Category Archives: Basketball

Departures, Arrivals and Uncertainty Shake Horizon League Fans

If you are a fan of a Horizon League member school and expected to have a rather boring off-season, you have probably been surprised.

Realistically, there wasn’t supposed to be much going on, aside from Cleveland State and Youngstown State, which each hired new basketball coaches.

But as it has been with mid-major conferences across the country, the Horizon League found itself in the riptide of change elsewhere.

That elsewhere turned out to be the Missouri Valley Conference, which itself was a part of a snowball that started rolling when the American Athletic Conference invited Wichita State to come aboard. The MVC, in turn, decided it was a school short and looked around for somebody to invite.

For Valparaiso, it became an opportunity to leave the Horizon League. For the remaining schools, it became a time to panic, at least as far as scrambling around to fill the scheduling holes were concerned.

Realistically, the conference didn’t need to really do anything, given how late in the school year it was when Valpo left. The Horizon League still has nine school, and even commissioner Jon LeCrone, when talking about conference expansion in a video conference, did not appear to have a sense of urgency to add another member by the start of July.

So it was curious to find rumblings of the addition of a new school started to grow louder, with fans speculating on a wide range of possibilities, from Robert Morris to Grand Canyon, the latter intimating a westward shift for the conference if it happened.

In the end, however, LeCrone, with the unanimous approval of the Horizon League’s presidents and chancellors, invited IUPUI, in what only can be described as the basketball equivalent of trading a cow for some magic beans.

You can cut through the entire PR spiel about the virtues of IUPUI, and you can certainly go ahead and avert your eyes from the presentation that IUPUI apparently broke out in support of its bid. The league absolutely could have waited a year to expand. And it didn’t.

The good news is that for teams that were slated to struggle at the bottom of the basketball standings next year, congratulations, you have competition. The Jaguars were a meager 14-18 overall and 7-9 in the Summit League, capping the season off by getting hammered at the conference tournament, 90-62, by Omaha.

And next year doesn’t look all that promising, either, losing their top three scorers, Darell Combs, Matt O’Leary and Kellon Thomas, to graduation. In fact, IUPUI hasn’t been a factor since Ron Hunter left for Georgia State.

The only real benefit to IUPUI’s arrival would be that once the agreement with Olympia Entertainment ends, the Horizon League can look into moving the men’s and women’s basketball tournament to Indianapolis, the conference’s home base. Then again, this could have already happened, but clearly Olympia’s pitch to have the tourney in Detroit was too great a pull.

Beyond hoops, the move throws an even bigger question mark on the Horizon League’s commitment to baseball. With Valparaiso out, the conference is now left with only six schools that sponsor the sport. And with no clear urgency on the Horizon League’s part to address that concern, fans of the remaining baseball teams are left to wonder if their school should be seeking an associate membership elsewhere.

After all of this, you have to wonder what’s in the cards for the Horizon League in the future. LeCrone’s idea of expansion still appears steadfast, but what schools would that include? Does he go west and invite Grand Canyon and New Mexico State? Or does he stick close and bring Robert Morris and Fort Wayne into the fold?

No matter what happens, fans are hoping than anything is better than the current situation.

E-mail Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via Wikipedia

There Is No Cleveland State-Youngstown State Rivalry. And There May Never Be.

It’s almost like that scene in the movie “Mean Girls” where Regina George snaps at Gretchen Weiners tell her to stop trying to make the word fetch a thing.

Ever since Youngstown State entered the Horizon League in 2001, much to the consternation of literally every fan in the conference, there was always the hope that somehow, some way, the Penguins, perennial underachievers in basketball, would finally right the ship.

Meanwhile, Cleveland State, after toiling in sub-mediocrity, did turn things around during the height of the Gary Waters era.

Had YSU gotten its act together during the tenure of Jerry Slocum, the battle between the two schools would have been rife for a natural rivalry. It made sense. Cleveland and Youngstown’s geographic proximity could have made it a cinch.

But it never happened. That heated feud between the two schools has failed to present itself.

Now, Slocum and Waters, who consistently butted heads when they roamed their respective sidelines, are gone. And at least one of their replacements seems to be making a concerted effort to goad the other into action.

And still, no luck in getting a rivalry going.

YSU tabbed Division II runner-up coach Jerrod Calhoun as Slocum’s successor, while CSU opted for ex-Western Kentucky and Georgia coach Dennis Felton. Calhoun built a success at Fairmont State, while Felton opted to spend time with the San Antonio Spurs after his departure from Georgia, then returned to the college ranks as part of the Tulsa coaching staff.

Despite their resumes, Calhoun has a sizable advantage in terms of his connections to Northeast Ohio, particularly as a former Cleveland State player under Rollie Massimino. Theoretically, that should have given Calhoun an edge in the CSU coaching search.

Cleveland State athletic director Mike Thomas, however, seemed to think otherwise and hired Felton.

With Calhoun chosen to lead YSU, it seems that he has been focusing a great deal on what should be Cleveland State’s backyard.

And Thursday, Calhoun hit closer to CSU’s home than ever.

This time, it was Waters himself, along with noted Viking alum D’Aundray Brown, who came to the Youngstown State campus and speak with Calhoun’s players.

And it is in this instance that we may all now lay to rest any silly notion that a rivalry between Cleveland State and YSU exists or, more to the point, will ever exist.

Give Calhoun credit, of course, for trying the jumpstart things a little. But it’s clear that Felton isn’t biting.

But more than that, rivalry discussion can be dismissed by the mere reaction, or rather lack thereof, from the remaining CSU fans. If Youngstown State were such bitter rivals, conventional wisdom would tell you that the Viking faithful would be incensed.

No such reaction really came. For some, in fact, the entire event was dismissed outright, as if it was much ado about nothing.

Perhaps that indifference really speaks to the long-festering root of Cleveland State’s issues with apathy and complacency. And this massive problem may be the primary reason why this potential rivalry never really gotten off the ground.

That’s not to say that YSU has been just as apathetic over the years, as the long drag of subpar basketball has certainly a contributing factor. What’s been CSU’s excuse? And while Calhoun appears to have recognized the hills he will have to climb to sell his program, what will Felton come up with to address the same issue?

While it’s early to determine whether Calhoun’s sprint out the gate or Felton’s marathon-like pace will produce results on the court, off the court, the feud that should be clamored for has not really materialized.

And at this point, the prospects remain dim that it ever will.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via CSUVikings.com

Will Lacrosse Pass Basketball as Cleveland State’s Premier Sport? Maybe.

Perhaps John Parry was right after all.

The now-retired athletic director at Cleveland State had, for years, indicated a desire to bring his most-cherished sport, lacrosse, to campus. And he made that dream a reality in 2015, when he announced that CSU would start up a men’s team.

Of course, that announcement will be mostly remembered for Parry’s faux pas in attempting to defund the wrestling program, which, thanks to an outpouring of community support, didn’t happen.

While the two-year ramp-up to the launch of the men’s lacrosse program was going on, men’s basketball was heading in a far different direction. Head coach Gary Waters watched as his team, which had won 20 games in the 2014-15 season, slowly disintegrate.

Many have pointed to the departure of Waters’ key stars, Trey Lewis and Anton Grady, who became graduate transfers and left for the brighter lights and bigger crowds of more prominent programs. But the graduate transfers were only part of the slow decline.

Waters also found himself losing other key players, including Kaza Keane and Andre Yates. And his recruiting classes, from 2014 on, couldn’t pick up the slack as well as some of Waters’ previous classes had. As a result, the Vikings lost more than 20 games two years in a row, and whatever fan enthusiasm and media attention was left was stamped out.

Lacrosse, on the other hand, went into full guerilla marketing mode both prior to the start of the season and throughout the year. While Parry was certainly a visible figure, the heavy lifting was done by Dylan Sheridan. The first-year head coach leveraged his network (both social media and otherwise) to get the word out about his new squad.

And while the men’s basketball team continued to sputter during the 2016-17 campaign, the lacrosse squad, which was filled almost entirely with freshmen, seemed to grow stronger.

Of course, the lacrosse team didn’t have much of a choice, given that Sheridan loaded the schedule with some of the toughest competition in the country, including Duke, Denver (Sheridan’s former school) and Ohio State, the national runner-up.

Even the off-seasons for both teams seemed to split off. Waters opted for retirement and his replacement, former Western Kentucky and Georgia coach Dennis Felton, hit the recruiting trail. Sheridan spent his early off-season barnstorming, even making an appearance on the NCAA lacrosse tournament’s broadcast.

Going into next season, it appears that on the surface, lacrosse is much better positioned for a leap in the ranks, given its core of underclassmen with a year under their belt. Basketball, in spite of having six seniors on the team, look more and more like a program that is back in rebuilding mode, thanks to transfer of its top scorer, Rob Edwards, along with a half-dozen other players.

With its considerably lower overhead and a big head-start in bridging the enthusiasm gap, it’s a safe bet that Sheridan and his squad will continue to build program momentum and take advantage of the niche men’s lacrosse has in the national collegiate landscape. And local media has even started to take notice, as evidenced by the team’s appearance on WJW’s morning show in the spring.

As Sheridan continues his sales pitch, Felton, on the other hand, already has an uphill climb. Basketball’s fan base has dwindled to practically nothing, thanks to consecutive losing seasons and the draw of the Cavaliers. Exacerbating this is CSU’s long-standing problem of trying to appeal to target audiences (students, in particular) that clearly don’t seem interested.

Strange as it sounds, the dynamics between the two teams seems to favor the upstart efforts of lacrosse. And as a result, Sheridan and his crew could very well surpass Felton and his squad as the most prominent Cleveland State sport.

That may not have been Parry’s intention when he drew up the plans to bring lacrosse to CSU, but it may very well end up that way.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via CSUVikings.com

Recruits top priority for new Milwaukee Panther head coach Pat Baldwin

The Milwaukee Panthers named Northwestern assistant Pat Baldwin to be its head men’s basketball coach on Tuesday. Baldwin is considered an excellent recruiter and a key to Northwestern’s 2016 NCAA Tournament bid, the first in program history. He replaces LaVall Jordan, who left Milwaukee after one season to become the head coach at his alma mater Butler.

Baldwin steps into an unusual situation in Milwaukee. The late hiring of Chris Holtmann at Ohio State, and as a result the very late hiring of Jordan at Butler, was unusual enough as is. The fact that Jordan posted a 11-24 record in his only season at Milwaukee before heading to the Big East made it even more bizarre. Despite replacing a coach who left for greener pastures, expectations shouldn’t be particularly high for Baldwin early in his tenure.

As is frequently the case during coaching changes, Baldwin’s biggest task out of the gate will be to retain members of the incoming recruiting class. Dylan Alderson, who helped bring Clarkston High School a Michigan Class A State Championship as a senior, is considered the prize recruit of Milwaukee’s recruiting class. To this point, he hasn’t said anything definitive either way about his plans for the future.

Unlike former Butler-commit Kyle Young — a composite Top 100 recruit who left for Ohio State when Chris Holtmann departed — it’s unlikely that Milwaukee has a recruit that will follow LaVall Jordan to the Big East. Despite even the high praise for Alderson, the jump from Milwaukee to Butler is a lot bigger now than it was in the not-so-distant past when the two schools were together in the Horizon League. 

If Milwaukee is going to lose a recruit, it would most likely be to another school the Panthers were recruiting against previously. While losing a coach in June causes a number of logistical problems for a program, it can make holding onto recruits simpler. In that regard, time could be on Milwaukee’s side when it comes to holding together this year’s recruiting class. At this point, most schools’ rosters are set and there simply isn’t enough time or roster availability for most kids to reopen recruitment.

If Baldwin is able to keep all of Jordan’s recruits in Milwaukee, he could be in for a pleasantly surprising debut as a head coach. The Panthers lose just one starter and one reserve from 2016-17 while bringing in what looks to be a very promising four-man recruiting class and 6-foot-7 redshirt freshman Zac Saddler.

Early projections still have Milwaukee near the bottom of conference for the upcoming season, which is understandable given the team’s eight regular season wins and its 10th place finish in the Horizon League last year. Still, there could be reason for optimism in Milwaukee. 

The Panthers had one of the youngest teams in the nation and possessed very little front court depth. While an injury to Valparaiso star Alec Peters undoubtedly helped, Milwaukee came together at the end of the season on its way to an unexpected Horizon League Tournament Championship Game. If the Panthers can build off of the late-season success, they could make one of the bigger jumps in the league standings in 2017-18. 

The development of returning players and addition of five newcomers could put Pat Baldwin’s Milwaukee team in a position to finish near the middle of the table in the Horizon League. While that might not seem like a big deal, especially for a school that was in the running to be bumped up to the Missouri Valley Conference this offseason. But the Panthers will once again have an incredibly young roster. Forward Brett Prahl is the only scholarship senior, leaving the door open for another potential jump in 2018-19.

Email John and [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jjparker084.

Photo by: Milwaukee Panthers Athletics

Does Thad Matta’s Departure Make Ohio State the Most Coveted Coaching Job?

To many, the announcement that Ohio State head basketball coach Thad Matta would not be returning seemed to strike an odd tone. After all, who parts ways with their coach in June, after the coaching carousel has, for the most part, wound grind to a halt. Clearly athletic director Gene Smith and Matta, agreeing to mutually split, aren’t interested in timelines.

So, as Matta focuses on his well-being, a gaping hole is now left at an Ohio State program that has just come off a lackluster 17-15 season and an early-round exit in the Big Ten Tournament at the hands of Rutgers. And while there’s a possibility that associate head coach (and former Tulane head coach) Dave Dickerson will take over for Matta on an interim basis, you can already see the rumor mill churning.

No sooner did the Matta departure become public than the pundits started dusting off their keyboards and start speculating on a replacement. Dickerson will likely be considered, as will fellow assistant Chris Jent (unless he decides to go back to the NBA, which is possible). Former Buckeye assistant Jeff Boals’ name has also made the rounds, though he only has one 18-14 year of head coaching experience with Stony Brook to his name.

Understandably, a wish list of absurd candidates has already made the rounds. Naturally, Oklahoma City Thunder coach Billy Donovan and Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens have already been sucked into the punditry vortex. But given both of their collective situations, it seems unlikely that either, particularly Stevens, would even think about heading back to the college ranks.

Donovan may have a stronger case to bail on Oklahoma City, but it may still be a hard sell for him. Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg’s name has also been kicked around as well.

And no, Mike Brown isn’t the answer, either, not matter who thinks it is.

The Buckeyes thought the search may be over before it really even began. ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that OSU offered the job to long-time Creighton head coach Greg McDermott after meeting with school officials on Wednesday night. However, McDermott has opted to stay in Nebraska.

With McDermott out, Ohio State may already be on Plan B in the works, as CBS’s Gary Parrish has reported that OSU is finalizing a deal with Chris Holtmann, the currently head coach at Butler, ironically Matta’s alma mater and former coaching stop.

With all the speculation about who will ultimately replace Matta permanently, there still is a question of whether or not the Ohio State job is the most coveted in the nation. Conventional wisdom would tell you that it is.

Part of what makes it a prime coaching job is, as real estate agents stress, location, location, location. Any Big Ten opening would garner a cornucopia of worthy candidates. And in OSU’s case, that thought is bolstered by a string of prior success in the conference, not to mention a pair of Final Four appearances in the last 10 years.

At the same time, the rebuilding process, especially after a down year, may also give some candidates pause. According the Verbal Commits, the Buckeyes only have 10 players coming back on scholarship. And in spite of the fact that Ohio State has recently produced NBA-caliber talent, most recently D’Angelo Russell of the Los Angeles Lakers, there has been a steady stream of players leaving the program.

Despite the recent downturn, which is magnified by the success of the football program, OSU can still hang its hat of years among the upper echelon of the college basketball ranks. And as has been proven in recent years, one huge recruiting class can make all the difference. Considering Ohio State’s ability to produce such a class, the prospects seem rather bright that the right coach can put the Buckeyes back on top.

And that is likely enough to convince a Holtmann, Hoiberg, Mick Cronin, Chris Mack or even Billy Donovan to take a good look at traveling to Columbus.

E-mail Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via Wikipedia

 

Big Baller Brand Isn’t a Big Baller

LaVar Ball is offering the debut basketball shoe for Big Baller Brand for the price of $495. If you want a pair signed by his son, Lonzo, those will cost you $995. I’ll come right out and say it. LaVar doesn’t understand how this stuff works. There’s market value and then there is intrinsic value. Both are important components in pricing an item and that is what seems to have escaped the mind of LaVar.

After introducing the shoe and its price, LaVar, as has often been the case, found himself subjected to harsh criticism. The question on most everyone’s minds was how could he charge $495 for a shoe from a relatively unknown brand? In LaVar’s mind, that was an easy question to answer.

“I figure that’s what the shoe is worth,” Ball said. “When you are your own owner you can come up with any price you want.”

LaVar isn’t wrong when making either of those two statements. When you’re the owner of a company, you can charge whatever price you want for your product. And I can’t deny his belief that $495 is what his product is worth. However, there is (usually) a little bit of math involved when setting the price for a product. I anticipate a market correction for the price of the Big Baller Brand shoe. And it there’s not, his company will soon be a distant memory.

Intrinsically speaking, LaVar believes that he’s set an accurate price. His belief, based on little to no market research, is that Big Baller Brand has already surpassed Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas. Based on 2015 estimates, the brand value of Nike is $15.9 billion, Adidas’ is at $6.2 billion, and Under Armour’s is at $5 billion. Sure, LaVar, the intrinsic value of Big Baller Brand is better than these established competitors that you mocked.

LaVar also mocked Foot Locker while ridiculing Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas. However, using Foot Locker as a gauge of market value for basketball shoes, it’s seen that the most expensive basketball shoe for Nike is $365.99, Under Armour’s most expensive shoe is $149.99, and Adidas’ priciest basketball shoe is $159.99. Based on the price point for the shoe, LaVar sees his product as a boutique shoe and that’s why he scoffed at the idea of selling Big Baller Brand at Foot Locker. But he also considers the Big Baller Shoe to be a legitimate basketball shoe so using Foot Locker as a measure of market value is accurate.

And then there is LaVar’s marketing message.

LaVar isn’t wrong. Every product isn’t for everyone. But Big Baller Brand isn’t even a big baller. As Ric Flair says, “To be the man, you have to beat the man.” Right now, “The Man” is Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas. LaVar at least needs to turn a single dollar of profit before running his mouth.

Big Baller Brand has a huge social media presence thanks to LaVar always having a statement to make about his fledgling business. Some love LaVar while others, such as myself, find him to be a loud-mouthed ringmaster for himself. But whether the publicity is good, bad, or indifferent, any press is good press.  Will it be enough to generate a profit for his $495 debut shoes? Time will tell but I’m not writing off Nike, Under Armour, or Adidas just yet.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Pixabay

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The Disgruntled Cleveland State Fan’s Guide to Finding a New Team to Root For

When you take over a program that already had trouble with transfers, not to mention a serious problem with visibility, perhaps it’s not the best plan to, I don’t know, disappear off the planet?

But that appears to be what new Cleveland State basketball coach Dennis Felton has done, though to be fair, it’s not like he exactly had a choice. Without a coaching staff officially in place, Felton has had to scramble around the country trying to secure recruits for the spring signing period.

Of course, Felton may already have former Northern Illinois assistant Lou Dawkins hired. But it’s really hard to know if that’s official, given that the only indication the hire has happened is from a few tweets, most notably from Garfield Heights High School coach Sonny Johnson.

It may not be fair to Felton, but back-to-back 20-loss seasons, a non-existent fan base and a media landscape with the attention span of a newt should have sparked some sense of urgency. The wait-and-see approach was probably not going to be the best plan.

Instead, Cleveland State decided to do what it does every single off-season, as if somebody didn’t get the memo that Gary Waters retired.

So, in effect, the institution that incentivized the heck out of Felton with six figures worth of bonuses if he performs well saddled him with the same game plan that really didn’t excite anybody inside or outside campus. This basically guarantees that nobody will care what happens to the Vikings this season, unless Felton somehow goes rogue and starts promoting out of the circle of apathy he currently finds himself in.

And with Rob Edwards officially deciding to transfer to Arizona State, the glimmer of a true star has faded away, leaving Felton with a gaggle of role players (save for Kash Thomas and, potentially, Shawn Christian), as well as unknown spring signees.

With yet another year’s worth of unknowns concerning the basketball program and a university that has proven itself completely incapable of drawing and sustaining the attention of anybody to its crown jewel, fans may very well be at their wit’s end with Cleveland State.

And that might mean finding another college hoops team to root for, if you’ve gotten to that breaking point. So, as always, I’m here to help. Here are some potential new schools.

Ohio State

I start with the obvious one, mostly because if you’re a Cleveland State student, you’re already paying way more attention to OSU than the school you actually attend. As far as basketball is concerned, though, this may be a trap. The Buckeyes have been pretty mediocre the last few seasons, to the extent that there’s a legitimate debate as to how much longer Thad Matta will remain as coach. That said, you probably own all kinds of Ohio State gear, so you do you.

Youngstown State

Don’t look now, but Youngstown State has decided it cares about men’s basketball. That much was clear when the Penguins tapped Fairmont State’s Jerrod Calhoun as its new head coach. Calhoun, of course, was widely thought to be a favorite for the CSU gig. But since that didn’t happen, Calhoun is making it his mission to convince Northeast Ohio prep stars to forgo downtown Cleveland and make the trek to the Mahoning Valley. And let’s not forget YSU still has All-Horizon League star Cameron Morse, who scores in bunches.

Kent State

Last year was supposed to be a down year for Kent State, and the Golden Flashes still won 20 games and made it to the NCAA Tournament. Coach Rob Senderoff will be looking to expound on his success from this past season. And even better news, if you’re an active reader of Cleveland.com, Kent State will actually get coverage! The only down side is that the MAC Center is kind of a hike and parking is a nightmare.

Akron

Like Kent State, Akron benefits from Cleveland.com caring about what the Zips do. And it may be quite a bit, seeing as how longtime head coach Keith Dambrot has left for Duquesne. Replacing him was another name that was tossed about during the Cleveland State coaching search, John Groce. It’s probably going to be a rebuilding year for Akron, but at least it will get people’s attention.

John Carroll

If you’ve had it with Division I basketball, you might as well take a look at one of the most successful Division III schools in the area, John Carroll University. Ask Kentucky’s John Calipari about the Blue Streaks, whose player rotation he emulated a few years back. And while legendary head coach Mike Moran has retired, he is being replaced by assistant coach Pete Moran. As a former player (not to mention Mike’s son), the younger Moran will carry his father’s work forward into the future.

If putting together a list of teams to follow instead of Cleveland State is harsh, particularly to those who continue to preach patience, this is where we’re at. It’s almost as if athletics has decided it’s not worth the work to actively seek out new fans, even though the additional revenue would make it look like the program isn’t cool with sponging off of students.

And you’re not off the hook, either, students. In fact, with every passing year, you look more like suckers. Why? Because you spend more money per year on average on something you don’t care about (athletics) than something you go out of your way to complain about everyday (parking)!

The off-season doesn’t mean CSU get to take April through October off promoting men’s basketball, but from an outsider’s point of view, that’s exactly what it looks like.

Listen to the angry fans, for once. And maybe you can start to right the ship.

Email bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via Cleveland State University

NCAA Championship Announcements Bring Excitement, Confusion to Cleveland State

It’s pretty clear that when it comes to hosting sporting events, the NCAA likes Cleveland’s style.

Having hosted multiple men’s and women’s basketball tournament rounds and gearing up for the 2018 wrestling championships, there was little doubt that Cleveland State, in collaboration with the MAC and the Cleveland Sports Commission, would bid for more.

The good news is that the NCAA has obliged, announcing that the 2020 opening rounds of the men’s basketball tournament will be hosted at Quicken Loans Arena. Also, men’s and women’s fencing will make its way to the Wolstein Center in 2019 for its championships, as will Division II wrestling, with nearby Ashland University serving as the host.

While this is obviously good news for the city, which continues to raise its profile in terms of hosting events, the Wolstein Center bids in particular should raise at least a question or two at CSU.

But first, let it not be said that the NCAA is without a sense of irony, awarding Cleveland State the championships of a sport (fencing) that far and away receives the least amount of funding in the athletics budget.

The source of the questions resides within the Wolstein Center itself. The debate over the arena’s future has raged on for years, and it appeared that there might be some movement. As recently as September, CSU was taking bids that would replace the Wolstein Center with a smaller arena, coupled with dormitory that would house up to 1,000 students.

With that kind of activity going on, you’d think that Cleveland State would be well on its way to making this upcoming basketball season that last one at the Wolstein Center.

And yet, the arena that costs CSU at least $1 million per year in losses will be around at least until the end of the fencing championships.

You must wonder how this conversation went between athletic director Mike Thomas and president Ronald Berkman.

Thomas: Dr. Berkman, I’ve got great news! Cleveland State is hosting the opening rounds of the men’s basketball tournament at the Q in 2020!

Berkman: Outstanding, even though I’m not really sure they’ll be done with their renovations by then. Oh well. I’ll let Len Komoroski figure that one out. We get anything else?

Thomas: As a matter of fact, we did. We’re going to have the Division II Wrestling championships at the Wolstein Center, plus men’s and women’s fencing.

Berkman: Fencing, fencing. Isn’t that one of our sports?

Thomas: Well, yeah, but we don’t give them much to run it.

Berkman: Oh, okay. When is that all taking place?

Thomas: 2019.

Berkman: That will be a nice way to send me off into retirement…Wait a second, I thought we were going to knock down the Wolstein Center.

Thomas: I guess you were, but there was this note on my desk from John Parry that I originally thought was list of sports to cut. Fencing was on there and it said 2019, so I guessed that’s when he wanted to cut it. I’m not changing anything, so I threw it away three weeks ago.

Berkman: Well, great. Now I have to tell the architect to hold off on the building plans and see if a megachurch will rent the arena out as a back-up. Thanks a lot!

While I’m sure the actual conversation between Berkman and Thomas went a little differently, the glee that is being publicly displayed by CSU amid the NCAA announcement has to be tempered by a bit of trepidation. After all, Berkman really, really wanted to do something with the Wolstein Center before he retired, and now he’s not going to get that chance.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image courtesy of Cleveland State University

Rob Edwards Should Stay at Cleveland State

Typically when a player requests a release from his scholarship to seek out possible transfer opportunities, it’s usually the last a school will ever see of him. Cleveland State has lived through this all too many times, not just with recent graduate transfers, but with others who felt the grass was greener on the other side.

In fact, transfers are, for the most part, a way of life in college basketball these days. But if you believe the narrative, this phenomena has affected the Vikings far more than other mid-major programs.

So, you can understand the apprehension associated with the recent announcement that Rob Edwards asked to be released from his scholarship at CSU. The second-team All-Horizon League guard and Cleveland State’s leading scorer is looking for the right fit. And with the recent hire of Dennis Felton as head coach, Edwards may be of the opinion that he would be better served playing elsewhere.

And while he hasn’t made his decision final, Viking fans have all but resided themselves to life without Edwards. Naturally, the more pessimistic members of the fanbase don’t like CSU’s prospects next year, even with seven seniors on the roster.

But there is a possibility, albeit remote, that Edwards could see what’s out there and believe that Cleveland State is, in fact, where he should stay. And there are plenty of reasons out that could serve to bolster a compelling argument that would convince Edwards to remain a Viking.

First, and most importantly, is that by rule, transfers must sit out a year before playing a minute with a new team. That could rule out a lateral move to another mid-major. Marcus Keene switching from Youngstown State to Central Michigan might be a case study on mid-major transfers, the Chippewas, in spite of his prolific scoring, still finished in the bottom of the MAC standings. Plus Keene has declared for the NBA Draft.

If the NBA is Edwards’ primary goal, then perhaps this is an option. But team performance is likely to be a consideration, and no matter the level of pro aspirations, it seems highly unlikely that Edwards would opt for a middling program.

Where does Cleveland State stand, then? Well, Felton has made it clear he wants to hit the ground running with his current squad. And Edwards, in all honestly, would be the lynchpin that would finally get the Vikings over the hump.

The backcourt rotation, which was lacking last season and probably contributed to a few of those close losses, would be much more solid. Kash Thomas returns as point guard, finally joined by Gavin Peppers, whose season was wiped out by injury. Add to the mix freshmen sharpshooter Shawn Christian, who should take some pressure off of Bobby Word and Kenny Carpenter, who struggled at time last year.

Having Edwards in the rotation, especially as the team’s returning leading scorer, would catapult Cleveland State back to having one of the best backcourts in the Horizon League. And in a guard-heavy conference, that’s the key difference between the top and the bottom.

Beyond that, Edwards is also probably looking at what help the frontcourt would bring. And this may very well be where Felton’s previous coaching experience comes into play. While retired head coach Gary Waters tended to struggle with developing big men (Aaron Pogue and Anton Grady being the exceptions), Felton has had some success in this department. The best example would be Felton’s center at Western Kentucky, Chris Marcus, who was an honorable mention All-American in 2001 and 2002.

And Felton, who served as the Director of Pro Player Personnel with the San Antonio Spurs, would certainly know what Edwards would need to do in order to make it to the pros.

Ultimately, Edwards will do what he feels is best for his basketball career, and that could very well be at another school. That said, perhaps the above arguments could simply go beyond the “the team would be awful without you” line and, as a result, maybe might make Edwards change his mind.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via CSUVikings.com

Geno Auriemma is a Feminist

Prior to Geno Auriemma accepting the University of Connecticut job in 1985, the program had experienced one winning season. The rest, as they say, is history. With Auriemma in charge of the program, the Huskies have won 991 games. Those victories include 11 national championships and two impressive winning streaks. The first of those streaks was 70 games and the second was 111 games.

That 111-winning streak ended with a 66-64 Mississippi State overtime loss in the 2016-17 national championship game. You would think that Mississippi State would be the story, but it isn’t. The story is the comment that placed Auriemma in the societal crosshairs of intersectional feminism.

In a press conference leading up to the championship game, Auriemma commented about the low percentage of women who coach.

“There’s a reason why there’s not as many opportunities for women. Not as many women want to coach,”

That comment seemed innocent enough. He wasn’t saying that women couldn’t or shouldn’t coach. Auriemma was reacting to the low percentage of women in the profession and offered his opinion as to why that percentage may be as low as it is. And for this, he caught the ire of the intersectional feminist crowd.

Leading the mob against Auriemma in the name of intersectional feminism was Ally Auriemma. That’s right. The lead pitchfork and torchbearer is Auriemma’s daughter.

You see? Ally doesn’t consider her father to be anti-woman; being a family member has some privileges I guess. But Ally did play her “white cisgendered man” card against her father. Yes, Ally. We’re all head-desking hard. But it’s not in support of you and the mob that you’re attempting to stir up against your father.

And then Ally went one step further in her attempt to douse her self-created intersectional fire with even more gasoline. She implied that her father was on par with Donald Trump.

Ally is a grand cliché in all of this. If her self-serving indictment of her father weren’t enough, she went a step or 2 or 3 or 4 or 100 further. She attempted to score cheap political points with her “woe is me” “my father is a Trumpian buffoon” slant.

The real issue that intersectional feminism has with Auriemma was articulated by Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins. When Auriemma said that “It’s quite simple. Not as many women want to coach,” he cut to the heart of the SJW issue. Auriemma suggested that the lack of women coaching women’s basketball is, at least, in part due to personal choice. In Jenkins words, “there are so many riling things in that statement that it’s hard to know which one you want to swing your purse at first.” In the opinion of Jenkins, Auriemma is just another male who is blinded by the security of his gender and success.

Jenkins then twisted herself into a logic pretzel when she stated that Auriemma was right in saying that “it’s not like people are consciously depriving women of opportunities.” Thanks for playing, Jenkins. You and Ally should have started and stopped with that.

There are instances where women don’t get ahead professionally due to gender bias. And there are also a seemingly unlimited number of law firms who specialize in handling those cases. But Auriemma was correct in highlighting the role of personal choice. If a person isn’t where they want to be in life, it’s ultimately up to them to create the opportunities that they desire. There should be no expectation that something will be handed to you based on gender. That applies to both males and females.

In leading the intersectional feminist cause in college basketball coaching, Ally and Jenkins have no use for personal choice. It doesn’t matter to them what a potential female coaching candidate wants out of her own life, that potential candidate should be coaching. And if that would-be candidate chooses to be something other than a coach? Ally and Jenkins would have us believe that it’s the fault of an anti-woman, cisgendered male system.

The question then becomes this – Who’s the real feminist in all of this? Is it Ally and Jenkins? Or, wait for it…is it Auriemma?

In supporting the woman’s right to choose which profession best fits her individual goals and life outlook, I would say the real feminist is Auriemma.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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