Category Archives: Uncategorized

The SEC’s toothless tigers

Two of the three Southeastern Conference football teams nicknamed Tigers are finding out the cheap hire is often the wrong hire.

Missouri is a dumpster fire. Barry Odom is in over his head. He might have been a fine coordinator under Gary Pinkel, but as the man in charge, he is trying to navigate the Missouri River in a canoe.

The Tigers looked absolutely pitiful yesterday in a 35-3 loss at home to Purdue. Yes, the Boilermakers have been in the Big Ten since the conference was formed, but when was the last time Purdue was mentioned consistently among college football’s elite? Hmmm….I want to say it was when Jack Mollenkopf was coaching, and last I checked, he retired after the 1969 season, seven years before I was born.

The Boilermakers won the Rose Bowl after the 1966 season, when Bob Griese was a senior. Since then, Purdue has made it to Pasadena ONCE (which is still one more time than Minnesota and the same number of times as Indiana and Northwestern in the last 51 seasons), and that was with Drew Brees.

Purdue plummeted like a rock once Brees departed. The school from West Lafayette has been in the lower division of the Big Ten every year since 2000, and the Boilermakers were absolutely dreadful under Darrell Hazell, who was 9-33 in three and a half seasons before he was fired at the mid-point of the 2016 campaign.

Jeff Brohm, a former standout quarterback at Louisville under Howard Schnellenberger and then a very successful head coach at Western Kentucky, has got Purdue going in the right direction. The Boilermakers gave Louisville a major scare in the season opener, and have now destroyed Ohio (more on the Bobcats later) and Missouri. Purdue isn’t going to be a factor in the Big Ten race this year, but it should be a consistent bowl team under Brohm.

Missouri is going in the opposite direction as Purdue. The Tigers have been a hot mess since racial tension on campus two years ago, which led to Pinkel’s resignation. Odom’s defenses have been nothing short of awful. Rockhurst High in Kansas City has a better defense than Mizzou.

Odom has got to be on the hot seat. If athletic director Jim Sterk is not seriously vetting candidates, then shame on him. The longer Odom lingers at his alma mater, the better the chance Mizzou relapses into pitifulness, which was the state of the program for much of the 1980s and 1990s.

I fear the Tigers will slip to the point where they were under Woody Widenhofer (1985-88) and Bob Stull (1989-93), which was fighting like hell to stay out of the Big Eight cellar. Mizzou teams of that era routinely were destroyed by Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma, were dominated by Oklahoma State (prior to 1989, when the Cowboys were severely sanctioned by the NCAA), and had trouble with Iowa State and Kansas. Kansas State was the one punching bag the Tigers routinely beat, but that all changed under Bill Snyder, who turned the tide completely in favor of the Wildcats in the series by 1991. \

After consistently going to bowl games under Dan Devine (1958-70), and then making semi-regular appearnaces under Al Onofrio (1971-76) and Warren Powers (1977-84), Mizzou went 13 seasons (1984-96) with no bowl games. NONE. Larry Smith, the former Tulane, Arizona and USC coach, took the Tigers to minor bowl games, but Mizzou was back at rock bottom in 1999 and 2000.

It took Pinkel a couple of years to turn Mizzou around, but once he did, the Tigers became bowl fixture. In 2007, the Tigers ascended to number one after beating Kansas in the regular season finale, but they fell to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game.

Mizzou is not going to a bowl game this year unless something turns around right now. I can’t see the Tigers winning an SEC game, not with Kentucky and Vanderbilt much improved, and with Florida, Georgia and Tennessee all well above Mizzou. Not happening.

Now on to my alma mater.

There was a team wearing LSU’s uniforms last night in Starkville. The names on the players’ jerseys were the ones which were listed on the roster released by the school.

Yes, the Bayou Bengals were there in body. In spirit? No way.

I expected LSU to have a very difficult time with Mississippi State. I went in feeling the Bulldogs had a great chance to win. The Bayou Bengals went in having won eight consecutive games in Starkville, and I figured the Bulldogs were overdue.

State had a huge advantage at quarterback, where Nick Fitzgerald was an All-SEC selection last year. LSU’s Danny Etling is competent and nothing more. Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen is an acclaimed offensive mind, having helped Florida win the 2006 and 2008 national cahmpionshp and molding Tim Tebow into a Heisman Trophy winner. LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada has been as popular as his boss, Ed Orgeron, since his hiring earlier this year, but I was skeptical. Still am skeptical.

The game which unfolded bore out every point I listed above.

Not only did State win, it embarrassed LSU. Bulldogs 37, Bayou Bengals 7.

How bad was it? State’s largest margin of victory EVER over LSU.

The Bayou Bengals and Bulldogs have been playing each other since 1896, and continuously since 1944. Counting last night’s game, LSU has played Mississippi State–once known as Mississippi A&M–111 times, more than any other opponent.

Last night was State’s 35th win in the series, compared to 73 for LSU, with three ties.

The Bayou Bengals had two touchdowns called back by penalty, although they got one of those back two plays later. In the second half, two defensive players, Donnie Alexander and Neal Farrell, were ejecting for hits to the head of Fitzgerald.

LSU was penalized nine times for 112 yards. It is on pace to commit 120 penalties for over 1,000 yards.

If Orgeron is as committed to discipline, he will suspend Alexander and Farrell for the entire game vs. Syracuse this week, not just for the first half as mandated under NCAA rules.

Regardless of what happens, Orgeron was a very disappointing hire for a team which has one of the largest budgets of any university.

LSU does not want for cash. It doesn’t have as many deep-pocketed donors as some schools, but it is the flagship university, the only one in a Power Five confernece, and there are big fans from every corner of the state. LSU consistently is deep in the black and pays its coaches handsomely.

Orgeron’s hire falls squarely on the shoulders of athletic director Joe Alleva, whom I believe should never have been hired in the first place.

The way Alleva severely mishandled the Duke lacrosse case when he was the Blue Devils’ athletic director should have precluded him from getting any other job as an athletic director, much less at a power school like LSU. I don’t know what LSU saw in him, unless Mike Kryzewzski convinced the administration Alleva was the second coming and was the only person worth hiring.

Alleva hired LSU women’s basketball coach Nikki Caldwell-Fargas, who I do not like. If Alleva were smart, he would have gone to Waco and had a blank contract for Kim Mulkey, who has been at Baylor for nearly two decades now. Alleva would have asked Mulkey to fill in a dollar amount. LSU could certainly afford it.

LSU women’s basketball was a dominant program in the middle of the last decade, reaching the Final Four five consecutive years (2004-08), although it did not win a single game.

Now, the Bayou Bengals are at best a middling program in the SEC. They have been passed and lapped by Mississippi State and South Carolina, have fallen well behind Kentucky, and are still way behind Tennessee, even though the Lady Volunteers are not the superpower they were under the late, great Pat Summitt. LSU also lags behind the SEC newcomers, Texas A&M and Missouri.

Had Mulkey been hired, I’m certain at least one national championship banner would be hanging from the rafters of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center right now.

As for Pistol Pete’s old program, it is as low as the Marianna Trench right now.

Alleva is on his third men’s basketball coach, Will Wade, who came from VCU, where he succeeded Shaka Smart after he left for Texas. The 35-year old has brought youthful energy to the Bayou Bengals, but will that energy translate into victories? It won’t in 2017-18, but if it doesn’t in 2018-19 and beyond, then it will be another bust, right up there with Wade’s predecessors, Johnny Jones (2012-17) and Trent Johnson (2008-11).

LSU has won ONE NCAA tournament game with Alleva as athletic director. In 2015-16, the Bayou Bengals had Ben Simmons, regarded as the greatest basketball player to step on campus since Shaquille O’Neal. Simmons could not get LSU to the NCAA tournament, then skipped school and became the #1 overall pick of the 76ers in the 2016 NBA draft. Last year, LSU tied Missouri for dead last in the SEC. This year, LSU will likely occupy the cellar by itself, since Missouri has brought in a stellar recruiting class under Cuonzo Martin, who took over for Kim Anderson, who like Odom and Orgeron, was grossly in over his head.

Alleva cannot take credit for baseball coach Paul Maineri, because he was hired by Skip Bertman, Alleva’s predecessor who built LSU baseball into college baseball’s Death Star, winning five championships from 1991-2000 and 870 games in 18 seasons (1984-2001). Maineri led LSU to the 2009 national championship and the College World Series championship series earlier this year.

Orgeron was hired as LSU’s defensive line coach in 2015, and was elevated to interim head coach after four games in 2016 when Les Miles, hired by Bertman to replace Nick Saban in early 2005, was fired. Ironically, Orgeron’s first game in charge at LSU a 42-7 victory over Missouri in Baton Rouge.

Oregeron is not currently in dire straits like Odom (or Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M, Bret Bielema at Arkansas or Butch Jones at Tennessee), but if Orgeron goes 7-5 this season, the grumbling will be heard long and hard in the bayou.

Yes, Orgeron is Louisiana through and through, growing up in Larose, playing for a state championship team at South Lafourche High in 1977 and then playing in college briefly for LSU and more extensively at Northwestern State in Natchitoches. Orgeron was the most popular hire LSU has made in recent memory, much more so than Nick Saban was when he came from Michigan State and Miles when he came from Oklahoma State.

Alleva was ready to hire Tom Herman when Texas moved quickly to fire Charlie Strong. The Longhorns are the one program which can pay a higher wage than LSU, and paid it to swipe Herman from Houston. With Herman out of the picture, Alleva simply waved the white flag and took the “interim” off of Orgeron’s title.

Nobody doubts Orgeron is a great defensive line coach and recruiter. He coached Warren Sapp at Miami. He coached some great players at USC, including two-time All-American Shaun Cody. And he was recruiting very well at

As a head coach, Orgeron just doesn’t cut it. He was brutally bad at Ole Miss, going 10-25 over three seasons, including a pathetic 3-21 mark in the SEC. The Rebels bottomed out under Orgeron after winning 10 games in 2003 under David Cutcliffe. Ole Miss bounced back under Hugh Freeze, but that was because Freeze broke more than a few NCAA rules to build his teams.

Alleva should have hired Brohm or someone proven as a head coach. If Orgeron didn’t like it, he was free to find another job. I’m sure Pete Carroll would have offered Orgeron a position with the Seahawks had Orgeron not been able to find a college job.

There is no excuse for Alleva’s laziness. NONE. LSU should never have hired Alleva in the first place, but the Bayou Bengals have got to get someone new in the athletic director’s chair, or LSU may rot from within.

The Saints are down 20-3 to the Patriots at the end of the first quarter. It’s not a good weekend to be a football fan in Louisiana.

All hail the fat man!

The Kansas Jayhawks kick off what figures to be their ninth consecutive losing football season tonight when they face patsy Southeast Missouri State in Lawrence. Nothing like opening your season with a challenging opponent, right David Beaty?

Beaty, entering his third season as Jayhawks coach, was once an assistant to the man who led Kansas to its last winning season.

A man who will be inducted into the University of Kansas (don’t get me started about how KU appears on nearly every piece of apparel for the Jayhawks, but the official title of the school is the University of Kansas; it’s that way at Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma, too) Athletics Hall of Fame.

A man whom I despise. A man whom I have absolutely zero respect for. A man whose mere image gets me riled up.

Let me put it this way: if I had a choice of being on a deserted island with this man and former President Obama, I’m choosing Barack every time.

Mark Mangino.

Mangino coached the Jayhawks from 2002-09. He guided Kansas football to arguably its most successful season in its mostly wretched history, leading the 2007 Jayhawks to a 12-1 record and victory over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. That victory fully eradicated the memories of the Orange Bowl following the 1968 season, the one where Kansas, led by John Riggins and Bobby Douglass, appeared to defeat 10-0 Penn State 14-13, only to be called for having at least 12 players (some accounts report as many as 14 Jayhawks on the field) during the Nittany Lions’ 2-point conversion attempt after their second touchdown. Penn State didn’t blow its gift, and converted for a 15-14 victory.

Kansas won its first 11 games of 2007 and rose to #2 in all of the major polls of the time: Associated Press, coaches, Bowl Championship Series (BCS) and Harris Interactive, which replaced the AP as part of the BCS formula in 2005. Ironically for me, my alma mater was #1.

The night before the Jayhawks were to play archrival Missouri in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, LSU lost 50-48 in three overtimes to Arkansas in Baton Rouge. It was the Bayou Bengals’ second triple overtime loss of 2007, having fallen 43-37 at Kentucky on October 13, my 31st birthday.

I don’t like college overtime, period. I think it’s bush league to give a team the ball on the opponents’ 25-yard line and ask the defense to hold up, knowing the offense needs only 10 yards to keep the drive going. I think overtime should be eliminated in all regular season football games, whether it be high school, college or professional. If the most popular sporting league on earth, the English Premier League, lives with draws during its 38-game schedule, why can’t American football? But if the NCAA is going to insist on determining

In my mind, LSU was 10-0-2 after the regular season. I’m saying Kentucky and Arkansas TIED LSU, but the Wildcats and Razorbacks simply scored more touchdowns in the shootout. It’s the same procedure for association football (soccer), where the match is officially recorded as a draw, with the team which scores more in the shootout advancing.

Kansas was poised to move to #1 if it defeated Missouri; instead, the Tigers won 36-28 and took over the top spot, with West Virginia going to #2. The Tigers lost the Big 12 champiosnhip game to Oklahoma, the Mountaineers were shocked by Pittsburgh at home, leaving the door open for Big Ten champion Ohio State, one of two one-loss teams remaining–the other wa Kansas–to play SEC champion LSU, which was 11-2 officially (11-0-2 in my book), in the BCS championship game.

Despite losing to Missouri and not playing in the Big 12 championship game, Kansas received an at-large BCS bid to play in the Orange Bowl against Atlantic Coast Conference champ Virginia Tech. Missouri got bumped down to the Cotton Bowl, which was in its period as a second-tier bowl game, to play Arkansas.

It was revealed Kansas recevied the Orange Bowl bid because athletic director Lew Perkins guaranteed the committee to purchase an absurd number of tickets. It was also hinted he provided the committee with, uh, inducements to pick the Jayhawks instead of the Tigers.

That’s another story for another blog post, which will not be long in coming.

Back to Mangino.

Following Kansas’ unexpected season, he was voted national Coach of the Year by just about every organization, beating out the coach of the national champions, LSU’s Les Miles, Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, Ohio State’s Jim Tressel and Illinois’ Ron Zook, whose Illini beat Ohio State and went to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1983 and only the second time since Dick Butkus led Illinois to the game in 1963.

It figured any man could lead KANSAS, which would win the NCAA men’s basketball championship in April under Bill Self, to a 12-1 record would be first in line for a job at a school which places a higher priority on football, right?

Mark Mangino received exactly ZERO interviews in late 2007 and early 2008 to fill vacancies. And there were vacancies at schools in major conferences.

Lloyd Carr retired at Michigan after 13 seasons. The Wolverines did not place the call from Ann Arbor to Lawrence, instead hiring Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia, who one year earlier agreed to become Alabama’s coach, but pulling out at the last second. Instead, the Crimson Tide hired this guy Nick Saban to replace Mike Shula. We know how that turned out.

West Virginia, which won the Big East in 2007 and has been a top-tier program since Bobby Bowden coached there in the 1970s, would be a step up for Mangino, even if he would step down in conference. The Mountaineers instead promoted assistant Bill Stewart, who coached West Virginia to victory in the Fiesta Bowl over Oklahoma.

Chan Gailey left Georgia Tech to coach the Buffalo Bills. The Yellow Jackets opted for Navy coach Paul Johnson, who returned the Wishbone to the upper level of college football. He’s still there.

Ole Miss fired Ed Orgeron, who drove the Rebels straight into the ground with three horrible seasons. Mangino, who weighed north of 500 pounds then, would have loved eating southern cuisine in Oxford. The Rebels instead hired Houston Nutt, who had burned his bridges at Arkansas after 10 seasons.

Arkansas will certainly take a chance on Mangino, right? The Razorbacks are the only team in the Natural State (I don’t count Arkansas State, being so close to Tennessee and Missouri, plus being minor league for most of it existence), and Mangino would be the highest paid and most powerful person in the state, since Frank Broyles was set to finally retire as athletic director after almost 50 years in Fayetteville as football coach and AD.

Broyles’ successor, Jeff Long, instead plucked Bobby Petrino from the Atlanta Falcons. Petrino, who coached Louisville for four seaosns prior to taking the Falcons’ job in early 2007, resigned after a Monday Night Football loss to the Saints, leaving a typed note in each player’s locker. Twenty-four hours after the game ended, Petrino was in Fayetteville, “calling the hogs” with the Arkansas cheerleaders and numerous big-money boosters, which there are a lot of in Arkansas.

Petrino is a scumbag, too. One step above Mangino. One VERY SMALL step.

Why would Mangino not get a single interview after such a successful season?

It wasn’t because of his morbid obesity, which had to be a serious concern for KU officials, even if they would not say so publicly.

It was because he was one of the biggest ASSHOLES to ever roam a college sideline.

Yelling and screaming is a way of life for coaches in all sports in all levels. It is the preferred method of fommunication for football coaches, who believe the higher the decibel level, the more effective the message is. Tony Dungy, who hardly ever raised his voice, would beg to differ, but most of the great coaches yelled and screamed their way to the top, save Tom Osborne and Darrell Royal, who presented low-key images to the press, but probably did their fair share of vocalizing behind closed doors.

Mark Mangino is a world-class screamer.

But there was a problem with his screaming as big as Mangino’s waistline.

He was a sadistic bully.

Mangino had the one of the highest turnover rates of assistant coaches of any program. Nick Saban has been known to burn through assistants at a rapid rate because he works them to death and is so demanding those coaches often feel like they are trapped at the bottom of the ocean in a vacuum with no air hole.

Mangino was much worse than that.

When a player made a mistake, not only did the player feel Mangino’s wrath, but often his position coach did, too.

This was the big reason Bill Young, who was Mangino’s defensive coordinator in 2007, left the Jayhawks after that season to coach at Miami,, which at the time was sloghing through mediocrity under Randy Shannon.

Mangino was just as cruel to his players.

In 2003, it was reported Mangino made a KU player do tortuous bear crawls on the artifical surface of Memorial Stadium, where the temperature on the field was in excess of 150 degrees. The player ended up with burns and lost skin on his hands.

Following the Orange Bowl, starting linebacker Joe Mortensen went home after suffering a knee inury in the game, isntead of retruning immediately to Lawrence to rehabilitate the injury. Mangino punished Mortensen for three months by subjecting him to harsh conditioning, drills which led him to tear ligaments in the same knee.

Mangino’s verbal barbs were just as bad as his physical ones.

Reportedly when a player was charged with underage drinking, he said that player would one day be “drinking from a brown paper bag in Oakland under a bridge”.

He asked another player if “he wanted to be a lawyer or an alcoholic like his father”.

And the worst of all was when he told a player whose brother was injured by gunfire in St. Louis that he could “go back to the ‘hood and get shot with his homies”.

Bear Bryant would rise from his grave and kick Mangino in his family jewels if he could. Nick Saban might join him.

It’s one thing to scream. It is crossing the line when you get personal.

Mangino got personal.

Yet it took Lew Perkins until November 2009, when Kansas was in the midst of a seven-game losing streak which would drop it from 5-0 to 5-7, that Perkins began to investigate.

Mangino, who was owed a $6 million buyout if he were fired, refused to step down, claiming he did nothing wrong.

Faced with lawsuits and a revolt, Perkins negiotiated a settlement, paying Mangino $3 million to quietly resign.

Kansas fans went nuclear.

Most loved Mangino and claimed he as a victim. Lew Perkins was called every epithet you could think of.

I’m sorry, but Mangino got what he richly deserved. Mangino can go fuck himself.

I have no pity whatsoever for the Jayhawks. I find it quite amusing they are so horrnedous. It is karma for hiring that fat piece of shit and for buying the Orange Bowl bid.

Tonight, Mangino will be inducted into such company as Riggins, Douglass, Gale Sayers Phog Allen, Danny Manning and the man who invented basketball himself, Dr. James Naismith.

And guess what? Many are pushing for a bronze statue of Mangino outside Memorial Stadium.

John McEnroe said it best: YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS.

Congratulations, Jayhawks. You have disgraced yourselves. Just don’t disgrace yourselves more by even considering a statue for this disgrace of a homo sapiens.

Exhausted–the good kind

When I left Russell at 6 am. yesterday morning, I had no idea it would be a day like it turned out to be.

The plan was after my time at Buffalo Wild Wings in Liberty, I would go over to Zona Rosa. I had no idea whether or not I would go to Buffalo Wild Wings there, or go immediately to Minsky’s.

I didn’t make it to Minsky’s.

Not because I didn’t want to go. I was feeling bad for not going over there to see Lindsay and Tara.

There were people who grabbed my attention–three of whom I had no earthly idea I would see yesterday.

I arrived at Buffalo Wild Wings Zona Rosa at 3:30. I asked Robb what his plans were, and he said he and Dawn would try to be there by 5:30. I told him I didn’t know how long I could hold on there before getting the itch to cross Barry Road.

I ate at Liberty, so I wasn’t eating at Zona Rosa. No Buffalo Wild Wings twice in a day. That’s a new rule for me. There were times where I’d eat twice at B-Dubs Zona Rosa the same day. Not anymore. The food isn’t that great. With Minsky’s and Outback right there, why bother with B-Dubs again?

Just before 5, I got a tap on my shoulder. It was Molly.

I knew she would be working tomorrow from 11 to 5, but her arrival was a pleasant surprise. I told Robb I would stay for awhile. I could see Lindsay and Tara later.

Robb and Dawn got there at 5:30. I thought we’d be there for an hour and half to two hours, then I’d cross Barry Road.

When Robb posted his high score in Countdown, he got a Facebook comment from an ex-Buffalo Wild Wings employee stating she and another ex-employee would be arriving around 8:30.

The ex-employee: Shannon Swanson. Her accomplice: Lisa Toebben.

Whoa.

Shannon was in town from Chicago. Lisa is trying to balance her 18-month old son, Liam, and prepare for her October wedding in St. Louis.

Robb and Dawn could not stay that long. They left at 8:30. I was still there, and I also ran into another trivia pal, Bob (ARROWHEAD), who has been going through a tough time as of late, following the death of his mother last month. His mother was 99 and lived a full life, something I can only hope for.

Shannon and Lisa didn’t arrive at 8:30. They weren’t there at 9. Morgan asked me why I was still there at that late hour, and I revealed it. She was quite surprised as well.

It wouldn’t be the first time I would see a former Buffalo Wild Wings sweetheart this month.

Elizabeth Psenski was in town last week. I saw her twice. Of course she had to hug me more than a few times. Now I have to go to Colorado Springs to see her.

Shannon and Lisa arrived at 9:30. They sat next to me at the bar and visited with Molly, Trey and all the employees they knew, plus a few guests they recognized. We talked about Liam, about a guy Shannon is seeing, and other things going on. I didn’t divulge much about myself, but I promised I would send a message about what’s been going on in my sessions with Crista.

Shannon and Lisa were the ones who pushed me to get help in late 2014. They kept on me about it. They were not going to put up with me the way I was going, which was straight down the toilet. And to be honest, they should not have put up with me in that state. Fortunately they prevailed upon me, and Dr. Custer got me referred, which led to me seeing Crista.

I hated leaving at 10:50, but I finally did. I used the excuse I was an “old man”, although I wasn’t fooling Lisa, since I’m sure Jeff has had many sleepless nights. Eleven and a half hours at two Buffalo Wild Wings. That was plenty. At least it was good.

After picking up a steak at Outback–I hadn’t eaten since 2:15–I stopped in at Minsky’s to say hello to Lindsay and Tara. I promised I’d be back later today.

The best thing other than seeing Larry, Robb, Dawn, Molly, Shannon and Lisa? My contacts did not irritate me, even though I wore them 19 hours.

It’s now a little after 1 a.m. I’m not yawning, but I am weary. A happy weary.

Today looks stormy. As long as I can get to Barry Road without much trouble. I’m sure it will be soaked when I drive from B-Dubs to Minsky’s, which makes me worry a bit about some maniac causing an accident.

I’ve seen more rain this year than I have since moving to Kansas. People can stop complaining about a drought. Then again, they’d better not waste water, because if the drought returns, there will be hell to pay.

Hibernation needs to end

I apologize for going Howard Hughes AGAIN. I swear I am alive. It’s just been some very rough patches as of late. 

I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire. But that isn’t an excuse for not posting. 

More to come…

Last go at the Cliff

We are less than an hour from the final game of the LSU-Kentucky baseball series. It’s a rubber game, as the teams split their doubleheader Friday, with the Wildcats winning the opener 12-5 and the Bayou Bengals the nightcap 4-3.

This is LSU’s final game at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The field has been here since 1969, but the stadium itself opened in 2002 as part of a renovation. The 2018 season will be the Wildcats’ last at Cliff Hagan, as they are moving into a new stadium off campus the next season. LSU and Kentucky probably will not play next year, but if they do, it will be in Baton Rouge. The next time LSU will come to Lexington will be either in 2020 or 2021.

Bill told me the likely SEC East road trips next year are Tennessee and Vanderbilt. The Tigers go to Auburn, Ole Miss and Texas A&M in the West. That leaves Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi State at home. plus Missouri and either Florida or Kentucky.

With no game yesterday, it was more like a typical Saturday I would spend in Kansas City. I treated Bill to lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings, then went about the rest of my day on the other side of town. I went to the other B-Dubs in Lexington and played three hours of trivia. I left at 7:30 and decided to call it a night.

It’s chilly in Lexington. The sun is not out, and the mercury is struggling to climb above 55 (13 Celsius). There’s a good wind blowing from left to right, which means the ball will carry very well to right field, which is already very short (310 down the line, 350 to the power alley).

Tonight is a working and packing night. Tomorrow I’m on Interstate 64 and Interstate 70 to Kansas City. If I’m there by 7 pm CT, I’ll be happy.  Other than returning the rental car to KCI, it’s pretty much normal in KC (read: trivia at B-Dubs and maybe Minsky’s) until I have to go to Hays Thursday.

Ten hours at a baseball park

As Crystal Gayle and Gary Morris sang in the mid-1980s, I have made up for lost time.

I can safely say that I have now had more than my fill of Cliff Hagan Stadium after not traveling to Lexington during my years working with LSU’s baseball program.

Seven hours, 34 minutes of actual baseball, plus the hour before the game and the hour between games.

It isn’t the longest day I’ve spent in a college baseball stadium–the regionals at LSU far surpass that–but it’s one of the longest days I’ve spent in a facility during the regular season.

For the record, Kentucky won the first game 12-5, and LSU the second 4-3. The Bayou Bengals were down 3-0, but rallied with three in the fifth to tie, then scored the winning run in the eighth on an RBI single by Antoine Duplantis.

Tomorrow’s game is the last of the series, and the last for LSU at Cliff Hagan, period.  LSU and Kentucky probably won’t play in 2018, and if they do, it would be at Baton Rouge. The Wildcats are opening a new stadium in 2019, the earliest LSU could return to Lexington, but I don’t look for that to happen until 2020 or 2021.

Finding an LSU road series to attend in 2018 will be difficult. Arkansas goes to Baton Rouge. If LSU plays Missouri, that will be in Baton Rouge too. Texas A&M is too far. So are Auburn, South Carolina and Georgia. Ole Miss? Maybe. Vanderbilt? Maybe. Tennessee? Less likely. However, I may be able to convince my dad to go to Nashville or Knoxville if my brother and his family could make it.

The games were the easy part of yesterday. The hard part, of course, was the flat tire on the Cadillac. The trade is going to work out better, since the Expedition has more room for my baggage to carry back to Kansas City. I’ll stow everything in the hotel room there and retrieve my Chevy at KCI for the drive back to Hays (I have an appointment with Crista Thursday at 10).

The bad part about the long, long, long games? Finding something to eat after.

There was good food in the press box at Cliff Hagan, but I was trying to be the good Catholic, so I passed on the entrees and stuck to chips, cookies and brownies. I did get a pretzel and a bag of peanuts at the concession stand, but passed on anything heavier, hoping the games would end before 11.

Nope.

My body was acting like it was still on Central time. I’m convinced Central time is better than Eastern. TV shows come on not too late, but not too early. The news at 10 p.m. might be late for some, but it beats 11! Sunday NFL games kick off at noon. Perfect hour. Buffalo Wild Wings opens at 11, when college football games kick off on fall Saturdays.

By time I got back to my SUV parked behind the right center field fence, it was already 11:15. Then I got lost and went through downtown, right past Rupp Arena. I finally found my way back to Interstate 75, where I went to Man O’War Boulevard to look for a grocery store.

If you’ve never been to Lexington, you would do real well to have a map handy. Interstate 75 goes right past the northern edge of town and then turns southeast. The University of Kentucky, Keeneland race track, and the airport are all well south of the interstate. This is in stark contrast to Louisville, where Interstate 64 passes right by the KFC Yum! Center, the city’s main arena, and Louisville Slugger Field, home of the Triple-A Louisville Bats.

I’ve also seen interstates cut right into downtown Kansas City, St. Louis, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Atlanta and Birmingham, among other places. In Nebraska, Interstate 80 bypasses downtown Omaha to the south and Lincoln to the north, but both cities have spurs directly into downtown. And Interstate 49 has made Alexandria, Louisiana almost disappear from the map. If you stay on I-49, you’ll never know you went through Alexandria. By time you realize it, you may be in Shreveport (northbound) or Lafayette (southbound).

I found the supermarket, stocked up, then stopped at one of the few establishments open very late, Taco Bell. Since it was after midnight by this time, I didn’t feel so bad about eating meat.

By time I got back to the hotel–which is not in the best part of Lexington–it was 12:30.

Today is the off day. I now recall during the SEC tournament having an off day on the Friday after winning the first two games, then having a whole day to burn in Birmingham. Same thing in Omaha during the College World Series.

Time to jump in the shower.

Time passages

It’s almost 7 a.m. in Lexington, meaning it’s almost 6 back in Kansas. Changing time zones can mess up your clock when you’re not used to it.

I’ve changed time zones a few times going the other way when I’ve gone to Goodland or Sharon Springs, which are on Mountain time. Goodland, Sharon Springs (Wallace County), Weskan, Tribune (Greeley County) and Syracuse high schools have to start games an hour earlier in most instances so their opponents don’t get home very late. For instance, if Hugoton played a football game at Goodland and it started at 7 p.m. Mountain instead of 6, the Eagles wouldn’t get home until 2 a.m. in all likelihood.

Anyway, there will be baseball and lots of it at Cliff Hagan Stadium today. LSU vs. Kentucky in a doubleheader starting at 2 ET/1 CT.

It turns out Kentucky needed a waiver from the Southeastern Conference to play a doubleheader today. SEC rules do not allow for a doubleheader on day one of a scheduled three-day series. Fortunately for LSU and Kentucky, Wildcats coach Nick Migione and athletic director Mitch Barnhart prevailed upon SEC commissioner Greg Sankey to allow the doubleheader today in light of the forecast for tomorrow, which calls for a 90 percent chance of rain, with rain of up to one inch falling.

Kentucky comes into the series 10-5 in the SEC, leading the East division by two games. LSU is 9-6 in the league, two games behind leader Arkansas, although the Bayou Bengals won two of three from the Razorbacks in Fayetteviile two weeks ago. There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, and a series win on the road against a strong team would do wonders for my alma mater.

UPDATE: Now 9:10 and I’m ready to roll. I won’t need to be at the park until a little after noon. But I’ve got things to do in town.

Now, the hard part for Mississippi State…

Mississippi State ended Connecticut’s 111-game women’s basketball winning streak late last night.

That’s the great news.

The bad news?

Now the Bulldogs must turn around and beat a Southeastern Conference foe which defeated them twice prior to the NCAA tournament.

State plays South Carolina tomorrow at 5 p.m. Central for the national championship.

Certainly, nobody will term the Bulldogs’ season a failure if the Gamecocks prevail.

However, it will undoubtedly be a little disappointing for Vic Scaheffer and his charges, especially daughter Blair, a junior guard.

There is precedent which should give State optimism.

I can recall three specific instances where a team had to come down from an impressive victory and do it again 48 hours later.

Three words: Miracle on Ice.

Anyone who knows a little bit about sports probably knows the story of the United States’ 4-3 victory over the powerful Soviet Union during the 1980 Winter Olympic ice hockey tournament.

Mike Eruzione’s goal with 10 minutes remaining against the Red Army turned out to be the game-winner.

However, it did NOT win the gold medal.

The Americans had to come back two days later, on a Sunday morning, and defeat Finland to win the gold.

If the Americans fell to the Finns, who were led by  Jari Kurri, who would go on to be the Hall of Fame right winger on the Edmonton Oilers’ NHL dynasty of the 1980s, they might leave Lake Placid without a medal.

Sure enough, the Americans were down 2-1 through two periods.

According to Eruzione, coach Herb Brooks told his players if they lost, they “would take it to their graves. To their F***ING graves”.

Well, the Americans got the point, scored three goals in the third period, and won 4-2. As Al Michaels famously exclaimed, “This Impossible Dream comes true!”

There are two examples relevant to college basketball, too.

The more recent was in 1991.

UNLV came into the Final Four 34-0. The Runnin’ Rebels were the defending national champions, and the overwhelming favorite to repeat, led by Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony.

The Rebels’ semifinal opponent was Duke, making its fifth trip to the Final Four in six seasons under Mike Krzyzewski.

Despite the Blue Devils’ success in the first four rounds of the tournament under Coach K, plus historical success under Bill Foster and Vic Bubas, Duke had zero national championships when it arrived in Indianapolis on Easter weekend.

In the 1990 championship game, UNLV eviscerated Duke 103-73, the largest margin in a title contest. That mark still stands as we sit six hours from the start of the 2017 Final Four.

Yet the Blue Devils gained their revenge, 79-77.

Some thought Duke would not be able to turn around and defeat a fine Kansas team coached by Roy Williams, but the Devils won 72-65. They repeated in 1992, and have added titles in 2001, 2010 and 2015.

Another Atlantic Coast Conference team was involved in the next example.

UCLA came into the 1974 Final Four seeking its eight consecutive national championship in what would be the final go-round for Bill Walton, who may be the greatest college basketball player ever. He certainly would be on my starting five, along with Lew Alcindor, Pete Maravich, Oscar Robertson and Bill Bradley.

The Bruins came into the 1973-74 season with a 75-game winning streak. It reached 88 before they lost 71-70 to Notre Dame in South Bend. UCLA later lost back-to-back games in Corvallis and Eugene to Oregon State and Oregon, but regrouped and easily made it to Greensboro.

In December of that season, the Bruins easily defeated North Carolina State 84-66 in St. Louis. The Wolfpack, who went 27-0 in 1972-73 but was on probation and thus could not play in the NCAA tournament, featured David Thompson, one of the ACC’s all-time greats; 7-foor-4 center Tom Burleson, a 1972 Olympian; and Monte Towe, who stood only 5-foot-7, but was one of the nation’s best point guards of 1973-74.

NC State almost missed the 1974 tournament, too.

The Wolfpack had to survive one of the greatest college basketball games ever played in the ACC tournament championship game vs. Maryland, which featured All-Americans Len Elmore, Tom McMillen and John Lucas.

In 1974, only the conference champion was eligible for the NCAA tournament. While almost every conference determined its representative through the regular season, the ACC held a tournament, which meant NC State would be out in the cold if it lost to the Terrapins.

The game was only televised in ACC country, meaning those in Los Angeles, Lawrence and Milwaukee, not to mention everywhere else, never saw it until ESPN Classic finally televised it in the late ’90s and again throughout the 2000s.

The Wolfpack prevailed in overtime, 103-100.

Exactly three weeks after that thriller, NC State returned to the site of the battle, the Greensboro Coliseum.

The Wolfpack did not have to leave the state during the 1974 NCAA tournament. The regional was in Raleigh at Reynolds Coliseum, and then NC State had to migrate only 80 miles west on Interstate 40 for the next step.

Only NC State and Marquette, which defeated Kansas in the first game of the 1974 Final Four, stood between the Bruins and tying the Boston Celtics for the most consecutive basketball championships in history.

The Wolfpack had other ideas.

The game went into a second overtime, and UCLA grabbed a seven-point lead. So long State, right?

Nope.

In one of college basketball’s most stunning turnarounds, the Wolfpack outscored the Bruins 13-1 the rest of the second overtime and won 80-77.

Two nights later, the Wolfpack had little trouble defeating Marquette. Al McGuire would get his championship in 1977, when his Warriors defeated the Wolfpack’s archrival, the Tar Heels of Dean Smith, in the final in what would be McGuire’s last game as a coach.

As for the ladies from Starkville, the bad news is they have lost twice to South Carolina.

However, both games were in the Palmetto State, once at Columbia and once at Greenville in the SEC tournament final.

State should have the crowd on its side after the victory over UConn. Dak Prescott will be leading cheers for the cowbell crowd.

State and Carolina are all too familiar with a Goliath in their midst.

For the longest time, SEC women’s basketball was Tennessee and everyone else. Georgia had some good teams, LSU made five consecutive Final Fours, and Alabama, Arkansas and Vanderbilt all got to the big stage, but the Lady Volunteers were too good.

Pat Summitt, who won over 1,000 games and led the Lady Vols to eight national championships, had a lot to do with that. God rest her soul. She was taken from us too soon.

Tennessee also had some damn good players. Chamique Holdsclaw. Tamika Catchings. Candace Parker. Holly Warlick, who is now the Lady Vols’ coach. Not to mention the role players who were so crucial, including my all-time favorite, Abby Conklin.

Today, the SEC is much more competitive. The Gamecocks and Bulldogs are the upper crust of the league, but Tennessee is still there, Texas A&M has a championship banner in Reed Arena (albeit in the Big 12), and Kentucky’s women are much more than a time killer waiting for the next men’s game.

There’s one flaw with UConn: the American Athletic Conference is very weak beyond the Huskies. When Louisville and Notre Dame left the old Big East for the ACC, it became UConn and a bunch of nothing in the new AAC.

Tulane nearly beat the Huskies in New Orleans in February, but that was more a fluke than an indication the Green Wave are on their way to being a consistent winner.

As much as I would like to see Tulane succeed, the Wave will always be a distant second behind LSU in my homeland. On the other hand, Tulane has certainly passed Louisiana Tech for #2 in the Bayou State. Tech once was right up there with Tennessee and Stanford amongst the sport’s blue bloods, but without Sonja Hogg, Leon Barmore and Kim Mulkey, it hasn’t been nearly the same in Ruston.

I’m guessing Dawn Staley has scheduled everything so she and her team can watch the Gamecock men play Gonzaga at 5:10 tonight. But something tells me that there won’t be two celebrations in Columbia.

I don’t think there will be one.

State wins tomorrow.

Coronation canceled

I was WRONG.

If you read the blog post before this one, I stated the belief the Connecticut Huskies could not be stopped en route to their fifth consecutive national championship and 12th under Geno Auriemma.

Instead of a press conference and a closed practice to prepare for Sunday’s championship game vs. South Carolina, the Huskies will be on their way to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport later today to board a plane which will ferry them to Bradley International Airport near Hartford.

The queen is dead. UConn’s 111-game winning streak is history.

No parades through Hartford and Storrs.

Mississippi State 66, UConn 64.

Not only did the Bulldogs take down the seemingly unbeatable Huskies, they did so after an egregiously bad call.

With under 20 seconds remaining in overtime and State ahead 64-62, the Bulldogs were called for a flagrant foul.

If that was a flagrant foul, then Don Denkinger’s call in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series was 1,000 percent correct.

Of course, the flagrant foul was nowhere near “flagrant”. It was only “flagrant” because it came in a game involving mighty UConn.

To nobody’s surprise, ESPN analyst Doris Burke said repeatedly the flagrant foul was the right call.

Come on, Doris. Anyone who knows anything about your background knows you harbor a secret crush on Geno. You live in New England and have lived and breathed UConn basketball (men too) for the last 30 years.

ESPN has shoved UConn down our throats for the last 22 years you want to vomit. Who’s their leading expert? REBECCA LOBO, who continues to be an unabashed shill for the Huskies. I’m sure Diana Taurasi has a job lined up at ESPN once she retires from the WNBA.

Katie Lou Samuelson, UConn’s unanimous All-American, sank two free throws to tie the game.

The Huskies got the ball back with the chance to win the game, but incredibly, they turned it over with 12.7 seconds left. Gabby Williams drove the lane, but she was cut off by Mogan William, State’s phenomenal 5-foot-5 point guard who scored 41 points in the regional final vs. Baylor. UConn wanted a foul, but incredibly, the officials swallowed their whistles and gave the ball to State.

State had trouble finding an open shot, but as time was about to expire, WIlliam pulled up from 15 feet just to the right of the lane.

Swish.

Just like that, Mississippi State, the school with the lowest all-time winning percentage in the Southeastern Conference heading into the 2016-17 season, brought down Goliath.

This means two schools best known for baseball will be playing for the women’s basketball national championship Sunday. Not surprisingly, former baseball coaches are now the athletic directors at both schools: Ray Tanner at Carolina and John Cohen at State.

Sunday’s game will be the first All-SEC final since 1996, when Tennessee beat Georgia.

Friday’s shocker was UConn’s first loss to an SEC team in 10 years.

The last SEC team to beat UConn? LSU, in the 2007 West regional final in Fresno. What, UConn actually had to play in a regional outside the northeast? Unheard of today.

The Bayou Bengals’ coach the night of March 26, 2007? Bob Starkey, who was elevated to interim head coach following a scandal which forced LSU to fire Pokey Chatman in the week between the SEC and NCAA tournaments.

LSU beat UConn that night 73-50. In the Bayou Bengals’ next game, they set a Final Four record for futility by losing 58-35 to Rutgers.

Mississippi State is 1-0 in the women’s Final Four. LSU is 0-5. In fact, LSU has a dubious record: 0-11 in all Final Fours, men’s and women’s.

For all of the success State has enjoyed in baseball, it has never left Omaha as champion. Now, the Bulldogs can leave Dallas with a championship trophy on their first try Sunday.

If State wins Sunday, maybe the parade should stretch down Mississippi Highway 25 from Starkville to Jackson. Sure, the Ole Miss fans would bitch, but who cares?

State was not the biggest winner last night.

It was women’s basketball, period.

It had gotten to the point where the tournament was a mere formality, where 63 teams were basically playing for second place.

Now, other teams have hope. And not just Baylor, Stanford, Notre Dame and South Carolina. But the up and comers, too.

Starting in Starkville.

 

 

 

 

Musings from a Minsky’s barstool

I slept way, way too late today. Bad move on my part. 

I feel really bad about it, since I didn’t get to spend enough time with Molly at Buffalo Wild Wings. She only works on Saturdays, and I had not seen her since January 21. 

Because I slept so late, I didn’t get to Buffalo Wild Wings until almost 2. Then I left just before 4 so I could get to Minsky’s before the Kansas-Oklahoma State men’s basketball game at 5. I figured if I stayed at Buffalo Wild Wings later, I would be stuck there until after 7, and then parking at Minsky’s would be difficult. 

It was busy at Buffalo Wild Wings when I got there, but that was because Kansas State was playing Texas Tech. When the game ended (K-State won 61-48), the crowd thinned out rapidly. By 2:45, I was the only customer at the bar. And it stayed that way until I left. I had to promise Molly I would see her again before she and her fiancé, Jake, leave for Jamaica on March 27. 

I figure it’s time to expand my horizons and not spend hours upon hours in one place like I have in the past at Buffalo Wild Wings. Also, I can only eat so many chicken wings, which I have totally swore off for Lent. No traditional wings until after Easter, and no more boneless wings, period. 

Tara, the beautiful lady who took care of me the first time I came to Minsky’s, isn’t working tonight. She’s going to a concert with a friend. Glad she’s getting to enjoy herself. I saw her last night, which helped make my trip. The other part was seeing Robb and Dawn twice.  

Computer is still holding up. Phew. I figure I’m going back tomorrow evening to get work done Monday and Tuesday. This is the last busy week until April. By Wednesday afternoon, I’ll be pretty much in the clear, save for a very few things from state basketball. 

High school state basketball is screwy in Kansas. Too many sites, too many teams. It should be four teams, and everyone goes to a central site for the finals. I have long advocated it being Allen Fieldhouse, home of the Kansas Jayhawks, but that’s too idealistic. I would settle gladly for Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita. Or even Salina’s Bicentennial Center. But please, ONE SITE. Not eight. 

And please, get away from the cramped, dingy pit that is White Auditorium in Emporia. No parking, cramped concourses, stage at one end. Is this an optimum setting for a high school basketball state tournament, even if it is Kansas’ messed up version? I always have strongly disliked going there. You have to get there very early to make sure you aren’t parked three miles away. If Emporia were smart, they would offer shuttle service from the parking lots to the arena entrance. Or maybe let fans park at Emporia State’s football stadium and then bus them to the auditorium. 

Emporia is also a hard place to get to, unless you have easy access to Interstate 35 or the Kansas Turnpike. From western Kansas? Don’t get me started. From Russell and Hays, it’s either (a) drive to Salina, then to McPherson, and take two-lane roads east, or (b) drive to Topeka and double back on the Kansas Turnpike. I’ve usually opted for (b), simply because I don’t trust the two-lane roads. 

Hotel selections in Emporia are also very few and far between, so I’ve usually stayed in Wichita or Overland Park. I’ve even stayed in Platte County, my usual destination when I’m in Kansas City, and driven down the Turnpike. 

I shouldn’t say too much about Emporia. If I’m going to travel to watch Cailtyn play volleyball at Johnson County Community College, Coffeyville, Parsons, Independence, Fort Scott, Chanute and Iola would be on the docket. And if I thought Emporia is a hard place to get to, I haven’t seen anything like that. I went to Pittsburg once many years ago. Not fun. 

Kansas City will be overrun with basketball fans two of the next three weekends. Sprint Center hosts the Big 12 men’s tournament Wednesday through next Saturday, then the NCAA Midwest Regional March 23 and 25. Too bad KC cannot host the Final Four anymore, since the NCAA limits it to facilities with 30,000 or more seats.

🤡🤡🤡