Articles By Athlon Sports

Path: /mlb/athlon-sports-2011-al-nl-managers-year

With the World Series in the rear-view mirror and the hot stove just beginning to heat up, it's time to hand out some awards to this year's best performers on the diamond. The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) has already named their AL and NL Rookies of the Year and as well as the American League Cy Young award. And while no Athlon editors are members of the BBWAA, here's how four of us — Charlie Miller, Braden Gall, Patrick Snow and Mark Ross — would have voted if we did have a ballot to cast.

AL & NL Managers of the Year

In most years, the candidates for Manager of the Year are those whose teams perform better than expected or performed poorly the previous season and turned things around this season. This formula, if you will, holds true for this season.

In the AL, Joe Maddon pretty much wrapped up his second Manager of the Year honor by leading his Tampa Bay Rays on a late-season push that had them overcome the Boston Red Sox and capture the AL Wild Card on the final day of the season. Other AL candidates include Jim Leyland, who led the Detroit Tigers to the AL Central title and a win over the New York Yankees in the ALDS, Ron Washington, who directed the Rangers to their second straight AL pennant and World Series appearance, and Manny Acta, who steered the Indians to 11 more wins compared to last year.

In the NL, the leading candidates are two first-year managers, Kirk Gibson of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Ron Roenicke of the Milwaukee Brewers, led their teams to the top of their respective divisions, while the wily old veteran, Tony LaRussa of the St. Louis Cardinals, took his team to the top of the baseball world in what turned out to be his final season as manager.

Athlon's AL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays

Athlon's NL Manager of the Year: Kirk Gibson, Arizona Diamondbacks

Here's how the Athlon editors voted

As was the case with the votes for National League Rookie of the Year and American League Cy Young, the editors were in agreement as to who was the top skipper in each league this season with both winners getting every first-place vote. Overall, there was little discrepancy among each editors' top three in either league.

Charlie Miller's ballot:

AL Manager of the Year
1. Joe Maddon
The Rays lost star Carl Crawford and their entire bullpen to free agency, yet Maddon pieced together a corps of relievers and kept his troops believing they could win all season.
2. Manny Acta
3. Jim Leyland

NL Manager of the Year
1. Kirk Gibson
Gibson’s leadership transformed a 90-loss team into a 90-win division champion.
2. Ron Roenicke
3. Tony LaRussa

Braden Gall's ballot:

AL Manager of the Year
1. Joe Maddon
In a year that was supposed to be a rebuilding season in which Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano, Matt Garza and others were sent packing in the off-season, Maddon deserves most of the credit. For a collection or rookie arms, journeyman bullpensmen, utility infielders and Evan Longoria to surge into the playoffs is nothing short of a miracle.
2. Jim Leyland
3. Ron Washington

NL Manager of the Year:
1. Kirk Gibson
Gibson took what could have been a last place team and motivated them into division champs. Justin Upton, Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, JJ Putz, Chris Young and more had career years all at the same time. The clubhouse mentality was the primary reason the D-Backs won the division.
2. Tony LaRussa
3. Ron Roenicke

Patrick Snow's ballot:

AL Manager of the Year
1. Joe Maddon
The Rays made the Playoffs after massive offseason personnel losses — Crawford, Garza, Bartlett, Pena, Benoit, Soriano, Balfour — and a 1-8 start. Competing with payroll-heavy New York and Boston, Maddon did a masterful job in leading Tampa Bay to 91 wins and the postseason for the third time in four years.
2. Jim Leyland
3. Ron Washington

NL Manager of the Year
1. Kirk Gibson
The math explains this one easily: 65-97 became 94-68 in Gibson’s first season in charge. Obviously (GM of the Year) Kevin Towers played a big role in the worst-to-first transformation, but the Diamondbacks took on the personality of their hard-nosed manager on the way to the NL West title.
2. Ron Roenicke
3. Tony La Russa

Mark Ross' ballot:

AL Manager of the Year
1. Joe Maddon
Despite managing a team that lost many of its star players to free agency, Maddon steered the Rays back to the postseason by finishing with a flourish. The Rays overcame a nine-game deficit in the final 24 games, overtaking the Red Sox and winning the AL Wild Card on the final day of the regular season.
2. Jim Leyland
The venerable Leyland directed a 14-game turnaround from the previous season and led the Tigers to the AL Central crown and a spot in the ALCS.
3. Ron Washington
The energetic and emotional Washington directed his Rangers to their second straight World Series appearance.

NL Manager of the Year
1. Kirk Gibson
In his first year as manager, Gibson directed the Diamondbacks from worst to first in the NL West, improving the team’s win total by 29 compared to the previous season.
2. Ron Roenicke
Another first-year manager, Roenicke guided the Brewers to the NL Central title and their first league championship series appearance since 1982, which was when the Brew Crew was in the American League.
3. Tony LaRussa
In what turned out to be his final season as the Cardinals’ skipper, LaRussa pushed all of the right buttons late in the regular season and during the postseason to win his third World Series ring and cap off a Hall of Fame career.

Other Baseball awards-related content:

American League Rookie of the Year

National League Rookie of the Year

American League Cy Young

National League Cy Young

American League MVP

National League MVP

<p> Athlon editors name their choices for this season's best manager in each league</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 04:08
Path: /nascar/younger-guns

In celebration of Athlon Sports' upcoming 10th annual Racing magazine, we've dug into the archives to uncover some of the most memorable features, profiles and Q&As that have graced our pages. Visit the site daily for more retrospective looks at NASCAR throughout the decade.

The following feature was originally published in the 2004 Athlon Sports Racing annual:

For years, almost all of the fish swam into NASCAR’s biggest pond through one main channel. These days, that entryway seems more like a river delta.

The traditional path to Nextel Cup racing — running from a hometown short track to a regional series and then through NASCAR’s Busch Series — still works. Today, however, those experiences are not necessarily prerequisites. Talent is now flowing into stock car racing from all directions. Cup drivers of today, and most certainly those of tomorrow, are coming from open-wheel racing and off-road series; from California, the Southwest and the Pacific Northwest; and from all ports and points where people learn how to drive fast.

While NASCAR’s growth has made its gravitational pull quite strong, the stars don’t always come to NASCAR on their own, however. More and more, car owners and the manufacturers who support them make it their business to identify and develop racing talent as an investment in their teams’ future. “A great deal of our success tomorrow will depend on how well we recruit today,” team owner Ray Evernham says. “If you are going to be a viable organization for the future, you have to start thinking about and recruiting talent just like any other professional sports team.”

Evernham will field a team for 23-year-old Kasey Kahne in 2004, joining virtually every other major multi-team operation in having a young driver in its system.

Hendrick Motorsports will put 20-year-old Brian Vickers, who won last year’s Busch Series championship, in Cup in 2004 and will also run Kyle Busch, the 18-year-old brother of Roush Racing driver Kurt Busch, in the Busch Series this year.

Kurt Busch is only 25 himself, and Roush Racing also has Carl Edwards and Jon Wood coming up through its ranks. At Penske Racing South, star Ryan Newman is just 26.

Richard Childress Racing will have Johnny Sauter, who is 25, in its No. 30 Chevrolet. Childress also signed Clint Bowyer, a 24-year-old short-track whiz from Kansas, to share time with Kevin Harvick in a Busch car in 2004. Joe Gibbs Racing went to the U.S. Auto Club ranks to hire J.J. Yeley for a mixed schedule in 2004 that is designed to lead to a full-time Cup ride the next year.

Chip Ganassi Racing already has two young drivers, 2003 Cup Rookie of the Year Jamie McMurray and Casey Mears, in Cup rides and has plans to run Reed Sorensen, the 2003 Rookie of the Year in the American Speed Association at age 17, in some Busch races this year. And Dale Earnhardt Inc. will run Martin Truex Jr. in a Busch car and, perhaps, selected Cup events.

“When I started 20 years ago, it was almost like there was a pecking order,” Rick Hendrick says. “Junior Johnson would take the driver he wanted from one of the mid-level teams, and that team would replace him with a guy from a lower-level team. Those teams would then look at a guy who’d been running in the Busch Series, and even if you showed promise you had to wait until you were 30 for your chance.

“Today, you have to be looking at Indy cars and sprint cars and late model tracks all over the country. And that’s good news and it’s bad news. The good news is that the pool of driver is enormous now that we’ve realized it’s out there in a lot of other places. The bad news is that you’ve got to commit to a guy so early and spend a lot of money to bring him along. If you guess right, it’s a home run. But if you don’t guess right, it takes a while to regroup.”

There is no time to waste in the racing recruiting business. Hendrick says he has approached young drivers in the past only to learn he’s the third or the fourth owner to make contact. With all of the interest buzzing around them, the most highly regarded young drivers are no longer waiting for opportunities. So car owners must quickly evaluate the potential stars and develop an instinct for making the right decisions that have a long-term impact on the success of their teams.

“You can see talent,” Hendrick says. “If they have that, then you’ve got to figure if they will work within your organization. I call it the fit factor. It’s the whole package. Can they work with a sponsor? Can they fit into the system you have in place? How mature are they? It’s all of those things. And you have to sort some of that out before you even put them in a car for their first test.”

In an ideal situation, of course, car owners with teams in the Cup, Busch and Truck series would line up drivers in a logical progression so that as an older driver retires or moves on there’s a successor ready to take over. But things are rarely ideal.

When 2003 began, most people in racing assumed that Kyle Busch was heading for a Truck Series ride at Roush Racing after reaching his 18th birthday. That would eventually lead him into a Cup ride as his brother’s teammate. Hendrick figured that was what was going to happen — until he got a phone call from Kyle Busch’s representatives.

“I thought Kyle was hooked up, but they wanted to talk,” Hendrick says. “We didn’t have a spot for him, but we made one. You just can’t have enough A-plus players.”

In February 2001, following the death of seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt in a crash at Daytona, Richard Childress had an instant need for a Cup driver who could keep a competitive team running at or near the front.

“We wouldn’t have had Kevin Harvick to put in that car if we hadn’t had a young driver sitting out there in the wings,” says Childress, who is now plucking Bowyer off of dirt and asphalt short-tracks in Kansas and bringing him to race for a team that, with Harvick and Sauter sharing the driving duties, won the owners’ championship in the Busch Series in 2003.

Everybody is looking for talent. As Bill Elliott cuts back to drive a partial Cup schedule this year, he also plans to race his own cars on short tracks around the country. While he’s doing that, Elliott will also be scouting for new talent for Evernham.

It was Mark Martin who recommended that Jack Roush hire Matt Kenseth, and Kenseth won last year’s Winston Cup title. Greg Biffle, who won Busch and Truck series titles for Roush, came at the recommendation of Benny Parsons, who saw Biffle race in a winter series in Arizona.

But Roush can’t totally depend on the observation skills of others. He has people who scout for young talent, and when he’s needed to fill openings in his Truck Series teams, he has staged full-blown auditions — nicknamed “Gong Shows” — to give some of those young drivers their shot at the big time. Kurt Busch, in fact, auditioned along with four others at a track in Toledo, Ohio, in October 1999. He got a call-back to a second round in Phoenix later that year and did well enough to get offered a Truck ride. And now, he has eight Winston Cup race victories.

Busch stepped over the Busch Series, moving straight from trucks to Cup cars, and Brendan Gaughan will attempt to make that jump this year. While there are those who’ve clearly benefited from the experience gained in the Busch Series — Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are past Busch champions and Vickers has that title under his belt as he moves up to Cup this year — that no longer appears to be a required stop along the way.

“Right now I would not suggest to any young person to go into the Busch Series and try to run every race,” car owner Joe Gibbs says. “I don’t think it’s geared for that.

“Generally, the people you’re going to find successful in Busch right now are the people that drive one of the six cars that have been there for 10 years. Or, it’s going to be a Winston Cup guy that comes down and cherry picks the races.

“In the Busch Series, you get about two hours to get ready to qualify, and in that two hours you’ve got to change over to qualifying trim, which takes about 25 or 30 minutes. So at a number of those races you get 17, 18, 19 laps if you’re lucky. Then you turn around and qualify a car; sometimes at one of the fastest places without ever having tested there because you only got seven tests.

“It’s rushed. You get a small number of laps, and almost every week there was either wrecks, seeping race track, late inspection, which also cut into the two hours, and so you do not get practice time. Then you’re shoved out there to qualify. Then you have one hour of happy hour, and the bottom line is you’re going to go up against guys in the Cup series that have had not only that practice time, but three hours in a Cup car.

“If you put a predominantly rookie team out there and try and put a rookie driver in the Busch Series and go week to week, I think you’re asking for a heartache.”

That’s why J.J. Yeley’s 2004 schedule will include about 10 to 12 Busch races, seven to eight races in Automobile Racing Club of America stock cars, as well as two or three Cup races this year. Yeley is a 27-year-old native of Phoenix who won championships in the U.S. Auto Club’s three major series — sprints, midgets and Silver Crown — during a record-breaking season in 2003. That USAC “triple crown” had been done only once before, by Tony Stewart, who won the 2002 Cup series title driving for Gibbs and who was the car owner for Yeley’s sprint car team last year.

“Right now I think stock cars are the best fit for a guy coming from USAC,” says Yeley, who in 2003 broke the USAC single-season record for victories previously held by the legendary A.J. Foyt. “A lot of people think that because you run open wheel that you should go Indy car racing, and 50 years ago that might have been the case. But technology has surpassed what we do in USAC racing, and to make that jump (to NASCAR) now is a lot easier.”

The path from USAC to NASCAR is certainly well-traveled. Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman, three of the biggest stars in the Nextel Cup Series, came up through its ranks.

“There are a lot of similarities between the way the cars handle,” Yeley says, “the way they slide around a little bit on the race track, and the way the cars change throughout a tire run or fuel run. I know the ins and outs of all three race cars that I ran in USAC, and I don’t necessarily with stock cars. It’s just going to be a matter of doing a lot of testing. I’ll spend a lot of time at the shop trying to figure out exactly what kinds of changes will fix the attitude of the race car. I think that’s just going to be the biggest challenge for me right now.”

Stewart agrees with that assessment.

“He has a lot to learn,” Stewart says. “He’s driven cars primarily that were 1,600 pounds and lighter, and now he’s going to jump into a car that’s twice as heavy and has tires that are half as wide, and dealing with a radial tire that he’s never been exposed to other than the IRL.”

Yeley may lack experience, but like a lot of the younger drivers who’ve made their mark on stock-car racing in recent years, he does not lack confidence. “If I’m as good as I think I am or I hope to be in the amount of effort that I’m going to give it, I think I can accomplish the same things that those guys have done,” Yeley says of USAC products like Stewart, Gordon and Newman. “If you look at the records from what we’ve done in USAC, everything is very similar.

“But it’s going to be very tough. This is the top of auto racing. This is where the best of the best are going to be, so you just have to stand up and give it full effort and see if you can compete.”

Gibbs likes that confidence — a trait the NFL coaching legend calls “athletic arrogance.”

“We know how good he is in (USAC). We know he’s good enough to dominate over there,” Gibbs says. “That’s opposed to somebody who kind of came up through the Busch or Truck series and maybe didn’t get a bunch of wins or has a background in winning a bunch of real pressure situations. A guy like J.J. has a phenomenal background in having been in very competitive stuff, having to produce championships, and he’s won a lot. He thinks he belongs. He’s been there. He’s won.”

Hendrick is familiar with that kind of confidence in young drivers, too.

“With all of their hearts, they believe that if you give them the same equipment they would go out there and beat the pants off Jimmie Johnson,” Hendrick says, speaking of another of his drivers who at age 28 finished second in the Cup standings.

That confidence must be tempered, Hendrick says, with a willingness to learn and with an ability to handle the rest of what comes with being a driver at NASCAR’s top level.

“If you get a renegade in there it can mess up your whole operation,” Hendrick says. “I can’t speak for any other car owner, but personally I don’t think there’s anybody out there who’s that good. You work too hard to have good chemistry within your teams and you don’t want to mess that up.”

In that regard, Hendrick has a veteran like Terry Labonte and a driver like Gordon, who has won four championships and faced just about every kind of off-track challenge a celebrity driver could come up against, to show his younger drivers the tricks of the trade. But the car owner has a role in shaping a driver for success, too.

“I spend a lot of time with the guys,” Hendrick says. “Brian (Vickers) spent a week with us in Florida after winning the Busch championship, and we talked about how sponsors react to things and about how it’s important to sow the seeds and be a good citizen within NASCAR and the things they ask of you.

“These guys are so young and if somebody doesn’t help them think about how to invest their money wisely and watch out for places they shouldn’t be spending it on, they’re not going to know. It’s in my interest to see them do well, because when those things are going well they can focus on the car and the results are better for the organization.”

It’s not always sunshine and roses in the racing business, though, as Kurt Busch found out in 2003. Although he was the one who got punched by Jimmy Spencer following the previous week’s race at Michigan, by the time Busch won the Sharpie 500 at Bristol in August he was being booed lustily by almost everyone in the massive crowd at that track.

“Kurt has learned things the last three years that he didn’t know and things he didn’t know he needed to know,” Roush says. “He’s becoming wiser day by day and we’re just working our way through it. Kurt is incredibly talented. He’s incredibly skilled and he’s got great instincts on everything except maybe on some occasions the way he handles something that goes on between his ears. He’s getting wiser on that too.”

Hendrick has a line he uses with his drivers to explain how quickly a driver — one of any age — can change the way he’s perceived in the grandstands.

“You only get one audience with the Pope,” Hendrick tells them. “You don’t want to be hated by everybody. It’s one thing to have half the crowd wearing your jackets and hat and the other half booing because they don’t want you to win all of the time, but it’s another thing to have everybody hate you.”

For all of the pitfalls and pressures the trend presents, however, there’s no question that Nextel Cup racing is becoming a younger driver’s sport. The average age of a Cup race winner in 2003 was 32 years old, and the top seven drivers in the final standings were all 32 or younger. In 2001, the average race winner was 35.5 years old and as recently as 1993 he was 37.8.

Former Cup champions Elliott, Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace and Terry Labonte, meanwhile, are all in their late 40s. Elliott won a race at Rockingham in November 2003 at age 48. Only four drivers in Cup history — Dale Earnhardt, Geoffrey Bodine, Morgan Shepherd and Harry Gant — won races at an older age.

The rewards for and the demands on star drivers keep increasing, too, so the career span of the sport’s elite may very well shorten. Gordon and Stewart, for instance, have both said they can’t imagine themselves driving until they’re nearly 50.

That means car owners have to be ready. They have to be looking down the track to find young drivers with the potential to follow in the footsteps of those who grab the spotlight today.

<p> A look at some of NASCAR's up-and-coming drivers</p>
Post date: Monday, November 14, 2011 - 17:17
All taxonomy terms: 2004, nascar archive, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/soft-crime-%E2%80%94-why-won%E2%80%99t-nascar-crack-down-traction-control

In celebration of Athlon Sports' upcoming 10th annual Racing magazine, we've dug into the archives to uncover some of the most memorable features, profiles and Q&As that have graced our pages. Visit the site daily for more retrospective looks at NASCAR throughout the decade.

The following feature was originally published in the 2004 Athlon Sports Racing annual:

It’s small enough to hide in a shirt pocket.
It can be thrown out the car window.
It’s being used — and it’s winning races.
NASCAR’s rule book states that it’s illegal.
What is it? A Traction Control device.

So why aren’t drivers being punished? Are NASCAR officials really that blind not to see it? Or are they just soft on crime?

Traction control is standard equipment on most passenger cars. Its purpose is to prevent drivers from losing control of their cars. In a nutshell, it prevents drive wheels from spinning when the other wheels are not moving. A sensor detects a difference in the speed of the front and rear wheels. If the drive wheels spin, the engine is retarded to keep you from losing control. Traction control is standard equipment in Formula 1 but taboo in NASCAR.

So what’s the big deal?
Traction control in stock car racing retards the engine up to 50 horsepower while the driver is able to mat the gas. When the engine catches up, the throttle is wide open; all the while legal drivers have been feathering the throttle making them a bit tardy in running wide open.

It boils down to talent and seat-of-the-pants driving (legal) vs. a machine (illegal). Tracks that are slick and require finesse driving are more likely to have teams running with active traction control. The track that provides the best example is Darlington. The track is slick and tire wear is excessive. The driver has to tip-toe through the turns and will spin the tires if the gas is mashed. Too much tire spin will send the car into the wall. Successful drivers at Darlington have learned how to feather the gas — by keeping the throttle open just enough to maintain speed — without breaking loose. Traction control performs that function for the drivers, and that levels the playing field and removes the skill factor.

One driver who wished to remain anonymous told us in frustration that he knew he had been outrun by the illegal system, but nothing was done to look for traction control in the offending car. He complained that it took him years to learn how to drive certain tracks and now a first-year driver can run just as well by using traction control. His years of experience have been neutralized by electronics.

The effect of traction control is both immediate — in faster lap times — and long-term over the course of a race. Teams work to get a chassis balanced and free during a race. With traction control, the spring and shock selection is different to reduce or eliminate push. Cars without traction control can’t be set up as “free” or “loose” as cars that have traction control; therefore, push is more of a factor. The more the car pushes, the sooner the right front tire wears out. Once the right front tire wears, laps times slow. When teams are fighting a push, more than likely they are not running traction control.

Traction control can be an advantage at most any track, with the exception of the plate tracks. It is more effective on tracks that require harder braking in the turns; the harder the driver has to nail the gas off the turns, the better the results.

None of the drivers who talked to us were willing to go on record, but all of them said, without hesitation, that the use of traction control is rampant in the Truck, Busch and Cup Series. We know that drivers are notorious for pointing fingers. They are quick to say they got beat by a cheater, so we have taken that attitude into account in researching this story.

So how can so many teams be getting away with such blatant cheating?

Well, it’s not like looking for weapons of mass destruction. Or is it?

The poor man’s version of traction control is rampant at most weekly racing series. It is cheaper than many horsepower enhancements and is tough for local racetracks to police. For about $5,000 you can make a mediocre driver good, and a good driver great.

Why Not Legalize Traction Control?

Because it could have a negative effect on the sport. Young and upcoming drivers across the country are learning to race with a crutch. Good drivers with potential are getting beat by a machine. Once a local track has teams with traction control, everyone else has to get on board to keep up. Drivers are winning with less skill and are not learning the driving skills they will need to move up.

The poor man’s version of the device consists of a module that easily fits in the palm of your hand. It plugs into the ignition box within reach of the driver. The driver gets in the car, puts on his helmet, straps in, and plugs his little secret into the ignition system. After the race, he unplugs, hides the evidence or just throws it out the window.

Many spotters and officials noticed an object fall from a certain car at Bristol during the cool-down lap. Later, a traction control module was found on the track. Busted! No, wait. It seems no effort was made to confront the offender. Hmm....

NASCAR to the Rescue
In a move to deter traction control in 2004, all ignition boxes must be mounted on the dashboard with the wiring harness exposed. This move should keep the module from being plugged in and out during the race, as well as prevent crews from mounting any illegal devices in the garage. The poor man’s version should be obsolete in NASCAR’s top divisions. The message is: If you can’t do it right, don’t do it. The elementary version has been exposed. The task for teams looking for an illegal advantage now becomes to develop technology that is more difficult to find. The companies that design and make traction control devices have answered the call.

The big boys’ version of traction control is built into the car from the ground up. Wiring is put in the frame rails before the car is built, and the wires are painted over for further concealment. In these days of tiny computer chips, the better-financed teams install a chip the size of a watch battery in the transmission, electronics or even the tachometer — anywhere that can detect a spike in RPM’s will suffice. The wires can go through the eye of a pop rivet. The only way to find it? Cut up the car. Then what happens if nothing is found? A needle in a haystack would be easier to find. So why would NASCAR risk embarrassing itself and infuriating teams by confiscating and destroying a car only to find nothing?

If traction control is as rampant as suspected, teams are forced to cheat to keep up. Most teams have tested traction control and many have researched ways of installing the systems. The vendors that sell traction control constantly improve their product and have a great sales pitch. They simply show their client list. Under these circumstances, teams with less experienced drivers are almost forced to use traction control to compete.

When key crew members leave and go to another team, they take the team secrets with them. These employment changes create a flow of information from team to team. When a driver leaves a team, he does not want to race against his former team’s secrets, so in many cases the driver or crew member will rat on his former team. Many, if not most, major infractions found in the past are a result of tattletales. In the case of traction control, not a single team has been publicly busted.

The cost to compete has gone up with the elimination of the poor man’s method. Teams now are forced to purchase and install a system for every car, including the backup cars, and this substantially increases the cost of operation.

Catching A Cheater

If you want to know who is running with traction control, watch races carefully. Check out the tach from the in-car camera as a suspicious car is coming off a turn. If you see the tachometer start to fluctuate down and the needle jumping, there could be something fishy going on. Legal drivers should be slowly accelerating at this point causing the tachometer to show a steady climb. Trained observers can watch a race telecast and hear the motor “catch up”  or slightly hesitate in the turns.

Currently some teams are spending thousands of dollars on the newest editions of traction control. There has been a tremendous advancement in technology since the beginning of the summer. Systems operated by GPS and line-of-sight technology are now available. It’s now possible for a spotter to turn the system on and off during the race. Big-time racing is all about winning; if you want to win, you’d better run some wires.

So why doesn’t NASCAR crack down harder on the more sophisticated cheating?

The technology to detect traction control is available and has been used at several races. NASCAR officials have the ability to point the finger with technology. There is ultra-sonic technology with equipment so sensitive it can detect which cylinder is misfiring. The question is: Why don’t they?

Perhaps they can’t afford to.

It has nothing to do with the cost of intelligence officers and mounted police at all the garages. The high cost would come when many fans — and more important, the mainstream media — begin to compare NASCAR and its widespread cheating to the WWF or the XFL. Now that, NASCAR can’t afford.

In fact, many members of the media think big-league stock car racing is a couple of folding chairs away from professional wrestling already.

But the longer this goes on, the more likely the mainstream media will pick up on it and cause a real uproar in the sport.

Can’t Something be Done?
There is another catch. What happens if NASCAR lowers the boom on a team it catches with traction control? What if one of the sport’s darlings or champions is exposed as a cheater?

The current situation with the sport falls back to money. This is an appearance issue with a sport that prospers from sponsorship money. No other major league sport depends on sponsorship money like automobile racing. Would the sanctioning body bust a team when its sponsor spends huge bucks in the sport?

Many team sponsors are also involved with large ticket purchases, race sponsorships, official status programs and more. The appearance of this conflict of interest does not look good. When the sanctioning body is faced with lowering the boom or making a judgment call, they will always be questioned.

Simply put, it is easier to talk tough and do nothing than to face the music by exposing the worst-kept secret in stock car racing. The method of operation is to talk mean so the media thinks that race teams are scared into compliance.

But none of the teams are shaking in their fire suits. NASCAR’s record on catching cheaters doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of fear. In the 1983 fall Charlotte race, Richard Petty was caught with an engine with too many cubic inches — a major violation — but the NASCAR record book still shows Petty as the winner. So what is the deterrent?

We know of one team that crashed in practice and had to roll out a backup. The crew took the dash and gauges out of the crashed car and put it in the backup. This team is well-funded and can easily afford two sets of gauges. This is not proof, but other teams had a great deal of suspicion while the dashboard was being swapped in plain sight of other teams and officials. This is why so many insiders wink and grin when talking about traction control. Was NASCAR sending the message that officials were looking the other way on traction control?

When asked why officials look the other way in the face of considerable evidence, participants have various responses. Many insiders think that the technology is so advanced they cannot outsmart the team. One crew chief said that as long as the sport continues to grow, no one will want to make waves by fingering guilty parties.

There is a recurring theme: As long as profits continue to roll in, don’t upset the apple cart.

<p> In 2004 Athlon asked why NASCAR wasn't enforcing its own rules regarding traction control devices</p>
Post date: Monday, November 14, 2011 - 16:05
Path: /nascar/nascar%E2%80%99s-iron-fist

In celebration of Athlon Sports' upcoming 10th annual Racing magazine, we've dug into the archives to uncover some of the most memorable features, profiles and Q&As that have graced our pages. Visit the site daily for more retrospective looks at NASCAR throughout the decade.

The following feature was originally published in the 2004 Athlon Sports Racing annual:

Remember that trip to the principal’s office? The door would close, things would get quiet and the only question was the method of punishment: paddle or suspension. You took your medicine and moved on.

That was justice, high school-style. But when you get in the back of the NASCAR trailer, justice is out the window.

Many say that the success of NASCAR has come from strong management and tough discipline; others say NASCAR has survived despite the tough management style, which is about as up-front, open and subtle as a stealth bomber.

Countless times, a driver has gotten this speech: “Hey boy, how much money are you making? Where did you get the money to buy that big house? What are you complaining about? You’d better not make waves.”

These are the words a driver hears when he does not toe the line. These words are not said in public but have been recited numerous times in private.

This is the unspoken, unreported and unflattering aspect of this sport. People who speak up are put in their place by the powers that be, who use the inspection room and pit road speed violations as venues for handing out their punishments. Insiders can cite several instances of the smoke-filled back-room method of keeping folks in line. The good ole boys of this sport know there is a price to pay for saying what they think.

Let’s look at a few specific examples.

Tony Stewart
Think back to Tony Stewart’s negative comments about Goodyear at Dover last fall. You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind and you don’t bad-mouth Goodyear.

Oddly enough, the next week at Talladega, Stewart had a severe migraine headache and couldn’t practice the car on Saturday. Was he unofficially suspended for using Goodyear’s name in vain? Only Stewart can answer that question, and there’s not much chance of getting that answer on the record.

The often-criticized Stewart says what he thinks and pays the price. There’s little doubt that Stewart’s statement about Goodyear made the inspection process for the Home Depot Chevy a lot more difficult.

At Texas, Stewart’s car was confiscated and the body was cut up before being returned to the team. Some say the car was “very” illegal; others question why the car was taken. Could this have been a warning call to keep the driver in line?

Kurt Busch
NASCAR used its tactics on Kurt Busch at the end of the 2003 season. Busch, also too big for his britches, was summoned to the NASCAR trailer following his immature behavior at Martinsville, where he hit pit road with a blown motor and spun out in his own oil, following that with a “burn out” that endangered his and other pit crews.

Busch, his crew chief and car owner were called to the NASCAR trailer for the proverbial tongue-lashing. Busch was a no-show, claiming he did not know of the meeting. The meeting was rescheduled at the same time as practice for the next race in Atlanta. As an eye-opener for Busch, his NASCAR hard card was pulled for the last four Winston Cup races of the year.

Busch had to file a credential request for those races and stand in line with the media to get a credential. That brought him down a few notches, and deservedly so.

Kevin Harvick
The stated reason for Harvick’s 2002 suspension was spinning out a competitor in a truck race. The real story: NASCAR wanted to put the brash and cocky driver in his place. Simply put, Harvick needed to be taught the rules of the road. You don’t show disrespect to the sanctioning body, and Harvick’s actions after he parked the truck are what earned him the sit-down. If you believe otherwise, we have some oceanfront property in Kentucky to sell you.

How does NASCAR’s iron fist rule the roost?

The procedure for checking speeds on pit road is suspect at best. To put it simply, you are told if you are speeding or not. There is no radar gun, no appeal and no justice.

What better way to keep a guy in line than to make his life tough if he does not play by the rules?

The NASCAR method of catching violators wouldn’t hold up in any other sport. CART, for example, has a digital display on pit road for all to see. To further complicate the issue, NASCAR does not allow the TV networks to show telemetry from cars when they are on pit road. Thus, the TV guys get a taste of the iron fist. How would NASCAR look if they penalized a team for speeding and the in-car telemetry showed different?

The most critical form of NASCAR justice is in the inspection process, affectionately known as the room of doom. There are so many variables in the rulebook that the teams take liberties and stretch the rules to the limit. Those same variables allow the inspectors to also take liberties. All owners and drivers know that if they get too vocal and complain too much, the inspectors can dull their competitive edge with a measurement.

There are countless stories of how justice is meted out in big-time stock car racing. To NASCAR’s credit, it has worked for the most part. The people who enforce the rules are only human and prone to honest mistakes. In NASCAR, most mistakes are not reversed. 

There are many judgment calls during a race weekend that can affect a race — or even a season. Jumping a restart, passing below the yellow line at Talladega, and the famous caution for debris on the track can alter the fortunes of a Nextel Cup Team. To a man, participants admit that the judgment calls vary depending on the driver and team involved. For every call that went against a driver, there was a similar call that went for another driver.

But other major sports have been accused of unequal justice as well. For years NBA players complained that Michael Jordan was the beneficiary of more foul calls than many other players. And how many times have we heard that Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine enjoyed a wider strike zone than many other pitchers?

Taking care of a bunch of race car drivers is not an easy task. While the iron fist method seems harsh and unfair, we see the positive aspects as well. Drivers and participants have gotten in trouble off the track, and a few have seen the finer points of a jail cell. Many times these matters are handled quietly with lawyers escorting offenders out the back door of a police station. These guys aren’t getting away with felonies, but every once in a while, a little hell-raising gets out of hand.

The iron fist comes down to keep a driver in line. There are very few problems with alcohol and drug abuse among Nextel Cup drivers, due largely to the back-room tongue-lashings handed out by NASCAR. The drivers don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them. Many a marriage and career have been saved by a visit to the red trailer or a phone call from the 386 area code. NASCAR is very image-conscious and works hard to keep the participants in line. The tactics used are harsh but highly effective. The drivers make a very good living that cannot be duplicated at a ‘regular job,’ so there is a lot to lose if you don’t play along.

If it looks like the iron fist treats drivers, teams, and participants like children, it is because many of them act like children. The sanctioning body, drivers, teams and participants have a good thing going, and NASCAR works hard to keep it going. Ruling with an iron fist to protect the integrity of the sport is not a bad idea. Maybe other sports should pay attention.

<p> Drivers behaving badly or borderline censorship? Athlon takes a look at some punishments NASCAR has handed down and the reasons behind them</p>
Post date: Monday, November 14, 2011 - 15:51
All taxonomy terms: 2004, nascar archive, Richard Childress, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/hunting-richard-childress

In celebration of Athlon Sports' upcoming 10th annual Racing magazine, we've dug into the archives to uncover some of the most memorable features, profiles and Q&As that have graced our pages. Visit the site daily for more retrospective looks at NASCAR throughout the decade.

The following feature was originally published in the 2004 Athlon Sports Racing annual:

Fans who visit the museum at the complex housing his racing operations don’t need to be told how important the outdoors are to Richard Childress.

Visitors to the museum, which opened last year in Welcome, N.C., just south of Greensboro, see some of the No. 3 Chevrolets in which the late Dale Earnhardt helped Childress win six championships and enjoy some of the most significant moments in NASCAR history.

They also can walk through an impressive display of animals that any nature museum would love to have. These animals are all trophies from the various hunting trips Childress took with Earnhardt, members of his family and friends over the years.

“I look at it as a challenge,” Childress says. “I think that when I gave up driving a race car, I sort of started looking for something that had some adventure in it. When you’re standing out somewhere in Africa with lions or sleeping in a tent on the Arctic Ocean, that’s what you’re getting.”

Childress fields three teams in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series. One of his two Busch Series teams also won the car owner’s championship last season. Childress is joined by Jack Roush and Rick Hendrick as the only three car owners to have won championships in the Cup, Busch and Truck series in their careers.

Out in the woods and up in the mountains, Childress is a champion, too. He’s accomplished many goals that most hunters could only dream of, and it all began in the most simple and traditional manner. “I started out with my stepfather and his father, just going out as a kid hunting rabbits and squirrels and birds,” Childress says. “I got started hunting deer in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and then Dale and I started really going out together a lot.”

Earnhardt and Childress cemented the relationship that became so central to their racing success on dozens of trips into the remote areas of North America and other parts of the world.

It was a memory from one of those trips, in fact, from which Childress drew strength as he tried to keep going in NASCAR after Earnhardt’s death in February 2001.

Childress and Earnhardt had been in New Mexico on a hunting and camping trip on their way to a race in Phoenix.

“I fell off a horse and it just about killed me,” Childress says of an incident he and Earnhardt always called The Big Horse Wreck. “I busted my ribs and cut my head.

“That night in camp, I told Dale, ‘You know, if I had been killed today on that mountain you’d have had to go to Phoenix and raced.’ He said, ‘I couldn’t have.’

And I said, ‘You would have had to. That’s our deal.’

“We made that deal on the mountain that day. So that’s what I had to do after he got killed, too.”

It was with Earnhardt that Childress began to raise his hunting ambitions. After they’d done just about every kind of deer hunting possible, they both decided to start hunting elk.

“I’ve always had a passion for the mountains and the country,” Childress says. “We started with elk, then we hunted for muledeer and bear in North America. We went to Alaska, and then I wanted to go to Africa. I did that every year for about seven years. Then I came back to North America and started hunting sheep.”

Childress has completed what’s called “the grand slam” by bagging all of the major types of sheep in North America. His registered number among all hunters who’ve accomplished that is 910.

On his trips to Africa, Childress also completed the “big five” — bagging a lion, leopard, cape buffalo, rhinoceros and elephant. He also added a crocodile and a hippopotamus, the two additional animals needed for what’s called “the dangerous seven.”

There have been plenty of adventures along the way toward collecting those trophies.

“I have seen some tremendously angry animals,” Childress says. “It’s amazing to see an angry elephant.

“The closest call I ever had was with a cape buffalo. It was real late at night and there was a herd there. I was hunting this bigger one and a slightly smaller one — but still pretty darn big — went off into the woods. I took a shot and it went through one and dropped the other one. About the time I was getting ready to give somebody a high five for the one I had taken, the other one charged us. I was able to shoot him when he was only about 30 or 40 yards away.”

Last December, Childress left the NASCAR awards banquet in New York City and went directly to a polar bear hunt.

“You stay in a tent and sleep on (the) Arctic Ocean,” Childress says. “It’s 50 degrees below zero and all you have is a little kerosene heater. Everywhere you go, it’s serious. You have to be on your toes. It’s not only dangerous because you’re dealing with polar bears but because of the elements around it.

“We were down in Mexico hanging off the edge of a cliff, and if you fall, that’s it. We had to shimmy up the rock to get to where sheep were. You say, ‘Did I actually pay money to come do this?’ I’ve asked myself that several times.”

The hunt is only part of the appeal, Childress says. He’s been places few people have ever been, places accessible only on horseback or at the end of a long day’s hike. He’s shared those memories with friends like Earnhardt, and now he’s passing them along to his grandsons, 13-year-old Austin Dillon and his 12-year-old brother Ty. “Hunting is a part of the heritage of our country,” Childress says. “That how we all used to live, that’s how we survived. That heritage needs to be preserved.

“I was fortunate enough to be involved in helping with conservation efforts that brought elk back to the mountains of North Carolina, where they hadn’t been since the 1700s. Now, maybe my grandsons and generations after them will be able to see them in those mountains.”

<p> NASCAR owner Richard Childress talks about his second-favorite sport, hunting</p>
Post date: Monday, November 14, 2011 - 15:45
Path: /fantasy/michael-vick-has-two-broken-ribs-go-his-lost-season

Michael Vick is having a very bad season. Before any NFL teams took one snap in the 2011 season, the Eagles, lead by Vick, LeSean McCoy and a handful of defensive all-stars were every pundit's pick to go to the Super Bowl.

And then they started playing games. 

The Eagles' demise is well-documented, but now Michael Vick has two broken ribs to go along with his mediocre play and even more mediocre record.

With the way Vick plays the game at his size--getting beat up on seemingly every play, throwing his body around like a rag doll, refusing to go down, when it's the smartest play for a "superstar" quarterback to make--this was only a matter of time.

Vick can't play the way he does and expect to spend 16 games on the field. Vick's status for Sunday's huge game against the Giants is currently up in the air, like so many of Vick's pass attempts that land in the hands of the opposing team.

But is Vick a superstar? After his contrite apologies for his dog-fighting scandal, it appeared Vick had matured and attempted to use his head as much as his bionic arm and legs in an attempt to become a complete quarterback who could be mentioned in the same breath as Brady, Montana or Manning. 

But it never happened. Vick still doesn't seem to read defenses. He still relies on his old physical tricks to get himself out of jams. And because of that, he's throwing interceptions and taking a beating that he can't sustain.

Eagles coach Andy Reid says the same thing after every game, taking blame for what went wrong and trying to get the media to focus on him, instead of his quarterback. But after a while, these grown men are going to have to take full responsibility for being a team that hasn't lived up to expectations.

And isn't that Michael Vick's career in a nutshell? Bit hype, lots of talent on paper, high expectations. But the reality of the situation always ends up with a mediocre end. A loss to an inferior team. Poor mechanics. Mental errors.

If there's one thing Andy Reid should be blamed for, it's putting all his faith that Vick would become the quarterback everyone thought he should be. We can learn a lot from history, and history tells us that Michael Vick will never reach expecations.

Now that his broken ribs will likely cost him now only playing time, but will hamper him from all his physical gifts, you have to wonder what kind of quarterback Michael Vick could be without his physical gifts. More than likely, it's the one you saw against a sub-par Arizona Cardinals defense who completed 47 % of his passes, threw two picks and zero touchdowns.

Vick hasn't shown the ability to dominate the mental side of the position as much as he has the physical, so where does that leave the Eagles now? Out of the playoffs this year, and probably every year they have Vick under center.

Fantasy Note: If you have a chance to pick up Vince Young, only do it if you are completely desperate. Young is not the Young of old (get it?) and while the Eagles do throw the ball, you're more likely to find a more stable option elsewhere. As a friendly reminder, Young is 0-1 in pass attempts with 1 interception this year. Yes, you read that right.

<p> Eagles coach Andy Reid disclosed Vick broke two ribs against the Cardinals</p>
Post date: Monday, November 14, 2011 - 12:33
Path: /college-basketball/dick-vitale-previews-2011-2012-college-basketball-season

There’s no greater ambassador and evangelist for college basketball than Dick Vitale, who was on the mic for ESPN’s first college hoops broadcast on Dec. 5, 1979 (DePaul 90, Wisconsin 77) and has been sharing his passion for the game with appreciative audiences ever since. Athlon Sports sat down for some preseason analysis, banter and bombast in an exclusive Q&A with Vitale

North Carolina-obvious number one team in the preseason this year. Is there a reason the Tarheels might not win it? Are there any warts on this team?
Vitale: I think the one stumbling block for North Carolina is very simple, the system. I think if it were four out of seven like in the NBA, they would no doubt stand tall as the champs. But as you know, in college basketball, one bad night and the party’s over. And there’s going to be some quality teams.

Who else do you like?
Vitale: Well, here are my “super seven.” My No. 7 team is Duke. I think Austin Rivers will be an impact diaper dandy.

No. 6, I’ll go with Vanderbilt. I think they’re gonna be phenomenal this year. Strong in the post with (Festus) Ezeli, and then scoring galore with (John) Jenkins and (Jeff) Taylor. I think that Kevin Stallings has the makings of a special team.

Five, I’ll probably go, right now, I’m going to go Syracuse. I think Syracuse, with Kris Joseph & Co., is going to be very good. Very athletic. That Jim Boeheim knows how to win.

No. 4, I’ll go with the Buckeyes. I think anytime you start in the middle with a player like Jared Sullinger, you have a chance to be special.

No. 3 is Connecticut. The arrival of Andre Drummond was the Christmas present that came really early. The 6-11 diaper dandy should be a major impact player, and I look for a big year out of the kid Jeremy Lamb.

No. 2, Kentucky. Actually, I just talked to John Callipari and he is thrilled with his talent level this year — I think even better than last year. Last year, they came very close to winning a national title. I think if they had gotten by Connecticut they probably would have stood tall in the title game. What hurt them big time was the free throw line.

Then, No. 1 is North Carolina. I think they have the best frontcourt in basketball, three NBA players in Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Harrison Barnes.

Name a few coaches who don’t get a ton of publicity but who you really think can get the job done, who really know what they’re doing.
Vitale: There are a lot of guys you can throw into that mix. But it is so hard to rate people. It’s so difficult to compare one coach with another because everything is not equal.

They don’t have the same recruiting budgets. They don’t have the same fan support. They don’t have the same visibility, TV exposure — which all of those factors lead to the most important element involved in college basketball — the most important thing is recruiting. But to answer your question, you take a look at a guy like Fran Dunphy.

The guy does a phenomenal job down in Temple. Also, you have to talk about Bo Ryan. He doesn’t get a lot of national publicity, but all the coaches know the guy can flat out coach. But if you ask the average fan, they don’t even know who he is. Bo Ryan, what he’s done with that program is absolutely amazing.

You think about Vanderbilt, Kevin Stallings. He’s done a heck of a job in a tough conference, a tough scenario dealing with Kentucky, Florida, and programs like Tennessee and all, and he has had Vanderbilt, you know, up there battling, a very dangerous basketball team. You have to mention Jamie Dixon, who has done a great job with the Pitt program. Hey another coach that doesn’t get a lot of publicity is Jimmy Larranaga, now at Miami. He does an outstanding job and doesn’t get much PR at all.

I could go on and name so many guys that really don’t get a lot of PR, a lot of notoriety, but who are legitimate big-time coaches.

What are some of your favorite arenas to call a game?
Vitale: Obviously I love Cameron Indoor Stadium. How could you not like it? If you like baseball like I do, going to Wrigley Field, Fenway Park is special, and that’s what Cameron indoor stadium is all about.

You gotta like Rock Chalk Jayhawk land up at Allen Fieldhouse. The tradition man, you feel it. You feel it as you walk into the arenas like Cameron. You feel it when you walk into Allen Fieldhouse. So special, so unique. You gotta like it when you think about going, if you want a museum, a place more like Yankee Stadium to me is like a museum, the new Yankee Stadium, and that’s what Chapel Hill is all about.

You walk in you see the Jordans and Worthys and all the great players that have played there, their jerseys, the Player of the Year awards, and it just has that special feeling. You can just feel it. Rupp Arena is Lexington. The most passionate fans — you feel the passion as they explode in the blue and white, blue nation going crazy down there in Kentucky.

You can feel that. You feel the energy and the spirit, very, very special. Those places jump at me.

How much does it pain you as a basketball guy, a guy who loves the sport, to see all this realignment stuff and realize that it’s just all about football?
Vitale: Don’t even get me started because we could go on for seven hours. I think when I’m picking up today, reading about Missouri joining this league or that league … I’m really fed up with it. I just think it takes away from the essence of what college sports are supposed to be about. And most of all, it makes no logical sense. Geographically, some of the matchups — nobody can convince me that Pitt and Syracuse belongs in the ACC. They are Big East all the way. Penn State should be in the Big East.

I mean, geographically, it makes no sense in many of these cases, and it’s all because of greed. It’s all because of dollars, and it’s all because of football, and I think it’s wacky, and I think it’s totally ridiculous.

We got leaders out there, college Presidents, who talk about integrity and talk about loyalty and talk about all the qualities they want their athletes to represent and yet they, as the leaders of the universities, violate all of it. I mean, you got a scenario where I have been told, the Pittsburgh president is sitting as the executive committee in the Big East and telling all their people, “We must trust one another. We must unite. We must do all the things that are, to stay together.” And in the meantime he’s wheeling and dealing and going to the ACC.

Gimme a break. Gimme a break. I have a problem with it. I have a major problem with it, and I think that the President of the NCAA, Mark Emert, is 100 percent right when he said the perception they are sending out to the people is really, really bad. But it’s all about, it’s all about football. It’s all about dollars, dollars, dollars. And it just breaks your heart. The loss of Pittsburgh and Syracuse from the Big East is monumental.

Now, are there any negatives you think to the amount of basketball that is on TV now? It’s amazing, you know four, five games a night. Is there an oversaturation or do you just think that’s just all good for the sport?
Vitale: It’s a positive in the fact that when you look at the number of people watching, in terms of if you factor in all the games, a lot of people are watching the sport.

They say ratings may be down or something, but like you just said, the quantity, the number of games that are being played and you factor in a lot of people watch it, that’s why I think the sport has become so popular.

I mean it has grown. You get down and everybody is excited about March Madness. Grandma, grandpa, the alums all over, people that never followed a game go wacky about March Madness. They find a school they love, the Davids, the Goliaths, so many of the Butlers and people just get really enthused about that.

But, I just think, you know what bothers me about all the games on TV, the way they are, is it takes away a little bit in terms of high school games and people, rather than going out, stay in front of the TV and watch game after game after game.

Especially, you know, I have a problem, I’ll be honest, with football. It used to be a situation where Friday Nights were always geared for high school football, but now with college football being shown on Friday, there’s a lot of people now who stay home and watch that college game.

Back to basketball, though. The exposure is a great thing for the fans. They are getting to know that there are more quality teams than just the so-called Goliaths out there.

Years ago, all you ever saw on TV were the Carolinas, the Kentuckys, the UCLAs. But now, you get a chance to see all the teams — it’s like a smorgasbord. So everybody gets an opportunity to get their moment on TV. And for those kids playing, that moment becomes the most special of their career.

I mean to be on national TV, whether it be ESPN, ESPNU, ESPN2, I mean, they really, really treasure that moment. And coaches utilize that. It’s become a great tool for recruiting.

Who is the best college basketball player you have seen since you’ve been at ESPN. If you are coaching the game, and you need one guy for one game, who would it be.
Vitale: In my 30 plus years at ESPN the one guy that dominated the game, his presence in the middle, just absolutely would change the complexion of how a team played, would be Patrick Ewing from Georgetown. He changed the complexion of a game just by his presence. Thou shall not enter thy lane man! You can forget about driving — you better make your perimeter shot. His presence was so special and so unique. He was just such a talent.

Who is your favorite athlete in any other sport other than basketball?
Vitale: Because he represents everything I believe in, off the field as well as on the field, everything he does is the right way, the way he deals with people — Derek Jeter of the Yankees. I just think that Jeter is what we should strive for.

We should have more Jeters in the world of sports. We have a lot of guys who forget where they come from. They forget what got them to the top of the mountain, and we see entourages, and we see all the things around them that get in their way and prevent them from reaching greatness.

Can I take two players? My other guy, and I love him because he is everything about energy, spirit, excitement, loves to play — in fact I have said time and time again that if I had to pick one player I would want to coach it would be Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

He played multiple positions. He was a winner. He’d do anything to get you to the winner’s circle, and he really did it with a smile on his face with an unbelievable enthusiasm that was contagious to everybody around.

Is there any one rule in college basketball, if you were the czar of college basketball, that you would change?
Vitale: The one I’ve been screaming about is the alternate possession on a jump ball. I think that is ludicrous and absurd. And I don’t understand the logic, how you penalize a great defensive effort by alternating possession or by the fact that “Oh, yes, the arrows pointing that way, give it to them.” And in the meantime, a guy made a great defensive play to force the jump ball. That rule bothers me tremendously. It really, really disturbs me. But saying all that, college basketball has been 32 of the greatest years of my life.

I said this when I got into the Hall of Fame, and I’ll say it again, I can’t believe the dream that I’ve had, to be able to sit at courtside for some of the greatest games. I just got my schedule yesterday, most of it, and I’m looking … I’m going to be doing a Carolina-Duke game, I’ll be doing a Kentucky-Florida game, the Carrier Classic-up there with Michigan State and Carolina, the Jimmy V classic. To sit there and look, Ohio St. and Duke, and get paid, Wow! That’s stealing money my friends. I’ve been blessed.

The work, to do something that you love, is unreal and I think this year, more so than the past few years, we are going to see many quality teams, because a lot of good kids have come back to school, didn’t go to the NBA Draft, like Terrance Jones (Kentucky), like Sullinger, like Harrison Barnes, like (Perry) Jones up in Baylor, I mean you are going to see some really really, really quality players. It’s going to be a special season.

Go to to learn about how you can help Dick raise money for cancer research. He has raised one million dollars in each of the past six years for kids battling cancer.

<p> Dick Vitale sat down with us for an exclusive interview to discuss college hoops</p>
Post date: Monday, November 14, 2011 - 12:20
Path: /news/willis-mcgahee-and-knowshon-moreno-injured-lance-ball-your-new-best-friend

When Knowshon Moreno went down with a knee and Willis McGahee left with a hamstring in the Broncos weird win over the Chiefs, there was only one running back left on the team (not named Tim Tebow) to carry the league's heaviest rushing load: Lance Ball.

You should get to know Lance Ball because if there's one rushing attack you probably want a piece of, it's the Denver Broncos.

By now you know that Time Tebow completed only two passes in Denver's win over the Chiefs. And it doesn't take a brain scientist (or a rocket surgeon) to figure out that means that the Broncos are run first, second and third team.

The extent of McGahee's injury seems to be mild. According to reports, he could have come back in the game, but we all know how hamstring's can come back to haunt a player, especially a running back.

You can almost predict that McGahee's hammy will act up at some point on Thursday's game and cause him to miss anywhere from a few series to a quarter or half or more.

Knowshon Moreno, on the other hand, has already been ruled out of this Thursday's game against the Jets.

Which leave Lance Ball as, at worst, the #2 rusher on a team that will run the ball 50 times. Even if McGahee is 100% healthy, Lance Ball will get plenty of chances. He proved he can carry the load against the Chiefs when he posted 96 yards on a whopping 30 carries. 

Tebow will get his share of carries, but I would look to Lance Ball as an easy RB#2 going into this week, even against a supposedly stingy Jets defense.

With the game against the Chiefs, Lance Ball had more carries in one game than he did combined all season. Which means his legs are fresh enough to take an extended number of carries, especially if Fox wants to lessen Tebow's load to try and lower his chances of getting injured.

We'll keep you updated on the status of McGahee, but with the insanely elevated number of rushes the Broncos call, the second option at running back could easily get more carries than the first option of more balanced teams.

And at the end of the day, you want your fantasy players to touch the ball as many times as possible, right? You can't score if you don't get the ball, and if there's one thing that's for sure this week, Lance Ball will live up to his name and get the ball.

Ball has fantasy worth until Moreno comes back. Even then, with McGahee's hamstring injury, it's a situation you want to keep close tabs on as the fantasy playoffs get closer.

<p> If there's one running attack you want a piece, it's the Denver Broncos</p>
Post date: Monday, November 14, 2011 - 11:39
Path: /fantasy/matt-schaub-has-serious-foot-injury-out-season

The Houston Texans can't catch a break. Or maybe they're catching too many.

After suffering through injuries to seemingly all their star players, the news got even worse this week when head coach Gary Kubiak revealed that quarterback Matt Schaub has a Lisfranc foot injury. Which, for all you non-doctors out there, a Lisfranc injury is usually a fracture to one of the tarsas or metatarsals, which are basically the bones right behind the toes.

This is not good news. If his foot is broken, then he's put for the rest of the season, as would be the Texans' chances of doing anything in the playoffs (even if they made it to the postseason).

It's hard to remember a team that has suffered serious injuries to so many of their star players. And then still kept winning.

After suffering various injuries to Arian Foster, Mario Williams and Andre Johnson, it seemed like the Texans' had weathered the injury storm and were still contenders to be one of the best teams in the AFC come January. 

Andre Johnson, who had missed several weeks with a hamstring injury was scheduled to get back on the field after their bye week this Sunday. At that point, the Texans thought they would be back at 100% with their three offensive weapons (Schaub, Foster and Johnson).

Schaub is going to see a specialist this week, but it doesn't look good. Kubiak refused to give a timetable for his return, but the chances of him missing the season seem to be better than 50-50. The best case scenario would be Schaub suiting up around the time of the playoffs.

Matt Leinart, not necessarily a name that instills a lot of confidence will take the reigns at quarterback while Schaub is out. On the good side, Leinart has two solid weeks to work with the fist team and learn the offense as best he can.

And he's inheriting one of the most explosive offenses in the league with a running game that can carry almost any running back with the powerhouse tandem of Foster and Ben Tate. And it looks like they'll need to lean heavily on them while Leinart figures things out. Could we see a Broncos-esque running attack in the next few weeks? 

The short answer is, don't expect much out of Leinart until you see something. He's not going to put up Schaub-like numbers, so don't take a flyer on him unless you're in a two-quarterback league and you're dealing with an injury or one of your quarterbacks is named Colt McCoy.

<p> The Texans' quarterback will miss several weeks at the minimum with a foot injury</p>
Post date: Monday, November 14, 2011 - 10:14
Path: /news/arkansas-joe-adams-has-greatest-punt-return-ever-video

Arkansas senior Joe Adams had one of the greatest punt returns in the history of punt returns against the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday.

Never before has a punt return gone from so stupid, because Adams started running backwards, then sideways, then backwards again, to so brilliant when he made a few cuts to make a few Volunteers miss and then finally break away to take it all the way to the house.

It's hard to say how many yards he actually ran during this punt return, but it seems like he ran anything but forward at least as many yards as he went upfield.

It's hard to say if this is more of poor defense and bad tackling than brilliant punt returning skills, but you can't take anything away from Arkansas' Adams for this punt return. He probably should've been tackled a few times, but the fact that he had such little space and juked his way to a touchdown makes this one of the greatest punt returns in history.

<p> The Razorback Joe Adams has the greatest punt return ever against the Tennessee Volunteers</p>
Post date: Monday, November 14, 2011 - 02:54
All taxonomy terms: balltribe, News
Path: /news/every-sports-fan-should-know-about-balltribecom

Untitled from Adam Kingsley on Vimeo.

If you don't know about, well, you should. Balltribe aggregates all the sports content you want, from breaking news to funny videos and features from around the sports world. It takes all the sports sites you read and follow, takes out all the content you don't want, leaving you with nothing but the most interesting content about sports. Balltribe is like an old 49er who's panning for gold, except, instead of sifting through dirt and muck, he's sifting through the sports world to bring you the golden nuggets of sports news and features you want.

<p> A great sports aggregator that has everything sports fans need</p>
Post date: Monday, November 14, 2011 - 01:51
Path: /news/frank-gore-fine-according-harbaugh-pick-kendall-hunter-anyway

Frank Gore, according to San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh is apparently "Fine" after suffering a knee injury against the New York Giants on Sunday.

The 49ers coach was emphatic that Gore will play next week, and the knee injury that kept him out of the majority of the second half is not serious. And that he wasn't put back in the game for precautionary reasons.

OK, fine, sounds great right? Hang on a second.

Gore, who has a history of injury problems that usually cost him anywhere from a couple of games to half a season is one of those fantasy players that always has owners waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

But so far, this season has been different. Gore has been one of the most productive backs in the league, carrying the 49ers to an unbelievable 8-1 record. Harbaugh is all but assured of winnin coach of the year, and Frank Gore is in the discussions for MVP.

And while that's all well and good, every Frank Gore owner has wondered when the injury bug would hit. And when he didn't come back in the Giants game, everyone assumed the worst.

Whether Gore is actually fine and will be good to go next remains to be seen, but fantasy owners should pick up his more-than-capable backup, Kendall Hunter off waivers.

Hunter has proven himself to be a #1RB in waiting and he proved it by putting up 40 yards and a touchdown, to go along with one catch, in the game against New York. 

And Hunter is worth owning even if Gore is 100%, because the 49ers have already openly discussed limting Gore's role to save on wear and tear leadign up to the playoffs.

And it makes sense. If history is any lesson, Gore can't take the weekly pounding he gets. Hunter is a rookie with fresh legs. And given the fact that the 49ers have all but wrapped up the NFC West with half the season to go, why not see what Kendall can do, while resting the most important player on your offense.

Go get Hunter, and I'd dare say he's worth a start next week against Arizona, no matter what Harbaugh or Gore say this week.

<p> The 49ers running back missed the second half of the Giants game</p>
Post date: Monday, November 14, 2011 - 01:19
Path: /news/desean-jackson-reportedly-inactive-today-being-late-team-meeting

DeSean Jackson will reportedly be inactive today after showing up late for a team meeting on Saturday, multiple sources are reporting.

This will be a huge, unexpected blow for fantasy teams, as well as the Eagles passing game looking to get back on track after losing a very important game to the Bears last week.

This was exepcted to be a big bounceback week for Jackson as well, who only tallied two catches for 16 yards last week against the Bears.

This week was expected to be much different, with a game at home against the Cardinals who have the 27th ranked passing defense in the league. Most fantasy experts had moved DeSean Jackson up and were expecting the entire Eagles offense to put up the points that most had been expecting them to put up all season.

Exactly what team meeting he missed or why he missed it is still unknown. We'll update this story as we learn more about the situation. It must have been an egregious error on DeSean's part for him to be inactive for the whole game, and not just a quarter or half.

In the meantime, expect more out of Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant to fill the hole left by Jackson's absence. With 3rd string wide receiver Riley Cooper seeing a few more balls thrown his way. The Eagles desperately need to win every game remaining in their season if they are to continue to have any chance at a playoff berth, so Maclin and Avant just went from being #2 and #3 WR's to being #1 and #2 wide receivers on one of the most explosive passing offenses in football.

Start both Avant and Maclin with lots of confidence.

<p> The Eagles will be without their star wide receiver today</p>
Post date: Sunday, November 13, 2011 - 09:00
Path: /mlb/athlon-sports-2011-al-cy-young

With the World Series in the rear-view mirror and the hot stove just beginning to heat up, it's time to hand out some awards to this year's best performers on the diamond. The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) started handing out theirs today by announcing the AL and NL Rookies of the Year. And while no Athlon editors are members of the BBWAA, here's how four of us — Charlie Miller, Braden Gall, Patrick Snow and Mark Ross — would have voted if we did have a ballot to cast.

AL Cy Young

Let's face it. This is the Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander's award this season and it's not even close.  There's no doubt that Verlander is going to run away with the voting for the AL Cy Young. It's more a question of who finishes behind him and in what order, and how Verlander fares in the AL MVP voting.

Even with Verlander the undisputable, clear-cut winner, there were several other pitchers who had outstanding seasons on the mound, including Boston Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, Verlander's Detroit Tigers teammate closer Jose Valverde, the Los Angeles Angels' starting duo of Dan Haren and Jered Weaver, New York Yankees teammates Mariano Rivera and CC Sabathia, Tampa Bay Rays starter James Shields, Texas Rangers ace C.J. Wilson, and Toronto Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero.

Contenders' Stats:

Josh Beckett, SP, Boston Red Sox: 13-7, 2.89 ERA, 193 IP, 52 BB, 175 K, 1.03 WHIP, 30 GS

Dan Haren, SP, Los Angeles Angels: 16-10, 3.17 ERA, 238 1/3 IP, 33 BB, 192 K, 1.02 WHIP, 34 GS

Mariano Rivera, RP, New York Yankees: 1-2, 1.91 ERA, 44 SV, 61 1/3 IP, 8 BB, 60 K, 0.90 WHIP, 64 GP

Ricky Romero, SP, Toronto Blue Jays: 15-11, 2.92 ERA, 225 IP, 80 BB, 178 K, 1.14 WHIP, 32 GS

CC Sabathia, SP, New York Yankees: 19-8, 3.00 ERA, 237 1/3 IP, 61 BB, 230 K, 1.23 WHIP, 33 GS

James Shields, SP, Tampa Bay Rays: 16-12, 2.82 ERA, 249 1/3 IP, 65 BB, 225 K, 1.04 WHIP, 33 GS

Jose Valverde, RP, Detroit Tigers: 2-4, 2.24 ERA, 49 SV, 72 1/3 IP, 34 BB, 69 K, 1.19 WHIP, 75 GP

Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers: 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 251 IP, 57 BB, 250 K, 0.92 WHIP, 34 GS

Jered Weaver, SP, Los Angeles Angels: 18-8, 2.41 ERA, 235 2/3 IP, 56 BB, 198 K, 1.01 WHIP, 33 GS

C.J. Wilson, SP, Texas Rangers: 16-7, 2.94 ERA, 223 1/3 IP, 74 BB, 206 K, 1.19 WHIP, 34 GS

Athlon's Winner: Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers

Here's how the Athlon editors voted

Charlie Miller's ballot:

1. Justin Verlander
Verlander turned what was a hotly contested race two months ago into a runaway. It’s not so much his 24 wins that are impressive, but he logged more than 250 innings, had 250 strikeouts and allowed just 231 baserunners via hit or walk.
2. Jose Valverde
The Tigers’ closer is among the elite firemen in baseball now. He had a perfect 49-for-49 season in save chances.
3. Jered Weaver
It was tough pitching for one of the weakest offenses in the AL. The Angels plated four runs or less in 11 of his 33 starts. Six of Weaver’s seven no-decisions were one-run games; three wins, three losses.
4. James Shields
Shields was a badly needed workhorse for the Rays, logging 249.1 innings. His 16-12 record isn’t all that impressive, but the Rays won all five of his no-decisions, making them 21-12 in his starts. And his team provided just two runs or less 12 times.
5. CC Sabathia
The Yankees were 22-11 in his starts, but let’s face it, in 10 of those starts, the Yankees plated eight runs or more. He failed to complete the sixth inning just twice.
6. C.J. Wilson
7. Dan Haren
8. Josh Beckett
9. Mariano Rivera
10. Ricky Romero

Braden Gall's ballot:

1. Justin Verlander
Leads league in IP (251.0), wins (24), strikeouts (250), WHIP (0.92) and BAA (.192). Enough said.
2. Jered Weaver
CC-lite statistically, but doing it with much less support around him. Sick 2.41 ERA and 1.01 WHIP.
3. Jose Valverde
A perfect 49-of-49 in save opps for the Central Champs is no easy feat.
4. CC Sabathia
Second in the AL in wins with 19 and strikeouts with 230 and fourth in innings with 237.1.
5. James Shields
Pitched 249.1 innings with nasty ratio 2.82 ERA and 1.04 WHIP with astonishing 11 complete games.
6. C.J. Wilson
No. 1 workhorse for the best team in the American League.
7. Ricky Romero
Wildly underrated 2.92 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 15 wins in 225 IP in brutal AL East.
8. Dan Haren
Third in AL in innings (238.1) with 16 wins, 192 strikeouts and nast 1.02 WHIP.
9. Mariano Rivera
Second in the AL in saves (44) with 1.91 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and one pitch at age 41.
10. David Price
Tossed 224.1 innings with 218 strikeouts and a 1.14 WHIP for team that surged into playoffs.

Patrick Snow's ballot:

1. Justin Verlander
This one is about as easy as it gets. The Tigers’ ace led the American League in ERA (2.40), wins (24), innings pitched (251) and strikeouts (250). Verlander also had the only WHIP under one among AL starters at 0.92. He was absolutely dominant this season and was a catalyst in propelling Detroit to the AL Central crown and an ALDS victory over the Yankees. Verlander is a lock for the Cy and will also get heavy AL MVP consideration.
2. Jered Weaver
3. Jose Valverde
4. James Shields
5. Mariano Rivera
6. Dan Haren
7. CC Sabathia 
8. C.J. Wilson
9. Josh Beckett
10. Ricky Romero

Mark Ross' ballot:

1. Justin Verlander
Besides winning the pitching Triple Crown (wins, ERA, strikeouts) in the American League, Verlander led the majors in wins (24), innings pitched (251), strikeouts (250), WHIP (0.92) and opponents’ batting average (.192). Oh yeah, he also threw his second career no-hitter in May. Talk about dominant.
2. James Shields
Shields led the majors with 11 complete games and was second with four shutouts, which was tops in the AL.  He won 16 games and came up big time and time again down the stretch as the Rays chased down the Red Sox and won the Wild Card.
3. Jered Weaver
Finished just behind Verlander for the AL ERA title at 2.41, was third in wins (18) and second in WHIP (1.01). He started the season by winning his first six starts with a 0.99 ERA and went 8-1 in June and July with a 1.65 ERA.
4. Jose Valverde
A perfect 49-for-49 in save chances as he carried the load in the Tigers’ bullpen on their way to winning the AL Central.
5. CC Sabathia
Second in the AL in wins (19) and strikeouts (230), Sabathia also posted the lowest ERA (3.00) of his three-year Yankee tenure.
6. Dan Haren
7. C.J. Wilson
8. Josh Beckett
9. Ricky Romero
10. Mariano Rivera

Other Baseball awards-related content:

American League Rookie of the Year

National League Rookie of the Year

AL & NL Managers of the Year

National League Cy Young

American League MVP

National League MVP

<p> Athlon editors cast their vote for the American League's best pitcher this season</p>
Post date: Friday, November 11, 2011 - 15:43
Path: /mlb/athlon-sports-2011-nl-rookie-year

With the World Series in the rear-view mirror and the hot stove just beginning to heat up, it's time to hand out some awards to this year's best performers on the diamond. The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) will make their announcements starting Monday. And while no Athlon editors are members of the BBWAA, here's how four of us — Charlie Miller, Braden Gall, Patrick Snow and Mark Ross — would have voted if we did have a ballot to cast.

NL Rookie of the Year

Unlike the American League, the pool of quality candidates for this year's National League Rookie of the Year was considerably smaller. All of the leading contenders hail from the NL East, headlined by the Atlanta Braves duo of reliever Craig Kimbrel and first baseman Freddie Freeman, along with their teammate starter Brandon Beachy, Philadelphia Phillies starter Vance Worley, and Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa.

Contenders' Stats:

Brandon Beachy, P, Atlanta Braves: 7-3, 3.68 ERA, 141 2/3 IP, 46 BB, 169 K, 25 GS

Danny Espinosa, 2B, Washington Nationals: 158 G, .236, 72 R, 29 2B, 21 HR, 66 RBI

Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves: 157 G, .282, 67 R, 32 2B, 21 HR, 76 RBI

Craig Kimbrel, P, Atlanta Braves: 4-3, 2.10 ERA, 46 SV, 77 IP, 32 BB, 127 K, 79 GP

Vance Worley, P, Philadelphia Phillies: 11-3, 3.01 ERA, 131 2/3 IP, 46 BB, 119 K, 21 GS

Athlon's Winner: Craig Kimbrel, P, Atlanta Braves

It's no surprise that Kimbrel got all four first-place votes since he will most likely run away with the BBWAA voting as well. What is a little more surprising, however, is that all four Athlon editors' ballots turned out exactly the same — Kimbrel, followed by Freeman and then Worley. Nice to see they can agree on some things.

Here's how the Athlon editors voted

Charlie Miller's ballot:

1. Craig Kimbrel
Converted 25 consecutive save opportunities during the meat of the schedule. Kimbrel anchored the best bullpen in the NL.
2. Freddie Freeman
3. Vance Worley

Braden Gall's ballot:

1. Craig Kimbrel
Kimbrel set an MLB rookie record with 46 saves this season and finished tied with John Axford for the NL lead. His 127 strikeouts in 77 innings pitched (14.8 K/9) made him only the fourth player in history to post at least 30 saves and a K/9 rate over 14.0 (Carlos Marmol 2010, Eric Gagne 2003, Billy Wagner, 1998, 1999). Kimbrel enjoyed a 37.2 scoreless inning streak from June 14 to September 8 to lead Atlanta to a big Wild Card lead. We just won’t talk about his last six outings.
2. Freddie Freeman
From the batter’s box, there isn’t really any NL competition for Freeman. He led all NL rookies in batting average (.282), hits (161), doubles (32), homers (21), RBIs (76), on-base percetange (.346) and slugging (.448). He was the stabilizing force in the heart of the Braves order and was arguably their most consistent hitter in 2011.
3. Vance Worley
Worley had the benefit of learning from four of the best to play the game, but that does very little to diminish his NL rookie-best 3.01 ERA (minimum 15 starts). And when it counted, Worley posted a 2.83 ERA over his final 17 starts of the season.

Patrick Snow's ballot:

1. Craig Kimbrel
The Braves’ fireballer was dominant for most of the season, including a 38-game scoreless streak from June 14 to September 8. During that amazing run, Kimbrel had two wins and 25 saves in 37.2 innings pitched while striking out 67 batters. The young righty tied for the NL lead in saves with 46 and set the MLB record for rookie saves in the process.
2. Freddie Freeman
3. Vance Worley

Mark Ross' ballot:

1. Craig Kimbrel
Kimbrel set the single-season record for saves by a rookie with 46. He struck out 127 and gave up just 32 walks in 77 innings. With the exception of a rough patch at the end of the season and three games over a two-week span in May, Kimbrel was as close to automatic as it comes. From June 14 to September 8, Kimbrel threw 37 2/3 scoreless innings, collecting two wins and 24 saves in those 38 appearances.
2. Freddie Freeman
Given the starting job at first base in spring training, Freeman struggled at the plate out of the gate, hitting just .217 with three home runs and eight RBIs through April. He started turning things around in May, batting .312 and found his power stroke during the summer, when he hit 10 home runs with 35 RBIs in June and July combined. The 21-year-old led finished the season leading all NL rookies in batting average (.282), hits (161), doubles (32), home runs (21), RBIs (76), on-base percentage (.346) and slugging percentage (.448).
3. Vance Worley
Used sporadically at the start of the season, Worley became a regular in the Phillies’ starting rotation in the middle of June and thrived in the role. For the season, he went 11-3 with a 3.01 ERA in 25 appearances, 21 of them starts. In a three-month stretch between June and August, Worley went 7-0 in 14 starts with a 2.30 ERA.

Other Baseball Awards-related content:

American League Rookie of the Year

AL & NL Managers of the Year

American League Cy Young

National League Cy Young

American League MVP

National League MVP

<p> Athlon editors name their choice for the National League's top rookie</p>
Post date: Friday, November 11, 2011 - 11:55
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-great-rivalries-florida-state-vs-miami

This profile of the Florida State and Miami college football rivalry originally appeared in Athlon's 1992 Big Ten Football annual. As the rivalry is renewed this week, we thought it was relevant to take a look back at the history of this epic showdown.

Florida State vs Miami: One of College Football's Greatest Rivalries

Bill Peterson, former Florida State coach, may have put it best with one of his malaprops.

"These are the kind of football games," he said before a Florida State-Miami game, "that coaches strive on."

It is a series that Miami certainly has thrived on lately. But then, the Hurricanes have thrived on just about every team that has gotten in their way while winning four national championships in the past nine seasons.

Florida State has strived better than any during that span. The Seminoles have beaten Miami twice in those nine years. But three times they have lost by a point, falling 17-16 in 1983 and 1991, and 26-25 in a memorable 1987 shootout.

"It's funny--well, it's not funny," says Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. "Miami was the team of the '80s. With about two more points a game (against Miami), Florida State would have been the team of the '80s."

Incredibly, in a 35-game series that Miami leads 21 to 14, there have been six one-point decisions. Florida State has lost all of them. 

The others: 7-6 in 1959 and 1962, and 10-9 in 1980.

Bowden has been the victim of four of the one-point defeats. Two may have cost him national titles.

In a talk at Miami earlier this year, Bowden jested about his national-championship frustration as he waved a hand.

"I solved that business," he said, "I got me one of them rings."

Bowden moved his hand to eye level and read what he said was the inscription: "National champions 1991, '92, '93, '94. Love, Mother."

Bowden has been more involved in this series than any other coach on either side. His record against the Hurricanes is a frustrating 6-12, including 1-1 during his time at West Virginia.

During Bowden's 16 seasons at Florida State, Miami has had five head coaches. He lost to the first two (Carl Selmer and Lou Saban) as well as the last three (Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson).

When Bowden took over at Florida State in 1976, he inherited a team that had gone 4-29 in the previous three seasons. In his second game, Miami blew out the Seminoles 47-0.

"I was thinking we were finally going to win a game," says Bowden, noting that Miami had gone 2-8 the previous year. "They kick off. We fumble. They score. They kick off again. We throw a pass. They intercept. They score again. It wss 27-0 in the first quarter. At the end, it was 47-0. It could have been 100-0."

Bowden's teams got better. But Miami was usually a little better.

Twice in the last four years, Florida State has been a consensus preseason choice to win it all. Each time Miami got in the way.

Last year the Hurricanes dealt the Seminoles their first loss after 16 straight victories, including 10 straight that season. Bowden believes his team was so devesstated by disappointment of a game it lost when a last-minute field goal sailed wide right by inches that it precipitated the 14-9 defeat by Florida in the last regular season game.

A difference of inches mught summarize most of the unusal games between these two. But more than inches mark this relationship.

"This series with Miami," says Bowden, "differs from others in the fact that it has gained as much national prestige as any collegiate game in the country. The implications in the last five years have been greater than, say, Ohio State-Michigan, Auburn-Alabama, Southern Cal-UCLA, Notre Dame-Southern Cal--or any others you can name."

With such national impact, Bowden wonders if the series with Florida, Florida State's historic blood rival, is as big as it once was.

"To me, I don't know," he says. "To me, Miami is now our No. 1 rival instead of Florida. From my standpoint, developments have shifted the center of gravity to Miami, not Gainesville."

Miami seems ot have had the fates on its side. Strange things happen when these two play--bad thigns for Bowden's Seminoles.

"Wide right" last season was a notable example.

Bowden's first one-point loss tot he Hurricanes, in 1980, came whent he Seminoles suddenly found themselves without a center. In the previous game, the top two centers were lost to injury.

"We started a guard at center," Bowden recalls. "He couldn't snap. We had 10 center-quarterback fumbles. Miami got five of 'em."

Florida State lost when Miami nose tackle Jim Burt managed to get his helmet int he way of a late two-point pass following a touchdown. The receiver was open.

The Seminoles also had the acute trouble with inexperience at center when Miami romped 31-0 int he 1988 opener. Misfortune at that position seems to be a common thread in defeats by the Hurricanes.

"I guess I've lost as much sleep over losses in '87 and '91 as any games in my 38 years of coaching," Bowden says. "You look back at such weird things, One time I had a center snap the ball over the kicker's head before the holder was ready."

Instead od an early field goal that may have made a difference, the ball sailed 51 yards downfield. And Miami was the team that got a field goal and a 3-0 lead (this was in 1987.)

"In the same game, we were threatening to score when we had a fumbled exchange," Bowden remembers. "One of our guys inadvertently kicked the ball right to their safety, who fell on top of it."

Florida State built a 19-3 lead int he third quarter, but Steve Walsh threw three late touchdown passes and completed 2-point passes after the first two.

"I cannot explain it," says Bowden, referring mainly to the losses in '87 and '91, "except there was magnificent play by Miami. Still, we were playing in Tallahassee and got a good lead both ti mes. I think we had better ball clubs. And yet we still got beat.

The home field has often seemed a disadvantage in this biarre series.

There was a time when Florida State seemed to own the Orange Bowl, a time when the Seminoles won eight straight over ther Hurricanes.

From 1963 through 1972 the two played seven times. During a period when the Seminoles were not drawing particularly well at home, they agreed to play every year at Miami in quest of a bigger payday.

Peterson, who coached Florida State for 11 seasons, won those first five games in the Orange Bowl, sometimes flying his team down the morning of a night game and returning home immediately after.

Florida State's odd Orange Bowl dominance continued under two coaches who followed Peterson. Larry Jones won there in '71 and '72. But in 1973 te Seminoles were beset by the hardest of times, going 0-11 under Jones, who was fired. Under a new coach, Darrell Mudra, the losing streak climbed to 20. Naturally, Florida State halted its losing run in the Orange Bowl, winning 21-14 in '74. The Seminoles' lead in Orange Bowl vicotries has dwindled in the wake of recent Miami dominance, but they are still ahead, 12 to 11, in games played there.

By 1973 the rivalry had become a genuine home and home series. Only two of the first 6 games, in 1957 and 1959, had been played in Tallahassee, and Miami won both.

And Miami continued to win in Tallahassee. Not until Bowden prevailed 4023 in 1979 did Florida State beat Miami in Tallahassee's Doak Campbell Stadium. That was the year Howard Schnellenberger came aboard as Miami's coach.

Miami has won 10 of 12 in Tallahassee.

"I don't think Tallhassee is an easy place to play," Schnellenberger says. "In fact, it is very tough there. First of all, you are playing a great football team every time you go to Doak Campbell Stadium. And the fans are loud. Not a whole lot of other people there, you know, have won going in there."

Nor does Bowden consider the Orange Bowl a piece of cake, though he's three of his five Miami victories there.

"It may be as tough a place to play as there is," he says, "now that they've got bigger crowds that are really into it."

Not many realize that football was in serious trouble at Florida State and Miami in the years immediately preceding the arrivals of Bowden and Schnellenberger.

J. Stanley Marshall, then Florida State president, had spoken of the possibility of the school giving up football unless supporters came up with quick money following the disastrous season of '73. Miami, its Orange Bowl crowds down alarmingly, seemed in even greater danger of giving up football, just as it did basketball for 14 years.

"I remember both programs were about to sink," Bowden says.

Suddenly, things changed.

One year Schnellenberger asked Bowden to fly to Miami to help hype the Orange Bowl turnout, possibly an unprecedented request to a visiting coach during the week of the game. Bowden did fly down the Monday before the teams met Saturday.

"Obviously we were trying to generate interest in Miami," Schnellenberger says. "We had a joint press conference. We had a weigh-in, kind of like boxers before a main event. I guess I weighed in a lot more than he did. But it worked out real well."

The next year Schnellenberger flew to Tallahassee on the Monday before the game. In a boxing ring, the two squared off with gloves on. The scene got lots of media exposure.

On another occasion the two posed as poker players, with an overhead camera showing each had a royal flush.

The two constitute a mutual-admiration society that has hardly diminished in strength through changing times.

"Howard is close to being the best coach in the country," Bowden sayus, "Back then, I mean, as well as now."

Schnellenberger, who has been coacing at the University of Louisville for the last seven seasons, says he patterned much of what Miami was doing when he was there after what Bowden already had begun at Florida State.

"I was impressed with the way they handled their marketing, how they selectively enlarged their stadium, never to exceed known demands, never making it too big," Schnellenberger says.

"And I had the greatest respect for Bobby, personally. A guy you've got to like--non-pretentious, never gives the appearance of being self-serving or egotistical. He exemplifies for me what a college coach should be. Probably it never has veen calculated, the impact he has had not only on the athletic department but the university itself."

Notably because of Bowden and Schnellenberger, perhaps partially because the two schools are nearly 500 miles apart, Miami vs Florida State evolved into an uncommonly friendly rivalry. Florida State seems always to have appreciated the fact that it was Miami that stuck its neck out and gave the Seminoles their first shot at a major college opponent.

An all-female school for several decades, Florida State enrolled men for the first time in 1946. A year later it fielded its first football team.

In 1951, the year after the Seminoles had gone 8-0 against opponents that included Troy State and a Howard (now Samford University) team on which Bowden played quarterback, Miami met Florida State int he Orange Bowl, winning 35-13.

Florida State has played Miami most years since and more times than any other opponent. Florida did not consent to play the Seminoles until 1958, and then onlyafter the threat of legislative action to force them to do so.

In his five years at Miami, Schnellenberger beat Bowden three times, including twice by a single point. His 17-16 victory in late 1983 provded the springboard to a national-championship victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

"More times than not the winner of the htis game has gone on to spectacular things," Schnellenberger says. "I don't know that any series has had more direct impact ont he national championship. And I don't know of any decided so many times by one point. But maybe this series is especially outstanding because of the great respect the teams and fans have for each other, because of the great sportsmanship after the fact."

Johnson, who replaced Schnellenberger at Miami, began inauspiciously against Florida State. In 1984, Bowden won the first challenge by a startling 38-3. In the Orange Bowl, of course. Whereupon Jonson won the next four games.

"I guarantee you on thing," Bowden slyly told alumni clubs int he spring following the 1988 game, "I'll never lose to him again."

Johnson had just accepted an offer to coach the Dallas Cowboys.

Miami's present coach, Dennis Erickson, thinks Bowden reminds him a bit fo Schnellenberger with his all-around strength as a coach. 

There's a thought that many a coach might have won national titles with the talen Miami has fielded in the past decade.

"Not in my opinion," Bowden says. "Miami's had extraordinary talent. But the coaches they've had have been amazing, too."

<p> Bobby Bowden and Howard Schnellenberger talk about the Seminoles-Hurricanes rivalry</p>
Post date: Friday, November 11, 2011 - 11:48
All taxonomy terms: Ashton Kutcher, Twitter, Overtime
Path: /overtime/ashton-kutchers-other-uninformed-sports-tweets

Earlier this week, Ashton Kutcher made a mistake over Twitter. Having not heard about the Penn State scandal, he tweeted "How do you fire Joe Pa? #insult #noclass as a Hawkeye fan I find it in poor taste". And then he was railed by his 8 million followers for not being aware of WHY Joe Pa was fired. How he hadn't heard about the scandal as of Wednesday, well, that's another issue. But because of his gaffe, which he's repeatedly apologized for, Ashton has quit Twitter altogether. That seems like a bit of a rash move (we all make mistakes), but we thought we'd have a little fun with it with a few more of Ashton Kutcher's uninformed sports tweets.






And here's a few tweets from history...




<p> Here are a few other tweets about sports from Ashton Kutcher</p>
Post date: Friday, November 11, 2011 - 09:05
Path: /nfl/nfl-2011-midseason-awards

Halfway through the NFL season, nobody is surprised about who is sitting atop the NFL standings, but the Green Bay Packers may be the only thing not surprising about the NFL this season. Teams like the 49ers and Bengals are on top, the Patriots are fading, and the “Dream Team” Eagles are a mess.

And even without Peyton Manning, who would’ve guessed the Indianapolis Colts would be running away with the race for the first overall draft pick and the rights to Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck?

Rookie quarterbacks and rookie coaches are thriving. Some forgotten players have been revived. Some coaches thought to be on the hot seat are having remarkable years. There’s a long way to go, of course, but it’s been quite an eventful first half of the NFL season.

Here are some well-earned midseason awards:

MVP: Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers

He’s having a scary good season, completing 72.5 percent of his passes and he’s on pace to top 5,000 passing yards and maybe throw 50 touchdowns. On top of that he has thrown just three interceptions and has the defending Super Bowl champions looking unbeatable at 8-0. But will they go undefeated in 2011?

Offensive MVP: Wes Welker, WR New England Patriots

Sure, you could find another quarterback to give this to, but he’s got 66 catches for 960 yards and five touchdowns, which is crazy considering he’s 5-9 and his quarterback – Tom Brady – isn’t having his finest season. He’s the most underrated and dangerous offensive weapon in the league.

Defensive MVP: DeMarcus Ware, LB, Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys defense isn’t just built around him. He’s pretty much it. And he’s got 12 sacks, which puts him a half-sack behind Minnesota’s Jared Allen and on pace to break Michael Strahan’s single-season record, which he’s been aiming for for several years.

MVNP (Most Valuable Non-Player): Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts

Is there any doubt? Take him out of the Colts lineup and they look like a Division II college team trying to find a way to compete with the big boys. They’re 0-8 without him and everyone thinks they’d be .500 or better if he hadn’t missed the season with a neck injury.

Rookie of the Year: Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers

Forget about the people – scouts, fans, personnel people, coaches, and others – who weren’t sure he’d be a big-time quarterback in the NFL. He’s simply changed the way rookie QBs are perceived. Sure, he’s struggled – a little – but he busted onto the scene with a pair of 400-yard games to start his career and he’s thrown just nine interceptions in eight games, which is probably nine fewer than most people expected.

Coach of the Year: Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers

He didn’t have an offseason to install his system and inherited a quarterback in Alex Smith that most people thought was a bust, and somehow the 49ers are 7-1. And don’t chalk this all up to the weak NFC West, either. They’ve won at Cincinnati, at Philadelphia, and at Detroit and pounded the Buccaneers at home. Those are four big-time wins.

Worst coach: Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars

Playing quarterback roulette just before the start of the season was one good way to kill the year before it started, and it’s only gotten worse. Years of mediocrity have bottomed out with a 2-6 start, and everyone knows a change is needed before the rebuilding can start.

Biggest Bust: Donovan McNabb, QB, Minnesota Vikings

So, maybe his awful year in Washington last year wasn’t such a fluke. He was terrible from the start in Minnesota and not surprisingly lost his job to rookie Christian Ponder. It’s the end of the line for a player who never got the credit he deserved, and an unfitting end to an underrated career.

Biggest Surprise: The Buffalo Bills

Chan Gailey was a respected coach, but nobody thought he’d be able to turn QB Ryan Fitzpatrick into a dangerous weapon so quickly. Some even thought running back Fred Jackson might get pushed for carries by C.J. Spiller. No one thought, though, the Bills would be 5-3 and tied with the Jets and Patriots atop the AFC East.

Biggest Non-Surprise: DT Albert Haynesworth getting cut

How many teams have to give up on Haynesworth and his attitude and work ethic before the rest of the NFL finally gets the hint? Let’s see. There’s the Titans, the Redskins, now the Patriots … Hey Tampa Bay, good luck with that.

Game of the Second Half: Green Bay at Detroit, Thanksgiving afternoon

The upstart Lions, trying to prove they’re for real, standing in the way of what likely will still be the Packers’ perfect season – and in front of a national television audience? The turkey can wait until this one is over.

Super Bowl prediction (revisited): Green Bay Packers over Baltimore Ravens

My preseason prediction was for a Saints-Patriots Super Bowl and that still most definitely remains in play. The Patriots don’t look like their dynastic selves, though, and the Saints have been a bit up and down, too. Halfway through the season, it’s hard to ignore the Packers and their quest for back-to-back titles. Over in the AFC beware the Ravens, who have had their struggles but still remain 6-2 and have all the ingredients to rise above a tight and talented back.


<p> Aaron Rodgers is a no-brainer for MVP, but who's the Most Valuable Non-Player?</p>
Post date: Friday, November 11, 2011 - 06:50
All taxonomy terms: Oakland Athletics, Ryan Sweeney, MLB, Overtime
Path: /mlb/oakland-ryan-sweeney-must-have-great-range

We found the Oakland A's current depth chart on and it seems like we've been underestimating Ryan Sweeney's defensive skills. I don't remember anything in Moneyball about saving on salary cap money by having one outfielder, but this may be the only way the A's can afford to be in the running for Albert Pujols.

As a side note, holy crap that is a really, really, crappy offense.

<p> Ryan Sweeney has the outfield covered</p>
Post date: Friday, November 11, 2011 - 02:52
Path: /mlb/2011-al-rookie-year

With the World Series in the rear-view mirror and the hot stove just beginning to heat up, it's time to hand out some awards to this year's best performers on the diamond. The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) will make their announcements starting Monday. And while no Athlon editors are members of the BBWAA, here's how four of us — Charlie Miller, Braden Gall, Patrick Snow and Mark Ross — would have voted if we did have a ballot to cast.

AL Rookie of the Year

The junior circuit certainly didn't lack for candidates when it came to this year's top rookie. The group of lending contenders consists of a trio of quality starting pitchers in the Tampa Bay Rays' Jeremy Hellickson, New York Yankees' Ivan Nova and Seattle Mariners' Michael Pineda, along with the Kansas City Royals' Eric Hosmer and the Los Angeles Angels' Mark Trumbo, both first basemen.

While this quintent is largely considered to be the frontrunners for the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year award in the AL, there are still plenty of other names that are worthy of consideration, names like Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley, Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia, Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings, Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie, Angels reliever Jordan Walden, and Oakland A's second baseman Jemile Weeks.

Contenders' Stats:

Jeremy Hellickson, P, Tampa Bay Rays: 13-10, 2.95 ERA, 189 IP, 72 BB, 117 K, 29 GS

Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals: 128 G, .293, 66 R, 27 2B, 19 HR, 78, RBI

Ivan Nova, P, New York Yankees: 16-4, 3.70 ERA, 165 1/3 IP, 57 BB, 98 K, 27 GS

Michael Pineda, P, Seattle Mariners: 9-10, 3.74 ERA, 171 IP, 55 BB, 173 K, 28 GS

Mark Trumbo, 1B, Los Angeles Angels: 149 G, .254, 65 R, 31 2B, 29 HR, 87 RBI

Athlon's Winner: Jeremy Hellickson, P, Tampa Bay Rays

Hellickson got three of the four first-place votes and one second-place vote, making him the winner and the only one to appear on all four ballots. Nova received the other first-place vote along with two votes for second. The other second-place vote went to Trumbo, which was the only ballot he appeared on. Hosmer received three votes for third with the other one going to Pineda.

Here's how the Athlon editors voted

Charlie Miller's ballot:

1. Ivan Nova
Nova won 16 of his 20 decisions and gave the Yankees’ rotation a badly needed lift.
2. Jeremy Hellickson
3. Eric Hosmer

Braden Gall's ballot:

1. Jeremy Hellickson
The Rays rookie led all Major League rookies in ERA (2.95), innings pitched (189.0), games started (29), quality starts (20) and opponents batting average. In fact, his .210 BAA is third in the majors behind only Justin Verlander (.192) and Clayton Kershaw (.207). It was the lowest qualified (162.0 IP minimum) AL rookie ERA since Kevin Appier’s 2.76 in 1990. Over his last eight starts – as the Rays surged into the postseason – Hellickson made seven quality starts allowing more than two runs only twice with a 2.30 ERA and a .195 BAA over that span. The last four of those starts came against Boston and New York.
2. Mark Trumbo
Filling rather large shoes after the loss of Kendrys Morales, Trumbo led all American League rookies in home runs (29), RBIs (87) and games played (149) by a fairly wide margin. Batting in the heart of the order for much of the season, Trumbo not only kept the Angels in the AL West race, but pushed his team to within 1.5 games (Sept. 10) of the eventual AL champion Texas Rangers. His 29 bombs were the most by a AL rookie since Nomar Garciaparra hit 30 for the Red Sox in 1997.
3. Michael Pineda
The Mariners' 6-foot-7, 260-pound hurler was the front-runner for the AL ROY award at the halfway mark, carrying a 2.65 ERA into July. He led all AL rookies in strikeouts (173), finished second in the AL with a 9.1 K/9 rate and was eighth in the AL with a very stingy 1.09 WHIP. When compared to other ROY candidates Jeremy Hellickson and Ivan Nova, Pineda had easily the least amount of support at 5.16 runs per game (Nova 8.82 No. 2 in AL, Hellickson 6.43 No. 19 in AL). Pineda was a 2011 All-Star having never played in a game prior to this season.

Patrick Snow's ballot:

1. Jeremy Hellickson
He had 13 wins compared to Nova’s 16, but the Rays’ righty wins out in every other category. Hellickson's 2.95 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and .210 opponent’s batting average were among the best in the AL. Nova had more wins with his supreme run support, but Hellickson had the overall better rookie campaign.
2. Ivan Nova
3. Eric Hosmer

Mark Ross' ballot:

1. Jeremy Hellickson
His numbers may not jump out, but he was consistent all season long going 13-10 with a 2.95 ERA over 189 innings pitched. He made 29 starts, 20 of them being quality starts and he held opponents to a .210 batting average, which was third in all of baseball behind only Cy Young contenders Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw. He got better as the season went on, going 5-3 with a 2.64 ERA after the All-Star break, including a 2-0 record with a 2.67 ERA in five September starts when the Rays made their late-season push for the AL Wild Card.
2. Ivan Nova
Outside of C.C. Sabathia, Nova was the Yankees’ most productive starter. He led all rookie pitchers with 16 wins and finished with a respectable 3.70 ERA. After a rough April (1-2, 5.82 ERA in five starts), Nova found his groove and settled in, going a perfect 8-0 with a 3.18 ERA after the All-Star break and winning his final 12 decisions overall.
3. Eric Hosmer
Hosmer made his debut in May and with the exception of a rough June, the 21-year-old showed Royals fans a glimpse of the type of middle-of-the-order production (.293, 66 R, 19 HR, 78 RBI in 128 games) they can look forward to from their first baseman for many years to come.

Other Baseball awards-related content:

National League Rookie of the Year

AL & NL Managers of the Year

American League Cy Young

National League Cy Young

American League MVP

National League MVP

<p> Athlon editors cast their ballots for this year's best rookie in the American League</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 10, 2011 - 17:17
Path: /college-football/jerry-sandusky-rising-star-most-hated-man-america

This article on Penn State assistant head coach Jerry Sandusky originally appeared in our 1987 college football annual. Given the horrific, recent tragic events surrounding allegations against Jerry Sandusky, we felt our archival pieces pertaining to Jerry, Joe Paterno and Penn State are worth revisiting to show how revered Sandusky was, not only at PSU, but in the world of college football.

1987 Assistant Coach of the Year: Jerry Sandusky, Nittany's Defensive Lion

On the morning after Penn State had won its second national championship of this decade, what everyone wanted to know from Joe Paterno was exactly how the Nittany Lions' defense had so thoroughly defused Miami's high-octane offense. Paterno sipped his coffee, blinked owlishly and responded: "I don't know exactly. Jerry hasn't explained to me the details of what we were doing yet."

He was only half kidding.

Jerry is Jerry Sandusky, a cerebral, aw-shucks-humble, relentless watcher and analyzer of films, and, most importantly, the defensive coordinator for the Lions.

Penn State, of course, is to linebacking what Juilliard is to piano playing, and for the better part of two decades the man who has been responsible for turning out all those concertmasters in cleats at Lineback U has been Sandusky.

No one in sports is quite so anonymous as an assistant football coach, but on the day after Penn State had beaten Miami in the Sunkist Fiesta Bowl, Paterno was going out of his way to make sure that Sandusky was being made known nationally.

Sandusky is honored now by Athlon as 1987's Assistant Coach of the Year. He becomes the second such award recipient, succeeding Ken Donahue of Tennessee.

Sandusky has sent 21 linebackers to the NFL. Seven played last fall. He has developed eight first-team All-Americ backers. But what has endeared him even more to Paterno is his ability to conjury up defensive magic in th ebiggest games against the most celebrated opponents.

When Penn State's defense shut out Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde--zero touchdowns, five interceptions--it was just one more in a long line of throttlings dreamed up by Sandusky.

A few more memorable examples of Sandusky's defensive game plans:

  • When Penn State won its first national championship in 1982, it did so by beating the splendiferous Herschel Walker and Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. When the game was on the line, Walker got the ball--a pitch and a sweep. He also got stuffed. The interference was strung out and Walker was smothered by four tacklers. Sandusky: "The key with a back as powerful as Herschel is to keep him from getting turned upfield. Once he gets his shoulders squared to the line of scrimmage, it's all over. He gets headed upfield and it's a runaway truck. You have to pursue and not let him get squared up." Ovediently, the defense kept Walker running laterally. Penn State 27, Georgia 23.
  • The only time in his collegiate career that Marcus Allen failed to rush for 100 yards as a starter was against Penn State in the 1982 Fiesta Bowl. Sandusky: "Marcus is a great reader. He sits back there in the I-formation and knows where the holes will open up. We tried to confuse him with some false reads and also to get penetration so that we could disrupt the play before it ever got started. It's important to take away the interference before it ever forms." Penn State 26, Southern California, 10.
  • Dan Marino had already put up two touchdowns and was driving Pitt in for a third on Nov. 28, 1981. It was 14-0, and still Penn State insisted on sitting back in that eight deep defense. Suddenly it would all make sense. There was an interception by the Lions. And another. Marino, in stages, became confused, uncertain, tentative. He would cok and aim, and then cock again. He never dented Penn State's defense again. The Nittany Lions ran off 48 unanswered points. Sandusky: "Most of the time we only rushed three because we felt he was a more dangerous passer when he was flushed from the pocket. With eight in the secondary, we could really disguise our coverages." Penn State 48, Pitt 14.

Those are some of the more recent of Sandusky's defensive triumphs. None, however, is more pristine than the 14-10 victory over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. Testaverde, like Marino before him, was befuddled by Sandusky's cleverly camouflaged defensive alignments. Testaverde had thrown 116 straight passes without an interception in 1985 and 114 last season. Yet the Heisman Trophy winner was intercepted five times by Penn State.

"He was just throwing by the numbers," Paterno said. "He didn't expect anybody to be there. Jerry did another remarkable job."

Sandusky, typically, had gone half-blind looking at Miami films, and finally one bleary-eyed morning had concluded that if Miami's receivers were jammed at the line, they tended to lose interest in running their routes, and that if they were whacked with gusto when they did catch the ball, their enthusiasm for future plays tended to wane quickly.

"Coach Sandusky told us that if we'd lay a good lick on their receivers when they caught the ball, then their arms would get about eight inches shorter," says cornerback Duffy Cobbs. "He was right, but then he always is. Every play it seemed Vinny was staring me right in the eyes. We'd be faking man-to-man coverage and I'd be saying to myself, 'I hope he believes it, I hope he belives it." He'd chuckle just before the snap, and we'd all think, 'Good, and switch to a zone."

Adds Shane Conlan, the latest, and acclaimed as the best, of the Penn State linebackers: "All week they kept going on and on about how great and fast their receivers were and how short and slow our defensive backs were, but I just smiled to myself, because I knew they'd never been hit by them. Those little guys will rock you. I thought that was the key to the game. We didn't say much but we were confident because we knew Coach Sandusky would come up with a way to stop them.

After all these testimonials, the wonder is that Sandusky is not a head coach somewhere. Surely someone has tried to lure him away from Happy Valley. The answer is that college and pro teams alike have tried.

"Many people have talked to me about him," Paterno says. "He has great teaching ability and a gift for setting up the sort of drills that teach the kids to execute all of the things we ask them to do as linebackers. Jerry has been reluctant to talk to anybody about a head coaching job, though, because of all the commitments he has in this community."

Ah, yes, the commitments. They, more even than his defensive genius, are what set Sandusky and his wife, Dottie, apart from the crowd.

The Sandusky's were unable to have children of their own, so in 1969 hey adopted a son. Later they adopted another child. And then another. And another. Six, finally. And then they began to raise foster children. As the family grew, the Sanduskys dreamed about starting a group home for troubled youngsters.

That dream has since become a reality--a house for six children at a time, and 20 acres of land only two miles from Beaver Stadium. It is known as The Second Mile, as in Matthew 5:41: "And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain."

Part of the finances come from the sale of a manual written by Sandusky: Developing Linebackers the Penn State Way.

Says Paterno: "Jerry and Dottie are special, special people. We're all so proud of what they have done, and certainly would hate to lose them. But at the same time, I'd hate to see him lose his chance to be a head coach."

Says Sandusky, shrugging: "There was a time when I really was interested in becoming a head coach. After all, that's what everyone in this profession aspires to. But the timing never really seemed quite right, and then we had so many things developing with our own family and with the house. We believe in the saying that it's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that is important. If it's meant to be, then it will happen."

It is, his associates testify, Sandusky's nature to be happy only when he is helping others. Which would seem to be the essence of an assistant coach.

"We recruit an awful lot of linebackers," Sandusky says. "Those kinds of kids are usually leaders, outgoing, the ones the other kids turn to for leadership."

Interestingly, when he played football, first at Washington (Pa.) High School and then at Penn State, it was not as a linebacker. He lettered three years at Penn State and was a starter in 1964 and 1965 at defensive end. He graduated in '66 and a year later received his M.Ed. degree from Penn State. He was an assistant coach for one year each at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa, and Boston University before returning to Happy Valley.

In 1969, Sandusky's first year as Penn State linebacker coach, Dennis Onkotz became a first-team All-American. It was the start of a trend.

Will Sandusky be a career assistant coach? Or, one day, will there be a team identified as his and his alone? Some speculate that he will be Paterno's successor. Paterno, who is 60, said after the Fiesta Bowl that he would coach "for another four years, maybe five, but no more than that."

Would Sandusky's loyalty then be rewarded?

There is precedent. For 16 years Rip Engle had an assistant on his Penn State staff who was skinny, wore thick glasses and was bright, and everyone wondered why he never took a head coaching job. Joe Paterno always answered that he was happy just being in Happy Valley. Jerry Sandusky says the same thing.

He has always been so selfless that you can not help but believe him.

This originally appeared in Athlon's 1987 college football annual.

Other Penn State Scandal Content:
Penn State and Joe Paterno Failed Miserably - Braden Gall
Joe Paterno: Paternal Failure - Nathan Rush
Mike McQueary Should Have Pulled a Sinead O'Connor on the Church of Penn State

<p> Jerry Sandusky was supposed to have a legendary career.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 10, 2011 - 14:22
Path: /news/mike-mcqueary-should-have-pulled-sinead-oconnor-church-penn-state

In 1992 Sinead O'Connor stood on the stage of Saturday Night Live, held up a photograph of Pope John Paul II, sang the word "evil" and ripped up the photo to protest child abuse by the Catholic church.

And from that point on, her world came crashing down.

The hateful, vitriolic response to her act reverberated around the world. O'Connor was vilified in the media, received death threats and hated by Catholics and non-Catholics everywhere. Her career was never the same.

But the sad fact was she was right. Years later, the Catholic church was embroiled in a scandal of epic proportions that included thousands of molested children and cover-ups.

Fast forward ten years and a young assistant coach at Penn State named Mike McQueary was faced with a similar situation. Having allegedly witnessed Jerry Sandusky abusing a child first-hand in a shower, he had a decision to make.  Should he tell the world about this monster in the midst of Happy Valley, exposing a flaw in the pristine image of everything Joe Paterno and Penn State stood for? Or should he pass the buck up the chain of command and then sit on his hands?

Having seen the world's knee-jerk reaction and complete destruction of Sinead O'Connor's career when she took called into the question the Pope, McQueary surely had to hesitate in how he would handle the situation.

Why? Because up until a week ago, Joe Paterno was the Pope of college football.

McQueary knew that going to the authorities about Sandusky would have been the equivalent of tearing up a photo of the Pope on live television. He would have been vilified in the media and by Penn State and Joe Paterno fans everywhere. His career would have been over and he would have been responsible for tarnishing the once-pristine legacy of Penn State's grandfatherly coach.

Witnessing an horrific act and being told about it are two very different things. One would like to think that if you witnessed a young boy being sodomized by Jerry Sandusky, you would have a much stronger reaction than someone who was notified of it.

What Mike McQueary did first, by calling his father and telling Joe Paterno, was completely understandable. No one can fault him for that given the craziness of what he witnessed. Should he have stopped it, ideally. But it's easy to say exactly what you would do if you had seen a person of Sandusky's stature doing that. 

But when McQueary continued to see Jerry Sandusky on campus, dealing with young children, the protocol should have gone out the window, and he should have pushed to have Sandusky and his dealings with children stopped.

Mike McQueary had a moral obligation to see that Joe Paterno was not acting appropriately and take action to go around him, as tough as that would have been. But from everything that has come out, from the 1998 showering incident, to the 2000 oral sex incident to the 2002 alleged sodomy and showering incident that McQueary himself witnessed, Joe Paterno, the face and king of Penn State also had to know. Given the number of allegations and Joe Paterno knew and brushed it aside. For him to look the other way and let Sandusky still come on his campus (and it was HIS campus) is sickening.

As much as he was loved, Joe Paterno had lost his moral authority.

It may have meant the end of McQueary's career, but when the truth comes out and we find out that he let the culture of cover-up go on, he's as culpable as Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier and everyone else in the Penn State organization that swept this under the rug.

And I'm not saying this would have been an easy decision to make. Look at the current backlash to the decision to fire Joe Paterno.

Given all the unspeakable facts that have come out and how Penn State fans STILL reacted with riots on campus and overturning of cars, just imagine if all that hate and anger was targeted at one man, with no horrific details of oral sex and sodomy in a grand jury report to point to.

Mike McQueary would have gone the way of Sinead O'Connor. Alone, hated, and his career would be over, until his small vindication when the truth finally did come out.

But there's one big difference in this story. Sinead O'Connor had the courage to speak out against horrible acts of child abuse. Mike McQueary, sadly, did not.

<p> Joe Paterno did not stop Jerry Sandusky's alleged abuse, so Mike McQueary should have</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 10, 2011 - 12:50
Path: /news/joe-paterno-deserves-pay-his-inaction

I remember where I was Ronald Reagan was shot. I remember where I was when the space shuttle Challenger disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean. I remember where I was when two airplanes hit the Twin Towers. I remember where I was when Twitter blew up with rumors that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.

And I will always remember where I was when I finally read the grand jury report on the Jerry Sandusky case — sitting on my couch waiting for the Penn State Board of Trust press conference to begin. Up to that point, I had been reluctant to actually read the report. I knew, or at least thought I knew, the details. I didn’t. Until you actually comb through the report, you have no idea how horrific this case truly is. We’ve seen far too many scandals in collegiate sports over the years. This is the worst. It’s not even close.

Joe Paterno had to go. Right away. And if you disagree, you are wrong. The second he decided not to call the police after he was made aware of the now-famous “shower incident” in 2002 he lost the right to go out on his own terms. He’s fortunate that he lasted this long.

Late last night, over IM, I had a conversation with a friend. We both agreed that there is no way Paterno didn’t know that Sandusky was a pedophile. It’s hard to believe that you can work with a man for three decades and not realize that he is having inappropriate contact with young boys. Most people are pointing to the shower incident, in ’02, as the time when Paterno first became culpable.

But it goes back further than that. There were previous signs that something wasn’t right with Sandusky — he admitted to a boy’s mother in 1998 that he had showered with her son!

Paterno simply had to know. Shame on him.

So now, one of the most revered coaches in any sport, is out of a job. Thankfully, the Penn State Board of Trust didn’t give Paterno the dignity of finishing the season as the head coach at Penn State.

This might sound cruel, but as a father myself, I think Paterno deserves to suffer. He has to live with the decisions he made — or didn’t make. It’s unfortunate that a man who helped so many for so many years will be remembered for this tragedy. But it’s his own fault. With one phone call to the police on any number of occasions over many years, Paterno could have put an end this horrific episode.
By Mitch Light

<p> The Penn State coach had to know about Jerry Sandusky. And he had to do something.</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 10, 2011 - 11:50
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-rankings-week-10

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 10 Fantasy Football Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 10 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

<p> Athlon Sports ranks all the positions for Week 10 of the fantasy football season</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 10, 2011 - 05:56
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-kicker-rankings-week-10

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 10 — Kicker Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 10 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system

PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Mason Crosby GB vs. MIN
2 John Kasay NO at ATL
3 Dan Bailey DAL vs. BUF
4 David Akers SF vs. NYG
5 Billy Cundiff BAL at SEA
6 Jason Hanson DET at CHI
7 Sebastian Janikowski OAK at SD (Thursday)
8 Nick Novak SD vs. OAK (Thursday)
9 Neil Rackers HOU at TB
10 Robbie Gould CHI vs. DET
11 Stephen Gostkowski NE vs. NYG
12 Matt Bryant ATL vs. NO
13 Alex Henery PHI vs. ARI
14 Nick Folk NYJ vs. NE
15 Josh Scobee JAC at IND
16 Mike Nugent CIN vs. PIT

<br />
Post date: Thursday, November 10, 2011 - 05:51