Connecticut #1 in all of college sports?

The Champs are here!

The Champs are here!

In a span of 24 hours the melting pot of college basketball wasn’t Dallas or Nashville, but Storrs Connecticut. For the second time in history the UConn men’s and women’s basketball teams are the National Champions at the same time. The school is now an incredible 13-0 in National Title games with four men’s championships and a record best nine National Championships for the women. 2014 will be remembered for the historic run of the men’s team after going through the ringer the previous season and the sheer dominance the women’s program which once again ran the table with 40 wins. After this week the main question shouldn’t be about UConn’s dominance, but the state’s dominance as a whole. Is Connecticut becoming one of if not the best state in the nation for college sports?

Hockey is on the rise in the Nutmeg state

Hockey is on the rise in the Nutmeg state

I can already hear the yelling and screaming already. What are you nuts? Connecticut the best state for college sports? Blasphemous! But is it? In the span of twelve months the state has won 4 National Championships. Last year, Yale won the hockey National Championship to go with the three championships the Huskies added, two in basketball one in field hockey. We all know about basketball. The UConn men remain one of the best programs in the country, and the women are in a league of their own. However, the nutmeg state has become a hotbed for college hockey. Last year both Yale and Quinnipiac made it to the finals in hockey and both have been perennial powers for years with consistent top 15 rankings in the country. With UConn hockey moving into Hockey East and steadily improving, the question is becoming when not if another team from the Constitution state will win the National Championship.

Yeah, but what about football? True Connecticut is not a football state, this isn’t Alabama with the Crimson Tide and Auburn. I think that is pretty obvious, but across the board the other sports in this state prove that Connecticut is the cream of the crop in college sports. Field Hockey? UConn won the National Championship in 2013. Baseball? UConn reached the regionals for the first time in 2013. Along with these national appearances the Connecticut schools have won numerous conference championships across the board.

Connecticut could soon be the place to be.

Connecticut could soon be the place to be.

With already established powerhouses, and strong up and comers, the Nutmeg state could soon be more than just the center of college basketball, but the NCAA universe as well. With some of the greatest underrated fan bases in the country, it’s not hard to see why Connecticut loves it’s college teams. With dominance in basketball and hockey, if Connecticut can establish another team or teams that become perennial powers, it will be hard to argue that Connecticut is not a great home for college sports, but “the home” for college sports.

 

The ones who didn’t get away : SMU college football’s greatest mistake.

With the "Pony Express" of Eric Dickerson and Craig James, SMU became one of college football's greatest dynasties

With the “Pony Express” of Eric Dickerson and Craig James, SMU became one of college football’s greatest dynasties

SMU. What do these three letters mean to you? Don’t worry take a few seconds. Done? Ok good. My guess is that you have no idea what those three letters stand for. It’s ok, you can thank the NCAA for that. Back in the early 1980’s the Mustangs of Southern Methodist University, SMU, fielded one of the greatest team’s in college football history. From 1981-194 the Mustangs would be 41-5-1 with three conference championships. Not only that, but they had arguably had the greatest backfield tandem with NFL greats Eric Dickerson and Craig James. So what happened to them? Why does none know of this great football dynasty? One word: money. If I was to list all of the NCAA football programs who have made illegal payments to student athletes, it would take forever. A few do come to mind though; USC, Miami, Ohio State, Alabama, and Kentucky just to name a few. Why is SMU different? Well they were the ones that were penalized the most. What happened was that SMU boosters were actually signing players to professional contracts to come play college football. Just ask Dickerson, where the most common joke is that he took a pay cut when he came to the NFL. All of a sudden after Ron Meyer took over a struggling program in 1978, SMU soon became a recruiting juggernaut. In 1979 Eric Dickerson was the most sought after player in high school football. While originally committing to Texas A&M, which itself was shady because he somehow wound up with a gold Trans-Am, at the last-minute Dickerson decided to commit to SMU. Many coaches and fans were left wondering, how the heck is SMU getting all these players? During the eighties the team would be hit with sanction after sanction when it became apparent that SMU had been giving incentives to its players. In 1984 the program was put on probation for two seasons after it was discovered that an offensive lineman, Sean Stopperich, had been given money and a house for his family from SMU alums. After this probation the NCAA created the so-called “Death Penalty” for second time offenders to the NCAA rules. After two 6-5 seasons, SMU would find itself in the crosshairs of the NCAA. After not being

David Stanley blew the lid off the SMU program

David Stanley blew the lid off the SMU program

allowed to join the team after a drug problem, linebacker David Stanley interviewed with Dallas Channel 8 and exposed that SMU was still paying players even after the 1985 probation. The main reason SMU didn’t stop the payments is because they knew that if they stopped the payments, someone would talk. After the news broke, the NCAA decided to act. On February 25, 1987 the NCAA banned the SMU football program from playing any games or scholarships as the program was issued the “Death Penalty”. With the death of the SMU program, the lone star state lost not only lost the only major college football team in the state’s largest metropolis Dallas, but it exposed a rampant problem of illegally recruiting throughout the state of Texas. To make matters worse, the chairman of SMU who has promised to clean up the program was none other than Texas governor Bill Clements. Think about it, the governor of the state didn’t stop a cheating scandal for a college football program.  After the Death Penalty, SMU’s top players were allowed to 1smuthe University, which a vast majority of them did. It wasn’t until 1989 when the SMU football program would return to the field. However, with their reputation and a crack down on recruitment, SMU found it impossible to recruit the same talent they had before. Marred the scandal the program the Mustangs were forced to join Conference USA after the SWC dissolved. Despite the move from 1989-2009,  SMU would only have one winning season. Despite a recent resurgence in the program, including moving into the American Athletic Conference, the program still is nowhere near being a national competitor like in the early eighties. While only time will tell use how Penn State’s probation will affect the school long-term, it’s clear it will not be as severe as SMU. While many of the schools today get put on probation or might lose some scholarships or bowl appearances, it doesn’t come close to suspending the entire program for two seasons. Did SMU deserve to get slammed for its actions? Absolutely! Did it deserve the opportunity to compete for thirty years? No. After the Death Penalty was issued and the impact of the decision was realized, it’s my personal opinion that the NCAA will never issue another Death Penalty again. First there is too much money at stake, especially if they ever had to get rid of a top program for one year. Also, I believe the NCAA thought that SMU could recover, but after realizing the damage it did, the NCAA will not put another program through the same turmoil. Just look at Penn State. This was a program

The legacy of SMU still lingers, especially with all the corruption that still surrounds college football

The legacy of SMU still lingers, especially with all the corruption that still surrounds college football

that had egregious crimes, and while they did get severely penalized, they were allowed to keep their program. Of all the people who suffered the most from SMU’s penalty, it was the kids. The fans, and athletes who didn’t get money were being punished for something that they weren’t involved in. Why should a whole school, football program, and city suffer for the bad decisions of a few individuals? While Penn State fans are upset about their bowl appearances and Joe Paterno’s wins being forfeited, but they still have a competitive team to root for. SMU had to go two years without a team to cheer for and have gone almost thirty years without a team that they could dream would be in the hunt for a National title. I hope SMU can get there one day. While it is a steep climb to the top, this program has been steadily moving the right direction for the past couple of seasons. This is a team that I think a lot of fans can get behind. A team and fan base that has gone through so much finally rising from the ashes and reaching upward. Being a UCONN fan myself, I’m ecstatic the SMU Mustangs are joining the AAC. They are a team on the rise and a team that once again could make some national noise in the future. Who knows, maybe one day SMU fans the Pony Express will ride once again.

Fried Rice: Rutgers Basketball scandal

Rice has been fired after video leaks of his controversial practices

Rice has been fired after video leaks of his controversial practices

Ok coaches can be pains in the you know whats. Any person that’s played any sport has had bad coaches. There’s the parent coach who thinks their child is god’s gift to the sport even though they trip over their own shadow. Then there’s the screamer, the classic coach who is always blue faced and screaming at the referee even when he’s pulling out of the parking lot. While their our hotheaded and so-called “fiery” coaches the key thing is that they don’t cross a line. Cue in Rutger’s coach Mike Rice, who should be known as the scarlet knight since his face is generally that shade of red. The Coach of the Scarlet Knights since 2010 Rice had mediocre success leading the team with a sub par 44-51 record. Maybe it was his record, family life, or maybe he lost a game of monopoly but Rice was frustrated to the point that he began to take out his frustration on his players. On December 13, 2012 Rice was fined 50,000$ and suspended for 3 games for abusive behavior towards his players. Video obtained from practice showed Rice throwing basketballs and obscenties at his players and forced athletic director  Tim Pernetti to hand out the suspension.   But like all scandals this was just the tip of the iceberg. Turns out that back in the summer assistant coach Eric Murdock told Pernetti about the practices and even priced him with hours of footage. Murdock was fired so afterward and is currently suing the school for being terminated unfairly. Despite all the evidence the AD decided to just suspend Rice for the three games. If this was a one time occurrence then a suspension would be acceptable but this had been going on for years. Are you kidding me? This man physically and verbally abused the student athletes of the University and your going to protect him? Today Rutgers dismissed Pernetti as the Athletic Director, but the damage has been done. The Rutgers athletic program’s reputation is damaged after the scandal went national when Outside The Lines aired the footage an April second. You can watch that here. This man was nuts screaming obscenities, gay slurs, and throwing basketballs at their heads! Now I believe the NCAA should stop focusing on kids taking minor improper benefits, to the leaders of the athletic programs. This is the second time in just a few years that there has been a horrifying scandal within an athletic department. It brings up the frightening prospect what else is going on at other programs? The NCAA has to start investigating the men and women who are running these programs and assure the parents of NCAA athletes that this was just an isolated incident and that their children are safe. Once again though, it’s the kids who suffer. The basketball players that were abused, the kids that wanted to come to Rutgers, and the current students that feel ashamed to be at a school with this scandal. Once thing is for certain, it’s time for healing at Rutgers.