tee shot. Then they all hit a second shot from the chosen site, and the game continues until the ball is holed out.

Jim Bass stopped by and asked if there was anything he could do, and in a flash of brilliance, I asked that the group designated to start on the first hole be moved to the seventh tee and that my group, which was set for the seventh tee be moved to the first tee so I could be near a telephone.

With all this done, and the remainder of the weekend firmly in the control of Bass and Mark Moeller, I put on the cleats, grabbed my golf bag and went to the first tee where the rest of the foursome—Bill Walker of Hickory, Paul Lavitt of Hickory and Will Roach of Raleigh, as well as Valvano—were preparing to hit. Still no telephone call from Nancy.

The other four hit their tee shots and then looked at me. Fate could wait no longer. Slightly shaking from what might be transpiring in Raleigh, and knowing that Valvano was willing and eager, I walked to the space between the tee markers and up righted my Titleist 384 DT100 on that little white peg. After a couple of practice swings which were more like short sweeps of a broom, I got set, took a fast back swing and then hit the ball somewhere to the right.

Just as I was following the ball from the tee, the squeak of the pro shop door could be heard in the background, and a voice rang out, “Jim, you’ve got a telephone call in here.” Dropping the club and ignoring the flight of the ball, as did everyone else in the group, I ran across the tee, leaped over a small fence, darted up the cart path and ran into the pro shop. After all that, which I must admit was a little dramatic, they told me the call had to be transferred from the main switchboard.

Finally, “Hello.”
“Jim,” said Nancy, “I’m still at the hospital.”
“You want me to come home?”
“Well, the doctors are still checking me, but I don’t think it’s time. I guess I’ll be going back home."
“You want me to come home?” I asked again,
“I don’t think so. You go ahead and play. I can reach you there if anything else happens. No reason to come home right now. Just check with me after you play.”

No argument from me. I told her I love her and then we terminated the call. Oh, yes, she told me to play well and have a good time. That was just what the doctor ordered.

Valvano played with us a couple of holes, and after those, our group was two under par. He then went ahead and played with the rest of the field, and our group continued to burn it up. My drive was working consistently, straight down the middle most of the day and long off the tee. Will and Bill hot some beautiful second shots as did Paul, and I even had a couple. We all made a few putts except for Bill Walker. He made a lot of putts, including three from lengths of 12 feet, six feet and 10 feet on the 16th, 17th and 18th holes. We turned in a 61, 11 under par and took top honors by one shot over a foursome headed by Bill Neal.

Immediately after the round, I tried to call Nancy, first at the hospital—she wasn’t there—and then at home—she wasn’t there either. Scores were collected and posted. We all had lunch. I was asked to play in another 18-hole match of regular golf that afternoon with Jim Bass, Jack Helms and John Brady. I called home one more time.

Thanks to some special neighbors, Nancy had made it to the hospital and back. No one at either place believed I was playing golf over an hour away. Anyway, she was doing fine and wondered if I was now headed home. Well, I told her, I was thinking about playing 18 more. After a brief moment of silence, and I’m sure disbelief on her part, she said to go ahead and asked if I was sure I could be reached anywhere on the course. With a yes answer and the revelation that my group had won the morning’s event, she reaffirmed her yes to my continued play, and I was off.

It was a good match with everyone playing hard, trying to match each other drive for drive, shot for shot, putt for putt. And, our group had a little match with Charlie Bryant’s group playing ahead of us. I was playing pretty good, about seven or eight over par through 14 holes when Jim Bass noticed someone approaching the 14th green.

“Is there a Jim in this group?” the stranger asked.
Bass and I both raised our hand.
“Is there a Jim Poom-r-ancse here?”
“Right here,” I said.
“You’ve got to get back to Raleigh. Your wife is in labor and she’s waiting for you at home to take her to the hospital.”

I was off in a flash, leaving the wishes of good luck in the background. It took five minutes to get to the clubhouse and 10 minutes more for me to wrap up all I could before leaving. The 75-minute drive to Cary and my home took about 60 minutes (not an endorsement for speeding), and I had Nancy in the car and at Rex Hospital by 6:00 p.m. she had called Foxfire at 4:10.

With golf balls in my pockets and my Amana visor on my head, we began our wonderful wait in the labor room. And, my how time just flew. I thought I might be able to get back to Foxfire for dinner, and we almost pulled it off.

At 10:55 p.m., Emily Kathleen Pomeranz, all 9-pounds, 3-ounces at 20 inches long, was born. It was a wonderful experience for me, being there in the delivery room, sans the hat, of course. Her first words were simply a loud cry. Nancy was and is very happy as was and am I. My first words to Emily were, “Go Wolfpack.”

The weekend was a splendid success!
Happy 25th Birthday, Emily!