Thursday, August 03, 2006

Randomization: 08/03/06

I know I picked them last...but how do you not root for Northwestern? In a sick twist of fate, the Wildcat players and coaches are left to deal with the sudden loss of head coach Randy Walker, who died of a heart attack in late June. Luckily for Northwestern, they have someone leading them who has handled an awkward situation with absolute grace. Ivan Maisel of has the latest in what will be a season-long series of gripping, emotional looks at new head coach Pat Fitzgerald and the work he has been doing trying to nurse his young players through this recovery, while also trying to recover himself.

Fitzgerald is only 31 years old, the youngest coach in Division I-A by a goodly margin, but when you read Maisel's piece, you get a sense that Fitzgerald is not only wise beyond his years, but that his youth may give him an advantage when it comes to connecting with this team and making sure he takes care of his players. He also knows what Walker was trying to teach his players and assistant coaches, and he is ready to continue with those lessons with his team:

"He just asked everybody to push themselves to be their best and strive for excellence," Fitzgerald said. "He would always say, 'I don't get it when people won't try to be that way. I don't understand that.' It's a very moral way to live your life. He was demanding and intolerant of us as coaches and of our players. He'd see things in you that you could never imagine that you could do. He would set a course and push you to be the best you could possibly be."
Obviously, it would have been hard to argue a decision by Northwestern AD Mark Murphy to look outside the program for a veteran coach, but he understood that the best course for this program was to promote from within. And Fitzgerald, youth aside, was the absolutely perfect choice.

OU needs a quarterback...for real this time. Anyone who read my Big 12 South preview knows that I really wasn't a huge fan of Oklahoma sophomore QB Rhett Bomar. It's not that I didn't think the kid had a chance to be a real good player, it's that I didn't think he was a real good player yet.

That said, it seems that some have overestimated Bomar's value because of the promise he showed at times last year. Mark Schalabach writes that OU's title hopes are dead, though he did nail at least one part of this story:

By booting his quarterback, Stoops might have jeopardized another season. At least he didn't sacrifice his integrity, which is something Barry Switzer might have done.
Bingo. It's going to be tough for Stoops to win here, because he's now forced to groom a new quarterback while also nurturing Oklahoma's national title hopes through an early-season test at Oregon before the October showdown with Texas.

I'll agree with those who say that OU's road to the BCS just got a bit bumpier. But I don't agree that the loss of Bomar is a death knell for the team's title hopes. The running game, offensive line, and defense are all championship-caliber.

Crime spree! The (alleged) exploits of San Jose State football player Ellid T. Jones III have been well-publicized, and Every Day Should Be Saturday has been forced to pretty much end the chase for the coveted Fulmer Cup, but it's absolutely worth mentioning here that Jones, expected to compete for a starting job on defense at SJSU, has found himself in more than a little bit of hot water:

Jones, 20, was charged Thursday with robbery, false imprisonment and other crimes for allegedly getting potential buyers to meet him and then zapping them with a Taser or threatening them with a gun in four June stickups in San Jose.
Congratulations to San Jose State. I'm sure that Jones will end up being the Most Valuable Criminal of this year's Fulmer Cup chase, since he pretty-much singlehandedly won it for his institution.

The beginning of the end for open enrollment? If it is, good riddance. The Minnesota State High School League finally came to its senses, and they've employed a 40-member panel to look into open enrollment in high schools across the state. The media pressure and fan/parent backlash has evidently led them to this move, though as the Star Tribune notes, a move by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association may have been the actual impetus for the MSHSL's decision to look further into the issue.

The WIAA instituted a new transfer rule that go into effect in 2007-2008. Under the new rule, any athlete who has completed his/her sophomore year cannot transfer from one high school to another without sitting out one calendar year of athletic competition, unless the student's family moves from one district to the other.

I'm all for parents finding a good academic fit for their kids. But open enrollment, as it stands in Minnesota, is an open invitation for parents and their kids to abuse the system. They can transfer away from a coach they don't get along with. They can transfer away from a program that employs system that they feel don't fit the child's talents. They can transfer away from a smaller program that may struggle to gain notoriety, in favor of a large school or a big-time program where they feel the kid will be noticed more. Some 10,000 kids grades 9-12 are believed to have transferred in Minnesota in each of the past three years.

People whine about programs recruiting these kids, which is absolutely against the current rules. While I have always believed this is going on, I don't think that the big-time programs in the state have to recruit kids. The program's success does the recruiting for them. If you curtail open enrollment, you turn recruiting into more of a non-issue as a result. And outside of making a move to slow down open enrollment, the MSHSL really doesn't have a prayer of stopping recruiting, because unless a coach or parent is really stupid, it's impossible to catch recruiters.

Will there still be parents who move to a different area so their kid can attend a different school and avoid transfer penalties? Sure. But how many families are so serious about their child's athletic career that they would incur the expense of moving to a different city/neighborhood for that reason?


USAFA Bulldog said...

The top athletes will still get where they want to go, taking advantage of the changing districts clause. I'm guessing this also has zero effect on private school, which is what many people are complaining about (I myself don't complain about them). I can't see how you could enforce this on the privates.

Bruce Ciskie said...

Enforcement on private schools is simple. If you want to transfer to one, you'd better go before your sophomore year is over.

As for the top athletes, let's be many families are going to uproot and move just for the sake of playing in a different program once the kid has completed his/her sophomore year?

Frankly, if a family wants to incur that expense, that's their problem, not the MSHSL's. I don't think it will happen that often.