Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Tigers Racing For Survival

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

There are certain checkpoints in the baseball season which are good gauges for which a team can determine whether they'll be buyers or sellers.

First, Memorial Day Weekend has come and gone as Auto Racing fans had their share of excitement with the Indianapolis 500 along with the Coca Cola 600.

Second, there is Fathers Day and it won't be very long until the All-Star Break takes place in early July at Marlins Park in Miami.

During Spring Training, the Detroit Tigers had high hopes that they would be playoff contenders as they nearly made the postseason in 2016.

The Tigers brought back a familiar face in Lloyd McClendon to be their hitting coach.

McClendon was a finalist for the job when Jim Leyland retired but Detroit hired Brad Ausmus to manage the club. McClendon would later manage the Seattle Mariners then proceeded to be fired after the Mariners brought in a different General Manager.

McClendon told me that the only thing he would predict is that "we'll score a lot of runs."
Time will tell during the course of the 162-game season whether McClendon's prediction comes to fruition. The recent loss of DH Victor Martinez due to an irregular heartbeat hasn't helped matters.

To date, the Tigers record is 32-37 following a 6-2 loss Monday Night in Seattle against the Mariners.

They're currently fourth in the AL Central ahead of the last place Chicago White Sox (31-37) by a half game.
Detroit is 5.5 games behind division leader the Cleveland Indians (37-31). This is a division which is definitely there for the taking providing the Tigers can put together a sustained winning streak and then play more consistent baseball in the second half of the season.
By now the Tigers problems are well documented as the lingering dilemma Detroit has faced the past several years remains a concern, The Bullpen.

Former closer Francisco Rodriguez has been replaced by Justin Wilson.

Shane Greene has done a nice job, while Alex Wilson has been solid at times.

Detroit has had a Super Shuttle to Triple A Toledo as there has been plenty of movement as the Tigers continue to find answers for The Bullpen.

Since trading away centerfielder Cameron Maybin to the LA Angels, there were hopes that Jacoby Jones could become his replacement. That hasn't transpired and Tyler Collins had an opportunity to win the job but he was sent packing to Toledo.

The most common name who has been in centerfield is Mr.Versatility, Andrew Romine.

This is a guy that hit a grand slam homer early in the season then was drug tested and he passed the test. No harm, no foul.



Romine could have played in any era even at a time when there was a 24-man roster many years ago. For a team loaded with many high profiled players, this guy is so valuable because he plays so many positions.

The only position Romine has never played is catcher.

During Spring Training, I spoke with Romine and he took a lot of pride about this and he said, "I'll do whatever it takes to help the team. I enjoy playing different positions because you get a different perspective of each game and are exposed to different positions."

When I asked Romine about playing catcher, he smiled and laughed then said, "One of these days I wouldn't mind catching. But it would have to be the right situation for Brad (Ausmus) to do this."

One of the interesting story lines in Spring Training was Detroit experimenting with the idea of converting outfielder Andrew Gose to a relief pitcher, figuring it would be an everything to gain and nothing to lose approach.

Ausmus said that he figured "Anthony would be a one inning pitcher, not two. We'll just see what happens."

Gose is currently pitching for the Lakeland Flying Tigers in the Florida State League, Detroit's Advanced Class A- Affiliate.
It will be interesting to see how this experiment plays out as time progresses.

Since the passing of Owner Mike Ilitch on February 10, 2017, it has been an emotional year for the Tigers. There have been patches on the team's jersey's, as well as tributes on the team's flag at Comerica Park and in the on deck circle.

Ilitch's Son Chris is running the show and now it remains to be seen what will happen in his regime.

Tigers Bench Coach Gene Lamont said, "It will be an emotional season for us. Mr. Ilitch meant so much to the city, fans, and everybody around him. I enjoyed working for Mr. Ilitch. He's treated me great and wasn't afraid to spend the money to make us an upper echelon team."

There is no question that the Tigers have a lot to do to make the playoffs and over the next month or so we'll find out whether J.D. Martinez and Ian Kinsler will be playing in new area codes and perhaps others.

Unfortunately for the Ilitch family, the Detroit Red Wings 25-year playoff streak came to an end this Spring.

But Manager Brad Ausmus and General Manager Al Avila definitely have a lot of work to do and it seems like they have their work cut out for them.

I and everybody else will be curious to see how the Tigers Race For Survival Turns Out to make the playoffs, or whether they'll be headed for a long rebuilding process.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sparring With The Real Rocky

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

The South Florida Region has always been kind to me when it comes to Boxing.
When I lived here from 1982-84, I worked for The Hallandale Digest and we covered Boxing hard when the situations presented themselves.

Interviewing and writing stories on the late Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard were unquestionably thrills of a lifetime.

I became friends with Ali and Leonard's Trainer, the late great Angelo Dundee, who taught me a lot about Boxing. The only thing Dundee didn't do was train me and be my corner man in a fight.

The old Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, FL., used to host events and I met prominent Judge Eva Shain. She became the first woman to judge a Heavyweight Championship bout. Shain was one of the judges at the fight between Ali and Ernie Shavers in 1977 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

I wrote a story on former Boxing Referee Joey Curtis at the Diplomat Hotel.

Curtis will always be remembered as a referee for taking a Boxer's safety first.

On December 10, 1982, he was chosen to referee the World Boxing Association's World Championship Fight between Champion Mike Weaver and Challenger Michael Dokes.

Dokes came out relentlessly early in the fight and hammered Weaver often. Curtis controversially stopped the fight in 63 seconds into the first round.

When we talked, Curtis told me that the Nevada Athletic Commission told him to be mindful of the condition of the fighters after the November 18, 1982 death of Korean Duk Koo Kim as a result of a fight with Ray Mancini in Las Vegas on November 13.

Another friend of mine is old Boxing Historian, Hank Kaplan. I met Kaplan when I was covering events that he was promoting through Pugilistic Promotions. These fights would take place at the War Memorial Auditorium in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Kaplan and I would go out to eat often and we once talked about an idea of seeing whether it would be feasible to have a Boxing Match at Gulfstream Race Course (Home of The Florida Derby) since I knew President Doug Donn real well. Nothing came of that.

Now it's time to speed up the clock to the Fall of 2016.

I happened to be on Facebook and there was a link on My Timeline for an event to be held at Lauderdale By The Sea City Hall.

One of the promoters behind it was Lisa Bartolo.

Former Heavyweight Boxer Chuck Wepner was going to sign autographs and answer questions.

For those of you that don't know Wepner, 78, Chuck fought Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali on March 24, 1975. The fight nearly lasted 15 rounds. Wepner was knocked out with 19 seconds left in the 15th round.

The contest was held in the Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio.

Wepner's incredible effort as a heavy underdog to Ali was the inspiration for The Rocky Series.

Wepner, 6-5, would amass 51 fights, had a 35-17-2 record with 17 knockouts.

Wepner's main nickname is "The Real Rocky" and we had a chance to talk about many things in this Exclusive Q&A Interview.

The reason why I've decided to post the interview now is there is a new movie made on Wepner that is being released on May 5, 2017 titled "The Bleeder" also known as "Chuck."

Q: Describe what it was like to fight Muhammad Ali and be able to nearly go the 15 round distance?
A: It was the greatest fight of my life getting a shot at the title. It took 12 years and I finally got the shot, and I went 15 rounds to go at Muhammad Ali. I had the champ down and they made the movie Rocky about me. A lot of things turned out good for me.

Q: When you were fighting Ali, do you feel that he ever underestimated you going into this particular fight since you were a prohibitive underdog knowing you lost in a mere 15 seconds?

A: I definitely feel Ali underestimated me. He took the fight thinking it would be an easy one. This fight turned out to be one of the longest fights of his career.

Q: I know that your fulltime job was a liquor salesman.
What was it like to be without a trainer for much of your career until the Ali Fight?
A: It was hard. I would run in the morning, then shower, go to work all day, then go to the gym at night. It was pretty tough, but those are the things you face when you don't have any money backing you up.

Q: Did Promoter Don King get you a trainer for the Ali fight?

A: Don King took me on as a promoter at the end of my career, and he got me a guy by the name of Billy Prezent. He was a part-time cornerman . Billy helped me a lot. He gave me the attention I never got in the other fights in my career.

Q: I notice you were using "The Rabbit Punch" against Ali. How effective was it? Where did the punch come from?

A: I was tall and I seemed to be always punching down on guys. Guys would duck in and
I would really hit them. Even though it was an illegal punch, it worked for me because it used to wear guys down, and that's what I tried to do with Ali.

I try to get them out of his rhythm and make him go to war with me. I tried to get him to punch himself out. It worked to a certain extent. That was my signature punch.

A Rabbit Punch is only illegal only it it's on the back of the neck. In that fight, the punches were on the side of the face and neck which a lot of those punches their were legal. You try to throw the punches and when you throw them, the guy keeps ducking and they're close to the body, and it's legal.

Q: Let's talk about your boxing style. Did you ever view yourself as a brawler or a finesse fighter?

A: I was a brawler. I was a brawler that was a tough guy who could take a punch to wear guys down. I was just a brawler, that's all.

Q: Would you say that you were able to get that Ali fight because he was looking for someone white?

A: That's exactly what it was. He was looking for a white guy to fight for the title. I was the only Top 10 guy in the world. That's why I got the shot.

Q: After Ali's death on June 3, 2016, I heard you were giving a lot of interviews. Is that true?

A: Yes. When "The Greatest" was gone, I gave hundreds and hundreds. I also gave 34 on the phone and seven on national television totaling 41.

Q: What was your proudest accomplishment in your boxing career?

A: My highlights include winning the NABA World Title in 1972, and going 15 rounds with Ali.

Q: One of the many things I respect about you Chuck was you never dodged a fighter. Do you take pride in that?

A: Yes. In my era, it wasn't my style. I couldn't dodge anybody. I started late. I won the New York and East Coast Nationals at 25-years old. So I took on anybody that wanted to fight me, I would fight them.

Q: What fighter did you fear the most?

A: I didn't fear anybody. The toughest fighter I faced was Sonny Liston. I went 10 rounds with Liston and it was a brawl. I got banged up pretty good.

Q: Give me your observations about the Muhammad Ali vs George Forman fight that was held on October 29, 1974?

A: I didn't think Ali could beat Foreman and I was going to be fighting Foreman for the title after that fight. But low and behold, the great Muhammad Ali pulled it out of the bag and knocked him out in the eighth round. He outsmarted Foreman with "The Rope-A-Dope."

Q: One thing Ali told me when I interviewed him back in 1982 was he wore Foreman out and George had no gas in the tank. He boxed very patiently. Does that make sense?

A: Yes. I was at Ali's 70th birthday in 2012, and he said the things just as you have said. He wore me out and he hit me then the next thing I know, I look up, and I'm on the floor and he's standing over me. How did this happen? I didn't beat the count. I actually got up at nine but was stumbling, and the referee waived off the fight. It was a great fight. Ali proved his greatness that night.

Q: When you were fighting in your prime, matches used to go 15 rounds. It seemed like to me that fighters took more punishment, plus they were fighting more often. What do you remember about that?

A: There were a lot of better heavyweights. I was ranked in The Top 10 in the world 42 straight months. Nowadays, the heavyweight division is terrible.

Q: Let's talk about Sylvester Stallone and The Rocky Series. If I heard you correctly, The Rocky Series netted $4 Billion?

A: It was actually $4.4 Billion as of 2014 nationally. It's all over the world. It's more popular in Japan and in Europe than it is in the USA. You know how popular it is here. I get about 10 calls a month saying Chuck, Rocky is on. I've seen it 10 times, have watched it 10 times, and I'm not going to watch it again.

I think Sylvester Stallone is a great action actor, and he makes a lot of great movies. He's done a lot for me in the past and he's doing a lot for me now. He's one of the co-producers of My Movie, "The Bleeder."

Q: Chuck, I'm going to let you have the floor. Let's talk about the legalities of The Rocky Series and how it pertains to your life story. What's your relationship like with Stallone?

A: He made the movie. I'm deeply honored that I was the inspiration. As a matter of fact, in Rocky 2, he wrote a part into the movie, a boxer named Ching Webner, his best sparring partner. I read the part, but didn't do well. I didn't get the part. But that's alright. I'm not an actor. And Sylvester Stallone has done a lot for me.

There was never any sour grapes from me as far as I'm concerned. I didn't think there is from him either. Things seem to be alright.

Q: Would you say you've made out well financially over this?

A: I have made money throughout the years. Best of all, a lot of people call me "Champ" Rocky.

During the course of our conversation, it seemed that Wepner is at peace with himself.

Here is a guy that is called "Champ" because of his connection to The Rocky Series.

As aforementioned, Stallone wanted him to read the part again for Rocky 2 to be his "Chief Sparring Partner."

While it wasn't good enough to get in the movie, that never mattered to Wepner.

He also told me that he likes UFC/MMA because it's exciting and he hopes those fighters make good money like boxers.

But when you break down Chuck Wepner as a whole, this is a guy that almost went the distance with Ali.

He made a mere $100,000 for the fight, but amazes me in many ways.

Once upon a time, he couldn't afford a trainer in his boxing career.

But meanwhile, while many fighters have passed away due to head trauma as a result of excessive blows to the head, including Ali, when we met, Wepner was in Fantastic Shape!

What will Wepner's legacy be over time?

1. Will it be for the courageous fight with Muhammad Ali?

2. Will it be that he was "The Real Rocky?"

There are no wrong answers here and a good way to describe Wepner is he was a "Blue Collar Brawler."

For myself, I will say it was a thrill of a lifetime for me to spar and interview "The Real Rocky." I can't count how many times that I've watched the Rocky Series.

But I'll say this, I've had many great interviews in my 38 years in Sports Media, and this one will rank amongst the best!

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33.com and is a member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Who Would You Add?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

As the NFL off-season hits it's stride and we're into free agency, and the 2017 Draft takes place in April, I've decided to examine a few players which could play this year.

The three that standout are Oklahoma Running Back Joe Mixon, former San Francisco 49'ers QB Colin Kaepernick and former Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel.

Each player has an interesting story but the big question that executives will have to ponder this spring--- Are these players more trouble than they're worth?

Let's start off with Mixon.

He's the most intriguing player of the group.

The 20-year old has served a one-year suspension from Oklahoma for a domestic violence incident back in 2014.

Because of this, the NFL didn't invite Mixon to the Scouting Combine as a result of his off the field behavior.

Mixon is a dual threat running back.

In 2016, he rushed for 1,274 yards on 187 carries and 10 touchdowns. He added five receiving touchdowns.

In 2015, Mixon had 113 carries for 753 yards, seven touchdowns and four receiving touchdowns.

There is no question the kid can play.

A fan recently asked me that if I were an NFL executive, would I draft Mixon?

Let's put it this way, I'm a firm believer in second chances.

There is no question that I don't tolerate domestic violence.

Let me repeat, I don't tolerate domestic violence and there is no place for it in society!

With that said, Mixon paid the price for his mistake and served a one-year suspension from Oklahoma for his actions. He's been punished for his behavior.

He does deserve a chance for an opportunity to play in the NFL but there must be stipulations in his contract!

First, he must go to therapy for domestic violence.

Second, there should be a clause inserted into his contract that if there is one mishap, his employment should be terminated.

Let Mixon know there is Zero Tolerance for his actions.

Finally, the contract should be constructed as a small base salary with incentives.

This same fan asked me if the Detroit Lions should draft him?

From what I've heard, Mixon is a first round talent that doesn't figure to slip past the third round during the second day of the draft.

Somebody will take this kid and he could be a steal if he avoids any off the field incidents.

I would say yes.

The Detroit Lions have had good success with running backs that have Oklahoma ties.

The Lions drafted former Heisman Trophy Winner Steve Owens in the 1970 Draft. He played five seasons and appeared in one Pro Bowl before a knee injury ended his career.

In 1980, the Lions went back to Oklahoma and selected Billy Sims with the No.1 overall pick and Sims also played five seasons, amassed 5,106 yards, 42 rushing and five receiving touchdowns along with three Pro Bowls.

Once again, a knee injury ended the career of a Lions running back.

Then there was Barry Sanders.

He was drafted in 1989 from Oklahoma State University.

All Barry did was get elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

Sanders rushed for 15,269 yards, had 99 touchdowns, 2,921 receiving yards and another 10 touchdowns.

He was in 10 Pro Bowls.

What else do I need to say except that the state of Oklahoma has been kind to the Lions with running backs.

Somebody asked me why former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice didn't get a second chance after his domestic violence incident?

The answer to that is the incident occurred later in his career and he was on the downside since many running backs break down into their 30's.

If he had more production in him, he could have gotten a second chance.

In fact, Detroit Lions Coach Jim Caldwell didn't bring Rice to town. Caldwell was a former Baltimore Ravens coach.

You could say that Rice was black-balled for his actions and the bad publicity the NFL received didn't help his case.

So there you have it with Mixon.

I'll be curious as to where he winds up and earlier this week, there were 12 teams that wanted to meet with Mixon.

You can rest assure that every President, General Manager and Coach will do their homework. They'll have to get their owner's approval to sign off on adding Mixon knowing what the potential backlash could be from the advertisers and fans due to his checkered past.

The Minnesota Vikings had to deal with this when star Running Back Adrian Peterson went through similar issues.

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The other two players are easier to breakdown.

Let's start with Kaepernick.

Last year he decided to protest and not stand up for the National Anthem because of moral issues.

That's all well and good, but now he's decided that he's made his point and will stand up in 2017.

The only point that Kaepernick, 29, has made is that he's an unrestricted free agent and he's looking for work.

Bringing in this guy would be like having the circus come to town and there would be publicity for all the wrong reasons. No team needs to have a soap opera.

According to TheScore.com, they said that the teams who should look at him are the Cleveland Browns, New York Jets and the Chicago Bears.

First of all, since Jim Harbaugh left San Francisco for Michigan, Kaepernick's play has steadily declined. Aside from one Super Bowl Appearance, he's struggled on the field.

I'll give Kaepernick this much, the 49'ers are on their third coach in three years excluding Harbaugh.

Jim Tomsula followed Harbaugh, then came Chip Kelly and now Kyle Shanahan.

It's hard for any quarterback to go through that much lack of stability.

I've seen this drill too many times over the years.

Kaepernick does have a good arm and is extremely mobile.

His on the field numbers are good.

In six years, he's thrown for 12,271 yards, 72 touchdowns, 30 interceptions and has rushed for another 2,300 yards.

In Cleveland, I don't see Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson adding Kaepernick.

He won't tolerate the baggage that he brings and shipped out Manziel very quickly.

Anything is possible with the New York Jets and the Chicago Bears just signed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Mike Glennon to replace Jay Cutler. I don't see this happening.

The bottom line is I don't think there will be any rush to sign Kaepernick until after the draft or if another signal caller gets hurt.

It's amazing how looking for a job changes ones outlook on how a person moves forward.

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Finally, there is Manziel.

I've never seen a guy that has generated so much publicity for such a short period of time for all the wrong reasons.

Aside from his 2012 Heisman Trophy from Texas A&M, this guy is a BUST if I've ever seen one.

He's played in 15 NFL Games and has thrown for 1,675 yards, seven touchdown and seven interceptions.

He's got a domestic violence act on his rap sheet. He gets more publicity for his partying and alcohol than his performance.

Maziel's immaturity became an issue in college then followed him to the NFL. There were arrests plus other run ins with the law.

I don't care if the guy was recently engaged.

Until he grows up, I can't see too many teams taking a chance on him.

Manziel, 24, does have mobility and is an excellent scrambler.

He has a pro arm and looks like a gunslinger.

Should he get another opportunity, he's going to probably get suspended for the NFL's Personal
Conduct Policy.

Heck, if Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones is going to give another domestic violence offender Greg Hardy another chance, perhaps I could see him bring in Manziel. Hardy blew his latest chance with the Cowboys and is out of the NFL.

But there are a lot of people that need to see that Manziel needs to get his life in order. Event his agents have gotten rid of him.

I feel so strongly about this that I doubt the Canadian Football League with it's wider and longer field would touch him.

Yes, Manziel would sell tickets, but is he more trouble than he's worth?

That's the Million Dollar Question.

The only thing that Manziel has going for him is that teams are desperately looking to find a good quarterback.

But I'm not holding my breath with Johnny Football.

If I were a betting man, of these three players that I spoke about, I would go with Joe Mixon. But I'm not a betting man.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Beware Of The Wolverines

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Before you fill out your brackets here is something to keep in mind.

How much can emotion factor into whether a team makes an incredible post-season run?

In last week's Big Ten Tournament, The Michigan Wolverines played this card all the way to a Conference Championship.

The Wolverines airplane crashed Wednesday, but thankfully nobody was hurt and the team flew out the next day to Washington D.C. where they would face Illinois in their practice jerseys on Thursday, March 9. The determined No.8 Wolverines thrashed No.9 Illinois 75-55.

Michigan arrived at the arena at about 10:35 a.m., and they were playing basketball less than two hours after that (tipoff was delayed about 20 minutes).  They flew in on the Detroit Pistons Jet.

On Friday, March 10, Michigan would play in its regular jerseys and needed OT to defeat No.1 Purdue 74-70 as the ride continued.

On Saturday, March 11, the Wolverines next victim would be No.4 Minnesota as they outlasted the Golden Gophers in the semi-finals 84-77.

Championship Sunday occurred on March 12 as No.2 Wisconsin stood in the way of a conference title.

But Michigan showed a tremendous amount of resilience as the Wolverines blasted the Badgers 71-56 to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and will now face the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Friday.

It was refreshing to see the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., rooting for Michigan throughout the tournament, as it appeared as U-M was playing at the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor.

If the Big Ten was looking to expand the brand by adding Rutgers University and Maryland, the conference did exactly that in Washington D.C. opening up the East Coast Market.

The Wolverines enter the NCAA Tournament with a 24-11 record.

John Beilein is the school's all-time winningest coach with 213 wins passing Johnny Orr and guided the team to an NCAA Finals Appearance in 2012-13, as the team was 31-8.

Beilein's all-time coaching record stands at 689-409 with a winning percentage of .628.

Whether Beilein can work any magic in the NCAA Tournament remains to be seen.

But how far can emotion take a team into the tournament?

Lets go back to 1990 as the Wolverines had to deal with this first hand.

On March 4, 1990, Loyola Marymount University Forward Hank Gathers died during a basketball game due to a heart attack. The Lions would represent the West Coast Conference (WCC) in the NCAA Tournament.

Led by Gathers childhood friend Bo Kimble, the Lions would make an incredible run through the NCAA Tournament all the way to the Elite Eight.

That year the Wolverines were the Defending National Champions and they encountered a hungry Lions squad.

How hungry were the Lions? Loyola was coached by former Los Angeles Lakers boss Paul Westhead, who brought an explosive offense to college. Westhead ran a run-and-gun style which enabled LMU to average a Division I-record 122.4 points per game that season.

On March 18, 1990 at the NCAA West Regional in Long Beach, CA., the Lions devoured Michigan 149-115. The Wolverines simply ran into a buzz saw.

The Lions would eventually lose to eventual National Champion University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) 131-101.

But it would be an incredible run for Loyola Marymount University.

Obviously, none of the current Wolverines were alive when all of this took place.

But if these kids were to look at NCAA Basketball History, the Lions tournament run was extremely special.

Fortunately for Michigan, the plane crash may have shaken these kids and their coaching staff up but, thankfully nobody was hurt.

Yet, with their success in the Big Ten Tournament, this is a great emotional adrenaline builder for the entire program.

On Saturday, March 18, this will be the 27th Anniversary of the Lions thrashing of the Wolverines.

I'm sure U-M would like to keep their magical run going past this date.

Michigan is considered a sleeper by many experts to win the NCAA Title.

I hope these experts are indeed correct and they win the NCAA Title.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Tale Of Two Quarterbacks

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

It will be hard to find two football story lines more compelling than these.

But as far as I'm concerned these are quite interesting in their own way.

First, we'll start out with former Florida Gators QB Tim Tebow.

From a character standpoint, Tebow is A-1 in My Book.

This is a guy that you won't see in an arrest mugshot photo.

If I had a daughter, I'd try to set her up with Tim.

He's a true role model.

When Tebow was trying out for the New England Patriots in 2013, Owner Robert Kraft was rooting for him to make the team.

However, since the Patriots opted to keep two signal callers at the time, Tebow was the odd man out and was released to get the Patriots down to the Final 53 roster size.

This was unfortunate because New England Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels selected him in the first round when he was Denver's head coach.

This is a guy that won a playoff game with the Denver Broncos which is better than many of the other teams as well as prominent QB's have failed to accomplish.

Unfortunately, that wouldn't be enough for Tebow to make it in the NFL.

Now I'm not one to give any career advice, but when the Broncos gave Tebow an opportunity to decide whether he wanted to be traded to the New York Jets or Jacksonville Jaguars, he opted to play in the Big Apple under Rex Ryan hoping to be a Wildcat QB thinking he'd eventually become a starter.

That situation fizzled.

Tebow should have played for the Jaguars where he had a chance to play QB in his hometown.

The Jaguars are a very patient franchise, but Tebow opted for the endorsement possibilities of New York rather than earning them later succeeding for a team that needed him and a city which would have loved him.

He would have also increased the Jaguars attendance.

To compound the problem, if Tebow really wanted to play QB badly, he could have developed his skills in the Canadian Football League (CFL).

Two QB's that used their play North Of The Border and cashed in with the NFL include Warren Moon and Doug Flutie.

Tebow's running ability would have been a good fit for the CFL.

With more NFL teams looking for QB's, Tebow could have had more polished skills and experience under his belt.

Some of the contracts that are being signed by these QB's during free agency have been totally ridiculous.

In three NFL seasons Tebow played, he was 173-361 with a 47.9 Completion Percentage in 35 games. He amassed 2,422 yards, tossed 17 touchdowns, nine interceptions along with 989 rushing yards. He was sacked seven times to go along with six fumbles lost.

Although his NFL Dreams began to diminish, Tebow, 29, has been able to stay in the spotlight and does work for ESPN on The SEC Network. This position does keep Tebow close to the game and he earns a really good living behind the microphone.

Now as we fast forward to his current dreams, Tebow figures since he couldn't make it in football, he'll take his swings in baseball after being away from the diamond 12 years.

Thus far, it has been a difficult transition for the former Heisman Trophy Winner.

During the Arizona Fall League, in 19 games, Tebow hit .194 with 20 strikeouts in 64 at bats.

I missed The Tebow Circus by a day when he arrived for Spring Training on Monday, February 27.

During Spring Training, the Mets lost 14 players, 11 from the Major League Squad due to the World Baseball Classic.

The Mets played this well as he played in three games and once again, Tebow was outclassed by going 1-10 with four strikeouts and a .100 batting average.

His first hit on Monday came off Miami Marlins right-handed pitcher Kyle Lobstein.

For New York, it was an opportunity to boost attendance for the three games and cash in on merchandise sales.

There has been no shortage of standing ovations at Port. Saint Lucie's First Data Field.

I will say that thanks to name recognition, Tebow got a better opportunity to even play in these games more so than any other prospect in the minor leagues.

But now the question remains, can Tebow tough it out in the Minor Leagues with long bus rides and much lower paychecks?

I do believe that Tebow will put fans in the stands wherever he plays.

If he ever develops into a good left-handed hitter, this might boost his chances to progress and get another shot down the line to advance in Minor League Baseball. A team can never have enough good left-handed bats.

There is an adage in baseball that if you're a good hitter, you'll get noticed and promoted. I've seen it happen many times in my 35 plus years covering baseball.

I don't see Tebow having money issues since he has other opportunities outside of baseball.

I'll be curious to see how he handles the long bus rides.

His Minor League Salary will amount to what a Summer Camp Counselor will earn.

If he doesn't make it in baseball and he's even said that hitting a baseball is the hardest thing he's ever done, at least he'll know that Michael Jordan never made it to the Major Leagues.

There is nothing wrong with being in the same sentence as Jordan.

I do wish Tebow well in attempting his endeavor and I hope he proves me wrong when I predict, he won't play in the Major Leagues.

He should have paid his dues and stayed with football that made him lots of money and famous.

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From Tim Tebow to Vince Young, the former standout QB at Texas.

Young was drafted in 2006 in the first round, third overall by the Tennessee Titans.

With Texas in 2005, Young won a BCS National Championship and a Rose Bowl MVP.

In the NFL, Young would play six seasons with the Titans and the Philadelphia Eagles and played in two Pro Bowls.

He amassed 8,964 passing yards with 46 touchdowns and 51 interceptions. Young rushed for 1,459 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Young would get tryouts from the Buffalo Bills (2012) Green Bay Packers (2013) and Cleveland Browns (2014) but he was unable to make those squads.

He retired and began working with Texas, does TV Work on the Longhorn Network, owns a Steakhouse along with a Real Estate Brokerage.

In early February, Young was added to the negotiation list of the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Part of the attraction for Young was the interest shown in him by Chris Jones,

The Roughriders Head Coach/General Manager went out of his way to get Young's phone number from Mark Speer, who coached against Young when the latter was a star in the Houston High School Ranks.

There is no better opportunity than having a coach who believes in you.

Young's talents should be well suited for the longer and wider field of the CFL where midfield is the 55-yard line.

Once Young made up his mind to make a comeback, his agent Leigh Steinberg moved swiftly to get his client signed. Young signed a one-year contract (with a club option for a second year).

The 33-year old Young signed a contract on March 9, 2017 and a Press Conference was held to introduce Young as the team's new signal caller.

Steinberg and Young's plan is that they're looking to make Vince as good of a player as possible in the CFL. The plan is to win Grey Cups.

Just an FYI, former NFL Running Back and Texas Longhorn Ricky Williams played one season for the Toronto Argonauts.

So when you think about whether Tebow makes it with the Mets or whether Young plays well in the CFL, one thing remains consistent.

Both players are hard workers and haven't lost their competitiveness to compete and see where their sports careers take them.

Since they're "Young Enough" to turn them around or let's put it this way, Young and Tebow have Unfinished Business to take care of.

I have a gut feeling that Young could make it to the NFL in a couple years if he has a couple productive years North Of The Border.

As for Tebow, it's anybody's guess as to what he'll try next.

I wish them well.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Make Or Break Spring For Steven Moya

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING
PORT SAINT LUCIE, FL

If there is ever a player to watch this Spring Training, and he'll get plenty of work do to the World Baseball Classic, it's 6-7 right-fielder Steven Moya.

The Tigers will be sending 15 players to the World Baseball Classic.

The towering left-handed hitter, who is a native of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, will be out of options if he's unable to make the Detroit Tigers Final Roster.

The 25-year old right-fielder signed with the Tigers as a non-drafted free agent in 2008.

In 2012, Moya had Tommy John Surgery, which caused him to play in only 59 games that year.

Moya was added to the teams 40-man roster on November 20, 2013.

He progressed through the Tigers Farm System and made his Major League debut on September 1, 2014, as a pinch hitter in the 9th inning, where he recorded a single in his first career at bat off Austin Adams of the Cleveland Indians.

Following the 2014 season, Moya went on to play for the Glendale Desert Dogs of the Arizona Fall League.

In 23 games, he hit .289 with six doubles, one triple, five home runs, and 19 RBI. He was also named to the Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game.

To date, Moya's MLB statistics are a .250 batting average with five home runs and 11 RBI.

In 2016, Moya earned $507,500 and bounced back and forth to the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens. He filled in when Tigers starting right-fielder J.D Martinez dealt with injuries.

Moya was optioned to AAA Toledo on July 17, 2016.

After batting .324 in June with four home runs, he was 3-23 in July and had defensive lapses in right-field.

This prompted Tigers Manager Brad Ausmus to send Moya back to Toledo to work on his defense in a "less stressful environment."

Is this a "Make or Break Spring Training" for Moya as he attempts to earn a permanent spot with the Tigers?

Time will tell, but he was in the starting line-up vs the New York Mets in Port Saint Lucie. He went 1-3 with a stolen base in the Tigers 5-2 loss to the Mets.

I spoke to Steven before the game and we talked about how important this Spring Training will be for him.

Q: Would you say this is an important year for you?

A: Every year is an important year. This one is too and I'm looking forward to doing good.

Q: I know that you're out of options. Would you say this is one of your best opportunities to make the club?

A: I know every year in the past three years, I've had the opportunity to make the team. Thank God in every year in the past, I've been able to do the job, but they decided to send me to AAA. But I'm looking this year and do the job to see if I can make the team one more time.

Q: Last season you had more playing time to put up more numbers to stay with the club. What was it like to have that much experience to play at the Big League Level?

A: It was really good because I was able to stay with the team a little bit longer and play more. Just to stay with the team and just play. That's what I was looking for was to play.

Q: How do you like playing in Comerica Park and how do you define your power?

A: I like playing in any park. It doesn't matter. Comerica Park is a really big ballpark and the ball carries really well anyways. Even in a big ballpark, the ball can fly really well.

Q: I don't know how much history of baseball you follow, Tiger Stadium was known for it's short right-field porches and was deemed as a hitters ballpark. The baseball would fly out like a rocket especially for left-handed hitters. Could you ever imagine yourself as a left-handed hitter hitting in Tiger Stadium?

A: Like you said, I don't follow much history. I think it would have been awesome to play there. If you say the ball flew out that way, it would have been amazing to hit there.

Q: Are there any particular players that you've learned from on the club that have rubbed off on you?

A: I like watching Victor (Martinez) and Miggy (Cabrera). I like to learn as much as I can while I'm with them to improve my hitting.

Q: What areas of your game do you feel that need the most improvement?

A: Playing time (laughing). The more you play, the more you can improve. And if you can't play, you can't improve on anything. The game is where you can put your talents to use, abilities to improve, grow and get better.

Q: What about defensively? I know you were sent to AAA to work on your skills last season. Have you had the opportunity to work with coaches and strengthen up in that area?

A: I've worked with (Dave) Clark and we work on everything that we can work on to get better in that area. Even more in Comerica because it's a big ballpark and there is a funny corner in right-field, and right-center-field. We're working on every aspect of the outfield such as throwing, fielding and everything.

Q: Does playing in a spacious ballpark present more defensive challenges knowing there is a lot more ground to cover?

A: Yes, of course. That's what you have to work for, knowing how your ballpark is, and trying to get better in that area, so you can play good in your hometown.

Q: I know you're playing hard to make this club. Are you confident that wherever you wind up after this year, that you'll be able to get your opportunity somewhere?

A: Absolutely, yes! All I can do is what I do now. I can control what I can now. That's why I'm focusing on today's game. I'm getting ready for today's game. That's what I can control. After that, whatever happens at the end of Spring Training, I don't have control over that.

Q: One thing a lot of people say Steve about Spring Training is you're not playing for one team, but you're playing for 30 since there are scouts everywhere. What are your thoughts about this?

A:That's right. That's right sir. That what I'm working hard to do and staying focused.

Q: What do you think of the Tigers chances in 2017?

A: This has always been a great team and is now. We have unbelievable players, unbelievable persons and we can win with this team.

Q: I know there are a lot of Latin players on this team. Is this a good environment for you with Miggy, and Victor Martinez. Do a lot of these Latin Players rub off on you in a positive way?

A: Yes, yes. Having Latin players on your team that you can be around, they are your role models. I have to rely on them sometimes.

Q: Finally, how do you like playing for Manager Brad Ausmus?

A: He's a great guy, great person and it's unbelievable to play for him.

Whether Moya plays for Ausmus on Opening Day when the Tigers face the Chicago White Sox, April 3, 2017, in the Windy City, remains to be seen.

However, as we focus on the present this will be an interesting story line to watch in Spring Training.

Moya will have an opportunity to compete for an outfield spot.

Detroit traded Cameron Maybin to the Los Angeles Angels during the winter.

Since Detroit is loaded with right-handed hitters, the Tigers could use a lanky left-handed power hitter in the line-up.

Regardless of how this turns out, I have a feeling Moya will be playing somewhere in 2017.

To say that this is a Big Spring Training for Moya is mildly understating that both sides are Out Of Options.

With the World Baseball Classic going on and as I mentioned before, Detroit's sending 15, Moya will get all the playing time, and experience he needs to impress Tigers Management a fair assessment on his future to see if he continues to wear the "Old English D."

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Days Before Christmas

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

I must be totally crazy or really enjoy what I do to have undertaken this Ambitious Schedule.

It's been nearly a month, when on December 23, 2016, the Detroit Red Wings faced the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL.

The Red Wings found themselves in a very unusual situation,

They're near the bottom of the standings in both Their Division as well as in the Wild Card Race.

Before the game at dinner, I told DSBA President Trevor Thompson that My Photographer Candice Ebling and I were covering the Red Wings, then traveling over night to write about the Jacksonville Jaguars vs Tennessee Titans.

In Jacksonville, I would see my Great Friend Dan Edwards of the Jaguars.

After the Titans game, I told Trevor we were heading to Milwaukee, WI., hoping to arrive by Christmas Night. This would be a trek which would be approximately 27 hours with two sleepless nights.

Trevor and I joked around about this and we laughed when Thompson, like most normal people, knew that taking long drives especially like this, aren't his style.

As things would turn out, Ebling and I would log over 4,100 miles in a two-week span.

We had to replace two rear tires on our rental car, one of which occurred as a result of a blowout as we exited I-94 near West Allis, WI., 30 minutes after we dropped off My Cousin Cindy Cullen Spyke from the Milwaukee Airport.

On our trip back to Florida, we dealt with frozen windshield wiper fluid because our company had put a lighter and not strong enough brand in because of freezing temperatures.

But back to the Red Wings vs Panthers game.

The Red Wings 4-3 shootout win over Florida  Fueled My Adrenaline to making Part One of "The Drive" an Easy One.

Against Florida, Detroit was faced with some interesting story-lines.

With a win over the Red Wings, Panthers Goaltender Roberto Luongo was looking to move into sole possession of fifth place passing Detroit Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk with 448 wins.

But that didn't happen as Red Wings rookie net minder Jared Coreau recorded his first NHL triumph over his hero Sawchuk growing up.

I was impressed with Coreau because many young players don't follow the history of their sport as this kid did.

Luongo is one of the few goalkeepers in the NHL who still wears the No.1 as that number is retired in Detroit.

Coreau would have to earn his win the hard way in a shootout. His record improved to 1-1-0, while Luongo dropped to 11-10-3 for this season at that time.   This would go down as Coreau's 1st career win in the NHL.

Luongo would have to wait another night to surpass Sawchuk.

Since that night, Coreau has asserted himself as the back-up goalie to Petr Mrazek going 5-1-2 with a 2.79 GAA and a .904 save percentage and two shutouts, as Jimmy Howard has dealt with injuries.

If the Red Wings would have lost to Florida, it would have been the first time ever they would have been swept by the Panthers.

So Detroit indeed avoided this first in franchise history.

Florida won the season series 3-1 and trails the all-time series 15-17-5-3.

This turned out to be a painful loss for Florida as Niklas Kronwell knocked out Reilly Smith with a clean hockey hit. Smith went on concussion protocol and was out until after the holiday break.

Red Wings Coach Jeff Blashill had a successful challenge which saved Detroit from trailing 4-1 as Nick Bjugstad was standing in the crease in front of Coreau, thus that goal was disallowed.

One thing which stood out in the game was Florida had an interesting trivia question to their fans.

They asked, who was the first 50 goal scorer in Red Wings history?

Two of the choices mentioned were Red Wings Announcer Mickey Redmond and Danny Grant.

Redmond was the correct answer.

When the contest was over, Blashill's body language looked like a coach who was relieved that his team came away with a win knowing the injuries were mounting on his squad, yet refusing to use this as an excuse for Detroit's struggles.

The Red Wings passed the 200 man games lost due to injury during their 1-0 OT loss to the New York Rangers on Sunday at the Joe Louis Arena.

In this game, both Thomas Vanek (lower body) and Dylan Larkin (upper body) suffered injuries.

Blashill reiterated to me what he said earlier in the season, "Every player in the locker room has belief in one another. We'll continue to work hard towards our goal to reach the playoffs."

"We don't worry about what other people say outside the locker room. As long as we work hard, the results will take care of themselves."

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Up the Road Five Hours North on I-95 in Jacksonville, FL., the Jaguars had high expectations when they faced the Green Bay Packers during opening week on September 11, 2016.

When we came here, both teams played in tremendously hot and humid temperatures.

The Jaguars lost to Green Bay 27-23 and 16 weeks later, Coach Gus Bradley was out of a job as the team had high expectations. Bradley was ousted from his position with a 2-12 record.

He finished with a 14-48 career mark with Jacksonville.

Bradley was replaced before our game with the Tennessee Titans on an interim basis by Assistant Head Coach-Offense/Offensive Line Coach Doug Marrone.

Marrone, 52, led the Buffalo Bills to a 15-17 record as head coach from 2013-2014, and is the sixth head coach in Jaguars history.

Marrone departed Buffalo because he didn't want to work with the new ownership, consisting of Terry and Kim Pegula and the infrastructure of the front office.

As it turned out, the Titans game at home and the finale on January 1, 2017 at Indianapolis, were Marrone's audition to get the permanent job.

When we were there, former Coach Tom Coughlin was being considered a candidate to return as coach while there would be other interviews.

Marrone passed his first audition with flying colors with Owner Shad Khan watching from his suite.

Marrone hit a Grand Slam as Jacksonville thrashed Tennessee 38-17.

The Jaguars avenged a National TV 36-22 loss to Tennessee on Thursday October 27, 2016.

Jacksonville's victory on Christmas Eve over their former Coach Mike Mularkey saw the 8-7 Titans eventually get eliminated from playoff contention.

This was a costly loss for Tennessee as it lost QB Marcus Mariota to a Fractured Fibula for the season.

During the Post-Game Press Conference, Marrone did everything in his power to avoid talking about the coaching search, preferring to praise former Jaguars Coach Bradley's influence on the team instead.

Candidly speaking, Marrone had as many moves as former Detroit Lions Hall of Fame Running Back Barry Sanders pertaining to the coaching search.

However, I did manage to ask him what it was like being on the sidelines again?

"I probably felt---my wife asked me the same question. 'How do you feel?' I said, I feel great. I really do," Marrone said."I feel alive in practice and not that I wasn't before in my other position. I feel comfortable.

"I've been a head coach for six years, four in college and two in the NFL. For me, I don't want to say it's like riding a bike because that would lessen that position as a head coach, so I'm not going to go there."

Marrone added, " But I felt great. I thought the communication was outstanding. Again, the challenge for me was the communication with defense, the communication with game management, the communication with special teams.

"Trying to get coaches up to speed on how I communicate and how I want to run a game, I thought they were great."

The Jaguars lost their final game to Indianapolis 24-20 in Indiana. But there was no doubt they were a different team and played much better with Marrone at the helm.

Marrone finished his interim stint with a 1-1 mark.

The Jaguars finished the regular season with a 3-13 record.

During the off-season, Coughlin was hired as Executive VP of Football Operations.

Coughlin wasted no time hiring Marrone and gave him the full-time head coach job.

Most recently, former Michigan Wolverines running back and later running backs coach, Tyrone Wheatley Sr. was hired by Jacksonville for the same position.

The future does look bright for Jacksonville and I look forward to seeing a couple games next season and monitor their progress.

Bradley wasn't out of work long as he's now the new defensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Chargers.

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Meanwhile, the Red Wings no quit demeanor has them battling to get into the playoffs.

GM Ken Holland  awaits to get his injured players back and isn't ready to give up on a 26th consecutive playoff berth as Detroit plays its Final Season in the Joe Louis Arena and moves into Little Caesars Arena next fall.

The Red Wings are currently 20-19-8 as of this post. The Weekend's All-Star Break couldn't have come at a better time for the team which wears Red and White.

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As for Myself, We arrived in Racine, WI at 1:30 pm Central Time and that 27 hour drive I told Thompson amounted to 21 hours.

Aside from gas and meal stops, the only break we had was a productive stop at the Jaguars game vs the Titans being with My Buddy Dan Edwards.

At 54-years old, I'm a Bullheaded Road Warrior with plenty of long distance driving left in me.

But I'm with you Trevor, you're still more normal than me, however, I wouldn't have it any other way!

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Interesting Coaching Changes In South Florida

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

There were two Interesting Coaching Changes recently in South Florida.

One I can understand while the other was mind boggling.

Let's start off with the mind boggling dismissal.

On November 27, 2016, former Red Wing Gerard Gallant was fired after going two-plus seasons with the Florida Panthers. Gallant was 96-65-25 in his tenure in South Florida.

Gallant led the Panthers into the playoffs last season and was replaced by General Manager Tom Rowe. According to Rowe, Gallant wanted a little bit more size and the Panthers wanted to go in a different direction.

In Florida's short tenure in the NHL dating back to 1993, Rowe becomes the Panthers 14th head coach to sit behind the bench at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL.

Gallant was a Coach Of The Year Finalist last year and now by Christmas, he will be home for the holidays. He led the Panthers to a division title last year and the best regular season in franchise history with a 47-26-6 mark with 103 points.

This season, the Panthers have battled injuries and were 11-10-1 when he was ousted.

As of this post, through 30 games, Florida is 13-13-4 with 30 points and would be out of the playoffs.

Fortunately for Gallant, he was under contract through the 2018-19 season, having signed a contract extension back in January.

As I mentioned before, Rowe becomes the 14th Panthers coach and the fifth person to be behind the bench in the last five years.

Nevertheless, I don't expect Gallant to be out of work long.

Who knows where his next stop will be and since he's being paid to go away, there is a new expansion team set to begin play in 2017-2018 and it's in another warm climate called the Vegas Golden Knights.

Golden Knights Owner Bill Foley is looking to build a winner quickly, and after a successful tenure in Florida, I wouldn't be surprised if Gallant becomes a serious candidate for this job.

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About 35 Minutes away in Boca Raton, FL., the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Owls fired head coach Charlie Partridge.

In three years as coach of FAU, Partridge guided the Owls to a 9-27 record----with three consecutive 3-9 campaigns.

On Saturday, November 26, 2016, Partridge's last game with the Owls was one for the ages for perhaps all the wrong reasons.

FAU lost 77-56, and yes, this is a football score, to the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders on the road.

Folks in Michigan should be very familiar with FAU. The Owls defeated Central Michigan in The Motor City Bowl 24-21 on December 26, 2008.

FAU lost a pair of games to Michigan State in East Lansing, plus played the Spartans in a home game at Ford Field when its new on campus stadium wasn't completed on schedule.

FAU has only been to two Bowl Games under the legendary Howard Schnellenberger. In addition to the Motor City Bowl, FAU also played in the New Orleans Bowl. FAU is 2-0 in Bowl Games.

The program has recently produced some NFL players with the most notable being running back Alfred Morris of the Dallas Cowboys, in addition to QB Rusty Smith, formerly of the Tennessee Titans, wide receiver Lester Jean formerly of the Houston Texans, and many others.

Beautiful FAU Stadium has a capacity of 29,419, has a yearly Bowl Game and is the only venue in the USA that overlooks an ocean. If you're high enough, you can see the Atlantic Ocean. The stadium can also be expanded to as much as 60,000.

In the past couple of weeks, FAU's rival Florida International University (FIU) made a big coaching splash when it hired former Miami Hurricanes Coach Butch Davis.

When Partridge was fired, I knew that for FAU to be relevant, the Owls had to make a big splash of their own.

During FAU's last home game, on November 19, 2016, according to ESPN's Paul Finebaum, a crowd of around 5,800 saw the Owls lose to Old Dominion 42-24.

Aside from the loss to Middle Tennessee State, this is as close to rock bottom as you can get.

Some of the names which made sense to me that FAU would be ideal candidates for the job included former FIU Coach Mario Cristobal along with former Tampa Bay Bucs Head Coach, current Ohio State Assistant Coach and former Rutgers Head Coach Greg Schiano.

Another coach which came to mind was former University of South Florida (USF) Boss Jim Leavitt, who built that program from scratch and former Hurricanes Coach Randy Shannon.

All of these coaches have big Florida ties.

While none of these names will roam the sidelines, FAU did exactly what I feel they had to do and that was make a big splash with this hire.

The new coach is Lane Kiffin.

He's as high profile as it gets!

Kiffin was a head coach for the Tennessee Volunteers, USC Trojans and Oakland Raiders. He's been the offensive coordinator for Alabama the past three years under Nick Saban and has had the Crimson Tide competing for a National Championship.

Truthfully, I never thought that Kiffin and FAU could connect.

But as the opportunities dwindled with Baylor, Oregon, Houston, USF as well as other big time jobs being filled, this began to make more sense by the minute.

As I understand, Kiffin's salary at Alabama is $1.4 Million Annually but his three-year contract was up at the end of the season.

At FAU, he's slated to earn around $950,000 Annually over five years, but there is No State Income Tax in Florida, plus incentives.

Kiffin has a buyout after one year of $2.5 Million, but it goes down $500,000 each year over five years.

At age 41, Kiffin goes into a situation where he has a young football program which began play in 2001. Aside from the two Bowl wins, it has no real tradition.

FAU has won just 19 games during the past six seasons, and the entire athletic department's budget for this year was projected to be $27.1 Million.

This is an opportunity for him to build a legacy of his own and perhaps return to a Power Five Program down the road.

But to understand this hire, since Friday when Kiffin's name became a real possibility to become the Owls coach, the publicity FAU has received nationally is incredible.

Aside from traditional, social and digital media, ESPN and many of the other sports networks have swarmed like bees over this hiring.

ESPN has blanketed Kiffin's hiring on all of it's major programming platforms.

The Media is wondering whether Kiffin took a step backwards to go to a smaller program to return to the head coaching ranks. Some wonder if he fails at FAU will this be damaging to future opportunities?

Whatever story lines may be, the free publicity for FAU is comparable to hitting a grand slam home run.

Like Schnellenberger did from the outset, should Kiffin's offensive mastermind follow him to South Florida, this program could be a Hidden Gem. More importantly, Kiffin will have a chance to once again put this football program on the map.

One of Kiffin's strongest attributes is his ability to recruit.

With that said, the talent in Florida can support a lot of FBS teams when you consider Miami, Florida, Florida State, USF, UCF, FIU and FAU.

The State of Florida is a Gold Mind of talent all over the country. Michigan and Michigan State have recruited a lot of players to my home state.

There is no reason that FAU can't keep these players home as Kiffin hopes to do. I wouldn't be surprised to see Lane snap up a few prospects from California.

He'll be coaching in Conference USA which is a solid conference to play in and does produce it's fair share of NFL players.

While I know the hiring of Kiffin is drawing many mixed reviews on Facebook and Twitter, this is one time where I feel it's too early to make any preliminary predictions as to how well FAU and Kiffin do together.

In summary, My Gut Feeling tells me that FAU actually made a good hire, while the Florida Panthers decision to part company with Gerard Gallant is like trying to figure out the Rubik's Cube.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of The Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Red Wings New Reality

SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

For the first time in quite awhile, it was weird going to the Florida Panthers vs Detroit Red Wings game at the BB&T Center with a different mindset on October 15.

Before the game during dinner, I was speaking to the Panthers Media as well as Detroit's and their viewpoints are indicative of "The Red Wings New Reality."

Detroit is looking to reach its 26th straight playoff berth in The Final Season at Joe Louis Arena. There was a lot of skepticism about this happening as the Red Wings no longer have Pavel Datsyuk on the roster.

General Manager Ken Holland had to make some moves during free agency to add players that would blend with Detroit's young roster.

Following their 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday, December 13, the Red Wings are 13-13-4 with 30 points in 30 games.

New Jersey, Tampa Bay and Florida also have 30 points and would all be out of the playoffs. The Washington Capitals own the final playoff spot with 37.

But unlike the NFL which has a 16-game season, there is an 82-game campaign to figure things out.

During the first and second intermissions of the Red Wings 4-1 loss to the Panthers, I had the opportunity to speak with Red Wings Senior VP Jim Devellano, who offered interesting perspectives of the Current State Of The Franchise.

Q: What are the expectations of the 2016-17 Season? As I understand it, they're not as high back home?

A: That's for sure. It's been that way for the past 2-3 years. We're really a team that's in transition. A lot of our superstars over the last 5-6 years have retired because of age. Quite honestly, the system is starting to catch up with us a little bit.

When you make the playoffs 25-straight years, you really don't get to pick the Cream Of The Crop in The NHL Draft. We're trying to stay competitive and trying hard to make the playoffs and that's where we're at.

Q: Would it be a disappointment for the Red Wings to not make the playoffs for a 26th consecutive season?

A: Yes, of course it will since we've made it 25-years in a row. But in the NHL, in a 30 team league, half the teams make it and half the teams don't. As you know, every year there are 3-4 pretty good hockey clubs that miss out by a point, two or three. So you hope you're not one of them.

Q: Now I know the past couple of years, the Red Wings have gotten in at the last minute, and that's pretty good because it keeps the momentum going. What are your thoughts about the fact that they've been able to keep the streak going?

A: To be quite frank, we backed in last year. We lost our last game of the season in New York and we would have missed the playoffs, except Ottawa surprisingly went into Boston, knocked out Boston and that put us in the playoffs. The truth is, we backed in last year.

Q: Jimmy, this is the Final Year of Joe Louis Arena. Wouldn't it be a nice ending if the Red Wings made it to the playoffs?

A: It would be. We would like to try to do it, but we're in for a battle and this is going to be a dog fight. There is a lot of teams that have really improved including the team we're playing tonight, The Florida Panthers and Tampa. It's not an easy league and we have our work cut out for us.

Q: The Red Wings are opening up a brand new building next year speaking of The Little Caesars Arena. What are your thoughts about the new Era of the Red Wings in their new home?

A: I don't know how to answer that question because I don't know where we're going to finish, where we're going to draft, plus we're a team in transition and we're trying to make the playoffs.

As I said before, we're never in a position where we get to pick early in the draft. So it's really hard to know.

Q: I remember as a kid when the Red Wings struggled before your arrival and were known as the Dead Wings during the 1970's and early 1980's. How do you like the progress of this franchise has made throughout the years when you joined the organization in 1982?

A: I think truthfully, and it's going to sound braggadocious, but I don't mean it that way, the best way to put it is, we've been in the playoffs 25-straight years, and the second best team to that is Pittsburgh with 11 straight. Just think about that. Twenty-five straight years in the playoffs and the second team is Pittsburgh with 11. It's pretty remarkable.

Q: Finally, do you think with this being said, this would be a great way to entice free agents to come to Detroit?

A: Well, we hope so, we hope so.

After the Red Wings loss to the Panthers, I asked Detroit Coach Jeff Blashill if it bothered him going into the season about the team's lower expectations?

His response, "the expectations is within our locker room are high. So we don't worry about external expectations. Our expectations will always be very high."

As I mentioned early in this story and I'll say it again.

The NHL Season is 82 games so it's too early to judge if a team is a contender through 30 games.

In any sport, injuries always take a toll and the road to winning a championship is a marathon, not a sprint. The Red Wings are living proof, there is a lot of hockey to be played this winter and in the spring.

I'll be looking forward to seeing the Red Wings in action when they return to Sunrise, FL to face the Panthers on December 23. One familiar face will be missing as former Red Wing Gerard Gallant was terminated recently as Panthers coach.

On a Final Note:

I want to pass on My Condolences to fellow Colleague and Friend Ken Daniels for the loss of his son Jamie, who passed away at the age of 23.

Ken, who is in his 19th season with the Red Wings, is one of the nicest people in our profession and I hope he and his family are healing and look forward to seeing him soon!

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of The Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

World Series Shorts

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

1. The only living relatives I knew that were around when the Chicago Cubs won their last World Series in 1908 were My Great Grandparents Morris and Celia Kroll.

2.  The last time the Detroit Lions won an NFL Title was on My Birthday, December 29, 1957--Five years before I was born. Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein was born on December 29, 1973 in New York City. Epstein was the architect of snapping the Boston Red Sox's 86-year drought and now the Cubs 108 year dry spell.   Epstein's alma-maters are Yale University and the University of San Diego School of Law. Theo's a born genius.

3. Cleveland Sports has been on the right and wrong side of 3-1 leads in championship rounds. The Cavaliers overcame a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors and won the NBA Championship in June. Meanwhile, the Indians blew a 3-1 lead and lost to the Cubs to lose the World Series here in early November. The Indians World Series drought is now 68-years.

4. I just received an e-mail from an old Tampa Tribune Colleague Charles Jackson, as he saw an article on our website. In March, I wrote a Spring Training Story in Kissimmee, FL mentioning Rick Nelson, as I recollected a tough situation where I wasn't able to send a story from Osceola County Stadium, due to technical difficulties to the new facility as I was covering The Florida State League All Star Game in 1985.

Nelson and I were able to work through the situation by getting a deadline extension as both stories were published as I dictated them to Rick and he typed them into the computer.

Jackson Googled Nelson's name and wanted to tell me that Rick was a diehard Cubs Fan that would have been happy his team made it to the World Series. Jackson added that Nelson would be ecstatic the Cubs are the 2016 World Series Champions. Jackson told me that Nelson died of Cancer in his 50's and is now in heaven.

Through the years, I've always had Rick in My Mind because we worked well together. He was a great editor and became a great friend. I'm always proud of when I get a chance to mention former colleagues in my stories. Rest in Peace Rick. You were a champion with me and now with The Chicago Cubs.

5. During the World Series, not one starting pitcher recorded an out in the seventh inning. Baseball's become a sport which is so specialized that it overworks the bullpen. I have to admit that it was refreshing to see Cubs Closer Aroldis Chapman's clutch performances.

In Game 5, he earned an eight out save, then added a seven out save in Game 6 of The Fall Classic. Without his clutch performances, there wouldn't be a Game 7, and you can rest assure that he will make a lot of money during free agency.

Growing up in My Era, it was common to see relievers earn two and three inning saves. Chapman's performance was refreshing to witness, especially with the majority of his pitches hitting 100 MPH.

6. Who really had home field advantage in The Fall Classic? It seemed as though there were as many Cubs fans as there were Indians fans in Cleveland. But the Cubs benefited by the Designated Hitter as Kyle Schwarber's bat added a powerful punch to Chicago's line-up.

7. Do you know who the Detroit Tigers All-Time leading HR leader is in the post-season? It's Delmon Young with a total of nine. On October 3, 2014, Young haunted Detroit coming in as a pinch-hitter by hitting a base-clearing double to give the Baltimore Orioles a 7-6 lead. Baltimore defeated the Tigers in the series.

Another former Tiger Rajai Davis had a huge moment on the Big Stage as he hit a three-run homer off Chapman which tied the game at 6-6 in Game 7 versus the Cubs. With Chicago leading 8-6 in the 10th inning, Davis drove in another run cutting Chicago's lead to 8-7.


The bottom line is even though Young and Davis don't have big names, their clutch performances in the post-season made them known quickly especially during the fall.

8. Tigers fans can thank the Cubs for roughing up Indians Pitcher Cory Kluger. Only thirteen pitchers have won three games in a single World Series. The last starting pitcher to accomplish this feat was Detroit's Mickey Lolich, in 1968 against the St. Louis Cardinals. Lolich now remains the last starting pitcher to win three games in the Fall Classic.

9. Lolich's battery-mate Bill Freehan was complimented by legendary Sports Personality Roy Alan Firestone. Roy said he views Freehan as one of the most  underrated, great catchers of his generation.

10. If Cleveland had won the World Series, the Tigers shouldn't have felt that bad. Detroit was 5-12 against the Tribe this season.

Cleveland breezed through the post-season steamrolling past Boston and the Toronto Blue Jays only to lose a Classic World Series to the Cubs.

The bottom line is that the Indians performed at high levels and were good with former Tigers Davis and reliever Andrew Miller.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

Denard Robinson Returns To Southeastern Michigan

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

When I approached former Michigan QB Denard Robinson in the locker room after the Jacksonville Jaquars 27-23 loss to the Green Bay Packers on September 11 at Everbank Field, I told him we have a lot in common.

First, I'm from Metro Detroit where he had great memories playing for the Michigan Wolverines as their starting signal caller. 

In 2012, he played quarterback as well as running back and wide receiver during the second half of the season.  He was a First-Team All American (2010) and two-time First Team All Big Ten (2010,2011).

Second, and perhaps just as important, he is from Deerfield Beach FL where he played for the Bucks.  My current residence for the past 14 years has been Deerfield Beach, which is five hours away off I-95 from Jacksonville.

Therefore, this was a natural angle both for Metro Detroit and Deerfield Beach.

Robinson, 6-0, 210 pounds is a 26-year old, who acts much more mature than his age. 
He's also a polite, likeable and enthusiastic young man as you see in this photo jumping in the air.

He's also smart because when he sensed that it might be difficult to get drafted as an NFL quarterback, playing three positions would enable him to increase his pro value.

In 2013, Robinson was drafted in the fifth round of the NFL Draft, 135th overall.

There are two other former Ohio State QB's that realized they needed to become hybrid players.

Terrelle Pryor Sr. of the Cleveland Browns and Braxton Miller of the Houston Texans are both wide receivers, in addition to emergency signal callers. All three of these players realize how difficult it is to make a 53-man roster. 

Players like this make scouts look like geniuses and are considered hidden gems.

Robinson and I talked for a few minutes in this Exclusive Interview.

Q:  Let's talk about playing on September 11, what was that like for you knowing this was an emotional day for everybody around the country?

A:  It was an honor.  It was honorable to be able to play in the league on a day like this. It's a very impactful day because of what happened.  But now when it all came together and it was all good, it was impactful, it's an honor playing on this day.


Q:  Let's talk about your career thus far.  Has it gone well knowing that you are a hybrid player who can play multiple positions?

A:  Things have gone real well.  I've been in the league for four years, used to playing all these different positions, even though running back is my main one, but it's just been an honor just being a part of this team and working at it and glad to keep going on the highest level.

Q:  Do you have any particular position you enjoy playing the most?

A:  I play running back. I enjoy it, I enjoy playing running back, I look forward to it.

Q:  Everybody knows what you are like on special teams and when you get out in the open, you run like a gazelle. How do you like playing on special teams trying to outsmart the defenders?

A: Ya, Ya definitely I mean but I got to make the most out of these opportunities and just get through and keep going.
Q:  Let's talk about the Jaquars for a moment obviously today was a tough loss with the Green Bay Packers, but you were in it the whole way.

A:  Oh yeah definitely.  I think this just what we needed. What we respect more we expect to finish the game and finish the last drive so that when it came down to it we feel kind of mad about it. You know we should have finished the game, man finish the way we wanted to finish.

Q:  In your few years that you have been here do you feel this is the one year that  the expectations have been much higher then in the past?

A:  I won't say that, we all have high expectations but I think this year we've put more pressure on ourselves and we want to take it upon ourselves. I think the biggest thing our mindset is so much different than when I first got here.

Q:  What was it like when you first got here?

A:  I mean the mindset was still you want to be the best team you possibly be, you want to win the game, you want to keep going.  You want to be the best you can be so I think that hasn't changed but the talent level here now is better.

Q:  Well that is where I was going, looks like the talent level is starting to increase.  I can tell with you in the running back and Bortles is a much better upgrade at quarterback and your starting to have a couple more good receivers and your offense to me looks pretty darn dangerous. Do you agree?
A:  That's the things man, we got so many receivers so many tight ends, you got the quarterback, you got the running backs, you got the whole offensive line to keep the quarterback thin we got so many guys here to make this team and the offense go and the defense that we've built it up and we got some good cover guys.

Q:  Ok, Let's talk about the Wolverines, how do we not talk about the Wolverines, I know you have to keep an eye on it from a eyes distance.

A:  Definitely I watch the games Saturday, they are looking good, they looked good  They are playing well.  Harbaugh's got the guys playing hard and you know we knew they had the talent they just started to put it forward, show what's going on.

Q:  Do you ever talk to Harbaugh once and a while?

A:  I talk to him when I go up for camps and stuff but not too much.

Q:  You had another fellow alumnus in Chad Henne that's on this team, do you guys get along pretty well?

A:  Oh yeah definitely, Chad Henne. James Patrick my man, Richard Ash we got a couple of guys that actually went to Michigan.

Q:  Finally, how about some of your best memories. I know you played in Deerfield Beach, is that correct and thoughts about playing high school ball in Deerfield Beach, where I live now?

A:  That's my home city, I love representing my city it was an honor playing at Deerfield Beach High School. Representing the Scarlet and Gold. It was always good.

Robinson will return to another one of his home areas as Jacksonville pays a visit to Ford Field Sunday Nov. 20 to face The NFC North leading Detroit Lions (5-4) at 1 PM.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a Member of The Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

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