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.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sports Figures In Politics

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

I'm not afraid to speak my mind on many issues especially when it comes to sports.

You'll never see me post my thoughts on the upcoming Presidential  Election featuring Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton.

I will occasionally share a post and see what other people have to say.

The only prediction I will make is that one of these two will win unless former New Mexico Governor, Gary Johnson, the 2016 Libertarian Presidential Nominee pulls off the biggest upset ever and surprises all of us.

I have better things to do than to get into needless arguments or debates that would raise my blood pressure which would cause me to get me sick. Thanks, but no thanks!

I would rather microwave a grilled cheese sandwich for four minutes. This sandwich is so hard that you could lose a tooth or break a triple pane window.

I actually cooked this sandwich when I was a student at the University of South Florida when I was learning how to use microwave ovens. I just tossed the sandwich.

But this beats landing into the emergency room for all the wrong reasons. Once again, talking about politics isn't my game. There is too much stress so there is no reason to add to it!

If I am with an individual/s where the conversation gets too intense, then I politely leave the premises! 

The only Publications which thrive on Presidential Elections, are our beloved Comic Books.

With the Presidential Election one week from tomorrow, I've decided to lighten the mood in what appears to be one of the most anticipated and interesting elections in recent history.

I hope you learn and enjoy what you're about to read.
Did you know that Donald Trump was the owner of the New Jersey Generals of the defunct Spring United States Football League in 1984?

Before the 1984 USFL Championship Game, Trump invited myself and a handful of other reporters for lunch in his suite at the Sheraton Hotel in Downtown Tampa, FL. We spent an hour with him and I'm sure if I saw him, he'd remember me (nobody forgets me, I tend to leave a lasting impression).

I asked Trump what his vision was for a fledgling league which had good stadium leases plus strong National TV Deals.

He told me that he wanted the USFL to be as big as the NFL and was very polite to this young 21-year old sports writer.

Unfortunately, Trump's vision was 20/100 as he convinced the other owners to compete in the fall with the NFL, which became a disaster due to conflicts pertaining to stadium leases and the National TV Contracts.

The USFL sued the NFL and won a lawsuit. They won a $3 settlement and netted $1 which signaled the official end of the league.

I dare anyone to ask Trump about that on the campaign trail, as he's never owned another sports team again. I highly doubt that Trump would answer this question.

At one point, Trump was looking to buy and relocate to New York,  MLB's San Diego Padres, a franchise that was once owned by McDonald's Founder Ray Kroc. But that didn't come to fruition.

When Buffalo Bills Founding Owner Ralph Wilson died, Trump offered $1 Billion in cash to purchase the franchise. At that time, there was speculation the team could move to Los Angeles. I actually wanted Trump to land the Bills because I knew he wanted to keep it in Western New York.

But Donald lost the bid to Buffalo Sabres Owner Terry Pegula, and the teams future is on solid and stable ground.

If by chance Trump wins the election, don't be surprised if his former star running back Herschel Walker is hired in some capacity to be on his administration.

When former Red Sox Pitcher Curt Schilling talked about running for the Massachusetts Senate in 2018, providing his wife Shonda is on board, I was intrigued by this.

There is no doubt he'd win the election by a landslide because his clutch pitching snapped the Red Sox 86-year championship drought.

More importantly, he's not afraid to speak his mind on any issue.

Unfortunately for Schilling, his outspoken ways led to his abrupt departure from ESPN.

If Schilling does run, I hope he does well.

Let's take a look at other Sports Figures that are currently worth mentioning for this story.

* Former President George W. Bush once owned the Texas Rangers. He traded away a young prospect named Sammy Sosa, who went on to smash 609 home runs. Sosa played for Texas in 1989. Sammy and I worked together in 1987 when I was The Director of Public Relations for the Gastonia Rangers.

It was really fun at a Deerfield Beach Observer Christmas Party to take a George Bush look-a-like picture which I still get comments about.

* Former Seattle Seahawks WR Steve Largent was inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. He amassed 819 receptions, 13,089 yards and 100 touchdowns. Largent was a Member of the U.S House of Representatives, from Oklahoma's 1st District from November 29, 1994 - February 15, 2002.

* Former Piston Dave Bing was the face of the franchise and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player, plus was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

Bing entered Detroit Politics as a Democrat in 2008, announcing his intentions to run for Mayor in the city's non-partisan primary to finish the term of Kwame Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick resigned amid a corruption scandal.

After winning the primary, Bing then defeated Interim Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr. He was sworn in as Detroit's 74th Mayor in May of 2009. Later that year, Bing was re-elected to a full term, and stayed on the job until December 31, 2013.

* Current Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson had a good NBA Career with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns. He scored 13,127 points (17.9 PPG), 6,711 assists (9.1 APG) and 1,082 steals (1.5 SPG).

He had his No.7 retired by Phoenix and was a three-time NBA All-Star. Johnson also had his No.11 retired by the University of California.

On March 4, 1966, Johnson, now 50, was born in Sacramento, CA.

While he never played for his hometown team the Sacramento Kings, and may have caused them heartaches on the court, he did bigger things for the franchise.

Johnson was at the forefront in landing a new stadium which opened this year. He saved the team by not allowing other cities like Anaheim, CA and Seattle from stealing the Kings.

* My All-Time Favorite is Jack Kemp.
If there is one regret I have, it's not getting a picture with Kemp when we met at Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, FL., because I didn't own a camera phone.

But I have the next best thing, a Thank-You Card from USA Football coming from his secretary.

When I told Congressman Kemp I was a writer from Detroit, he smiled and gave me a one-on-one interview. We walked to a quiet place in the Jacksonville Convention Center.

It would take too long to mention his political career/involvement though it does date back to the 1960's.

He served in Congress from 1971-1989. He was a Presidential Candidate in 1988. He served on George H Bush's Cabinet from 1989-1993. He was the Vice Presidential Nominate in 1996 with Bob Dole.

During Kemp's football career, he was originally selected by the Detroit Lions in the 17th round of the NFL Draft. Jack was cut from the team before the 1957 NFL Season began.

Kemp's football career would span from 1957-1969.

His accomplishments would occur mostly with the competing American Football League (AFL). He was a two-time Champion with the Buffalo Bills, a seven-time AFL All-Star, five-time First-Team All AFL, won the 1965 AFL MVP, and is currently on the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame.

He played the 1959 Season with the CFL's Calgary Stampeders.

But this experience with Kemp was an absolute thrill to speak about football, in addition to politics with a well rounded individual, who treated me fantastic!

There is no doubt this was one of the best memories I've had in Sports Media in 38-years.

When Congressman Kemp died on May 2, 2009 because of Cancer, I have to admit that his passing stung for a long time!

But Jack Kemp will always have a special place in my heart. 


OTHERS WORTH MENTIONING:

1. Former Basketball Star Bill Bradley--U.S Senator New Jersey from January 3, 1979-January 3, 1997. Bradley also ran in the 2000 Presidential Primaries opposing incumbent Vice President Al Gore.

Bradley played 10 years for the New York Knicks as a shooting guard and small forward. He won two NBA Championships for the Knicks and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

2. J.C Watts--Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Oklahoma 4th District from January 3, 1995-January 3, 2003. Chairman of the House Republican Conference January 3, 1999- January 3, 2003.

Watts played QB for the University of Oklahoma. He played professionally from 1981-86 in the Canadian Football League for the CFL's Ottawa Rough Riders. Watts won the Grey Cup MVP in 1981. He never played in the NFL. He spent the 1986 season with the Toronto Argonauts.

3. Heath Shuler--Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina's 11th District. He served from January 3, 2007-January 3, 2013.

He played in the NFL for the Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints, and the Oakland Raiders.

4. Jesse Ventura--He was a Professional Wrestler from June 1974 and retired in 1986.

He would become the 38th Governor of Minnesota from January 4, 1999-January 6, 2003.

5. Gerald Ford--from 1932-1934, he played center, long snapper and linebacker for the University of Michigan Football Team. Ford helped the Wolverines to undefeated seasons and national titles in 1932 and 1933.

Ford held numerous political offices which culminated with The Michigan Man replacing Richard Nixon, who resigned from the Watergate Scandal.  Ford took office on August 9, 1974-January 20, 1977.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

But what a list. As I researched this, I was amazed at how many of these athletes traded their uniforms for suits, shirts and ties.

The only other athlete that I can predict will join this list is NBA Hall of Famer and Current TNT Basketball Analyst Charles Barkley.

His Alma-Mater Auburn University is building a statue in his honor not only for his basketball accomplishments, but what he's meant to the Tigers overall.

Whatever office that Barkley wants to run for in Alabama, I wouldn't bet against him.

He's great behind the microphone, and Barkley's brash and outspoken nature landed him on national television.

I could see him flourishing in politics.

At any rate, when Election Day takes place in a week from tomorrow, this gives a much different perspective of  where some of these Public Service People could come from.

The ones mentioned in this story entertained the Public Between The Lines then proceeded to serve the Public Outside The Lines.

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

Former Tiger Darnell Coles Embraces Brewers Challenges

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

Although the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians is almost over, it's never too late to reflect on the 2016 regular season.

When we were in Milwaukee to see the Brewers in action against the Pittsburgh Pirates during late August, I caught up with another baseball friend Darnell Coles.

I've known Coles, 54, since Spring Training of 1986, when he was acquired by the Tigers from the Seattle Mariners.

If there is an individual that's seen baseball from many different perspectives, Coles is that person.

He played in the Major Leagues for 14 seasons with eight different teams: 1) Seattle, 2) Detroit, 3) Pittsburgh, 4)San Francisco, 5) Cincinnati, 6) Toronto, 7) St. Louis, and 8) Colorado.  Coles managed to hang around in the Major Leagues by playing in both the infield and outfield.

Darnell's Career batting totals include .245 average, 75 HR, 368 RBI, and 957 Career games.  For the Tigers in 1986, he hit 20 HR, 86 RBI with a .273 average along with 521 AB, in 142 games.  The 1986 campaign was his best MLB season.

During his travels, Coles was a member of the 1993 World Champion Toronto Blue Jays.

He is one of only 14 players ever, including Babe Ruth, to hit three homers in a game in both the National League (1987 Pirates) and the American League (1994 Blue Jays).

Coles has managed in the Minor Leagues four seasons compiling a 223-268 mark with a .454 percentage.

Darnell spent the 2014 season as an Assistant Hitting Coach with Detroit, his first career coaching position at the Major League Level, serving under former Tiger Wally Joyner.

During Coles tenure, the Tigers led the Major Leagues in batting average (.277) and ranked second in runs (.757), OBP (.331), slugging (.426) and OBS (.757).  Coles served as a Baseball Analyst for ESPN from 2001-2006.

In 2016, Coles Brewers ranked 25th in MLB as his club had a .244 batting average.

Milwaukee finish fourth in the NL Central with a 73-89 mark, 30.5 games back behind the Chicago Cubs (103-58).

If there is a baseball lifer, Darnell is it. 

We had the chance to have a great conversation on many interesting topics.

Q:  Doesn't it seem unfortunate that the Tigers and Brewers don't meet as often?


A:  It's unfortunate but, the fortunate part is I can watch from afar knowing that you were part of something special there in multi facets as a player.  The teams I played on there were outstanding from Tram (Alan Trammell) Lou (Whitaker) Gibby (Kirk Gibson) Chet Lemon and the whole crew.  Coming back as a coach, Brad Ausmus hired me for my first Major League Coaching job working with Wally Joyner and Mr (Dave) Dombrowski so I couldn't be more grateful to them for the opportunity.
Q:  What was it like working with the Tigers hitters?

A:  When you have a Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Torii Hunter, a special group like that, I don't know how much work is being done at getting them more consistent or being better.  I think all those guys are great hitters Obviously Miggy is on a different stratosphere when it comes to hitting.  But I think working with that group, you have a distinct understanding how guys should go about their business.  They understand what it takes each and everyday to be successful and the consistency of that showing every night is a beautiful thing when you work with those kind of hitters

Q. How much did the Tigers experience prepare you for your position with the Milwaukee Brewers?

A:  I think it did everything in preparing me for it because being an assistant in Detroit, I learned from Wally Joyner.  I paid attention to detail, worked on a couple different projects that he wanted me to work on.  I wanted to make sure he was satisfied with all the work being put into it.  Ultimately, it allowed us to have a great working relationship.  We're great friends.  We call each other up every now and then to kind of bounce things off each other. Again, I couldn't be more grateful in what he's meant for me in my career.

Q:  What's it like to be coaching a younger team which is far less experienced and talented then what you had in Detroit?

A:  I think payroll has a little bit to do with it.  In Detroit each and every other guy was making an enormous amount of money.  At the end of the day, the work they put in, consistency of that work showing up during the game is fantastic with the way they carried themselves.  The group as a whole understanding what it took to play for the guy next to him, keep the line moving next to him to do their job and allowing everybody to do theirs is a huge part as to why Detroit was successful when I was there and is successful today.


Q:  In your current Brewers situation, you have a much younger group and obviously they don't have the experience.  How much of a challenge has it been for you dealing with a different type of situation, than in Detroit?

A:  I think with a younger group, there is a lot of teachable moments to understand what teams are trying to do to you, what teams are trying to set you up later in the game, pitch to you with runners on base, will they not, will they give you a good pitch to hit.  You have to understand and pay attention to the scoreboard.  The scoreboard generally tells you everything you need to know.

Q:  Let's talk about Ryan Braun and former Tiger Herman Perez.  Did you work with him in Detroit and how is he to coach?

A:I did work with him in Detroit and got a chance to see him there.  He didn't get a chance to play a lot based on the fact you had Ian Kinsler and Jose Iglesias.  You have guys that played everyday in the positions he played in then it was going to be tough to get at bats.  He had an opportunity to come over here was a fresh new deal for him to play a little third base, a little shortstop, a little second base, and now he has put himself in a position to play the outfield.  So this allows him to getting to playing a number of positions.  But it also allows him to consistently get at bats.  He went to winter ball this year, lost weight, got himself in great shape, came back this year after having a great winter ball.  He started the season in AAA (Colorado Springs).  Consistently he did well there and he's been phenomenal.  Getting him here, we've gotten him to make adjustments that have worked out.  He's put himself in a position to possibly vie for a regular position at some point in time down the road. He's special to watch because he's someone who you have worked with over time that has consistently gotten better and now it's showing up in the same.  That's a beautiful thing.

As for Ryan Braun is Ryan Braun.  He's one of the best payers in the game.  To me, he's one of the top five hitters in MLB.  He has a routine he does everyday understands hitting, how he's being pitched, understands situations, pays attention to detail, has a plan and the list goes on and on.  There is very few guys that go about their business the way he does and the consistency of that showing up every night and you see that in the results  He's a great player that's a great teammate and he's special to watch.  I'm happy I get a chance to work with him everyday.

Q:  What's it like working with a small market club compared to the bigger market teams around MLB?  Do you embrace this challenge?
A:  I think the market place is what it is.  We have a great fan base, as good of a ballpark (Miller Park) as there is in Major League Baseball.  So that portion of it is taken care of.  I think the reality of it is that we're a team that has to develop our farm system.  We're doing a great job of doing that with David Sterns (General Manager) coming in and Matt Arnold his Assistant GM have put in place for us to give these guys a better opportunity in order to build a long term future.  Our guys understand that they will get opportunities to play there will be a lot of teachable moments.  We have to understand as coaches, the more we teach them and the better they get, that will increase our chance of being successful.  I embrace any challenge of getting guys better!

Q:  Let's describe Milwaukee as a baseball town, Wouldn't it be scary when they do win considering they can get 35,000 fans for a sub .500 team?  It makes me wonder does Milwaukee have the potential to be a Sleeping Giant once the Brewers play contending baseball.

A:  I think it shows that the fan base shows up every night  They understand what the transitional period is.  We're a team that's young and motivate that talent to be good Major League players.  That takes time but our fan base is always sticking by their teams and they understand the gravity of the situation.  With that said, they want to win and want to win now as much as we do.  So we're trying to do it in a systematic way that allows us to win long term but financially puts us in the best possible position to be stable for a long time.

Q:  You worked with Brad Ausmus and now Craig Counsell.  Both are young managers.  Compare and contrast both skippers?

A:  They're both young, have played baseball for a long time, they understand how the game is played.  They're both old school and came up at a time when players had to go out and play, perform and do well to continue to play in the Big Leagues.  I think they both have a distinct understanding to how they want their teams to play.  They're very good at making sure that the talent they have plays a brand of baseball, but each can be proud of.  Like I said, I enjoy and it's been a pleasure to work with both of them.

Q:  Finally, Do you  have a managerial aspirations one day in the big leagues?  Do you understand how important patience is to get that opportunity?

A:  I do.  I managed in the minor leagues.  Getting to the Big Leagues as a Hitting Coach has been special.  At the end of the day, I do want to eventually get an opportunity to be a bench coach then to manage.  I've learned a lot of things from the different managers, such as Sparky Anderson, Jim Leyland to name a few that have allowed you to earn and gain a distinct understanding of how the game is supposed to be taught, played, and how to run a franchise from the foundation up has been beautiful to watch.  I'd love to get an opportunity to be a part of that and show everybody all the things that you've learned along the way will allow you to be a manager that will allow your players to play, hold them accountable but most importantly, be a manager that puts the city on his backing and is capable of winning championships and getting out in the community.  It's a big part of what I want to do.  If I set the opportunity, I will put my best foot forward and hope that chance comes one day.  I've always been patient, being a hitting coordinator, then a hitting coach you have to be patient
because the development of players sometimes comes later than others.  You have to be patient enough to stick with the program, understand what the program is all about, but to methodically add and subtract things that don't prevent that player from being successful so that you can get the best out of them daily.

I feel like I'm really good at that.  I learned this as a player and it took me sometime to catch on and experience to learn it.  Patience has carried me now that I'm coaching and I'll have a lot as a manager.



There is no doubt in my mind that Coles has many good years left in baseball. At age 54, his student of the game mentality means the sky is the limits as time progresses. There are never enough good minds in baseball. I will be looking forward where/when our paths cross in the future.





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








Saturday, October 8, 2016

Boston's Brian Butterfield

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

My Grandmother Sophie Morganroth always taught me that there is a time and a place to do things.

Sometimes I take her comments to different extremes.

But during Spring Training, along with My Photographer Candice Ebling, we spent Easter Sunday covering the Boston Red Sox vs Philadelphia Phillies at jetBlue Park (also known as Fenway Park South) in Fort Myers.

Spring Training is a great opportunity to write feature stories because of the relaxed environment.

Since I've been covering baseball dating back to the 1981 Baseball Winter Meetings at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, FL., attending Spring Training is My Favorite Time to cover sports.

I've enjoyed catching up with players, managers and trainers who launched their careers in minor league baseball. I've also established friendships while covering the Detroit Tigers.

When I returned to live in Florida in 2002, I was eager to cover Grapefruit League Games.

During this time, I've been able to cross paths with former Fort Lauderdale Yankees Pitcher Chuck Hernandez, who was once a pitching coach for the Tigers. In all my years of covering baseball, the left-handed Hernandez had the best pick-off move I've ever seen to first-base.

Detroit's Head Trainer and Mastermind Kevin Rand always finds a way to keep the Tigers competitive especially with the team's recent rash of injuries the past couple of seasons. We've talked many times since my return to Florida.

It's always great to see former Tigers Manager Jim Leyland every year.

Another great friend that I've known since the 1980's is former Tigers and current Milwaukee Brewers Hitting Coach Darnell Coles.

Former Tigers third baseman Dean Palmer and I worked together when I was the Director of Public Relations for the Gastonia, NC Rangers (Texas Rangers Class A) in 1987.

But one of My All-Time Favorites is Boston Red Sox Third Base Coach Brian Butterfield.

We had a championship season together in 1982 and during the campaign we talked together a lot in the clubhouse.

During this year's post-season, you'll probably hear his name from time to time by the broadcasters on whether he decides to hold a runner at third base or wave him home.

Even though I could have written this story during the regular season, I decided to do it later because I felt confident that Boston would reach the playoffs, thus this would create more interest.

There are times which my timing for posting stories can be questioned, but for the most part, I do my best to make things work and more timely.

On March 27, 2016, Easter Sunday, the Red Sox hosted the Phillies.

It was a great opportunity to see Red Sox legend David "Big Papi" Ortiz enjoy his last couple days as a Boston player at his Spring Training Home in Fort Myers at an awesome ballpark.

But more importantly, the highlight of this day was spending time with a championship buddy. Butterfield and I had a great conversation reminiscing about the past and his career.

I  hope you enjoy this exclusive interview with a guy who was the first third-base coach in Arizona Diamondbacks History under Buck Showalter from 1998-2000.

The 58-year old Butterfield has also been a managerial candidate for the Toronto Blue Jays and Red Sox.

Q: Brian, you and I go back a long ways dating back to our 1982 Florida State League Championship while I was a sports writer for the Hallandale Digest. Tell me what it was like to experience that feeling with the Fort Lauderdale Yankees?

A: Anytime you win a championship, it doesn't matter what level it's at, whether it's high school, college, legion and little league. That was a very memorable season with a bunch of great guys, great people around the team, and it's a championship I'll never forget.

Q: What were your thoughts about Fort Lauderdale Stadium?

A: It was fantastic. You have the backfields to work on that were always in good shape. It was a real nice main field, good cages, and a nice clubhouse. So it was nice living in the Florida State League even though it was Class A Ball.

Q: There is Class A Ball and Advanced Class A Ball. I've always told people not to underestimate this level especially because of the logistics and dimensions of the park. I've also mentioned to people that due to the fact that many of these venues were made for Spring Training, the statistics are accurate. Would you agree?

A: That's a great point. The Florida State League has always been considered one of the absolutely toughest Class A Ball Leagues. It was an honor to play there with such a great organization (New York Yankees).

Q: Tell me how your career has progressed since our days in the Florida State League?

A: To make a long story short, this is my 20th year in the Big Leagues. I've been blessed to be with good organizations. I was out in Arizona with the Diamondbacks for a while. I've been with the Yankees for a long time as a manager in the minor leagues as well as a coach. I got a chance to coach in the Big Leagues with the Yankees.

I moved on to the Toronto with the Blue Jays, came over to Boston from Toronto where I spent 12 years. Now I'm a member of the Boston Red Sox, and this is my fourth year here. I was blessed to be a part of that 2013 World Championship.

Q: John Farrell was manager in Toronto. Did you follow him to Boston?

A: Yes, yes. I went through several managers in Toronto. It started with Carlos Tosca. It went from Carlos to John Gibbons, to Cito Gaston and then to John. I was also able to play under some outstanding managers.

Q: What was the 2013 World Championship like in Boston? By then there were no curses to deal with.

A: I have "The Ring" put away. It was special and a great group of people. We had a veteran core of players that played the game with great respect and, I had one thought, one night, that we were trying to win ballgames. We did a great job, stayed healthy, and everybody did a fantastic job.

Once we got in the playoffs, and the World Series, the players took it to another level, and it was even better. That was a memorable World Series Championship I've ever been a part of. It will be something that I will cherish forever.

Q: You have a lot of interesting characters on the Red Sox including Ortiz. What's it like to be around these guys?

A: It's hard to pick out a select few that I enjoy being around the most. Dustin Pedroia is a guy that as soon as we came here, he bought into everything we did, and he's an easy guy to coach because he does everything right. He buys into the program. He's been a great leader for us.

There have been so many good guys. We have a great group here. They're young but have high character players. The organization has done a great job in the way they draft players and bring them along.

Guys like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Blake Swihart, Christian Vazquez and the list goes on and on. But it's a good group to be around and we're going to do this thing together.

Q: What's it like to coach in an iconic historical place like Fenway Park especially since it's hitter friendly?

A: It's a dream come true for me since I grew up in Maine. Our current home is a two hour drive from Fenway. We're right down the southern tip of Maine. I grew up a Red Sox fan, dreamed of playing for the Boston Red Sox. But I'm doing second best as coach of the Red Sox. It's a great, great place to play.

The passion of the fans in New England are second to none. It's a great opportunity for my family and my grand kids. They had a chance to come on the field when we won the World Championship in 2013. That's something I'll remember seeing those little people running on the field celebrating with us.

Q: Growing up in the Yankees system and being part of the Red Sox food chain now, if anyone knew this rivalry well, it has to be you. Do you agree?

A: You understand it as good as anybody, but think about it, growing up as a Red Sox fan, there is nothing but the Boston Red Sox.

As soon as you become a New York Yankee, you learn to hate the Red Sox. I did it for a stint as a minor leaguer in the Yankees organization. As soon as I got out of the Yankees organization, I quickly became entranced by this organization. I'm very happy and very blessed to be back with the Red Sox.

Q: Unlike any of the other four major sports, with baseball, there is Spring Training playing 30 games, in addition to a 162 game season. If a team's fortunate enough, there is a wild card elimination game plus three full tiers culminating with the World Series. I've always believed that injuries play a larger role than most people think. Also, it seems as though there is a lot more luck involved to win a championship. What are your thoughts?

A: I agree. One of the most important things with a Major League Team is depth. You better have a lot of depth because injuries will occur during the season. Players may need rest. We may have an advantage going in because we are deep position players wise. We're deep with arms and we might be able to hold down the fort for awhile if guys go down.

Q: I will say one thing about the Red Sox is that ownership has a big checkbook and isn't afraid to spend as evidenced by the signing of former Tigers Pitcher David Price. Isn't it easier to have access to unlimited resources?

A: They've done a great job. There is great people in the front office. We've been so impressed with the work of Dave Dombrowski. He knows the game, is a great baseball man, but he's a great person who is so respectful to everybody that works for him. It's an honor to work for him. He is so respectful to this great game.

Q: How would you describe what the Boston Red Sox fan base is like?

A: That's one of the biggest thrills. There is nobody in the country that's as passionate than the people of New England. The demands are great and the demands we put on ourselves are great. We kind of look at it as bring it on, and we want to do well for our fans, as well as our franchise. We're met with challenges everyday, and that's the way it should be.

Q: What do you think of jetBlue Park? This is my first time being here. To me it's "Jet Jewell Park" because it resembles Fenway, which is on my bucket list before I die.

A: That's a great name for it Scott. I echo your sentiments. It gives us an ideally great look at what we're going to be playing 81 home games. It gives our guys a chance to see our dimensions. It's a great idea by the Red Sox, plus there is a great fan base in Fort Myers. We travel well and our fans follow us all over the country. Not only during the regular season but during Spring Training.

Q: I recently visited Chain of Lakes Park, the former Spring Home of the Red Sox in Winter Haven. I know you played there with the Fort Lauderdale Yankees. What are your thoughts of the place?

A: I went there again and there was the mystique of the Boston Red Sox organization. I was always interested growing up and watching the Red Sox on TV. Even though I was wearing another uniform of the hated New York Yankees, it was always fun to play against the Red Sox, It was a challenge but it was fun.

As things stand at the moment, the Cleveland Indians hold a 2-0 lead against the Red Sox in the ALDS beating former Tigers Pitchers Rick Porcello and David Price. The series resumes Sunday at Fenway Park so the Red Sox have their hands full.

Whether Butterfield gets another championship ring remains to be seen.

But I have a gut feeling down the road that you'll see Brian Butterfield manage an MLB Club down the line. He's come close to landing a managers job so it appears to be inevitable as those jobs will open up this off-season.

Nonetheless, it's great to reunite with another great person from the past and see that individual do well.

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

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Future Big 12 Or Major Conference Candidates?

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

Whenever I hear of expansion in any sport, I become very intrigued.

Expansion to me means growth, increase of revenues and adding of new markets.

One person who I follow on Facebook is former NFL Running Back Craig James. He decided to ask his followers what would be good markets that the Big 12 Conference could add. It was interesting to hear some of his responses.

It's inevitable that in Major College Football we're approaching a new era with Super Conferences.

Right now, we have The Power Five which leads toward selection of The Final Four and decides match-ups for Major Bowl Games.

What I've decided to do in this story is to make a case for some of the finalists which could eventually be members of the Big 12, or for that matter if they're bypassed, that could land in another Major Conference.

My numerical order doesn't reflect how I rank the teams.

1. Air Force--This military academy has had a good football tradition. Being an Independent has always allowed Air Force to schedule whatever opponents are available. Air Force used to have some entertaining games with Notre Dame. Is the Air Force ready to see top caliber competition year in and year out? I have my doubts.

2. BYU--This school has won a National Championship, plus has produced a pair of  Super Bowl Winning QB's in Steve Young and Jim McMahon. BYU has also developed a pretty good reputation in basketball. Current Boston Celtics Executive Danny Ainge played for the Cougars and also played on NBA Title Teams in Boston. I like BYU's chances of landing in a major conference.

3. University of Central Florida (UCF)--Former Coach George O'Leary lost his job at Notre Dame because of an inaccurate resume. But he built a good enough resume for the Knights by compiling an 81-68 record in 11 seasons. UCF is honoring him with a statue outside their Football Stadium.

I like UCF's chances of landing in a Major Conference. There is a conference that will want a presence in a Major Florida City. Orlando is an excellent Sunshine State possibility. It hosts two bowl games every year.

On September 10, 2016, UCF faced the Michigan Wolverines at The Big House and did lose 51-14, but got some good exposure. It hired former Oregon Offensive Coordinator Scott Frost as O'Leary's successor. I'm sure this University would do well in basketball.

4. Cincinnati--The Bearcats have produced good football and basketball teams. From a territorial standpoint, there is a good recruiting base in Ohio and Kentucky. But there are too many markets I would choose over them.

5. Colorado State--This would be my sleeper pick. Once upon a time Colorado used to be in The Big 12 before bolting to the Pac 12. The Big 12 would be wise to add Colorado State to recapture the Denver Market. I told this to James and he liked the idea. Thumbs up for the Rams.

6. U-Conn--Because of travel, I don't see The Huskies getting into The Big 12. Their basketball programs are championship caliber. However, their football program is still building. The only chance of a Major Conference would be the Big 10. The Huskies former Athletic Director Warde Manuel was recently hired by Michigan. I don't see U-Conn changing conferences anytime soon.

7. Houston--The advantages of adding U-H to the Big 12 is a large TV Market and continue to have a strong presence in Texas. With that said, Houston's college team still takes a backseat behind the NFL's Texans, although Miami, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay fare well. There is competition for the entertainment dollar behind the Texans, MLB's Astros and NBA's Rockets. It's hard to overlook that Houston has defeated Florida State and Oklahoma recently and that enhances their credibility should the Big 12 invite.

Nonetheless, I have my doubts with Houston due to the fact that there are better options. However, if the Big 12 wants to have another team in Texas, this would be the logical choice which would bolster recruiting.

Jim Harbaugh was preparing for a Satellite Camp in Texas with Baylor Bears Coach Art Briles, but those plans came to a halt with his firing because of a Sex Scandal.

8. Rice--It's another Texas school but because of it's lack of history in major sports, the Owls are better off competing in a Mid-Major Conference. I could see Rice in the bottom of the standings in these Major Conferences. I think Rice has No Chance of getting into a Power-Five Conference.

9. SMU--The Mustangs have a solid sports history and being in Dallas is a Big TV Market. But as was the case with Houston, does the Big 12 want to expand further into Texas. I could see another Power Five Conference taking a shot here to expand their recruiting base. One thing to take note is the SMU Sports has had a checkered past by getting into trouble with the NCAA in football and basketball. At one point SMU was hit with the Death Penalty and the Football Program was shut down.

10. Tulane--The New Orleans market would be an intriguing addition to any conference. A new football stadium was built on campus. Two Bowl Games are held at The Superdome every year. The population base is strong and Tulane is in LSU's backyard. I think Tulane lands somewhere with a Power Five Conference.

11. South Florida--My Alma-Mater is at the top of my list to land somewhere. I'm not being biased because of being a Proud Bull. The Tampa Bay Area has an excellent High School Football Tradition as I found out working with the Tampa Tribune from 1984-86. It's a large TV Market. The Bulls play at Raymond James Stadium with the Bucs.

Landing marquee teams won't be a problem. There is an annual New Year's Bowl Game held on New Year's which is The Outback that has a rich history.

Coach Willie Taggart is on the verge of turning USF into a winning program. Basketball has a good on campus facility in The Sun Dome.

The Bulls have played Michigan State and Wisconsin recently. Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh held a Spring Practice 90 minutes south at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL on March 4 where an estimated crowd of 5,000 attended. The Wolverines spent approximately $350,000 for their spring excursion.

For a conference to have this big of a presence in a Major Market would be hitting a Home Run. Florida is a big recruiting ground around the country.

I have a gut feeling that if USF gets bypassed by The Big 12, then The Big 10 will snap up the Bulls, much to the dismay of the SEC where these coaches criticized Harbaugh's Satellite Camps figuring he was a threat to recruiting in their backyard.

The Big 10 recently expanded its brand to Maryland and Rutgers (New York Market) in an attempt to grab East Coast exposure. It's time to have a team in Florida whether it's going to be USF or UCF.

So now you have it.

As the landscape of college sports changes over the next so many years, it will be interesting to look at a USA Map and watch schools play in different time zones for the almighty dollar with dreams of competing for National Championships.

I can also visualize that if the Big 10 lands a school in Florida, Harbaugh will add more Satellite Camps while SEC Network Reporter Paul Finebaum will continue to whine louder and louder. This clown must get paid good money by the SEC Network to complain about Harbaugh!

I wonder how much it would irritate Finebaum if a Big 10 school plays six games in SEC Territory. I am amused at how much Harbaugh does aggravate Finebaum and makes Paul look like a complete idiot.

Nonetheless, I expect UCF and USF to land somewhere and there will be a bigger Big 10 or Big 12 presence like never before.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

I'll also be curious to see how close My Projections turn out.

Stay Tuned.

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

Monday, September 19, 2016

Patriotic NFL Moments

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
JACKSONVILLE, FL

I have covered an NFL Game on Veterans Day on Monday Night, November 11, 1996 when the San Diego Chargers hosted the Detroit Lions, and it was an incredible experience.

San Diego won the contest 27-21 at Jack Murphy Stadium.

Considering that the game was held in a Military Town like San Diego, this made it even more special with all the festivities.

On September 11, 2016, at EverBankField, this marked the 15th anniversary of this infamous day.

Do you remember where you were on September 11, 2001?

I lived in Chandler, AZ and was travelling to My Lawyer Harry Cawood's Office as I had a meeting pertaining to a divorce.

Cawood asked me if I heard about the attacks. I told him no and he said do you watch the news?

I said, I normally do but not when I'm driving as was the case to his office in Mesa, AZ.

Now it's time to fast forward the clock to this football game.

From the moment Candice Ebling and I drove to this game, there were American Flags all over the parking lots inside and outside EverBankField.

There was a lot of emotion on this day.

Everybody has their opinions about San Francisco 49'ers QB Colin Kaepernick's protest by sitting and kneeling during the National Anthem.

Personally, I have a problem with what Kaepernick is doing and all the other people that are following him. He seems to be drawing attention to himself.

But that's for another day for me to discuss more extensively.

What stood out at the Green Bay Packers vs Jacksonville Jaguars Game?

It was a 90 degree day. The temperature on the field was a 110 degrees and the humidity was 55%.

Ebling must have sweat off a few pounds and worked diligently to prevent herself from dehydration as she roamed the sidelines taking pictures for us.

But watching The American Flag Cover The Football Field was an unforgettable sight and brought chills down my spine.

Going into the contest, the Jaguars were 2-0 on September 11, but that changed with Green Bay winning a thrilling 27-23 decision which was capped by a huge Packers defensive play with 23 seconds left in regulation time.

What also stood out were the feelings of Green Bay Coach Mike McCarthy and Jacksonville's Gus Bradley.

McCarthy described the pregame ceremony as "It was as emotional anthem I have seen in a long time. I thought the tribute was phenomenal just to see public safety, and the military, and everybody locking arms. I thought it was special, unique and obviously should be the focus of what today is all about."

During the Jaguars post-game press conference, when I asked Bradley what kind of emotions was the team playing on the anniversary of September 11, his body language and voice inflections said it all.

"Well I think it hits you when you're standing there at The National Anthem, " he said. "We brought it up, we talked about it during the week, and just how special the game is because you take the time to remember what so many people have done for us to have these freedoms.

"It's unbelievable and this is a Military City, those too, it was an unbelievable environment."

McCarthy and Bradley are leaders of men.

But I'm sure they'll tell you that their jobs don't compare to all the Commanding Officers and Generals which lead our country on the Battlefields, as they protect our freedom.

Back on October 24, 1971, I watched the only player in NFL history to die on the field at Tiger Stadium in Detroit as Lions Wide Receiver Chuck Hughes suffered a fatal heart attack against the Chicago Bears. He was 28 years old and I was only eight at the time and had nightmares that night. This was my first experience with death.

I would later find out that future friends and colleagues George Eichorn and Gus Pantelides were at this game on an autumn afternoon where the crowd was silent for the duration of the contest.

Why did I bring Hughes name up?

We have one player that passed away, where there have been countless of military people that have lost their lives.

Don't think every coach on the planet especially in College and NFL Football remind their players to appreciate their freedom so they can enjoy the game. For college players, they get to pursue their NFL dream whereas with NFL Players, they get paid quite well for the game they love.

We know McCarthy and Bradley delivered this passionate message to their squads.

I'm glad that I've attended games in a pair of Military Cities, where the colors, Red, White and Blue, in addition to the Stars and Stripes, had POWERFUL MEANINGS.

Nothing I've experienced in 38 years in Sports Media will top covering four Super Bowls, including one in Jacksonville.

However, two games on Veterans Day and September 11, rank up there as Incredible Memories.

How ironic is it that both of My Games Occurred on the 11th day of the month, nearly 20-years apart.

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

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