Saturday, December 31, 2011

Holiday Sports Traditions

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

There are just a few hours left in 2011 as we get ready for another calender year.

So what better time to break down the Top Holiday Sports Traditions than now.

Which sports own what particular holidays?

1) New Years Eve in Detroit is big for Red Wings fans that began at the Old Olympia Stadium and carried over to the Joe Louis Arena. When I'm back in Detroit, I make it a point to cover the New Years Eve event but when I'm not at home, then I usually stay inside to avoid the crazy drunk drivers.

One New Years Eve I'll never forget was on December 31, 1990. The Michigan State Spartans defeated the USC Trojans 17-16 and I really enjoyed covering this game. I was in the midst of a cross country drive and it worked out where I could fit this in on the schedule. The Sun Bowl in El Paso Texas has been a New Year's Eve tradition on CBS for many years.

2) When there is no conflict with the NFL on Sunday, New Years Day or January 1 has always been a day to watch College Bowl Games. There used to be several bowl games played including the major ones, The Rose, Orange, Sugar, Fiesta and Cotton, in addition to the Outback, Gator and Capital One. This year the Rose Bowl and Fiesta are on the same night while the Sugar, Orange and Cotton will be played in prime time on other evenings. Nevertheless, if you're a college football junkie, this is a great day to stay home and have multiple TV's running.

I've had the good fortune to cover a Rose, Capital One and Orange Bowl. I enjoyed covering the Rose Bowl Parade and Game in one day. It was a long day but a lot of fun.

3) A new tradition that is on NBC is the NHL Winter Classic on January 1 or 2 depending on the NFL schedule. These outdoor contests, which features snow falling on the players thus forcing them to make adjustments in their games, are played in baseball or football stadiums. I'm looking forward to the day that the Detroit Red Wings get to host one and hopefully they'll play the game at Michigan Stadium (The Big House) before 100,000 fans to set new attendance records.

4) Christmas Day belongs to the NBA and this year there were five games played on three networks. If a new labor agreement wasn't reached and the Christmas games were canceled then there would have been no regular season because of the amount of money and exposure lost.

5) The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys own Thanksgiving Day. I am glad that the NFL added a prime-time contest to complete the holiday.

6) Sunday, Memorial Day Eve, goes to Auto Racing as fans can enjoy the Indianapolis 500 followed by NASCAR's Coca Cola 600, the longest race of the season. If there is a rain out then the races are run on Memorial Day.

7) Memorial Day Weekend also features the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Finals match-ups, Pro Basketball's version of the Final Four.

8) NASCAR usually has a race at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, MI., in the Beautiful Irish Hills on Fathers Day. There are also a full slate of Major League Baseball Action.

9) July 4 belongs to Major League Baseball as fireworks shows follow after games. Tennis and Wimbledon usually play around this time, in addition to the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island in New York.

10) Labor Day is predominantly for Major League Baseball as the pennant races begin to reach their final stages. Fans also turn their attention to the start of the NFL Season with fall just weeks ahead.

I want to wish all of My Readers and Followers a Happy and Healthy New Year. Enjoy your sports and may all of your dreams come true.

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

Lions Meaningful Games

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

The NFL Playoffs are now just a week away and there will die hard fans that will have their withdrawals when football season is over.

But one of those cities won't be Detroit.  For the first time since 1999, the Detroit Lions will be playing a meaningful football game after the ball drops in New York's Times Square signaling the day January 1, 2012.

In fact, the Lions will be playing a pair of meaningful games. On Sunday, January 1, 2012, the Lions are hoping to snap a 19-game road losing streak at Lambeau Field in Green Bay against the Packers. Will the Packers (14-1) rest QB Aaron Rodgers and some of their key players? The Lions need a win to keep the No.5 seed and avoid playing the surging New Orleans Saints in the first round.

We'll find out if the Lions break the Lambeau drought, but I don't put a lot of stock into this streak since many of these Lions losses have occurred earlier in this millennium during the Matt Millen era. During his eight year reign as President and CEO, the Lions had the worst eight year record (31-97) in the history of the modern NFL.

There is no way that Lions Coach Jim Schwartz could have worked with Millen. Schwartz has gone from two wins to six and now 10 in a three-year span. He's improved by four each year. At the rate he's going, he should reach 14 by the 2012 regular season. I can imagine what a 14-win season would mean to the Detroit fans. The Lions would likely have home field advantage throughout the playoffs and Ford Field (Capacity 65,000, expandable to 70,000) wouldn't be big enough but it would be deafening for the opponent. I know one thing. The Lions could easily pack 110,000 into Michigan Stadium if they were ever this good.

I'm glad Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones squashed any rumors that Coach Jason Garrett would lose his job if he lost to the New York Giants Sunday Night. Last year, Garrett posted a 5-3 record after replacing Wade Phillips and at 8-7, has his team fighting for a playoff berth going into the final week of the season. Thus far, Garrett is 13-10 and Jones isn't stupid because Garrett would easily land another job if he was dismissed. Garrett is one of the top coaching prospects in The NFL Today.

New York Giants Running Back Brandon Jacobs took exception to New York Jets Coach Rex Ryan's over confidence that his team would win their game on December 24, 2011 and saying his team were the Kings of New York. The Giants did their talking with a 29-14 win thus jolting the Jets playoff hopes. Jacobs and Ryan would exchange words after the game and he threatened to punch the coach in the face.

While Ryan's comments from time to time can be entertaining, and I'm sure that he's a hit with the New York Media, he needs to tone his act down very quickly and realize the Jets haven't been to a Super Bowl since 1969. The New York Media will eventually turn on Ryan and run him out of town.

I don't see the Jets getting to the Super Bowl with Mark Sanchez as their quarterback. The long term answer for the Jets could be former Alabama QB Greg McElroy (6-2, 225) who led the Crimson Tide to a National Championship and was 24-3 as a starting quarterback for an .889 winning percentage.  Despite being on injured reserve this season, I expect McElroy to compete with Sanchez for the starting in 2012.

Finally, I will be interested to see where Boise State QB Kellen Moore (6-0, 191) winds up in the 2012 Draft. If there is a sleeper in this draft, Moore is it. All he does is win. Moore holds the all-time record for wins by a starting quarterback NCAA Division I, FBS, concluding his career with a 50-3 record and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting. In four years, he finished with 14,667 yards, with 142 touchdowns and just 28 interceptions.  I love QB's that simply win.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be also seen at www.scottsports3.com.

College Hoops Observations

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

I've always had the belief that nobody pays attention to college basketball until after January 1 because there are so many other sports going on.

The beginning of the college basketball season does show some marquee match-ups, but there are a lot of mismatches. This makes me wonder whether these elite head coaches over the years in the eyes of Hall of Fame Coach Dick Vitale play too many "cupcakes" easy contests, thus their win totals become inflated.

But as I follow college basketball through the fall, there are a some things that stood out which I definitely feel are worth mentioning.

1) I was glad to see the University of Detroit-Mercy honor Vitale on December 5, 2011, by renaming it's court "Dick Vitale Court at Calihan Hall." The Titans defeated St. Johns University 69-63 to cap off the occasion. When the NCAA Final Four was held in Detroit in 2009, the university allowed Vitale to use his old office for live ESPN Reports. As coach of the Titans, Vitale's tenure was short and sweet. From 1973-77, he posted a 78-30 record and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1977. During the 1977 season, the Titans had a 21-game winning streak and the tournament field was 32-teams. During that winning streak, the Titans defeated eventual National Champion the Marquette Warriors on the road in Milwaukee during the regular season.

Vitale left the Titans and accepted the head coaching job for the Detroit Pistons but this decision fizzled as he finished with a 34-60 record from 1978-1979. He was smart enough to get out of coaching and called ESPN's first NCAA Basketball Game on December 5, 1979, when DePaul defeated Wisconsin 90-77.

How ironic is it that exactly 32-years later from the day he started working for ESPN, that a court would be named after him on My Own Father's birthday. Another irony is that in 2008, Vitale was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame with his old boss, William Davidson, the man who fired him in 1979 from the Pistons.

2) I hope Indiana University does the right thing and eventually honors former Coach Bobby Knight. All Knight did was lead the Hoosiers to three national championships and ran a clean program. It's old news that Knight's temper led to his dismissal at Indiana. But lets not lose sight of the fact that the basketball program overshadowed football and put Indiana on the map. It's fallen on hard times since Knight's departure.

It was refreshing to see Knight honored at halftime on December 20, 2011 with an alumni award from Ohio State where he graduated in 1962 in a game against Lamar University, coached by his son Pat Knight. Ohio State won the game 70-50. Bobby Knight was a member of the 1960 Buckeyes team that won the school's only hoops national title.

3) I saw that UNLV named its court after former Coach Jerry Tarkanian. There is no question that this is well deserved because he put this program on the hoops basketball map. From 1973-1992, Tarkanian made the Thomas & Mack Center an intimidating place to play as it was referred to as the "Shark Tank." He was 509-105 for a winning percentage of .829. He led the Rebels to the program's lone National Championship in in 1990, in addition to 12 NCAA Tournament Appearances and Four Final Fours. The last Final Four UNLV appeared in was in 1991 and this the program hasn't been the same.

Tarkanian left UNLV for the NBA's San Antonio Spurs but his pro career lasted 20 games as he finished 9-11 with a .450 winning percentage during the 1992-93 season. I actually met Tarkanian during a Pistons game at the Palace of Auburn Hills and he admitted that he may have made a mistake leaving UNLV because he wasn't comfortable coaching the pros. He told me that he was tired of all the headaches he had to deal with pertaining to the politics of the NCAA governing body thus he went to the NBA.

4) Please tell me one thing that makes sense that Louisville Coach Rick Pitino has announced that he will leave the Cardinals when his contract runs out after the 2016-2017 season. Will this help recruiting? What will gas prices be? Will electric cars replace our conventional vehicles? Who will be the next president? This is the most meaningless piece of news that I've heard since the start of my journalism career in 1979. Frankly Rick, nobody gives a damn about 2017! The ball hasn't even dropped to welcome 2012. Go see the movie Rick "Back To The Future" and let us all know how you like it.

5) It will be interesting to see how Nebraska Mens Basketball Coach Doc Sadler fares in the Cornuskers inaugural season in The Big 10. On December 27, 2011, The Wisconsin Badgers whipped Nebraska 64-40  in the Cornhuskers first Big 10 Conference home game in Lincoln.

Ironically, Nebraska played Wisconsin in their conference opener on the road in Madison and got drilled 48-17.

Nebraska is 8-4 and 0-1 but I have a feeling this will be a long year on the hard court for a school which is known for it's success as an elite football program. Athletic Director Tom Osborne knew this when he departed The Big 12, but is willing to get hammered in other sports as long as he reaps the financial benefits of the gridiron along with the TV exposure on the Big 10 Network. Good luck Nebraska and see you next fall.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33.com and his blog can also be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Dodging A Bullet

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

The 2011-2012 NBA Season will go down as the one which is a "Work In Progress."

The players and the owners saved their league by not canceling the Christmas Day Games thus preserving a 66-game schedule.

The five Christmas Games Sunday attracted large audiences, with the Chicago Bulls-LA Lakers match-up drawing the third highest preliminary rating for a regular season game on ABC.

The 6.5 overnight rating trailed only a 7.3 for last years hyped showdown featuring the Miami-Heat and Lakers, in addition to a 7.9 rating between Miami and LA in 2004.

Chris Paul's LA Clippers debut against the Golden State Warriors earned a 2.3 overnight rate, which was  a 77 percent increase over last year's Golden State--Portland match-up.

The shortened season at Christmas brings a few interesting points.

With a shorter training camp and two pre-season games, it's obvious it will take some teams time to find a regular line-up and build chemistry.

Normally, teams find out in January what they have, but this season, we should know by mid February or early March. A 35 win season during an 82 game schedule now becomes 25-28 wins with a 66-game schedule.

I expect there to be more blowouts during the first couple weeks.

Miami whipped defending champion Dallas 105-94. By halftime, I left the house and ate Chinese Food since this game seemed over before it started by 4 PM.

Oklahoma City, led by Kevin Durant's 30 points cruised to a 97-89 win over the Orlando Magic, while Paul's debut for the upstart LA Clippers produced a 105-86 thrashing over Golden State.

The duo of Paul and Blake Griffin spoiled the coaching debut of former ABC Color Analyst Mark Jackson, who probably wished he was broadcasting this game instead of roaming the sidelines.

Since the NBA Dodged A Bullet by salvaging a 66-game season, I believe the fans will give them a pass for losing just 16 games. Unfortunately, Comcast won't on their cable bills with the NBA Package.

I will give them a pass for the simple reason that with the NFL and College Football seasons peaking in November, in addition to the NHL, who really thinks about Professional Basketball until after Thanksgiving? Nobody cares about College Basketball until December.

That's why the NBA knew that if it lost Christmas Day then they were prepared to cancel the season as the ratings above indicated.

But the agreement was made at the right time. Many people would argue that 82-games is too much and a 66-70 game schedule would be enough. The solution is to eliminate a weak team or two. But we know that would never happen due to the money factor and lost revenues.

If the NBA Players are indeed the best athletes in the world then piling in a lot of games in a shorter period of time will definitely test their conditioning with the back-to-back games in addition to playing three games in a row periodically. But they'll deal with it since they are now collecting paychecks.

The only thing I learned about Christmas Day is next year's champion will be easier to predict.

I won't even put an asterisk by this team. After losing to the Dallas Mavericks in June in South Florida, the Miami Heat (3-0) are poised to win it all this year!

Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh had a quieter off-season therefore and had time to work on their games. They no longer have the "The Dream Team" or "New Big Three" slogans hanging over their heads.

I'm sure James has had a lot of time to rethink "The Decision" and realizes he made a big mistake.

There is nothing more humbling than being a part of a team's championship ceremony especially since they won their title on your home court earlier in the year.

Adding Shane Battier and rookie Norris Cole, a rookie out of Cleveland State, these are players that I expect to make a big contribution for Miami.

What will bother the Cleveland Cavaliers more? James leaving Cleveland or the Cavaliers not drafting a local kid in their backyard that is paired with their legendary traitor.

Instead of listening to music from "The Miami Sound Machine" get ready to watch dominating basketball from "The Miami Pound Machine" in 2012.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be also be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Going To School

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Three weeks ago, I wrote about the numerous coaching changes in college football.

There have been plenty of NFL coaches that decided to take their pro credibility to college to entice college recruits that they have the connections to play on Sundays.

There are cases it doesn't work out while in many others, it has.

Very few college coaches win Super Bowls.

The only cases that come to mind are former Dallas Cowboys head coaches Barry Switzer (Oklahoma) and Jimmy Johnson (Oklahoma State and the Miami Hurricanes). Switzer won his ring with Johnson's players.

Former Texas A&M Head Coach Mike Sherman was relieved of his duties after posting a 25-25 record. Evidently, his bosses didn't want him to guide the Aggies into the SEC in 2012.

Two BCS Conference Schools made some interesting hires.

In Lawrence, Kansas., the Jayhawks landed former New England Patriots offensive mastermind and Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis. Unlike his critics, I wouldn't classify the Notre Dame Alumnus five-year tenure a failure. The Fighting Irish, who always have lofty expectations, finished 35-27 under Weis.

Kansas would take that record in a New York second since KU was 5-19 under former Coach Turner Gill the past two years. Kansas all-time record on the gridiron is 573-570-58 for a .501 winning percentage. Weis has no big shoes in Kansas and at age 55, I like this hire for the Jayhawks.

There is no bigger credibility tool than to tell a potential recruit that he helped lead New England to three Super Bowls and developed future Hall Of Fame QB Tom Brady.  No NCAA violation here.

The other intriguing hire is in Los Angeles or should I say Westwood, California.

Jim L. Mora, 50, doesn't have to be the "Wizard Of Westwood" as John Wooden was, but if he becomes a "Winner In Westwood" then the UCLA Bruins can become relevant in Los Angles and put more fans in the Rose Bowl.

Mora's two stops include Atlanta where he and Michael Vick took the Falcons to the 2004 NFC Championship Game. From Atlanta, Mora became the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. His career NFL record is 31-33.

Add his recent time with the NFL Network, plus working under his father Jim Mora Sr. and recruits will see this guy has the connections to get them to the NFL.

Despite finishing under .500 in the NFL, there are coaches that had great runs in college.

Howard Schnellenberger, Lou Holtz and Gene Stallings won National Championships with Miami, Notre Dame and Alabama respectively.

Schnellenberger was 4-13 with the Baltimore Colts. Holtz was 3-10 with the New York Jets. Stallings was 23-34-1 with the St.Louis/Phoenix Cardinals.

Schnellenberger was able to tell recruits that he was on Don Shula's staff for the only undefeated season in NFL History posted by the 17-0 Miami Dolphins which began a string of two Super Bowl Titles.

So we have two coaches in their 50's that are Going To School.

As long as Mora doesn't lose 50-0 to USC like his predecessor Rick Neuheisal did, then his life coaching in the Rose Bowl will be less stressful than it was in the NFL.

As for Weis, his hiring is definitely going to energize the Kansas fan base and could force people to take the football program as serious as its legendary basketball tradition.

Three days ago, Weis landed a former Notre Dame top recruit, QB Dayne Crist, who will play his senior season in Kansas.

That's a good start.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

U-M VS MSU

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

In The Wonderful World Of Normalcy, the Michigan State Spartans should still be playing in a BCS Bowl Game despite losing to the Wisconsin Badgers 42-39 on Saturday, December 3 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

But this is NCAA Football where a computer ranking decides which two teams play for a National Championship.

In my home state, the sides are divided as to which team deserved a BCS Bowl Game.

Even though the Michigan State Spartans (10-3) defeated the Michigan Wolverines (10-2) during the regular season, MSU is going to face the Georgia Bulldogs (10-3) in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida on January 2.

My friends Gus Pantelides and Mike Pantel of Clearwater, Florida have to be elated they'll see MSU in their backyard.

But Spartans Head Coach Mark Dantonio, who has compiled a 43-22 record in five seasons, wishes his team was playing in New Orleans, Louisiana.

That's where Michigan is set to face Virginia Tech (10-2) in the Sugar Bowl.

According to the BCS Standings,  Michigan was ranked 13 while Michigan State dropped to 17.

But lets face the reality. When Michigan is winning, they're a hot property.

A win by Virginia Tech over Michigan will do wonders for the Hokies football program.

Sorry Michigan State. That's the way it works out.

Here is the Tale Of The Tape between these two in-state rivals.

Michigan State:

1) All-Time Record--633-427-44.
2) National Championships--Six, the last one in 1966.
3) Post-Season Bowl Record--7-14.
4) Conference Titles--Seven
5) Heisman Trophy Winners--Zero.

Michigan:

1) All-Time Record--894-310-36 which is No.1 All-Time in NCAA Division I, FBS.
2) National Championships--11, the last one in 1997.
3) Post-Season Bowl Record--19-21.
4) Conference Titles--42
5) Heisman Trophy Winners--three.
6) Highest All-Time Winning Percentage in College Football--.735%.
7) Most Winning Seasons--113.
8) Most Undefeated Seasons in Division I/FBS (23).
9) One of only three schools with a winning record against every Division I A/ FBS Conference.
10) Longest Current Streak Not Shutout Division I/FBS (348), last time was October 20, 1984 by the Iowa Hawkeyes.
11) Largest Crowd to ever attend an NCAA Football Game was 114,804 on Sept 10, 2011 at Michigan Stadium VS Notre Dame.
12) Longest streak in Home Attendance of over 100,000 (239 games) dating back to November 8, 1975 VS the Purdue Boilermakers.
13) The Most Televised School in College Football History--431 televised games.
14) On December 21, 1984, BYU (12-0) defeated U-M (6-6) by a 24-17 margin to win the Holiday Bowl in front of 61,248 a record at that time at Jack Murphy Stadium, to win the National Championship. It's hard to believe the National Championship was decided before New Years Day.
15) Before missing a bowl game in 2008, Michigan had made a bowl game 33-years in a row and had a winning season for 40 straight years.

Sorry Spartan Nation, it's hard to compete against these numbers.

But heck, who can complain about a trip to the Tampa Bay Area where you'll have plenty of transplanted alumni wearing green & white singing your fight songs. This consolation prize isn't all that bad.

But do the Big Ten and your fans a favor. Don't get blown out by another SEC team and duplicate a 49-7 loss to former Coach Nick Saban's Alabama team on January 1, 2011 in the Capital One Bowl two hours away across I-4 in Orlando.

MSU is 0-2 against Georgia in Bowl Games. The Spartans dropped a 34-27 decision in the 1989 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. Twenty years later at the Capital One Bowl, the Bulldogs bit MSU 24-12 in 2009.

Will MSU's third meeting against Georgia at a different venue be the charm? We'll find out in the coming days.

As for Michigan, I'm looking forward to see how the Wolverines fare against ACC powerhouse Virginia Tech and legendary Coach Frank Beamer in their 432 televised game.

The Sugar Bowl ratings figure to get a boost with U-M electrifying QB Denard Robinson, a Deerfield Beach, Florida, native. Robinson has thrown for 2056 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has rushed for 1163 yards and 16 touchdowns.

This will be fun to watch and hopefully MSU and Michigan will put on good shows in 2012. A win over Virginia Tech would be a great ending by the Maize and Blue for first year Head Coach Brady Hoke.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Geographic Sensibility

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Although it's a year away, I have to admit that I was very pleased the Detroit Red Wings will do much less traveling as the NHL begins realignment in 2012-2013.

Like most old school traditionalists, I was hoping for an "Original Six" Division!

Fat Chance. Commissioner Gary Bettman wasn't going to go that far.

But I'll settle for the Detroit Red Wings making at least one appearance to play the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers in the Sunshine State.

I have no sympathy whatsoever for the whining East Coast teams that they have to travel to the Pacific Time Zone. The Red Wings won four Stanley Cup Championships and gobbled up tons of frequent flyer miles in the regular and post-seasons residing in the Eastern Time Zone.

When the Red Wings faced the Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators, Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues in the playoffs, it was less tiring. Those Western trips to Vancouver, San Jose, Calgary, Southern California and Phoenix were brutal.

When the Red Wings Conference was announced, there was no way that Detroit was going to be separated from Original Six buddy and I-94 Rival Chicago.

Bettman complied with the pleas from Nashville's ownership to keep Detroit so this small market team with Michigan transplants could pack their building a few times a year, in addition to the playoffs.

Although the Columbus Blue Jackets and Red Wings will never have the U-M VS Ohio State intensity, they're both in the Eastern Time Zone and in neighboring states. Like Nashville, Columbus needs Detroit's drawing power.

As for the rest of the conference rivals, there is the Dallas Stars playing in their old stomping grounds against the Minnesota Wild. How many Minnesota North Stars jerseys are out there?

St. Louis is always a good rival for Chicago, though not at the level of the Cardinals and Cubs.

The Winnipeg Jets renew acquaintances with Minnesota.

Detroit and Dallas, the two Thanksgiving cities known as "Big D's" play great games and are linked by Brett Hull and Mike Modano.

The only mystery left now is what will be the names of the conferences?

Will Bettman get creative or historical?

Here are some ideas. Bring back the Wales and Campbell Conferences. Once upon a time there was the Norris Division. Just ask ESPN's Chris Berman.

How about the (Gordie) Howe and (Wayne) Gretzky Conferences named after the two greatest players in NHL history.

Even the Big Ten considered (Bo) Schembechler and (Woody) Hayes before deciding to name their Divisions, The Leaders and Legends.

I realize that we've seen the last major realignment.

But I'll be curious to see where the Phoenix Coyotes land since the NHL owns them and expects to have a new owner in place within the next year.

I could see the Coyotes landing in Kansas City, Las Vegas or even Houston. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Coyotes relocate in Seattle once a new stadium is built to replace the departed Seattle Supersonics and fill that winter sports void. The Vancouver Canucks would be thrilled to create another Pacific Northwest rivalry.

There are two seven team conferences East, so if the Coyotes were to end up in Kansas City, this would be a natural rival for St. Louis. If they move to Houston, Dallas has their in state rival.

Then I could see Detroit shift into a conference with Boston, Buffalo, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto, therefore creating more Original Six games.

Eventually, I could see Columbus landing with Carolina, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington.

But in the meantime, I'm glad the NHL finally created some Geographic Sensibility. Those extra division games during the season will get made up in the playoffs when these teams face each other. The division rivalries are enhanced and the travel is greatly reduced.

Best of all, now the fans and media get to see at least each team's stars once a year, which will only bolster attendance along with increased television coverage.

In January of 2012, Versus becomes the NBC Sports Network. I could see this platform leading to more Original Six match-ups as we saw when NBC televised a Thanksgiving Week Classic featuring Detroit and the defending Stanley Cup Champions the Boston Bruins.

With the realignment, there will be more inter-conference games with Detroit and Chicago facing the other four Original Six teams.

The NHL is definitely headed in the right direction. The changes should also bolster interest in televising the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, thus giving them more exposure and marketing the NHL as North America's Sport.

I know a Detroit Red Wings VS Montreal Canadiens contest would be a great ratings draw. Detroit has 11 Stanley Cup Championships while Montreal has 24. Who can forget the numerous Hall Of Fame Players and retired numbers with these storied franchises.

I could only hope that this realignment does lead us to an Original Six Stanley Cup Final. I'm sure NBC would be thrilled with those potential ratings.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

The Miami Marlins

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

The 2011 Baseball Winter Meetings have turned out to be a place where trades and free agent signings have taken place.

It also appears as though it was the coming out party for "The Miami Marlins."

When I think of the name of this franchise, it seems like I can use the song by Whitney Houston "One Moment In Time." Child Stories start out "Once Upon A Time."

In the 1980's, "The Miami Marlins" used to have a front office consisting of the late Sonny Hirsch and his assistant Larry Bluestein. Hirsch died of a heart attack on March 26, 1999 at the age of 65.  The Florida State League Marlins played at the now demolished Miami Stadium.

One of their prospects in the San Diego Padres farm system was named Benito Santiago. Occasionally, I would go to Miami Stadium and in this declining area, a crowd of 100-200 people used to show up for a game at the 13,000 seat venue.

I used to see a lot of games between the Marlins and Fort Lauderdale Yankees at Fort Lauderdale Stadium. One of my best memories was when the Marlins and Yankees played a doubleheader on a Sunday Night in Fort Lauderdale that lasted until 3 am. All of us in the press box were ordering food at midnight.

Hirsch, Bluestein and I were talking baseball all night as we would whether the constant rain delays.

Last Sunday, my old colleague Dan Bluesten and I talked about whether these Marlins could be successful in Miami at the old Orange Bowl site.

I reminded Dan that Miami stepped up to the plate and built the Marlins a stadium. Palm Beach and Broward Counties had their opportunity to bring Major League Baseball but decided to pass. The construction cost of the Marlins stadium was $515 Million. It is the third smallest stadium in MLB by official capacity and the smallest by actual capacity as it holds 37,000.

Yet during the Winter Meetings, the Marlins signed closer Heath Bell to a three-year $27 Million contract. They added starting pitcher Mark Buehrle for four years, $58 million and shortstop Jose Reyes with a six-year contract worth $106 million. The three signings were for $191 million.

No Thanks to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim,  the Marlins were unable to add the other two fish to  their new start in Dade County. They offered Albert Pujols a 10-year deal worth $210 Million and starting pitcher C.J Wilson six-years for $80 Million which would have been worth another $290 Million.

This is definitely not the same franchise that has six winning seasons in it's 19-year history which does however include two World Series Championships and two Fire Sales, notoriously known for having one of the lowest payrolls in MLB playing at Joe Robbie Stadium.

The hiring of former Chicago White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen was brilliant.

I predict that if the Marlins draw between 15,000-25,000.

The new stadium will be at least close to 50% full instead of the embarrassing crowds at Joe Robbie Stadium. I find it amazing that the Marlins did win a pair of World Series at Joe Robbie Stadium. But the new stadium with it's retractable roof will definitely address the rain issue therefore eliminating delays and rainouts.

If you're a Chicago Cubs fans, it must be agonizing to see the Marlins with two titles in 19 years while you've endured 103 years of frustration.

But if the Marlins can become consistent winners in their new stadium, this would energize their fan base so that these people can finally identify with their players enabling them to finally build a tradition. For the past 19-years, all fans can do is continue to buy scorecards because of the massive player turnover. It will be interesting to see how many more jerseys are sold with the stable core of players on the squad.

If this happens, Hirsch will be able to smile in heaven and be thankful that his dream of major league baseball became a reality in Miami. It's being played at a location where he was the play-by-play announcer for the Miami Hurricanes for 30-years at the Orange Bowl where the "U" won five National Championships of it's own.

I've never viewed South Florida as a good sports town because if you don't win, they won't support.

Yet in this case, there is hope for long term stability on the diamond as Major League Baseball has found a home near South Beach.

I'll definitely be watching these Miami Marlins, yet deep down inside, I'll never forget the old Miami Marlins, that were guided by my late friend Sonny Hirsch. I hope you're resting in peace Sonny.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can also be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Loss Ends Schnellenberger Era

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH


The Howard Schnellenberger era is officially over, as the only coach in FAU Football History leaves the program with a 58-74 mark.

Schnellenberger's all-time record in 27 years of coaching college football is 158-151 with a National Championship for the Miami Hurricanes in 1983. He is 6-0 all-time in bowl games including a 2-0 mark with FAU.

The Owls can thank the UAB Blazers to avoid going winless this season as FAU pulled out a 38-35 win Saturday, November 26, thanks to Senior Running Back Alfred Morris' 198 yards and four touchdowns.

Morris became the first person in Schnellenberger's career to surpass 1,000 yards twice in his career. He finished with 1,186 yards in 2011 with a 72-yard effort against ULM. In 2009, he amassed 1,392.

The embarrassing defeat by UAB led to the firing a few days later of its' Head Coach Neil Callaway, who had a 3-9 season and was 21-51 in five years.

On Saturday, the 1-10 Owls were unable to build on their Thanksgiving Weekend momentum as they dropped a 26-0 decision to the University of Louisiana-Monroe (ULM) Warhawks.

ULM improved to 4-8, 3-5 while FAU dropped to 1-11 and 0-8 in the Sun Belt Conference.

FAU trailed 19-0 at half-time and Morris was held to 29 yards. ULM dominated the half by out gaining FAU in total yards 260-78. ULM added one more touchdown in the second half. For the contest, ULM outgained FAU 424-148 offensively.

Punter Mickey Groody had seven for 295 yards with a 42.1 average. Quarterback Graham Wilbert was limited to 79 yards passing.

When the game was over, FAU sent Schnellenberger out with a fireworks display. He also gave a game ending speech thanking everyone in the stadium for their support.

It took him longer to address the media because he spent extra time talking to his players. At the end of the press conference, the popular coach was busy signing media members press passes.

Schnellenberger said, “This is the first time I've turned a football team over in this type of situation. But I want the players to know that I value them being here. I didn't want these players to go out as losers. There are a lot of good football players on this team.”

But Schnellenberger was pleased that his retirement would turn out differently than legendary coaches like former Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden and Penn State's Joe Paterno by leaving on his own terms.

“I talked to Bowden about this and with the way coaches are getting disposed, and I didn't want to leave like that. I wanted this to be a seamless transition. I've never missed a day of work in 52 years of coaching and I'm glad that I can retire, relax, spend time with my wife Beverlee, children and grandchildren,” Schnellenberger added.

“I'll be moving out of my football office Sunday and into a new one in the administration building Monday helping out any way I can but won't be in the way of the new coach.”

My time with Coach Schnelleberger dates back to our days with the Miami Hurricanes in the early 1980's. It will be different without my friend in the future, but the UAB win meant so much that it would have been a major in justice for him to end his final season as the only winless team in NCAA Division I FBS.

Thankfully, it didn't happen and once again, and I'm pleased he left on his own terms.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can also be seen at www.scottsports33.com. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

College Football Firings

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

As I sit up in the FAU Press Box for the final time this season, in Boca Raton, Florida., Head Football Coach Howard Schnellenberger will be deservedly celebrated.

Nobody will care what his final record at FAU will be because his contributions to this program go beyond wins and losses.

He's the reason there is a Football Program, Tom Oxley Athletic Center and now FAU Stadium.

The team's national television appearances and two bowl games have put the university on the map and has led to an increased enrollment.

As a new coach gets set to take over and will be announced next week, unlike Schnellenberger, there have been many coaches that haven't been able to go out on their own terms.

They've come from some big name universities. I will list some of the most intriguing firings that have occurred recently.

1. Neil Callaway of UAB lost his job a few days after his team lost to FAU 38-35 on November 26 enabling the Owls to record their first win of the season. In five seasons, Callaway was 21-51 and 3-9 in 2011.

2. The Memphis Tigers, who once lost to FAU in the New Orleans Bowl, fired Larry Porter after a 2-10 season. He was 3-21 in two seasons.

3. Former Florida Gators Coach Ron Zook was a casualty for Illinois after finishing 34-50 in seven seasons. Illinois became the first team in NCAA Division I  FBS history to start a season 6-0, and end it 6-6.

4) After having success at the University of Buffalo leading the Bulls to a Bowl Game, Turner Gill had a 5-19 record in two seasons for the Kansas Jayhawks.

5) Mike Leach will take his high powered passing attack to Washington State as he replaces Paul Wulff. In four years, Wulff complied a 9-40 mark with the Cougars.

6) The Texas A&M Aggies will move into the SEC with a new coach as Mike Sherman was ousted with a 25-25 record in four seasons. Next stop for Sherman, he'll return to the NFL.

7) The University of New Mexico Lobos went to the ESPN Broadcast Booth to find their next coach. Former Notre Dame Coach Bob Davies is the man who has to take this basketball school, piloted by Steve Alford, and has a lot of work to do. The past two plus seasons under Mike Locksley produced a 2-26 mark.

8) The Arizona Wildcats fired Mike Stoops early this season despite three bowl appearances. Stoops compiled a 41-49 record. He was replaced with former West Virginia and Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez.

9) After having success with the UCLA Bruins compiling a 49-32 record, Bob Toledo was unable to duplicate his success with the Tulane Green Wave. In five seasons, he finished with a 15-40 record in Conference USA.

10) Speaking of UCLA, Rick Neuheisel coached his final game for the Bruins in the inaugural Pac 10 Championship Game. The Oregon Ducks hammered UCLA 49-31 as Neuheisel finished with a 21-29 mark in four seasons. His career coaching mark is 87-59.

11) The third Pac 10 coach on this list to be fired was Arizona State Sun Devils boss Dennis Erickson. In five seasons with ASU, Erickson was 31-30 and led the Sun Devils to one bowl game. His overall record in college was 179-96-1 and won two National Championships with the Miami Hurricanes.

12) It's hard to put Luke Fickell on this list because he was just an interim coach that replaced Jim Tressel who left the Ohio State Buckeyes in a cloud of controversy. But Fickell did compile a 6-6 mark in his lone season and was replaced by former Florida Gators Coach Urban Meyer this week.

13) The last person I'm going to mention is a man that I thought I never would. That's former Penn State Nittany Lions Coach Joe Paterno. He leaves the college sidelines with a 409-136-3 record with two National Championships.

Unfortunately, for all of the contributions he's made on the field leaving as the all-time winningest coach in Division I FBS history, one triumph ahead of Paul "Bear" Bryant, Paterno's legacy will now be tied due to an insane sex scandal by his long time Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

If you're looking for a stable career, head coaching at the highest collegiate level requires a lot of moving vans and the exits are not always that pretty.

But I'm glad for Schnellenberger's sake, he did leave on his own terms and now can enjoy retirement as he watches his latest challenge the FAU Owls, build on the foundation that he created.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can also be seen on http://www.scottsports33.com/.

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