Category Archives: Olympic Sports

RIP, Wright State Swimming

Throughout the 90s and early 2000s, the Wright State swimming and diving team, on both the men’s and women’s side, was a dominant force in the Horizon League. The Raiders captured multiple championships between 1995, when the conference was then known as the Midwestern Collegiate Conference, and 2008.

Personally, I can vividly remember 1996 and 1997 in particular, when, as a student journalist, I saw Wright State come swooping into the Cleveland State natatorium and handily win conference crowns both years.

All that, though, has ended. In spite of a fundraising push by Raiders swimming coach Kyle Oaks and the Collegiate Swim Coaches’ Association of America to raise $85,000 to bring the team back for the 2017-18 season, Wright State announced that this would, in fact, be the men’s and women’s teams’ final year as a program.

You may think, at first glance, that this is an example of the ongoing challenge schools that rely heavily on student fees to fund athletics face. You may also think, perhaps, that WSU’s demise is a bit perplexing, given that it shells out $500,000 per year to men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy, a $275,000 jump from the salary of the previous coach, Billy Donlon.

The latter thought is one that the CSCAA has pointed out, citing that WSU athletic director Bob Grant has seen his budget grow by $1.6 million even as he has taken a swing of the ax to the swimming program.

However, those assumptions pale in comparison to the larger issue that Wright State faces financially. The move came as the university faces $10 million in budget cuts across the board this year, which means that no department, even athletics, is spared. It is reported that the move will save the university approximately $450,000 per year.

The same situation befell the University of Akron in 2015, when, among its many cuts, the baseball program shuddered. But while Akron has already announced that baseball will be returning for the 2019-2020 season, it doesn’t appear that Wright State will be looking to bring back swimming even after the budget issues are resolved.

And it also doesn’t look like there will be any intervention from the Horizon League, which is already going to spend the next year seeking to add a seventh baseball program after the departure of Valparaiso to the Missouri Valley Conference. IUPUI’s arrival to the league included the addition of its swimming teams, meaning that losing Wright State, though painful, won’t prompt the need to add another school.

This hasn’t stopped the CSCAA to make a continued effort to fight the program’s demise, citing the Herculean effort to generate the $85,000 in donations to keep the team up and running for this season. However, the group has also pointed out that any proposal to keep the program alive is a non-starter with Wright State president Cheryl Schrader, effectively ending the fight where it stands.

For those who have followed the Raiders throughout the entire span of the program’s existence, the final days of the men’s and women’s swim teams, which will happen at the Horizon League Championships at Cleveland State’s pool next February, will be met with equal parts nostalgia and sadness for what was and what will never be again.

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

Image via WSURaiders.com

Clemson Didn’t Have Softball Already?

It’s a safe bet that for most colleges in the South, spring sports programs, including, baseball, softball and lacrosse, are relatively popular options to take up. And many northern schools, attempting to flee to cold grip of late February and early March, tend to migrate south to compete and train.

So it comes as rather a surprise to basically everybody above the Mason-Dixon Line that Clemson, a stalwart of the Atlantic Coast Conference, was sadly lacking a softball team. After all, the ACC’s 13 other schools have it, and have at least one school (Florida State this season) dominating the national rankings.

Also, Clemson’s chief interstate rival, South Carolina, has long been on board with softball, and the Gamecocks make regular appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including four straight nods and currently well-positioned for a fifth.

With the sport’s popularity and success both in-state and in-conference, it was inevitable that Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich would at least take a look at putting a softball program together. In fact, the question of softball has been a rather frequent question tossed Radakovich’s way ever since he arrived at Clemson in 2012.

The answer has finally arrived, as Radakovich announced that the Tigers would field a softball team.

Unfortunately, the news of the addition of softball is not good for everybody. Clemson’s women’s diving team, the lone program left after the institution discontinued swimming and men’s diving after 2011-12, will be gone after this season. That will leave 14-member squad, including three NCAA Zone B Championship finalists, without a place to dive next season.

Considering the Tigers’ success in the pool in the years since it became a standalone program, having it blinked out of existence appears to be a rather odd. That said, it looked as if it was only a matter of time before Clemson would claim the last of its pool sports.

And as bad as it seems to replace one program with another, softball’s popularity in South Carolina was too great to ignore, in Radakovich’s summation. There is also the overriding thought that the combination of a robust recruiting based around Clemson, membership in the ACC and a strong rival such as South Carolina were justification that the time has come for the Tigers to make the move.

It also probably helps that 2020, when softball is projected to begin, coincides with the linear launch of the ACC Network, which will give all spring sports a significant media footprint to work with.

The announcement, as grueling as the decision was to add softball and drop women’s diving, was surprisingly the easy part. The real work begins in the next three years, when Clemson will need to hire a coaching staff and build a softball field that will meet the standards of a pressing conference and non-conference slate.

While the timeline to get everything done will be, to say the least, intense, the advantages that the Tigers will have even before the first pitch is thrown will give them a major boost, which, given the fierce competitiveness of the ACC, they will sorely need.

Then again, a lot of us thought Clemson already had a softball team, so it would come as no surprise that it has the potential to come out of the gates as a force to be reckoned with within the conference.

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

Photo: Clemson University

Stanford Swimmer Brock Turner and His “20 Minutes of Action” Defense

The rape scandal at Baylor has dominated the recent news cycle and rightfully so. What occurred at Baylor was an example of a systemically toxic environment that was perpetuated by campus leaders at multiple levels. As many people have pointed out, rape occurs at universities across the country and is not limited to Baylor. One of these less publicized instances of rape occurred at Stanford.

If you are not familiar with the rape that occurred at Stanford, you should be. Brock Turner, who was a member of the Stanford swimming team, raped an unconscious woman next to a dumpster.

A jury convicted Brock and the judge sentenced him to six months in jail.

Again, he raped his victim as she was unconscious next to a dumpster and, for that, he has received a sentence of six months in jail.

Brock is not the only rapist to receive a seemingly lenient sentence for the appalling violation of a woman. The decision of the judge has received adequate scrutiny and now we know what influenced the judge’s decision.

Dan Turner, Brock’s father, wrote a letter to the court on his son’s behalf. The nugget to be pulled from his letter is this:

“His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve,” Dan A. Turner wrote in a letter arguing that his son should receive probation, not jail time. “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”

In defense of his son raping an unconscious woman by a dumpster, Mr. Turner argued that it was only “20 minutes of action.”

Dan Turner sounds like a real Bro.

I guess the apple does not fall far from the tree.

Being upset at the lenient sentence that the judge handed down is understandable, but the attitude of Mr. Turner should be considered more atrocious than the light sentence and may be just as appalling as the rape itself.

Mr. Turner needs to understand something and that is that rape is not defined by a measurement of time. A woman can be raped in a matter of seconds, minutes or hours. This kind of violation of a woman is not bound by time. It simply is.

[Botica:  Saying Goodbye to Art Briles the Right Decision for Baylor]

The attitude of Mr. Turner reminds me of the case of Ethan Couch and his parents. At the age of 15, Couch was found guilty of driving drunk while running over and killing four people. At his trial, a psychologist argued that Couch suffered from a case of “affluenza.” It was a convincing argument as the juvenile court judge sentenced Couch to 10 years of probation. The belief was that Couch’s affluenza would be cured in rehabilitation rather than prison.

And in case you are not familiar with affluenza, it is a condition that effects wealthy young people.

Hey, a judge bought this defense, just as Brock’s judge bought his father’s “20 minutes of action” defense.

Couch eventually went on the run to Mexico with the help of his mother. Once the tandem was extradited back to the U.S., Couch faced an adult court judge who has sentenced him to jail time. And because she aided and abetted a felon, Couch’s mother faces jail time as well.

Brock’s father may not go on the run with his son to Mexico, but these cases are similar. Each situation involves a parent who has made excuses for their child. Chances are good that both Brock and Ethan received this kind of treatment throughout their lives from their parents. And that lack of responsible parenting is at least partially to blame for the actions of each child.

Parents should be parents. Parents should not be enablers.

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

Photo: Flickr

The University of Missouri is Falling for Another Social Justice Warrior Logical Fallacy

College campuses across the country have been powder kegs for the better part of the past year. Whenever there has been a real or imaginary spark, activist groups have sprung into action. One of the more notorious instances of activists springing into action occurred on the campus of the University of Missouri during the fall of 2015.

There have been brief periods of time when it has appeared that all was well again in Columbia, MO, but then something happens to reignite the pent-up social justice warrior rage that seems to always be simmering in the background at Ol’ Mizzou.

[Merenbloom:  The University of Missouri is at a Racial Boiling Point]

Jonathan Butler, Payton Head, Concerned Student 1950 and, of course, Melissa Click all flexed their activist muscle over the past nine months. These personalities came out victorious in one form or another thanks, in large part, to the football team.

And now another Missouri sports team finds itself thrust into the spotlight. This time the team is the nationally-ranked women’s softball team and they are engaged in a protest of their own. These were the reasons the team gave for their protest:

“The administration is conducting an unjust investigation” the statement continued, “which includes: bullying and intimidating players during forced interviews; AD Mack Rhoades told us that we, the players, don’t have ANY say in who is the coach of our team; we believe a gag order has been placed on our coaches; the administration was completely incompetent in handling the fall football scandal and they are doing a worse job at this; this is a title IX sport and they’re making up a false investigation.”

This particular protest caught many people by surprise. Missouri softball has been one of the most historically successful Tiger sports programs under the leadership of head coach Ehren Earleywine. The reason, in part, for the player protest, is due to how Earleywine allegedly treats some of his players. The other prominent reason for the protest is the leadership of athletic director Mack Rhoades.

All of this makes little to no sense.

Some players love Earleywine while others anonymously take issue with some of his coaching tactics. Welcome to being on a team. Now the situation has taken a turn that could only be expected at Missouri.

A website has been created in support of the vilified head coach.

The accusation is that “hostile feminists” are behind the mob that is going after Earleywine. Like I said, only at Missouri.

Is this a conspiracy theory? Sure. However, after the recent events at Missouri, why should we not believe that “hostile feminists” are attempting to push Earleywine out simply because he is a male who is coaching a Title IX sport?

Exactly. This is Missouri which makes this completely believable.

Assistant Athletic Director of Compliance Mary Ann Austin is singled out as being the ring leader for these “hostile feminists.” After some members of the team sent Rhoades some complaints, they apparently resolved their issues. This resolution was allegedly not good enough for Austin and she called for some muscle. That muscle was law professor Christina Wells.

The team formed what they called a Unity Council and this council agreed to support their coach, but this was allegedly ignored by Rhoades.

Rhoades faced harsh criticism over how he chose to handle the football team’s involvement with Concerned Student 1950 and how he managed that situation made him vulnerable to future protests. I can see a scenario where Rhoades has been rendered helpless by Austin and Wells. These “hostile feminists” saw an opportunity to jump on the Missouri social justice warrior train and they seized it.

This is not an easy situation for anyone to handle, but based on the previous nine months anyone in a leadership position at Missouri should be considered a sitting duck for whichever group of social justice warriors want to go on the offensive. Last year it was the race activists. This year it appears to be a group of “hostile feminists.”

Rhoades has been placed in a no-win situation. If he stands by and does nothing the “hostile feminists” get their way and the softball team no longer has a man as their head coach. If Rhoades attempts to fight this internal mutiny then he gives the appearance of attacking a group of feminists.

This is what social justice warriors do. They create logical fallacies.

What these “hostile feminists” have done to Rhoades is the equivalent of asking him “Have you stopped beating your wife? If he answers “yes” to that question then the implication is that he was beating his wife. And if he answers “no” to that question then it implies that he is beating his wife.

Back in the fall, the entire campus fell victim to the logical fallacy that Jonathan Butler and Concerned Student 1950 created when the activists asked “Have you stopped being racist?”

It now appears to be the “hostile feminists” turn to present a logical fallacy of their own to the Missouri athletic department as they ask “How long have you been sexist?”

Who at Missouri is willing to take a stand against the social justice warrior nation? If this messiah exists, it’s time for them to ride into Columbia, MO on their donkey.

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

*Featured image courtesy of Flickr/CMarston

What’s Up With the Hoos This Spring?

The University of Virginia’s spring sports programs traditionally are among the school’s best, year after year. In the annual Director’s Cup (or whatever it is called these days) Virginia’s top ten finishes generally are attributed to very strong spring sports results. Virginia currently stands eighth after the conclusion of the winter sports, but it appears as though the spring results will not give the school the standings boost to which it has become accustomed. Is it a post-basketball hangover or are Virginia’s sports fortunes tilting towards football and basketball, the glamour sports?

Virginia’s baseball team, the reigning national champion, currently is 23-15 and unranked for the first time in several years. Pitching, a dependable staple under head coach Brian O’Connor, is the team’s weak spot. After losing several dependable starters and a rock-solid closer to the draft, Virginia is having to go with some unproven arms in crucial roles. The team currently has no dependable closer or Sunday starter and, until yesterday’s game against North Carolina, had lost every Sunday ACC game as a result. Virginia has historically feasted on mid-week opponents, but that also is not the case this year, posting a 13-6 record against non-conference opponents. Pitching and defense have been Virginia’s calling card under O’Connor, but this year’s team is an anomaly. The Hoos rank third in the ACC with a team batting average of .302, but the team E.R.A. of 4.18 is the highest of any of O’Connor’s thirteen UVA teams.

Virginia fans remain hopeful that the Cavaliers can straighten out the pitching and extend their string of NCAA tournament appearances, pointing out that last year’s team rounded into form late before making a scintillating run through the tournament to the national title.

The situation with the men’s lacrosse team seems less hopeful. The Cavaliers have long been considered one of the sport’s dynasties, with 16 ACC titles and seven national championships as proof of their long time dominance. However, with yesterday’s loss to Duke, the men have failed to win a conference game for the second year in a row and also have missed qualifying for the ACC tournament for the third consecutive year. Even more glaring is the fact that the team is 1-16 in its last 17 ACC games and has lost twelve straight. This is not Virginia lacrosse. Not even close.

Longtime coach Dom Starsia had compiled a record of 267-95 (.738) in his 23 seasons prior to 2015, but this year’s team sits at 6-7 and Dom’s tenure may be drawing to a close. There has been a pervasive pall over the program ever since the tragic murder of women’s lacrosse player Yeardley Love by men’s player George Huguely in a fit of jealous rage in May 2010. Ironically, the men’s team did manage to win the 2011 national championship with an amazing and unexpected performance in the national tournament. However, the start of Huguely’s trial in February 2012 and the attendant negative publicity and focus on Starsia’s oversight of the program seems to have marked the turning point for the program.

The negative publicity has affected recruiting to some degree but certainly there are other factors at work. Chief among them being the prevalence of early scholarship offers to ninth and tenth graders. Frankly these offers come too early to be accurate predictors of a player’s ability to succeed at the college level. Every coach agrees with this and hopes for reform, but until it does coaches feel the pressure to offer these kids before the next coach does. Virginia, for whatever reason, has seemingly failed to identify the players who continue to grow and mature over the course of their high school playing years and as a result the team lacks the star power that UVA is accustomed to.

The spreading popularity of the game has given rise to new college programs that have diluted the pool of available talent. The University of Denver, the reigning NCAA champion, only began playing lacrosse in 1984. By comparison, Virginia has played varsity lacrosse for 87 years.

Virginia generally is patient with its coaches, especially those who have had the success that Starsia has had, but the pressure is on Starsia to fix the program’s problems and fix them yesterday. Another winless ACC campaign and no NCAA and Starsia may be encouraged to retire and allow the school to bring in new leadership.

The women’s tennis program had its best year ever in 2014, compiling a 23-6 record, winning the ACC Championship for the second consecutive year and making its fifth straight NCAA Round of 16 appearance. Head coach Mark Guilbeau has brought unprecedented levels of success to Charlottesville in his 11 years as the women’s coach. However, his tenure has not been without controversy, as his teams have experienced much-higher-than-normal levels of attrition. Sadly, that has continued to be the case in 2016, as it was recently announced that three members of the team have left the program.

All three of the players had previously been suspended for a violation of team rules and whether or not their subsequent departures are related to the incident is not known. What is known, however, is that Virginia will play out the remainder of the season in short-handed fashion. With a full roster, Virginia was considered to be a national title contender, but the recent departures of seniors Maci Epstein, Skylar Morton, and junior Victoria Olivarez leaves the fifteenth-ranked Cavaliers short on personnel and high on scandal and that can’t be good for recruiting.

Comparatively speaking, the men’s tennis team is in great shape. Despite its current number one national ranking, the team made news earlier this year when it was beaten by UNC in the finals of the national ITA Team Indoor Championship. The loss was Virginia’s first to an ACC opponent since 2006. The 140 consecutive wins is the longest winning streak in any sport in ACC history and a testament to UVA’s absolute stranglehold on the ACC for the past decade. Nevertheless, the Cavaliers continue to have realistic ACC and national title potential. The loss to the Tarheels was noteworthy but not emblematic of the problems Virginia’s other spring teams are confronting in 2015.

Virginia’s athletic mantra is “uncompromised excellence” and that has been the hallmark of spring sports at UVA for at least a decade now. Virginia fans will tell you that when it comes to the school’s sports programs, one hand gives while the other takes away. Given the recent successes of the men’s basketball team under head coach Tony Bennett and the surging optimism surrounding the football program under the direction of new head coach Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia fans will not be surprised that the school’s usually-excellent spring sports teams are scuffling. That’s just the way it is in the life of a University of Virginia sports fan.

E-mail Seward at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SewardTotty.

The Unheralded Cleveland State All-American

Two weeks ago, Cleveland State swimmer Phillipp Sikatzki accomplished a rare feat in the annals of Viking athletics. The junior from Germany finished fourth in the finals of the 100-yard butterfly event at the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships at Georgia Tech. It was the highest finish for any Cleveland State swimmer ever, and was the highest finish for any mid-major program in this year’s championships.

More importantly, since he had qualified for the finals in that event, Sikatzki had automatically earned All-American status, as he was guaranteed a top-8 finish. It marked the first time since Jakub Dobies was named an honorable mention All-American in 2009 that any CSU athlete had been so distinguished.

The opening event two weeks ago also marked the first of three events Sikatzki competed in. He also took part in the 100-yard backstroke and 100-yard freestyle events, finishing 26th and 25th in the preliminaries, respectively. Again, this was the first time a Viking swimmer had competed in the NCAAs since Dobies in 2009.

And this is quite possibly the first time you’re hearing about any of this, unless you regularly visit the CSU athletics or NCAA web sites and national swimming sites such as SwimSwam.

In the interest of fairness, I also failed to mention this earlier then now, mostly to chase the fan fever dream of the men’s basketball team snagging some of the top recruits in the area. So, Phillipp Sikatzki and Cleveland State swimming, consider this a mea culpa.

That said, I doubt either will get such a capitulation from anywhere else. Even as elements from athletics were reminding Cleveland.com that Cleveland State has sports besides men’s basketball, the response they received was about as expected: Crickets.

While the reaction from the area’s largest news organization was anticipated, the two student newspapers, the Cleveland Stater and the Cauldron, have also been mum on Sikatzki’s feat. This is even after the latter printed an excellent profile on the swimmer in its March 21st issue.

This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway to the student media, at the risk of this becoming a “get off my lawn” moment. Cleveland.com ignores the Vikings, because it doesn’t generate a sufficient amount of traffic to justify coverage. I only publish once a week here at Campus Pressbox and am prone to going off on wide tangents frequently. In spite of that fact that you cover athletics beyond what’s found elsewhere, an event such as a Cleveland State athlete earning All-American honors shouldn’t be ignored. Ever.

Take that into consideration the next time you want to wax nostalgic about NCAA tournament teams of the past or any of Cleveland’s professional teams.

Also, for future reference, when doing an April Fool’s issue, it has been standard practice to have a section of actual news, too.

Certainly, that’s a lot to put on both the Stater and the Cauldron, but the media landscape has changed to the point where you’re pretty much the ballgame when it comes to covering CSU athletics, good, bad or indifferent.

But the student media is only one part of the issue. You would think that what Sikatzki has done to bring glory to Cleveland State would have caught the attention of the school’s Student Government Association. It is election season, as I understand it, and it’s not as if SGA hasn’t weighed in on athletics before, as the Board of Elections did include a non-binding measure last year regarding the wrestling program that passed handily.

So, SGA has proven itself as a means to support student athletes in times of crisis. Why not in times of celebration? And Sikatzki seems more than worthy of that honor, doesn’t he?

And never forget that this is your money at work here. It can’t be stated enough that more than 89 percent of the athletic budget comes from the General Fee. You’re footing the bill for all of this. Don’t you want to make sure it’s getting spent properly? After all, nobody seems to be shy about questioning CSU president Ronald Berkman’s residential indecisiveness.

Ironic, really, that those folks are so wrapped up in that nonsense, as opposed to the gobs of money being spent all over campus, including athletics. But, whatever makes them feel better about yourself.

Apathy is a Cleveland State tradition as old as the university itself, for some reason. And it’s reared its ugly head once again, this time at the expense of a swimmer who has done nothing to deserve this level of indifference. I’m not saying that you need to throw him a ticker-tape parade. But at the very least, acknowledge that he exists.

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

Image courtesy of CSUVikings.com

Grand Canyon University Drops Wrestling

Monday March 7, 2016 was the day that in many ways had people at Grand Canyon University, the Phoenix community, and the sport of college wrestling all in disbelief when the GCU athletic department made the announcement that they were going to discontinue wrestling as a varsity sport. This comes as a head-scratcher since this program had invested in hiring coach Jon Sioredas who came over from top program UT-Chattanooga and who was a top assistant for the Mocs.

The Lopes were 5-19 this year in their meets but also have some great wrestlers on their roster. GCU has a national champion in Uzo Owuama, as well as two All-Americans Trayton Libolt and Austin Gaun. Beside these three standouts there are seventeen other wrestlers who will be without a place to show off their craft. Charles Hampton, who is GCU’s Associate Athletic Director for Strategic Communication and PR, sent a statement on the behalf of the athletic department on the situation about the wrestling team being dropped from the varsity lineup. Hampton is quoted as saying that “After evaluating the program, it was determined a programmatic change was necessary to allow the institution to remain successful in a constantly changing collegiate athletics landscape.”

It makes one think that this move which will go into effect at the end of the wrestling season this year (2015-16) that Grand Canyon might be trying to better situate themselves with the uncertainties that consist inside of the Western Athletic Conference in which they are a member of. From the outside looking in GCU looks to be preparing themselves for a potential meltdown of the WAC with what is happening with WAC member Chicago State and budget issues and not wanting to be left behind in trying to find another place to call home for their athletics. Side note the two conferences that also do not sponsor wrestling that could be of interest to GCU, would be the West Coast Conference as well as the Big West Conference. It is mere speculation at this point. But I bring this up because this is a shocking event that has no one in a leadership position has really given a good response in as why other than it just does not pencil out well in the eyes of the athletic department.

If there is one thing that could be a silver lining for those in the wrestling program is that Grand Canyon will be honoring their scholarships in full if they choose to stay at the school to finish out their college career. Some might look at it as an empty gesture for a group of young men who just lost their program and will more than likely transfer out to other schools who have wrestling programs. As it goes for Grand Canyon University as a whole this school has some great minds whether that be President Brian Mueller, Athletic Director Mike Vaught, and Jerry Colangelo who GCU just named their business school after. These men understand that tough decisions will have to be made to allow GCU to be as healthy as a University as well as an athletic department.

There has not been any response by those who are part of the wrestling program at this time. Again it is a sad time in mid-major collegiate athletics when schools cut programs for whatever the reason might be. It’s tough in this current day in age when it comes to college athletics, when most schools are looking at how to maximize profit in an ever so shrinking and over saturated market when it comes to Olympic sports.

E-mail Josh at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @joshualovern87.

Photo via Flickr/Chris Hunkeler