Thursday, August 30, 2007

Virginia Tech: Remembering the 32

But enough scandal already. I have commented in the past how sports events can serve as a focus point for healing communities. At Virginia Tech, the wounds are still raw and fresh, but Saturday's home opener in football will hopefully provide an opportunity for some of those wounds to be be healed:

Beamer, Hokies strive for emotional balance in opener

By Mark Schlabach

Updated: August 29, 2007, 4:56 PM ET

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer knows Saturday's opener against East Carolina at Lane Stadium will be as emotional as any game he's coached in two decades at his alma mater.

Tears will be shed. The 32 victims of the horrific April 16 campus shooting will be remembered.

But at the same time, Beamer knows his No. 9 Hokies have to win a ballgame, too.

"We assume that just because there's going to be a great atmosphere in the stadium that everything is going to be OK," Beamer said. "I don't think we can assume that. We've got to make sure we take care of our business as a football team."

The Hokies have tried to find a delicate balance as they prepare for the beginning of a season filled with such great possibilities. While the Virginia Tech campus is filled with the excitement and potential of a new football season, the damage done by a lone gunman on that cold, blustery April morning is still fresh in the minds of everyone here. . . .

"We're playing for somebody else, not only ourselves," linebacker Vince Hall said. "We're playing for the victims and their families. We're playing for everybody."

Other schools have looked to athletics as outlets of recovery in the past. In 1966, Texas played Southern Cal only 47 days after Charles Whitman, a former Marine, stood atop the observation deck of the University of Texas Tower and shot 47 people with his rifle. Whitman killed 14 people before he was shot and killed by police.

Four years later, on Nov. 14, 1970, while the Marshall University football team was returning to campus in Huntington, W.Va., its chartered Southern DC-9 jet crashed into a hill near the airport. All 75 passengers were killed, including 37 players and eight members of the Thundering Herd's coaching staff. It was the greatest tragedy in the history of the American sports. . . .

More recently, Texas A&M and Tulane looked to sports for healing or, if nothing else, a distraction.

Building a massive bonfire before the Texas game had been a tradition at Texas A&M for 90 years. But on Nov. 18, 1999, a week before the bonfire was to be lit on Thanksgiving night, the 40-foot high stack of nearly 5,000 logs collapsed while it was being constructed by students. The accident killed 12 students and injured 27 others. The school's football team and Corps of Cadets helped emergency workers remove logs to rescue the injured and remove bodies.

A week later, on the night the bonfire was to be lit, more than 40,000 people gathered at the accident site and observed more than two hours of silence. The crowd then walked to Kyle Field for the traditional midnight yell practice, where the crowd spontaneously relit their candles to honor the students who died. The following morning, the Aggies upset the No. 5 Longhorns 20-16 in what was perhaps the most emotional game ever played in College Station, Texas. . .
Elsewhere, Southern Methodist University is one of the many schools who also be remembering the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre on Saturday:

SMU athletes to accept donations for Virginia Tech during game

Associated Press

Updated: August 29, 2007, 6:52 PM ET

DALLAS -- Southern Methodist University student athletes plan to accept donations during Monday's football game to give to Virginia Tech to distribute to the survivors and families of those killed during a mass shooting last spring.

The athletes will be stationed at each of the gates of Ford Stadium during the game with Texas Tech to accept donations and distribute white balloons to be released following a moment of silence before the game.

Virginia Tech president Charles W. Steger said he was thankful for the support.

"Such expressions of care and compassion during our darkest hours have lighted our road to recovery. We are forever grateful for your support and kindness," Steger said. . . .

The school has received more than $7 million in contributions that are to be distributed among the injured and families of those killed.

Fulmer Cup: Winner Announced!

This years Fulmer Cup (named for the felonious over-achievements of University of Tennessee football players under the tutelage of Coach Philip Fulmer) has been awarded to the University of Illinois, with a score of 24 points. State Penn, which seemed to have developed an insurm0untable lead as a result of the spring brawl, ultimately landed in second place with 19 points as charges were slowly dropped. Florida and Idaho tied for third place with 17 points, and Michigan rounded out the top 5 with 15.

The win by Illinois came as a result of the intramural residential burglary and theft activities of Wide Receivers Jody Ellis and Derrick McPhearson. Individual honors, represented by the Ellis T. Jones Award Golden Taser for Individual Achievement (Mr. Jones, of San Diego State scored 31 points by himself in 2006) went to Ronnie Wilson of Florida, who livened up a visit to a club back in April by breaking out his automatic weapon.

Ummm. . .Congratulations????

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Toledo Betting Scandal: New Details

There is a thorough and excellent article by Mike Fish and George J. Tanber on the University of Toledo betting scandal at, which sheds a great deal of light on the tawdry world of gambling on college sports.

As summer ends, heat is on in Toledo point-shaving case

Toledo president Lloyd Jacobs has a compliance mess on his hands:
Now, as fall practice proceeds, questions of athlete eligibility linger for the football and basketball teams. Even more troubling for Toledo are the institutional control questions: Did Toledo athletic officials know of any wrongdoing? If they didn't, should they have known? . . .

Earlier, Jacobs said that, before the season's start, the eligibility for every basketball and football player other than incoming freshmen would be reviewed and that the athletes would be interviewed by athletic department officials. Part of the review, presumably, is a requirement that players sign a statement saying they have not been involved in gambling activity. As of mid-August, that process remained incomplete. "We are at the midway point of the interviewing process, and eligibility of players has not been determined yet," said Toledo spokesman Matt Lockwood.
You might want to get on that before the home opener on Saturday!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Saga of Simeon Castille, 'One of the Finest Young Men on our Team'

It was all a misunderstanding. Just some horsing around. Nothing Serious. Simeon Castille's arrest was not warranted, at least according to his father:

August 20, 2007

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- The father of star Alabama cornerback Simeon Castille said Monday his son's arrest on a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct over the weekend was not warranted, and he was working to get the case dismissed. . . .

The elder Castille said the arrest was unwarranted based on reports from witnesses.

"Basically," Jeremiah Castille said, "he was talking to his teammates and horse-playing around."

Jeremiah Castille, who also played at Alabama and has a Christian ministry, said a lawyer representing the family hoped to meet with a representative of the Tuscaloosa Police Department and have the case thrown out.

Coach Nick Saban does not condone Castille's behaviour:

Tuesday August 21, 2007

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama coach Nick Saban said Tuesday cornerback Simeon Castille would be punished "internally" for his early morning arrest on a disorderly conduct charge, the fourth arrest in the same off-campus bar district this summer.

Saban said he had already settled on what the punishment would be but would not say if it includes a game suspension leading up to the opener Sept. 1 against Western Carolina.

"This is not the kind of behavior that we want in the program," Saban said in is first public comments on Castille's arrest over the weekend. "We will correct it internally, and I am very hopeful that we will not have these kinds of situations occur in the future."

But went on to say that:
Castille "certainly received a tremendous amount of punishment and embarrassment relative to what he did." He called Castille "one of the finest young men on our team.
Many Alabama fans are, predictably, blaming the police:

Fingers point after Castille’s arrest
City officials endure wrath of UA fans
August 28, 2007

TUSCALOOSA | After more than 33 years, Tuscaloosa Police Chief Ken Swindle is no longer surprised at the reaction whenever a University of Alabama football player runs afoul of the law.

“I think everyone just wants a winning team here at the university," Swindle said. “But you don’t stand in the middle of the street using cuss words and threatening to whip somebody."

The latest subject of fan outrage centers on cornerback Simeon Castille, 21, who is accused of shouting obscenities and holding up traffic at about 2 a.m. Aug. 19 on the Strip. He told police that he was kidding around with teammates in an SUV driving along University Boulevard, but was arrested anyway. . . .

In the wake of Castille’s arrest, Tide fans lit up sports radio phone lines and Internet forums chastising the Tuscaloosa Police Department.

Sports radio host Paul Finebaum has heard such reactions for 16 years.

But the vitriol from the Alabama faithful this time around was beyond the norm, Finebaum said.

“This is about as bad as I’ve ever heard fans rush to judgment on something," he said. “Suddenly, everyone out there seemed to be an expert [on disorderly conduct criteria]. . . .

“No one here has a problem with the officer running over and detaining Simeon," wrote a person identified as “Kchambers" on the forum on Sunday. “What we have a problem with is him not learning the facts of the situation ... [I]t was just college kids being stupid. He [Castille] should have been scolded and sent home as well as anyone else in that situation."

Another forum poster, who identified himself as a Tuscaloosa attorney, wrote, “The arrest was a huge abuse of police 'power.’ And actually because of who he is, he’ll end up in some kind of agreement that requires some community service or something where anyone else either would not have been arrested or the charge would have been pretty much summarily dropped.

“No city attorney is going to prosecute such a case when there are a dozen witnesses that will say nothing happened other than simple horse play. All the cop had to say was 'move along.’ "

Taking their anger out

Fans haven’t just taken their complaints to talk radio and the Internet.

As of Friday, Swindle said he had received six e-mails from fans, four critical and two positive.

Mayor Walt Maddox said he received two phone calls and an e-mail from fans who questioned everything from the motivation behind Castille’s arrest to Maddox’s attire.

“In your picture from the city Web site you look like you have on an Auburn tie Mr. Mayor. Do you?" asked “Bobby" in an e-mail. “That might be another factor to study about."
For his part, Castille notes that the experience has been educational:
Tide's Castille 'learned a lot' since arrest

August 24, 2007

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama cornerback Simeon Castille said he has learned a lesson from his early morning arrest for disorderly conduct last weekend.

"I've learned a lot, about being responsible and how people see me, how I am in the spotlight and how I need to be more careful about where I am, what I'm doing and that sort of thing," the senior told reporters Thursday. . . .

Castille said Saban was "supportive" and "understanding" after the incident.

"My teammates have been behind me 100 percent, my family definitely," he said. "Ive really been encouraged by people I've run into, friends, family, coaches. They're trying to keep my head up and so have I."

Whatever he learned did not, however, extend to facing up to the legal consequences of his behavior:

Bama's Castille pleads not guilty to charge

Posted: August 27, 2007

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama star cornerback Simeon Castille pleaded not guilty Monday to a charge that he shouted to passengers in a car and challenged them to a fight.

The plea on a disorderly conduct charge was entered with the municipal court by his attorney, with a trial date set for Sept. 26. Castille, an All-SEC preseason selection, did not appear in person.

Police accused him of "shouting, cussing and challenging passengers (of a sport utility vehicle) to fight him" as he stood in a street about 2 a.m. on Aug. 19. Castille has said he was joking with teammates in the SUV in an off-campus area called The Strip.

Some joke, at least according to the police report:

I heard someone yell “Fuck” and I turned to see a black male standing in the street, yelling at a green SUV trying to drive east on University Blvd. The suspect was standing beside the rear passenger door and the SUV was not driving away while the suspect was yelling, causing traffic to back up on University Blvd. I also noticed that there was a large crowd standing on the sidewalk next to the suspect that was yell (SIC) at the SUV watching and listening to what was taking place. The suspect continued to cuss at the passengers and challenge them to fight in the street with his words and non-verbal language. I do not remember the exact words he was saying but the meaning was to get out of the SUV and fight in the street where they were standing. The suspect was saying “Fuck” repeatedly and using several other cuss words such as “Bitch.” . . .

After Castille was detained, it became readily apparent to everyone that this was going to be a big story:

I told the suspect that he was being detained because of his wanting to fight in the streets and he stated that he was just kidding with them; that they were his teammates. He then stated he was Simeon Castille. I asked him if he had any I.D. and he said yes, in his back right pocket. He then gave me permission to retrieve it and he was identified as Simeon Castille. I think turned to Sgt. McMillian of the UAPD and handed him Castille’s I.D. and said, “Don’t y’all have to notify coach Saban?” . . .

The officer offered some words of wisdom to Castille, who seemed however, to think another issue was MOST important:

I also told him that he was a member of a nationally recognized school and football team that was representing while in the street yelling and cussing the way he was acting was embarrassing to the school and team. The suspect then stated that it was embarrassing to his family and himself as well. Nothing further was said while enroute to SPC. Once in SPC Officer Daniel walked in and told the suspect that he was a fan but disappointed that he had acted in that manner and was arrested for disorderly conduct. The suspect stated that this was going to hurt his draft status and squatted against the wall and appeared to be crying. The suspect was transported to the county jail shortly after this. No further conversation occurred between the two of us. I was advised that someone made the statement, “What is Saban going to think about this?”

Of course. What does Saban think? Oh yeah. Castille is 'One of the Finest Young Men on our Team'.

At least no one got hurt in this one. . .

Monday, August 27, 2007

I'm Back! NCAA-Speak Translated

The three month hiatus which has included an 1800 mile round trip to apartment hunt, a 1200 mile round trip to go to a wedding, travel in 12 diffferent states, a move to Pennsylvania and a new job, and the beginnings of a serious relationship is finally at an end. Muckracking and praise will continue, hopefully in reasonable equal measure.

Today I will present how a cynic might translate some recent platitudes issued earlier this month from the Board of Directors of NCAA Division I:

INDIANAPOLIS---The NCAA Division I Board of Directors today unanimously affirmed its strong support for academic reform.

The following is the full text of the board’s resolution:

“The Division I Board of Directors strongly and unanimously reaffirms its commitment to improving the academic success of all student-athletes in every sport. That was the charge of the Board four years ago when the current iteration of academic reform was begun and it accurately reflects the Board’s resolve today. Through its unanimous expression of support, the Board makes clear that it will stay the course in its initiative to improve graduation success.

Translation: We have been paying lip service to the idea of meaningful academic reform for the past four years. We are under pressure to discontinue this lip service entirely, but will continue to talk a good game for PR purposes.

“Academic reform in Division I is beginning its fourth year of implementation, and the Division I Board of Directors recognizes that the initiative is entering a significant period of time when specific sport concerns may be expressed.

Translation: Even our limited efforts at reform are impinging upon the job security of Basketball and Football coaches, and we will soon be hearing about it officially.

As a result, the Board anticipates that pressure will increase to diminish the effects of or abandon academic reform.

Translation: Athletic Directors in the BCS conferences are concerned that the prescribed penalties will actually be applied to them, and not merely to schools with less money.

It is appropriate to fine-tune reform implementation and to mitigate unintended consequences.

Translation: We fully intend to mitigated the unintended consequence of scholarship loss at BCS schools by caving in to the BCS Athletic Directors.

The Division I Board of Directors will remain open to the advice and counsel of the intercollegiate athletics community so that appropriate implementation is realized, but we are unbending in our determination to support the mission of higher education – educate students.”

Translation: We will continue to be a PR front for those in the intercollegiate athletics community who wish to hide the fact that many so-called 'student-athletes' will receive no meaningful education.

George Orwell would be proud!