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Archive for July, 2007

July 31, 2007 — Bill Walsh, 1931-2007

A few days ago, we described the coaching tree that Cindy Timchal has begun to grow throughout the women’s lacrosse world.

About the only person whose coaching tree was stronger was Bill Walsh, who died yesterday. A coach for 10 years for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers franchise, his impact — direct or indirect — is staggering.

Dozens of head and assistant coaches in the NFL either played under Walsh or coached alongside him. Others have coached under his star pupil Mike Holmgren, now the head coach in Seattle.

Here’s a physical representation of the Walsh coaching tree. Amazing, isn’t it? And I think Timchal’s tree will become just as impressive over time.

July 30, 2007 — It’s all about the money … or is it?

Somewhere in storage, I have a T-shirt that has written on it the following:

“This T-shirt cost me $70,123, and I’m worth every penny.”

The number represented a four-year tuition at Harvard in the mid-1980s. The annual announcements of tuition increases, analyses about how they meet or exceed the core rate of inflation, and their increasingly creative justifications are one of those news stories which tend to be underreported in these days of the conservative tabloid media.

But a funny thing has happened the last few years. Whereas the Ivy League and small New England colleges such as Bennington have been the leaders in high tuition rates, other universities are supplanting them.

Last year, George Washington University, located a few blocks from the high-security compound which The State Department has become, took over as the most expensive university to attend in America. It wasn’t necessarily because of the quality of education, but it was a combination of factors, not the least of which was the expense of finding off-campus student housing in a city where real estate prices have been climbing due to speculators and developers.

Today, it was revealed that the most expensive university in the state of New Jersey wasn’t Princeton. Instead, that title has been taken over by Drew University. This was because Princeton did not announce a tuition increase, although there was a 4.2 percent increase for Old Nassau’s room and board fees.

Currently, only one Ivy League school is in the Top 10 (Columbia University, now ranked eighth). Is that because the schools reached a “How much is enough?” tipping point, or alumni/ae pressure, or the realization that being on a Top 10 tuition list was not desirable?

I’ll give some credit to my alma mater for this. A few years back, Harvard implemented a program for which students, whose families made less than a certain amount of income, could attend for free, given the fact that costs were making it well nigh impossible to increase diversity at the school.

You can see this in the monumental 31.4 percent increase that the University of Richmond announced in 2005; Richmond is now the second most expensive school behind George Washington. The school has aggressively covered income shortfalls with loans and grants, much like Ivy League schools have for the last 30 years.

What troubles me, however, is that few people in the media, academia, and the government have asked the tough questions about runaway tuition increases. I remember some 20 years ago when Ralph Nader asked a Harvard student forum many of these same questions, and requested that students ask administrators exactly what they were receiving as a result of the increase.

But even Nader didn’t address the 800-pound gorilla in the room that afternoon: the United States has the most expensive higher-education system in the world. Even with that, new graduates now have to compete with people from India, Russia, and China for employment.

Which makes you wonder if paying all of that tuition is ultimately worth it.

July 29, 2007 — Why we compete

Today, in The Washington Post Magazine, Eli Saslow has written an insider account of Ellicott City Mount Hebron (Md.) and its pursuit of the National Federation record for consecutive girls’ lacrosse victories.

It’s the finest girls’ lacrosse story I have read in the nine years of administering this website.

July 28, 2007 — What’s in a storyline?

In a month, the American field hockey season begins in earnest, with the completion of the Apple Tournament in Louisville, the beginning of the NCAA season, and a fine early-season matchup between Flourtown Mount St. Joseph’s (Pa.) and Levittown Pennsbury (Pa.).

I’ve been asked what the year’s storylines are going to be in the American scholastic season. Here they are:

1. Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) will be playing two of Pennsylvania’s finest in a span of 15 days: Kingston Wyoming Seminary and Emmaus.

2. Williamsville (N.Y.) North attacking midfielder Chantae Miller, having already surpassed the recorded National Federation record for assists, is chasing down the all-time leading goal-scoring mark. She needs 67 to tie the all-time mark held by Sharon Landau of Mamaroneck Rye Neck (N.Y.).

3. Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.) returns three All-American players on attack in an attempt to repeat as Pennsylvania Class AA champions.

4. Maine adopts compulsory eyewear in 2007, and there are many protestations about recommendations for the same in New York, starting in 2008.

5. Hayley Rausch returns from a knee injury for Severna Park (Md.) and is looking to bring the Falcons another championship.

6. Debby Watson returns to coaching after a year off. The long-time coach at St. Louis Villa Duchesne (Mo.), however, used that year to help start a new school and a new team a few miles west of town in St. Charles, Mo.

7. The institution of a Tournament of Champions format in New Jersey has yet to inspire imitators, even in states which have just two state champions such as Massachusetts, Virginia, and Rhode Island. It also has yet to prompt California to play its four sectional champions into one undisputed title-holder.

8. Can Dallas (Pa.) parlay its successful girls’ spring soccer season and the talents of Tara Puffenberger and Paige Selenski into a state championship?

9. Stafford Mountain View (Va.) might have been two inches away from playing for a Class AAA state championship in only its second varsity season. How will the team use the overtime loss as motivation?

10. The prevalence of artificial grass and artificial turf has made the game much safer in many areas of the country. How safe is a matter of perspective.

July 27, 2007 — Timchal’s tendrils

Yesterday, the Syracuse Post-Standard reported that Syracuse University is in final negotiations to hire Gary Gait as lacrosse coach.

For the women’s team.

Gait, who was an assistant at Maryland for the Terrapins’ seven straight NCAA championships, comes back to women’s lacrosse for the first time since leaving Maryland in 2002.

Since then, he’s been quite busy. He became player-coach for the Baltimore Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse and coach for the Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League. He’s started a national youth development program for both male and female players which has threatened to upset the current order dominated by current youth clubs and the U.S. development system.

He also helped Canada to a win over the United States in the World Cup of men’s lacrosse with a tremendous performance in the final.

Gait’s reported move is just the latest in the extension of the Cindy Timchal coaching tree. Timchal, whose Terrapins won seven straight NCAA titles to close out the 1990s, will be coaching her first full varsity season at Navy next year, while her star pupils from the Maryland years are seemingly coaching everywhere.

Here’s just a sampling of Maryland alumnae coaching at NCAA institutions: Sonia LaMonica is at Towson, Quinn Carney and Courtney Connor are at UMBC, Allison Comito is at Stony Brook, Jen Adams and Cathy Reese are at Maryland, Alexis Venechanos is at Massachusetts, Acacia Walker and Kelly Amonte-Hiller are at Northwestern, Alex Kahoe and Kerstin Kimel are at Duke, and Michele Uhlfelder is at Stanford. Too, the coaching tree extends to the schools, as Carin Peterson pilots powerhouse Severna Park (Md.).

One day soon, you’re going to see four coaching staffs at the NCAA tournaments with Timchal’s imprimatur. And I mean, real soon.

July 26, 2007 — The sports page’s failures

“I always turn to the sports section first. The sports page records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.” — Chief Justice Earl Warren, Supreme Court of the United States

It’s a good thing Justice Warren never lived to see July 25, 2007. Yesterday, the major headlines were the following:

  • Michael Vick is told to stay away from Atlanta Falcons training camp as the National Football League and a prosecutor in Richmond, Va. explores charges of running a dogfighting ring.
  • Alexander Vinokourov and the entire Astana cycling team pulled out when the team’s leader was revealed to have been involved in blood doping.
  • Michael Rasmussen was then pulled from the Tour by his Rabobank team for lying about the circumstances of missing a drug test. Rasmussen was the leader of the Tour at the time, having fended off his rivals on the last mountain stage.
  • NBA referee Tom Donaghey was revealed to have been gambling on basketball games, some of which he refereed.
  • Revelations about Barry Bonds’ possible use of steroids were made by Patrick Arnold, a chemist at Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative who claims he was the maker of the undetectable performance-enhancing drug.

It’s almost as if though the entire fabric of the sports world is beginning to collapse. Sad.

July 25, 2007 — Beginning of the road

The U.S. women’s field hockey team has experienced a lot of long flights since 1999 — both to and from major competitions.

Some, emotionally, were much longer than others. There was the flight home from Winnipeg in 1999 after the U.S. team, having drawn Argentina in the final seconds of the first half, could not turn that emotional lift into Pan Am gold and an Olympic berth. There was the flight home from Milton Keynes in 2000 after the April Fool’s Day debacle against China. Four years later, the cycles repeated as the American women could not secure a Pan Am gold medal in the Dominican Republic. A few months later, in New Zealand, the Americans laid an egg against Korea in a game it needed to win to qualify for the Olympics.

The long-flight pattern continues this year. Despite playing some of its best international hockey in 20 years, the American women lost out on a chance to qualify for the Olympics from the Pan American Games, losing 4-2 to Argentina.

Tiffany Snow gave the Applebees a lead two minutes from halftime, but the Lionesses roared out of the locker room after the interval. The Albicelestes scored four goals in 12 minutes to take command — the first three of them from the run of play.

Here’s what makes this result difficult to swallow: the Americans, under the old system of Olympic qualification, this team has a much better chance of making the Olympics, since the single “repechage” system allows you to play up to the level of your competence.

Under the new qualification system, however, 18 teams will be sent to three tournaments — six to Canada, six to Russia, and six to Azerbajian. Until the fields are set, nobody is sure whether the tournament the United States will attend will be a Group of Death or will be given a gift of an easy tournament.

That uncertainty has likely hit the U.S. team right about now, and it won’t go away anytime soon.

July 24, 2007 — The day has arrived

For those of you looking to find out the results of today’s U.S.-Argentina gold-medal field hockey match, there are alternatives to the U.S. Field Hockey match-tracker.

On the Web, Terra has been putting together minute-long highlights packages, but you have to have the precise combination of media player and browser to be able to see them. This link is ESPN Deportes’ field hockey section (yes, heavily weighted towards Argentina).

According to an email I received this morning, the game will be on ESPN Deportes this afternoon. I don’t know whether it will be “plausibly live” or just stuck in a highlights package, since the schedule shows a single big block of programming from 12:50 p.m. to 10 p.m. today and both men’s soccer semifinals bracketing track and boxing when the field hockey final is scheduled.

Call your local cable/satellite provider to get ESPN Deportes — many times, you can get the feed within five minutes of your call. Or, you can venture to a sports bar in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood which will have a Spanish-language package.

And don’t worry about trying to understand what the announcers are saying: all you need to know is “Goooooooooolllll!”

July 23, 2007 — A letter from Rio

My friend Rebecca emailed me from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she is taking in some of the field hockey and other sports down at the Pan American Games.

From what she wrote, it sounds like little has changed from the old joke about how Brazil has failed to live up to the enormous promise of its people, natural resources, and joie de vivre. The old joke: “Brazil is ‘The Country of Tomorrow’ — and it always will be.”

Rebecca is staying some 25 miles from the field hockey venue, which is located at a military base, far away from any recognizable accomodations. It’s like putting field hockey way out at Fort Dix if the Olympics were awarded to New York or Philadelphia.

Thing is, there were a few safe — and not-so-safe — ways to get there because of street crime that makes places like The Bronx and South Central Los Angeles seem like a relative paradise. And, as it turned out, Rebecca’s Pan American Games bus overshot the military base by a couple of kilometers and she needed a military escort to get to the stadium.

Rebecca was not able to get tickets to the field hockey for Day 1 ahead of time, and, as it turned out, wasn’t able to get tickets when she arrived, either. The field hockey venue was sitting nearly empty, but the ticket computer indicated that the first day of games — a quadrupleheader — was sold out.

Rebecca, and a number of Argentine tifosi with her, protested. It was a nearly empty venue, but the computerized ticketing system — similar to Ticketmaster here — indicated a sellout.

As it turns out, these aren’t the only snafus in the Pan American Games organization. There was a massive power outage over the weekend in the country’s air traffic control system which disrupted flights worldwide and prevented U.S. athletes in track and field, wrestling, men’s volleyball, roller skating and diving from getting where they needed to go.

This was less than a week after a crash killed 191 people in Sao Paolo thanks to a short runway with poor drainage which had been seen as a problem by designers and planners.

The Pan Am Games aren’t over yet, but I think this is certain: without major changes in infrastructure, corruptive influences, and quality of life, Brazil isn’t hosting an Olympics or World Cup anytime soon.

July 22, 2007 — End of the road

After playing so well in the pool round, the United States men’s national team’s dream of making a qualification tournament for the Olympics hit a Jersey wall with a 4-1 loss to Cuba. That means the team can only finish as high as seventh, and needed to finish fifth in order to make one of the three last-chance qualification tournaments next year.

It’s a regrettable result for these hard-working young men. The team could have gone through the preliminaries undefeated if a couple of breaks had gone its way.

But, like has been the case the past 100 years or so, the men’s field hockey team participated without any sort of existing developmental apparatus for the young player — albeit participation amongst males was starting on an uptick in some places. High-performance centers for men are being established across the country, and that effort will, I am certain, continue.

Too, you are having male players in some states becoming leaders on their teams: Allentown William Allen (Pa.) was perhaps about three inches from a 2005 state championship thanks in large part to Lamar Long, a forward/attacking midfielder of considerable skill.

But male players in states which allow them on girls’ teams are not the solution to participation: that has to come when boys play on boys’ varsity teams. There are enough coaches of current girls’ and women’s teams willing to lend a hand if it does not take away their time from their programs. But given the single-gender nature of the sport, and the way that sports seen as single-gender are treated (wrestling, gymnastics) by NCAA institutions, having men’s college field hockey one day would be a net benefit for the game nationwide — if not the continent. Look at how collegiate women’s field hockey in Canada has been dying on the vine the last two decades.

But as for this country, we’ve previously discussed the possibility of varsity boys’ field hockey, a definite possibility in some places. There is one other nagging question, however: when should boys’ varsity field hockey take place in the school calendar? In the fall, where it conflicts with football and soccer? Or in the spring, where it conflicts with baseball and lacrosse? Or, perhaps, should it be played in the summer in school districts which have gone to year-round schedules?

What do you think?