Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Navy Nails Down Agreement With Bowl Game in Charlotte

Navy football officials reached a deal for another bowl game tie-in yesterday and could announce one more in the near future, Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk said.

Gladchuk said Navy will play in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte if it wins at least six games this fall and is negotiating with officials from the Insight Bowl to guarantee the Midshipmen will head to Tempe, Ariz., if they are bowl eligible in 2008.

Under the deal with the Meineke bowl, the Midshipmen or the third selection from the Big East Conference will face an ACC team on Dec. 30 at Bank of America Stadium.

Navy also holds the option of playing in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego anytime it has a winning season in 2008, 2009 or 2010, and Gladchuk said he plans to meet with Poinsettia Bowl officials with the hopes of landing a spot in the 2007 game.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Rule Tackles Blowouts In High School Football

Expect New London High School football coach Jack Cochran to operate next season as he always has, and if that means his team wins by 50 points or more, so be it. And expect Cochran to be suspended for doing so.

In what some are referring to as the "Cochran rule," the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference football committee passed a score management policy to be instituted next season. The rule says if a team wins by 50 or more points, the coach is suspended for the next game.

Although many have accused Cochran of running up scores, he doesn't see it that way. And he doesn't like this rule. On that point, he has company.

"It won't change anything with how I prepare for a game," Cochran said. "Where it's going to run into problems is when you've got your second team in or you've got your freshmen in; what do you tell them? One coach is saying he's just going to have his guys take a knee. I would never do that. I would never tell a kid to run out of bounds instead of scoring.

"I will probably have to take a suspension next year. If it comes down to letting a freshman or a [junior varsity] player score at the varsity level or me being suspended, I'm not going to stop that kid from doing that. I cherish the sport too much and believe in it too much to tell some kid he can't play the game the right way."

The rule, passed in April, says if a team wins by 50 points or more it will be called an unsportsmanlike act. Under the CIAC's disqualification rule, the coach will be suspended for the next game. The football committee is made up of coaches and school administrators, all formerly involved in coaching."

Our football committee has been discussing this topic for two or three years and they've been studying policies," said CIAC Assistant Executive Director Tony Mosa. "It certainly didn't just come about after last year. We certainly have been having a lot of criticism regarding what appeared to be a high number of high scores."

Mosa said 12 games last season had a differential of more than 55 points."

That's really not an exorbitant number, but 12 is too many," Mosa said.

Of the 659 games reported to the CIAC last year, there were 27 in which teams won by at least 50 points. Cochran's New London team won four games by 55 or more, including a 90-0 victory over Griswold."

The CIAC is sending the wrong message," Cochran said. "It's protectionism of those that can't compete. Do you tell people at work that everyone has to make the same amount of money and they can't succeed? This is about teaching kids to work hard and that success will come. For a lot of guys out there, when they get beat handily it makes them stronger and they go back and work harder."

Some states use a system that calls for a running clock when a team has reached a certain advantage. Although Connecticut has no rule that allows a running clock, many coaches employ the practice in blowouts."

I had a season where I had seven games where the clock was run in the second half. It works," Cochran said. "The problem with that is sometimes opponents won't do it. The Griswold coach [Glenn LaBossiere] wouldn't do it with me last year. But I've very rarely had a coach that didn't want to do that."

Mosa said the running clock system was something the football committee saw as prohibitive to giving second- and third-string players the chance to play.

"You do that and the game is over before anybody can even get in," Mosa said.

The rule applies only to the final score. A team could be leading 55-0 and back off defensively so that its opponent could score a touchdown that prevents a coach's suspension.

Tim Panteleakos, coach of the Tourtellotte (Thompson)/Ellis Tech (Danielson) co-op team, sees putting in a rule to thwart running up the score as a double-edged sword.

Panteleakos, who has coached the co-op team since its inception in 2000, was charged last season with breach of peace after having words with Cochran as they were leaving the field at halftime of a game in New London. Panteleakos said he was angered when Cochran used a timeout late in the half so his team could score more points. New London won, 60-0.

"I think it's a very progressive rule," Panteleakos said. "You really have to adhere to scoring management. It's not something that when you come in as a young coach that you're really aware of because you just want your kids to succeed."

But Panteleakos sees problems with the rule, too.

"We had a small school like Putnam on our schedule last year, and they're experiencing some problems with numbers and that sort of thing," Panteleakos said. "Putnam didn't have enough kids to go to a second string. So now you've got a few kids on that field from Putnam that are getting their butts whipped week in and week out and they're angry young men. Now me, as the head coach on the other side, I'm reluctant to put some of my second and third string in against a kid on the other side who is going to take the head off of any kid he sees. So I have to leave my first string in there, and they're going to keep playing the game."

Asked whether he thought the CIAC was instituting the rule because of the actions of one coach, Panteleakos said, "I think at the moment they are."

Mosa denied that, saying the rule was "not directed at one particular school or individual."

Cochran took umbrage with Hyde-New Haven coach John Acquavita referring to the rule in a published report as the "Jack Rule."

"He's pointing blame, and I don't think that's fair of him," Cochran said. "He's got a lot of lopsided scores. They're a hell of a football program. But it's easy to blame someone else when you don't like something new."

Northwest Catholic-West Hartford coach Mike Tyler said he was surprised by the decision to implement the rule and says many coaches have the same feeling.

"I'm still trying to absorb the whole thing," Tyler said. "When I was told about it, I just thought there wasn't much discussion about this."

Like many in the state, Tyler sees the rule as leading to troublesome situations.

"Regarding telling kids to just fall on balls and don't pick it up, you've got kids that are in there that don't get to get in often, and it's their chance to shine a little bit," Tyler said. "How do you tell that kid not to pick it up and run? I don't know if I could tell a kid that, but if I was going to get suspended in the next game it would be different."

Cochran sees the rule as another hindrance in helping kids in the state to move on with their football careers at higher levels.

"You look at all the other states, we're one of the weakest when it comes to football," Cochran said. "It's simply because of the restrictions put on us for coaching time. Until that changes, it's a disservice to every kid that plays football in this state. At the end of the day, they're competing against kids from Pennsylvania and New Jersey and Florida to move on and it's not a level playing field. This is just another restriction that's going to hinder football in this state."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Philco Radio

Dave Potchak

I didn’t have my own bedroom. I had to share one with my younger brother. And it wasn’t laden with electrical appliances and gadgets, at least not compared to an adolescent’s bedroom today. But what this 12 year-old did have was a Philco AM radio, and I was as tickled with that as I was with having my own bed. The radio was all mine too, given to me by my dad, and it became a part of my media connection to sports in an era when there was very little else to make that tie.

I‘d catch every Pittsburgh Pirate ball game I could. WJAC in Johnstown picked up the broadcast from KDKA in Pittsburgh. With his relentless rat a tat tat style of delivery, “The Gunner,” legendary Bob Prince called the “play-by-play” and supplemented his own hue of color at the same time. His comments became imbedded in my brain as much as the names of my favorite Pirate players. Roberto Clemente, Dick Groat, Bill Mazeroski, Bill Virdon, The Deacon (Vernon Law), Dick Stuart and Elroy Face were just a few of the names I heard often.

“We had ‘em all the way,” Prince shouted at the end of every close game won by the Pirates, and “that’s a can of corn in Bobby’s glove!” as Clemente routinely made a thigh-high, basket catch of a fly ball in right field. Prince could magically pull out a win from the booth like no other. “All we need now is a bloop and a blast,” he’d wish out loud.

Combined with my prayers we divinely influenced many a game. I can still hear him cry out “Arriba, Arriba,” as Clemente came to bat with runners on. I enjoyed listening to him as much or more than seeing a game in person. I tuned in to both home and away games. Sunday afternoons, weekday evenings, it made no difference to me - I listened to every game. But, my favorite games were those that the Pirates played on the west coast.

After wishing mom and dad a “goodnight,” I’d hit the sack around 10:00, but didn’t have the slightest intention of going to sleep. Around 10:30 I turned on the old Philco, waited the usual 3 or 4 minutes for it to warm up, and then didn’t miss a pitch until the game ended, sometimes in the early hours of the following morning. Extra innings – I loved them! “You look tired,” mom said often the following morning, as I got ready for school. “Are you feeling ok?” she’d ask.

To this day I don’t know if my parents had any idea how many times I lay awake back then, listening to those games. I know I looked more tired and irritated if the “Buccos” lost. Win or lose, I was their biggest 12 year-old fan in the world.

That radio was made of a brittle yellow plastic and it was nicely equipped with only two black knobs, which promptly fell off if you weren’t careful. Chipped and cracked corners enhanced its d├ęcor. A small light bulb illuminated the station selections which were located in a semi-circle under a transparent cover, so scratched you could barely see the digits.

I remember the rotating needle and how it drifted off every couple of minutes and how you had to adjust the knob often to keep WJAC tuned in. The reception faded in and out too, and a static-like interference was common. Rain, lightning or a plane-flying overhead, were constant deterrents from a clear broadcast. None of that bothered me very much though. I was more concerned when Jerry Lynch hit a pinch-hit homer in extra innings to pull out a Pirate win. It was almost as if he was responding to Prince’s encouragement from the booth, because on more than one occasion it was predicted.

I’d cheer out-loud when Willie Mays (the predecessor to Pete Rose’s nickname of Mr. Hustle) slapped a single to right, took the turn too wide around first, and Clemente would rifle him down as he slid back into the bag. I could visualize the fact that Clemente made a habit of lethargically picking up the ball, only to entice Mays to take that wide turn. “You think he’d know better by now,” I said to myself.

I loved the intra-state rival games with the Phillies too. Prince dared to compare Clemente with Philadelphia’s great right fielder, Johnny Callison. Both possessed explosive arms that could propel a ball from deep right to home with great accuracy. Prince proudly pointed out, though, that Clemente was a complete player; he was a better hitter, better power hitter and better fielder than Callison. I wondered then, as I do now, what Philly fans think of that comparison.

I don’t know how old that Philco radio was when my dad gave it to me. I do know it still worked all through my high school and college years and then just disappeared sometime later. Yes, it was old, but it was an incredible piece of electronics for its day. I never had to replace a tube – it had no transistors. The FM feature, so popular today, was an extraordinary luxury that my radio didn’t have. It also did not function as a clock and I am glad it didn’t. I really didn’t want to know what time it was while listening to those games, and if I did know the time, it wouldn’t have stopped me from continuing anyway.

You see, before there where CD’s, stereo-phonic sound systems, digitally programmed radios and satellite receivers, there existed true fans and a love of baseball. And long before the world revolved around space-age electronics, there was a 12 year-old kid who loved to listen to the Pirates on an old AM radio. Today, I am sure I would not trade that memory for all the Radio Shack, Circuit City and Rex franchises in the world.

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