Monday, January 30, 2012

Schiano's first hire could be Butch Davis

It appears Greg Schiano's first major move as Tampa Bay Bucs head football coach will be to hire long time friend Butch Davis as his assistant head coach and possibly defensive coordinator.

Davis has a good amount of NFL experience though he hasn't coached in the league since he left the Cleveland Browns in 2004.

Schiano was Davis' defensive coordinator at the University of Miami in 1999 and 2000. Davis was the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys in 1993 when they won the Super Bowl under Jimmy Johnson.

Davis was the Cleveland Browns head coach from 2001 through 2004 and his best team went 9-7. Prior to that he was head coach at the University of Miami where he was credited with helping the program get rid of its "bad boy" image while still keeping it competitive under tough circumstances with a lot of NCAA penatlies.

He was the head coach at North Carolina from 2007 through 2010 and turned the Tar Heels into contender. But he had to forfeit 16 victories after the NCAA ruled some of his players had taken inappropriate benefits and the school fired him prior to the 2011 season.

Harder says Pinellas County schools ganged up against his 'Noles

If the Southeast High girls’ basketball team is going to capture its 13th straight district champion, the Seminoles will have to do it on the road and long head coach John Harder says that is wrong.

Harder sees the scenario as a product of home cooking and an example of poor sportsmanship and selfishness.

By virtue of being seeded number one, Southeast should be home for the Class 5A-District 12 title game assuming it wins its semifinal match, he says.

The problem Harder says is that four of the six teams in the district are from Pinellas County and they took care of their own, not considering Southeast and Bayshore.

The one good thing about getting the first seed if Southeast reaches the final it will likely have to beat the winner of the St. Petersburg Lakewood-Gulfport Boca Ciega game rather than have to face each other.

Realistically these are the only three teams with a chance to win the district championship. Southeast beat Lakewood at home and lost in overtime on the road at Boca Ciega on a controversial call at the end. They all finished 4-1 in the district and Southeast got the top seed because it had the best overall record (21-4).

Southeast has exceeded expectations because its core group of three sophomores is playing like seniors. It is sparked by forward Deangela Mathis, who leads the Seminoles in scoring (19.1 ppg), is second in rebounding (5.2 RPG) and shooting 59 percent from the field.

Keshawna Robinson continues to be a force on the boards. The 5-10 sophomore tops the Noles on the boards (10.4 rpg) and is third in scoring (11 ppg).

A big plus and somewhat of a surprise with her scoring has been 5-6 guard Bevin Mays, a defensive ace who is averaging 13.3 points and leads Southeast with 79 assists.

Lakewood, the defending 4A state champion, is expected to be without its top player, six-foot junior Tianah Alvarado, who is out with a knee injury. She averaged 30 points per game last year and was selected 4A state tournament MVP.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Take a look at Tommy Bernhardt's impossible shot that stunned Southeast

Braden River senior Tommy Bernhardt has carved out a reputation this season for making big shots . But none might have been more dramatic than the three-quarter court shot he nailed against Southeast this season as the halftime buzzer sounded. You be the judge, but this is the longest shot made this season around these parts.

ESPN comes to Bradenton to film Dick Vitale special

ESPN will be in town with cameras rolling this week as part of a special it is doing on Dick Vitale, Lakewood Ranch's most famous citizen and college hoops guru.

The television network is filming a documentary half-hour piece on Vitale for a program called "All-Access with Dickie V" to air on ESPNU on February 7th prior to the Duke-North Carolina game basketball game.

On Friday, the ESPN crew and Vitale will be at the Broken Egg Breakfast and Lunch Restaurant in Lakewood Ranch between 9 and 9:30 am and spend most of the morning there. It is located on 6115 Exchange Way.

ESPN and Vitale will be at the Broken Egg in Siesta Key on Thursday at 9:30 am and later that morning at the Broken Egg in Lakewood Ranch.

The public is invited to meet Dick Vitale personally, receive an autograph and take photos with him. They might get a chance to see themselves on the ESPN special that will air nationally.

"Dickie V" eats at the Broken Egg in Lakewood Ranch nearly every day and considers it his home away from home.

The Broken Egg helps Vitale raise money for the V Foundation for Pediatric Cancer Research through private donations and sales of various items, including books. Some of the families touched by Vitale have eaten breakfast with him at the restaurant and shared their emotions.

Weis should do for Kansas QB what Florida did for Mike Blakely

The plight of University of Kansas quarterback Brock Berglund is a prime example of what is wrong with college athletics and how the NCAA tries to control an athlete’s life.

The Associated Press reported that the freshman from Denver was dismissed from the squad last week when he didn't attend a mandatory team meeting with the Jayhawks' new coaching staff.

He wants to transfer and feared that by attending the meeting he would be locked in for another semester, the AP report said.

Berglund told the AP in a phone interview that he sent a written request to school administrators in late December asking for permission to speak to other universities, but the request was denied.

The 19-year-old has a meeting scheduled for Friday in Lawrence, Kan., with the university's student-athlete appeals board, which will make a determination on whether the denial of Berglund's transfer request was fair.

This is another example of how college coaches can leave anytime without repercussions even if they break a contract, while athletes have no freedom of movement.

It’s particularly troublesome for Berglund and others in his situation because the coaches who recruited him are not longer there.

Berglund has hired a lawyer to help him get released from his scholarship so he can play for another school, according to the AP report.

A similar situation occurred last year with Manatee High running back Mike Blakely who was recruited by Urban Meyer at Florida. Meyer left Florida when Blakely got there at mid year and he wanted to leave.

Fortunately, for Blakely, Gators new coach Will Muschamp allowed him to leave to play for SEC foe Auburn. Manatee High legendary coach Joe Kinnan contacted Muschamp on behalf of Blakely.

"It's just very fortunate that Coach Muschamp, a class act, went ahead and released him to go to Auburn. He didn't think he would have an opportunity to go to Auburn, but it worked out,” Kinnan said at the time.

Ironically the new head coach for Kansas is former Florida offensive coordinator and Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis.

One of the first things Weis did was bring in senior transfer quarterback Dayne Crist from Notre Dame. With only one year of eligibility it doesn't appear Crist came to play backup.

Weis announced this week that Berglund was no longer part of the Kansas football team, but no mention was given about his release to pursue other schools.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bucs should be glad Kelly turned them down

To the Bucs we say: Be Careful What You Wish For Because You Might Get It!

The Bucs were spared perhaps an embarrassment when Oregon University head football coach Chip Kelly turned down their offer to be their new head coach.

Anything is possible; but if you look at Kelly's track record and college experience he would have had to make a major adjustment to coaching at the NFL level and history has proven that doesn't usually work.

The list of college head football coaches who failed at the NFL level is staggering. To make it worse, Kelly runs a spread offense that features a lot small guys running all over the place.

Kelly had success against Pac 12 teams, but lost both his encounters with teams from the SEC, which is more like what he would see in the NFL.

His two lowest point totals the last two years came against Auburn (19 points) in the BCS 2011 title game and last season (27) against LSU. Three seasons ago, his team scored 17 points against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl and 9 vs Boise State.

However you do the math, this is a big risk.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rudd leads USF and provides ESPN with highlight reel

Right now Victor Rudd might be the most famous player on a USF men’s basketball team, which is starting to get a lot of attention.

The 6-7 swingman scored all of his 24 points in the second half Wednesday night to lead the Bulls to 64-49 victory over St. John’s. The win gives USF (11-8 overall) a 4-2 Big East Conference, which is their best start since joining the league in 2005.

Rudd knocked down 5 of 7 attempts from beyond the arc, but his so-called “shot heard round the world” (at least ESPN’s world) was a thunderous dunk. It earned him a spot in ESPN’s top 10 highlights for Wednesday night.

The recognition has been a long time coming for Rudd, who transferred to USF from Arizona State. His 24 points was the fifth best total for a half in USF history.

Ironically Rudd missed all five his field goal attempts in the first half, but during warm-ups prior to the second half his shot started to fall and it give him confidence.

"When I got back out there in the second half I made every shot in warm-ups, so I felt good," Rudd said. "To get my first shot off and going from that it gave me a lot of confidence.”

Rudd started off the season strong, then struggled and found himself coming off the bench. It might have provided a spark and no one feels better than Bulls head coach Stan Heath.

"I've seen a change, especially with the attitude, just working and being a more complete player since the New Year," USF head coach Stan Heath said. "Those things that he's doing today, we see that in practice and we're just like, 'Man, I want to see that in a game.' It took him a while and hopefully this is a coming-out party that he'll be consistent like this.”

The Bulls lead the Big East in scoring defense, allowing 57.6 points per game. They are second in rebounding defense and third in 3-point field goal defense (30 percent).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

NCAA again fails to address needs of athletes

The NCAA had an opportunity to do something for the student athletes who put all that money in its coffers and dropped the ball.

More than 160 schools have objected to a decision by the NCAA Board of Directors last October to increase grant-in-aid scholarships by $2,000. The measure was to address the additional cost of attendance expenses athletes incur that are not covered.

The proposal, supported by NCAA President Mark Emmert, also called for multi-year scholarships to replace the ones that are now granted annually and can be withdrawn for any reason.

The NCAA Board said next month the 355 Division I schools will vote on the measure. It will take 222 votes to kill the board’s proposal and set the NCAA back to the caveman days.

The $2,000 proposal is optional for every school, which makes you wonder why some are vehemently opposed. But it’s about giving opponents a recruiting edge and to most schools that is sacrilegious.

The opponents say they don’t have the money, but a joint study by the National College Players Association and Drexel University refute that claim. It notes TV sports revenues last year were approximately $784 million and are expected to rise as the SEC and ACC seek to renew their television deals.

It’s not about how much you make. It’s about how you spend it.

“If historical patterns are any indication, it is almost a guarantee that athletic administrators will spend the bulk of the money rewarding themselves and their coaches with enormous salary increases and bonuses while spending lavishly on athletic facilities,” the report says.

Revenue generating athletes (FBS football and Division I basketball) from five universities (Arizona, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Purdue and UCLA) petitioned the NCAA this year to improve their benefits. None asked to be paid. They just wanted to be treated fairly.

Some key points were:

Ø additional money to make up for the scholarship shortfalls, which studies have shown average $3,200 per year per student.

Ø preventing permanently injured players from losing their scholarships

Ø Requiring schools to pay all the costs of an athlete’s sports-related medical expenses

Ø Issuance of multiyear scholarships

Players are not afraid to speak out; even those with NFL aspirations who in the past might have feared being labeled a trouble maker.

UCLA kicker Jeff Locke, an NFL prospect, got 70 football players and 17 men’s basketball players at his school to sign the petition. He is aware that the Pac 12 conference recently signed a 12 year agreement with ESPN and Fox that is reportedly worth $3 billion, the richest in college sports.

“If the NCAA pushes back these issues, the schools will find other ways to spend this money, whether it is put into new facilities or to increase coaches salaries, and the players will not be able to receive the basic protections they need from the billions they help generate,” Locke said through the NCPA.

The assurance of sports related full medical coverage is important to p players such as Georgia Tech redshirt defensive end Denzel McCoy, who sat out the season with a knee injury.

“The things we go through, the hours we put in, what our bodies go through, we disserve some sort of results. College football is a billion dollar industry,” he told the Associated Press. “When I am 40 years old I’ve got a degree and everything, but if I can’t walk up a flight of stairs, what did I get out of it besides a few bowl games, some rings and things like that.”

Ohio State agreed to pay new coach Urban Meyer $4 million, which is an increase of $2.8 million over the person he is replacing. Mike Leach, who was fired from Texas Tech, got what would be equivalent to a boost of $1.6 million for the head job at Washington state.

While fired coaches get paid for the length of their contract, there is nothing protecting the athlete from a coach who can take away his scholarship without a reason.

A lot of money issues for players could be eased if the NCAA allowed college athletes to endorse products and earn money off their name, but schools refused to do it. It all goes back to their fear that it will give some opponent a recruiting edge.

Everyone wants to win, but nobody wants to help the people most responsible for winning_ which are the athletes.

“It would cost approximately $47 million per year to provide a $3,2000 scholarship increase to FBS football players and division I men’s basketball players,” the NCAP-Drexel reported said. “The same amount can be given to female athletes for a total of $94 million. With $784 million in new annual revenues, colleges can afford a scholarship increase, pay for sports related medical expenses and ensure injured players can keep their scholarships while still enjoying an unprecedented revenue windfall.”

Dick Vitale Gala will have new wrinkle this year

You can always expect the unexpected from Dick Vitale, especially when it is something that is going to generate excitement.

This year is no exception. The 2012 Dick Vitale Gala to benefit the V Foundation for Cancer Research will be hosting an after party that will have live music.

The Dick Vitale Gala, which raises money for pediatric cancer research and has been vital in saving the lives of so many children, will be held May 12th at the Sarasota Ritz-Carlton.

The Gala, in its seventh year, will be honoring former Maryland head basketball coach Gary Williams and current Villanova head coach Jay Wright along with former head football coach and current ESPN analyst Lou Holtz.

We will begin the evening with a cocktail hour at 6:30 p.m. followed by dinner at 7:30 p.m. For the first time in the gala's history, we will be hosting an after party with live music. Tickets are available now for sale and begin at $1,000 per ticket.

Cosh figures to be new USF defensive coordinator

Numerous reports indicate that Chris Cosh will be the next defensive coordinator at USF replacing Mark Snyder, who took the DC at Texas A&M.

The first question most USF fans will ask is whether Cosh will be an improvement over Snyder. Based on their past work that would seem to be the case though neither has what you would call an elite body of work.

Cosh has been the defensive coordinator for the past three seasons at Kansas State and was the linebackers coach there from 2004-05.

Under Cosh, last year Kansas State finished with a 10-3 record and the Wildcats ranked 72nd in total defense, allowing 394 yards per game.

USF ranked 39th in total defense and allowed 351 yards per game. But in their Big East Conference play, the Bulls allowed 405 yards per game and were known for blowing leads in the last quarter because of their defense.

Looking at Snyder's body of work at USF and then at Marshall when he was head coach from 2005 through 2009 you see a pattern of lapses by his defense.

Snyder had one winning season at Marshall, his last yeaer when he was 7-6. He was forced out when fans were complaining about the inability of the team's defense to hold onto leads late in the game. He was 23-37 at Marshall taking over a team that was 44-19 during the five years before his arrival.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

USF to play Nevada next season

The University of South Florida will play a home-and-home series with the University of Nevada, the schools announced today.

USF will visit Nevada on Sept. 8, 2012 with the Wolf Pack making a return trip to Tampa on Oct. 3, 2015. With this addition, USF has finalized its 2012 non-conference schedule with Nevada joining Tennessee-Chattanooga (Sept. 1), Ball St. (Sept. 22), Florida St. (Sept. 29) and Miami (Nov. 24).

It's good news for USF fans, who were afraid the the Bulls might have to play two FCS (formerly I-AA) schools next season because it was getting late to fill that last spot.

It will also be a big early test for USF's defense, which struggled last season in trying to hold leads at the end of several games.

“We are excited to come to this agreement with Nevada,” said Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Doug Woolard. “With everything that’s going on around the country, schools are having a difficult time finishing off their schedules. We’re happy that a quality program like Nevada had an opening and we look forward to facing them next season and in 2015.”

Nevada, which will move from the Western Athletic Conference to the Mountain West Conference for 2012, is coming off a 7-6 season that finished with a 24-17 loss to No. 19 Southern Miss in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

The Wolf Pack tied for second in the WAC with a 5-2 mark. Nevada finished the year ranked sixth nationally in total offense (506.7 ypg), while posting 247.5 rushing yards and 31.7 points per game. The Wolf Pack has appeared in seven straight bowl games, and prior to 2011, posted a 13-1 season in 2010 and an 8-5 year in 2009.

“Nevada offers a difficult test for us,” said USF head coach Skip Holtz. “Offensively, they’ve been very productive under coach Ault and they’ve had a lot of success as a team over the last few years. Going on the road and playing in a tough environment early in the season will give us an opportunity to see where we are and could help us as we move deeper into the schedule.”

The trip to Reno in 2012 will mark the third time in USF program history that it will play west of the Rocky Mountains. The Bulls traveled to San Diego to take on San Diego St. in 1999 and they also visited Utah in 2001.

“USF has an outstanding football team that will present us with some unique challenges,” Nevada head coach Chris Ault said. “They are well coached and have some quality players. This is a game our fans won’t want to miss.”

Poole makes official visit to Florida this weekend

Brian Poole is taking his official visit to Florida this weekend and says nothing has changed. Expect him to officially become a Gator February 1, the national signing day for high school football players.

The Southeast High product has been in constant touch with the Florida coaching staff. They don't want to take a chance on losing him because of all the 2012 Gator prospects he is among the most likely to impact an impact next season.

The nationally touted cornerback added to his Superman reputation earlier this month in the Under Armour All-American game when he returned an interception 96 yards for a touchdown and had what likely was a touchdown saving solo tackle on another.

USF knocks Dickie V's Seton Hall out of top 25

In beating then 24th ranked Seton Hall last week, the University of South Florida men's basketball team might have impressed the planet's best known basketball guru.

Our own Dick Vitale is a graduate of Seton Hall and its 56-55 loss to USF knocked the Pirates out of the AP national rankings.

The Hall (15-3), as it is known up in New Jersey, was in the top 25 for the first time since the 2000-01 season. Unfortunately the stay didn't last long and the Pirates didn't make it in this week's rankings.

But maybe this is more about USF, which appears to have its best basketball team since Stan Heath took over the program five years ago.

USF's tenacious defense held Seton Hall to its second lowest point total of the season, which is impressive considering the Pirates low of 49 came to undefeated top ranked Syracuse.

USF ranks second in the Big East Conference and 21st overall in scoring defense allowing 58.2 points per game.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Braden River's Casseus appears headed to Iowa State

It appears Braden River senior Jeff Casseus will be headed to Iowa State next year to play football.

The 6-6, 250 pound offensive lineman will make an official visit next weekend to the Ames, Iowa school and says he could make a verbal commitment.

Casseus is currently playing basketball and is a key cog in what is likely to be the best boys basketball team in Braden River school history. But with his size and athleticism, his sport on the next level if football.

if Casseus signs with Iowa State, he will join former Manatee High standouts, receiver Quenton Bundrage and defensive lineman Quinton Pompey, who are freshmen there.

Casseus is one of many Florida players being recruited by Iowa State defensive coordinator Wally Burnham, who was an integral part of the emergency of the University of South Florida football program and previously coached at FSU.