Tag Archives: Zach McCrite

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The Local College Hoops Scene Is Bonkers | The Final Say

By Zach McCrite

What an unusual college sports landscape we’re in right now in Kentuckiana.

Sure, pro sports chatter is primarily about the athletes. But in major, revenue-producing college athletics, the primary subject of the ire for media and fans (save for very few exceptions) is the head coach.

And in our area, we’re in a curious spot with all of the head coaches at the basketball programs.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF ARCHIE MILLER

Let’s start with Indiana, probably the least curious of the three within a proverbial rock’s throw from this publication’s readership.

Archie Miller has been given plenty of leash to work out the kinks in a program that certainly needed it. And it’s been a work in progress, to say the least.

In fact, there have been many fans that have – more or less – allowed the first-year head coach to take massive, embarrassing losses at the friendly confines of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Multiple losses. To other in-state teams. By 20 or more points.

Sure, between implementing a brand-new style of play and doing it with the limited talent left to him on the current roster, getting Indiana back to the perennial Top 25 team they used to be once upon a time is, of course, not an overnight process.

But, even with those disparaging losses, Hoosier fans and media alike (myself included) have treated Miller with kid gloves, taking these losses in stride, for the most part.

Of course, it’s safe to say there has been some improvement in the group as the season has gone on. Tip of the cap, Arch.

But, I feel like, even in his charter season, Archie would be feeling a little more heat from all of us in Hoosierland if not for this little protective bubble that’s been placed around him.

That bubble goes by the name of Romeo Langford.

As sports fans, we traffic in hope. We thrive on it. It’s our caffeine. That hope is what keeps us coming back for more, even when success isn’t coming at a consistent rate. It’s our current cup of coffee.

And that current cup of “hope coffee” is Romeo,

the top high school shooting guard in the Class of 2018, making posters out of poor opposing defenders with his addictive take-him-home-to-meet-your-momma demeanor.

The kind of local celeb where you can talk to other local strangers about him, refer to him only by his first name, and both of you know to whom the other is referring.

I don’t know where Romeo is going for his college basketball career. Neither do you (unless, of course, he surprised us all with an announcement between the time of this writing and now). But Hoosier fans are hoping it’s IU, obviously.

And it’s a credit to Miller that IU is even in the hunt for Romeo, especially given the substandard state of the Indiana hoops program.

My educated guess? Romeo wouldn’t have IU in his final list of potential schools to which he’s contemplating going to school to play basketball had Tom Crean still been the coach in Bloomington.

But Romeo’s interest in the Hoosiers has created a protective bubble of hope around Miller. Until Romeo decides to commit to a school not named Indiana, that protective hope bubble will not fade, providing what would be harsh criticism – the kind usually reserved for coaches who receive beatdowns from powerhouses like Indiana State and Fort Wayne – from really hitting the IU coach.

And if Romeo does decide to dawn the Crimson and Cream, that protective cocoon once conceived of hope where Miller currently resides will turn into one made out of real credit (and gratitude, too).

THE CURIOUS CASE OF JOHN CALIPARI

I’m literally shocked by the way Kentucky head coach John Calipari has been acting lately.

Sure, he’s a master of using the media to get a message across to his team (and, at times, to his recruits as well). But, this time around, he’s been as critical of a Kentucky team as he’s ever been as the head coach of the Wildcats, especially given the new class of freshmen he brought to Lexington, a class worthy of a top-five preseason national ranking.

John Calipari’s success at UK has been exemplary. Final Fours, once a fleeting luxury under Tubby Smith and an impossibility under Billy Gillispie, are now damn near expected regardless of the new crop of newcomers that comes into Big Blue Country.

In Cal We Trust.

Whether it’s after the oodles of victories or the small handful of defeats, Cal will usually mention the seemingly few flaws of his team. They’re usually mental flaws that he hopes will get corrected by the time the NCAA Tournament rolls around.

More often than not, Cal blames these flaws on his team’s never-ending youth. As expected as death and taxes.

But this season has been different. The Cats are taking unusual losses – unusual for Big Blue Nation, at least. It’s not like they’re going to miss the tournament or anything.

But the usual Cal quotes have been modified. This is a rarity.

Consider: Earlier in the season, after a 29-point shellacking of rival Louisville, the UK coach did the unthinkable. He was going to stop referring to that youth.

“I said today before the game, we’re no longer freshmen,” Calipari said after another victory in the rivalry back in December. “I’m not saying it anymore – we’re not freshmen now. We’re 10 games in, 11 games in, we are not freshmen.”

Then, in a mid-January loss at home against lowly South Carolina, Calipari went back to his old, youth-based excuses for his team’s inability to play at the level commensurate to the Kentucky head coach’s expectations had returned.

“This looked like a bunch of freshmen playing,” Calipari said after his team’s 76-68 collapse at South Carolina.

“The first half, you would look and say, ‘Ah, they got a nice team and da da da da.’ They’re all freshmen. In the second half, you looked at us and we looked like a bunch of freshmen playing like freshmen would play.”

Cal used the word “freshmen” three times before he took one breath.

Perhaps the players aren’t the only ones reverting to old childlike habits.

The surprise isn’t that the excuses had returned, it’s that Cal tried to make those disappear in the first place.

Weird.

And then on top of that has been the cryptic way in which he’s talked about one of his six (SIX!) five-star freshmen recruits.

Jarred Vanderbilt injured his foot early in the preseason and hadn’t played a game up until the aforementioned loss to South Carolina. It had been Vanderbilt’s third injury to the same foot. That is a true worry for a player seemingly-destined to be less than a calendar year away from having a seven-annual income.

Kentucky had needed him. And people had seen reports of him continuously practicing and dressing for games.

But Vanderbilt still wasn’t seeing the court, and Calipari was being uncharacteristically and mostly-indirectly criticizing Vanderbilt’s inability to play.

“I’d like for him to give me more than what I would’ve gotten today because I didn’t see him all day,” Calipari said.

It was like there was more to the story. Who knows?

“The problem with being injured when you’re on my teams, I really spend no time with you,” Calipari said. “Sometimes I forget names. Like I forget who (Vanderbilt) is. Because I’ve gotta focus on the guys I’m coaching right now. They’ve gotta get healthy and be ready to come back and be ready to go. Jarred is the same.”

He forgets his players’ names? Come on.

Calipari is always a master of the media. His press conferences are always entertaining.

But this year, it’s just been different. Different than in any other season.

It’s been over the top.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF DAVID PADGETT

The most curious case of all has been David Padgett. The poor guy got thrown into an absolute grease fire.

So, of course, his team floundered around for awhile while the players acclimated to a coaching style that is, by many accounts, far more relaxed than the style of their coaching predecessor, Rick Pitino.

The feeling I got from Pitino before his firing was that if Donovan Mitchell, currently one of the NBA’s best rookies, left for the pros after last season, it was going to be an uphill climb for this season’s championship hopes.

No surprise there. Mitchell is a star. Any team would hurt if they lost a kid like Mitchell.

Obviously, this was before Pitino got gifted Brian Bowen, the highly-touted recruit whose family member, we later learned, allegedly agreed to receive money to come to Louisville, which, in part, may have ended up being the final nail in Pitino’s Cardinal Coffin.

Since then, Padgett has had to do a dance of trying to be himself to his team, while still trying to cling to many Pitino’s championship principles.

Now, many Pitino loyalists, who are still bitter about the way “Slick Rick” was dismissed are taking out the team’s struggles on Padgett.

“The players aren’t listening to him.”

“Padgett’s lost this team. This would’ve never (have) happened to Rick.”

We got it, Rick-backers, winning trumps all, even multiple NCAA violations.

Duly noted.

But, for the rest of us that think Pitino’s firing was justified, even if we admired his coaching ability (I know I did), there was really no other way to bring on a brand-new coach that had any sort of resume.

UofL had two weeks to figure this out, for crying out loud. What were they supposed to do?

Had Louisville brought on a seasoned, but recently-fired coach, that coach isn’t going to just agree to a one-year deal. And even if they do, what if they had success? Then, Louisville would’ve had to stick with the guy, a guy they had all but a handful of days to truly vet.

The timing was terrible.

Still, Padgett is taking a team that likely wasn’t destined for the Final Four and, as of this writing, has gone the whole season with just a handful of losses – none of them to teams outside the AP Top 25.

It’s been a fascinating watch.

HERE’S A CURIOUS BONUS

And, alone at the top, probably sipping on a Mai Tai and cackling at all the other nonsense going on south of West Lafayette, is Matt-freaking-Painter. Who knew he’d be the one with the stress meter, relatively speaking, at zero?

What an unusual college hoops landscape, indeed.

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Regardless Of Your Thoughts On Pitino, He Is Missed Right Now

screen-shot-2017-12-05-at-4-10-36-pmBy Zach McCrite 

I already miss Rick Pitino. Truly, I do.

This is to say nothing negative towards David Padgett, the interim head coach of the University of Louisville basketball team. He’s a fine man in a precarious spot.

I’m also not implying that Rick Pitino should still be the coach of the Cardinals.

No matter how much he knew or didn’t know about multiple (let that sink in: multiple), program- and university-staining scandals, the way he accepted basically zero responsibility for them other than “making two bad hires,” as he once admitted, was icky enough, if you ask me.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not missing him.

Here we are in December – a month where Louisville will take on both Indiana and Kentucky –and we’re not going to get any of the fun stuff to which we have become accustomed.

No longer are we going to get the numerous sideline animations that we were so used to seeing. The yelling at the players from the other side of the court. The seemingly video-game like pointing, pulling and raising of the arms to try to get the kids to do exactly as he pictures in his mind.

I will miss the times he got down on one knee when things seemed relatively comfortable during the game. The classic hands-behind-the-back move when he needed to say something that wasn’t necessarily angelic, let’s say.

Some of his most memorable games as a coach are etched in my memory forever, too.

I will miss how he guided the most unbelievable tournament comeback I can ever recall, when the 4-seed Cards were down 20 to 8-seed West Virginia in the 2005 Elite 8. The Mountaineers went an earth-shattering 18-of-27 from 3-point range and Pitino somehow figured out a way to get his crew to claw all the way back and win that NCAA Regional Final in Albuquerque.

And the press conferences. Oh, the press conferences.

Just at Louisville, he answered longtime WAVE 3 sports anchor Bob Domine’s phone at a press conference and had a conversation with someone on the other end who apparently wanted to meet for a drink.

Or the time when he spoke out about the Karen Sypher extortion case and told the fans that “we need to get onto the important things in life – like the economy.”

The best of Rick Pitino came a little later in that day when he blamed the media for providing coverage of a Sypher interview on a day that the rest of the nation mourned… I guess.

“Everything that’s been printed, everything that’s been reported, everything that’s been breaking in the news on the day Ted Kennedy died is 100 percent a lie, a lie,” Pitino said (italic emphasis added).

That’s so great!

Or when former Notre Dame coach and ESPN analyst Digger Phelps said in 2013 that no No. 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament was going to make the Final Four and Rick Pitino called him out at a press conference saying, “All you have to do is (predict against) Digger, and you got a great chance of winning, because he’s never right. That’s why keeping winning… . He knows nothing.” Awesome. By the way, Rick was right. Louisville went on to win the national championship*.

Even the non-press conferences were awesome. I’m referring, of course, to the times where he would lose to John Calipari and the University of Kentucky and just wouldn’t show up at the podium. A mad Pitino was a great Pitino at the microphone…at least when he showed up.

And then there are the memorable times before he even got to the podium, like when he made some sort of gesture to Wildcats fans as he walked off the Rupp Arena floor and though the tunnel. Perhaps he was just scratching his head. Or perhaps it was a ‘bird’ of some sort.

Speaking of Calipari, Pitino’s collisions with him are legendary. No matter how much the two tried to sugarcoat it to their respective local media, the relationship between the two never seemed to be anything better than adversarial at best.

When the annual UofL vs. UK game came around, the two were always asked about it. They would always downplay it. Calipari seemed to come the closest to coming clean about their connection. “I mean, look, we’re 90 miles away from each other and at competitive, rival schools,” Calipari said before their last meeting against each other one year ago this month. “You know, it’s hard to send each other Christmas cards. It is what is.”

Sadly, we must correct that last sentence now. It was what it was. And it was awesome.

The good news for Pitino in the rivalry? Even though Calipari was 8-2 against Pitino during their rivalry, ol’ Rick P got the last laugh in a 73- 70 win over Cal. He got the last laugh.

But, sadly, that’s not the image many will remember.

In fact, the last image we have of him truly representing the University of Louisville is in a super-show-off-your-muscles-and-nipples type Lamar Jackson jersey on College Gameday back when ESPN thought Cardinal Football was a title contender.

There’s something funny about that, even if you’re a diehard Cards fan – this is the last moment Pitino publicly represented this iniversity in a proud way. It’s OK to chuckle. It’s almost therapeutic. It’s cathartic.

There’s zero doubt that he’s one of the smartest X-and-O basketball coaches of our lifetime. And, no matter who replaces him at UofL permanently, it’s going to be tough to replicate that intelligence.

And the bravado. Definitely the bravado.

I miss Rick PItino. At least on the court and at the podium. And it’s starting to hit me right now.

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NCAA Men’s Basketball Predictions

We asked a panel of “experts” to weigh in on the upcoming NCAA men’s basketball season. Here’s what they said.


HOWIE LINDSEY, 790 KRD 

SURPRISE TEAM: Virginia Tech. I think they will be much tougher than people realize and it wouldn’t shock me if they are a Sweet 16 team this season.

DISAPPOINTING TEAM: North Carolina. They seem to be a preseason Top 10 team with a lot of question marks.

FINAL FOUR: Duke, Florida, West Virginia, Kansas

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Miles Bridges, Michigan State

COACH OF THE YEAR: Bob Huggins, West Virginia


JIM BIERY, Extol Sports Columnist

SURPRISE TEAM: Northwestern. First trip ever last year & majority of team coming back.

MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM: UK. Top returning scorer just 4.6 PPG.

FINAL FOUR: Arizona, Michigan St, Villanova, Duke

PLAYER OF YEAR: Ethan Happ (Wisconsin) complete game defense & offense

COACH OF YEAR: Tom Izzo. Team is loaded and he is one of top teachers of the game.


ZACH MCCRITE, Extol Sports Columnist

SURPRISE TEAM: I’ll go with the homer pick for me: Indiana. Archie Miller went right to work in recruiting and, by all national accounts, really did well. Combine that with a new energy around Bloomington and why wouldn’t they return to the NCAA Tournament in 2018?

DISAPPOINTING TEAM: Louisville. With Rick Pitino not roaming the sidelines, I can’t imagine the expectations for this season being met. That’s no knock on new head coach David Padgett, it’s just a testament to my respect for Pitino as a coach.

FINAL FOUR: Shot in the dark: Kentucky, Kansas, West Virginia and Florida.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jalen Brunson – Villanova. That’s off the board a little, but his effective field goal percentage was 61.9 last season. That sounds like a number a seven-footer would have. He’s a point guard!

COACH OF THE YEAR: Give me Bill Self. He’ll continue to run the Big 12 and will do it with more ease than in recent seasons.


STEVE KAUFMAN, Extol Sports Writer

First of all, anyone who tries to predict pretty much anything is a fool. So I do not stand behind any of these picks – unless I’m right!

SURPRISE TEAM: Missouri; great freshman class, especially the Porter brothers

DISAPPOINTING TEAMS: Duke, preseason No. 1 – I don’t think they’ll finish No. 1; Louisville, preseason No. 16 – just way too much turmoil, loss of a great coach, replaced by an inexperienced rookie coach, simply unfair to him; Minnesota, preseason No. 15 – not a good year for the Pitino family

FINAL FOUR: Kentucky, North Carolina, Arizona, Florida (or some other four teams)

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Michael Porter Jr., Missouri or Kevin Knox, Kentucky

COACH OF THE YEAR: Mike White, Florida (for no particular reason, except he’s done good things there and I think will continue to do good things); second choice – Archie Miller, Indiana


REX BEYERS, Professional Oddsmaker/SoIN native

SURPRISE TEAM: Penn State

MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM: Kansas

FINAL FOUR: Xavier, Villanova, West Virginia, Arizona

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jevon Carter, West Virginia

COACH OF THE YEAR: Chris Mack, Xavier


ADAM KLEINERT, Extol Sports Art Director & Sports Fan

SURPRISE TEAM THIS SEASON: Alabama

MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM: Gulp…Louisville

FINAL FOUR: Duke, Wichita State, Michigan State, Kansas

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Marvin Bagley III, Duke

COACH OF THE YEAR: Gregg Marshall, Wichita State


JEFF NUNN, CardinalSportsZone.com

SURPRISE TEAM: Xavier

DISAPPOINTING TEAM: Villanova

FINAL FOUR: Duke, Michigan State, Arizona, Xavier

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Grayson Allen, Duke

COACH OF THE YEAR: Sean Miller – Arizona


 

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Celebrating Success: Pat McCrite Records Another Hole-in-One

screen-shot-2017-09-25-at-7-39-54-pmFor most of us, a single hole-in-one is unachievable. But for a rare few, there are more.

Pat McCrite of McCrite Milling – on what happened to be his company’s sponsored hole – recorded his lifetime second hole-in-one Sept. 15 at Valley View Golf Club during the annual National Association of Women in Construction Scramble.

Pat made the hole-in-one on hole No. 12 (par 3, 154 yards).

screen-shot-2017-09-25-at-7-40-02-pmThis one – again, his second – had special meaning because he shared the unforgettable experience with his daughter, Ali (McCrite) Glotzbach, also of McCrite Milling, and longtime friends Craig Nance and Jason Applegate.
The outstanding feat gave Pat his choice of a 40” Sharp HD TV or pocketing $500. We’ll leave it to Pat to determine whether he wants to divulge what he chose, but we wanted to congratulate Pat on yet another ace in his illustrious (and thus far amateur) golf career.


VALLEY VIEW GOLF CLUB

3748 Lawrence Banet Road

Floyds Knobs

812.923.9280


 

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The Final Say with Zach McCrite | The Sensationalism Of The Must-Win 

By Zach McCrite

This is a “must-win” column. I must win this column or else something will happen, right?

Let me explain.

I would define myself as a lot of different things: I’m a parent. A husband. I’m a son and a brother. Go ahead and mark me down for coach, rabid eater and fan of Indiana University sports.

But when it comes to my career as a “sports media” member, it took me a long time to realize that what I was getting paid to do was to be an entertainer.

Sure, you’re supposed to know sports, but I know probably less about sports than you or someone in your immediate family.

“Then why are you still writing and on the radio, Zach?” 

Well, it’s likely because my goal isn’t to know more sports than you. It’s to entertain. It’s not to have the most accurate, no-one-else-can-even-possibly-be-right-unless-they-agree-with-me opinion.

It’s to make you think. It’s to make you laugh. It’s to make you feel something. Anything.

That’s an entertainer, I suppose.

And with more and more outlets out there for people to be sports entertainers and get paid for it, the opinions get more and more outlandish.

And that leads us to these “must-win” folks.

It seems like every game, these days, is a must-win for someone. So much so that it’s been a staple of my brand to call out the nimrods who call for them so unnecessarily.

Let’s start with the NFL, where each of the 32 teams gets 16 games to be one of 12 teams to make playoffs. In other words, when the season begins, each team has a 37.5 percent chance to make the playoffs.

So, forgive me when in Week 2 of the NFL season I roll my eyes a little bit when you have writers from USA Today penning a column with a headline of “Lions face must-in game vs. Giants on Monday Night Football.”

I refuse to click on these ridiculous stories. They’re click bait. And you’re the fish.

If you are dumb enough to think that anyone’s second game of a 16-game season is a “must-win” when 37.5 percent of all the teams are going to the playoffs, then me and you can’t be friends.

And I can do you one better.

How about when both teams in a matchup are facing a must win in Week 2?

On Sept. 18, I googled “must win.”

Result No. 2 on Google.com: “Backed into a corner, the Giants face ‘must-win’ game in September.

Well, Giants, you ended up losing this game, so I guess you really don’t have to play anymore this season. You can go ahead and start your vacation. Let us know how the golf games go.

I don’t want to take long on this, but let’s take one of these 0-1 NFL teams and quickly give this the time it doesn’t really deserve to explain why their second game isn’t a must-win.

Let’s play the role of the Giants that lost their “must-win” game in Week 2. Have you ever heard of any NFL team that hasn’t made the playoffs at 14-2? I didn’t think so.

Take college basketball for another example, where I hear every February how such-and-such team “must win this regular season game or they have no shot at making the NCAA Tournament.”

This is in a sport where these teams, regardless of what their regular season record is, have a chance to win their way into the tournament via the automatic bid given out at each conference tournament.

In researching for this column, I stumbled across a column from a Penn State basketball blog pointing out which games were must-wins this season. For crying out loud, we’re six weeks from the season even starting and we’re already pointing out games as “must-wins?”

I need a drink.

Look, if the goal is to win championships and you automatically get entered into a conference tournament at the end of the season, must-wins will certainly never happen months before the season ends.


“WHEN IT COMES TO MY CAREER AS A “SPORTS MEDIA” MEMBER, IT TOOK ME A LONG TIME TO REALIZE THAT WHAT I WAS GETTING PAID TO DO WAS TO BE AN ENTERTAINER.”


There are exceptions, but not many. Most notably, college football, where there isn’t an “everyone is welcome” conference tournament to give out an automatic bid. So, the regular season does matter. You could, perhaps, consider a game against someone inside your own division as a must-win early in the season, since it means you’d likely have to hope those teams will lose twice down the road to fall below you in the standings (if they only lose once, they have the win over you as the tiebreaker … see Louisville against Clemson).

But in the grand scheme of things, “must-win” is more improperly used than a teenage girl telling you she “literally died” when she dropped her smartphone and the screen broke.

Speaking of “literally,” I’m sure I’ll get blamed for taking the “must-win” phrase too literally.

Perhaps I am. Or, perhaps you could not try to sensationalize a game that no one has to win to keep their season alive.

Find a different way to entertain your audience. “B.S. meters” everywhere will thank you for it.


Want to find Zach on Twitter? Just follow @BigEZ


 

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The Final Say | September 2017

By Zach McCrite

By Zach McCrite

Role Play: If I Were Athletic Director At Louisville

I should be an athletic director.

Well, I guess I should first explain: I am not qualified to be an athletic director at the collegiate level.

Why? Well, I’m not real good at raising money.

You got to be the ringleader of raising a lot of dough when you’re an A.D. I’m just not good at that. I could do it once. One big capital campaign.

But, continuously going “back to the well” would be like going to the dentist for me (no offense, Dr. Fust). Perhaps with practice, I’d be better.

Alas.

For purposes of this space, here is the one and only thing I would do immediately if I, indeed, were athletic director at the University of Louisville, a school that has been a mainstay of the usually-dormant summer sports news cycle.

I would learn to be happy again.

It’s been a tough go for Athletic Director Tom Jurich. But, hey, who doesn’t hit turmoil at their job every once in awhile.

I don’t know what goes on privately there, but publicly, Jurich has come out smelling like a rose far more often in his 20 years at the helm of Cardinal athletics than not.

But then, last month happened.

That’s when WAVE-TV Sports Director Kent Taylor had a one-on-one interview with Jurich in which the A.D. talked about how the last couple of years – between the basketball program’s escort scandal, the UofL Foundation scandal and much more – has been tumultuous.

Jurich was asked if he was happy right now.

“I’m getting there. I’m getting there. It’s been a long couple of years.”

There’s no doubt that things haven’t been all rainbows and lollipops over there. However, life doesn’t seem all that bad at UofL.

It’s not like someone slammed all the way down on the brake pedal and impeded the progress Jurich has made.

Having a national championship banner coming down on your watch is no picnic, and that banner is coming down unless UofL wins what many are calling a “long shot” appeal to the NCAA.

Let’s not be phony, that one will leave a mark.

But, there’s far more in the good column than the bad for Jurich.

The latest evidence are the cranes currently affixed around Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Another expansion for a place that is seemingly always being expanded.

That’s something for which to be happy. That’s something for which to be proud.

College World Series appearances, a Heisman Trophy winner, more fancy athletic facilities and the most profitable college basketball program in the country, right?

I understand always wanting to be better. That’s the kind of drive that made him the respectable, if not legendary, athletic director that he is today.

But, if I were A.D., I would find time every now and again to appreciate what is already there.

You could almost literally trip and fall anywhere on the UofL campus and land on something for which Jurich is responsible, at least in part.

To most fans, Jurich has been given carte blanche to do with the athletic department as he pleases, without as much as a sign-off sheet from the school’s former president on much of the matters at hand.

And that carte blanche equalled Cardinal skyscrapers and success.

However, I’m going to guess where some of his unhappiness lies.

It seems, perhaps, some checks and balances have been put back in place between the athletic department and the university as a whole.

At least, that’s the vibe many got with the introduction of interim president Dr. Greg Postel, who has taken over the mess created, in part, by the school’s former president James Ramsey.

That vibe strengthened among many in the area when Postel apparently decided to spearhead an effort to pay higher rent to the Yum Center for being it’s main tenant.

Why? Well, it seemed that the university got a “sweetheart deal” the first time around that made it tough for the arena to pay off the arena’s $690 million loan.

And that’s not UofL’s fault that it signed that deal. We know that.

That initial deal – a deal put together by Ramsey, Jurich and others – was deemed by one current university trustee as a “bad deal, and we’re paying for that now,” according to a July 20 story from The Courier-Journal.

But, the new lease amendment, led by Postel, was to make sure the Yum! Center could stay afloat financially.

Ensuing reports came out that Postel kept Jurich in the dark about the lease renegotiations. WAVE-TV reported a “source also said the new deal represents a shift in power from the athletics department to the president’s office.”

Although Postel denied that claim, my guess is that’s one reason Jurich happiness at the University of Louisville isn’t at peak levels.

Postel has become a watchdog for the school. And we saw what happened when the school was without one. Not all of it was pretty.

And even if there is a “shift of power” going on at UofL, Jurich has landed on his feet.

Sure, a piece of neatly-knitted cloth may have to come down from the ceiling of a building where basketball is played. But look what’s left? Unwavering support of tens of thousands of Cards fans all over the Commonwealth and surrounding areas.

And, I mean this in the least aggressive manner possible, how many athletic directors around the country would survive the turmoil that, while not directly your doing, happened while on your watch?

Not many, if any at all.

That’s because of the behemoth Jurich is responsible for shepherding.

And I would wager a healthy amount that Jurich will continue to nourish his behemoth – even if he has a watchdog now.

I would be happy with my creation if I were the UofL A.D.

But, alas, it’s back to my recliner for more football.

Where’s my beer?

Want to find Zach on Twitter? Just follow @BigEZ. 

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The Final Say | August 2017

screen-shot-2017-08-05-at-5-36-06-pmZach’s State Of College Football Address

By Zach McCrite 

Here ye, here ye.

As we embark on another season of college football, in the backyard of the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, it is I, the all-knowing (hardly), almighty (not really) Zach McCrite here, leader of Sports Gasbag Nation, to give you the State of College Football Address.

There will be no predictions, as predictions are doomed to fail (I fail enough on my own, thank you).

There are, however, expectations. Expectations created by fans, media and even the donors and administration at their respective school.

Do the coaches have their own expectations? Of course. And, short of a College Football Playoff berth, those expectations never seem to be met, so I, your fearless (most would disagree, but let’s go with it) leader of Sports Gasbag Nation moves to strike them from public record.

Let us begin nationally, where I can say this once and for all: The Southeastern Conference is not your king.

They’re not good. It’s Alabama and everyone else. Anyone who tells you differently is likely an SEC fan mad that their team isn’t in the same ballpark as Nick Saban’s NFL farm.

You see, the patented SEC “honk” has a patented SEC move: to tell others if teams in their conference are not living up to expectations, it is for no other reason than the league is “just too good” and everyone in the league is “just beating up on each other” because the SEC is just a different animal.

It is I, leader of Sports Gasbag Nation, who will agree that the SEC is, indeed, a different animal. We shall call them a kitten.

Of course, the exception to this is Alabama. Because Saban.

This year, instead of going at these delusional pro-SEC people with your own set of facts and opinions, all you have to do when you hear these nimrods tout their conference as almighty is this: chuckle.

Now, a minute, if you will, on each of the “big three” college football teams in our own backyard.

THE STATE OF LOUISVILLE FOOTBALL 

I hereby declare that the Louisville Cardinals are national championship contenders. Why not? Many publications that deem themselves smarter than I are predicting that Louisville is no better than the third-best team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, behind Clemson and Florida State.

There are simple reasons why that can, and should, be disproven.

First, too much emphasis is being placed on the finish, albeit regurgitation-worthy, of last season. That season-ending three-game spiral began with a blowout loss at Houston. Nevermind that Houston had already beaten perennial power Oklahoma earlier in the year.

The Cardinals laid an egg, plain and simple.

Ging into that game, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee had deemed Louisville just one spot out of the playoff, ranking them fifth in the country.

That Houston loss, combined with the earlier loss at eventual national champion Clemson in one of the best games of the season, took Bobby Petrino’s bunch out of the national title discussion with just one game left in their season.

And that one game left was Kentucky.

Let it be known, Kentucky was the better team on that day against Louisville. But they wouldn’t have been the better team that day, in your leader’s eyes, had Louisville still had a national championship berth for which to play.

By the time Louisville play LSU in the Citrus Bowl, they appeared to be at a football game that they did not want to play in, getting bludgeoned 29-9.

I hereby grant UofL a reprieve from that unbelievably embarrassing season-ending tumble. Too much of the Cardinals’ 2017 public expectations are based on their performance in the final two games of the year, which had far less meaning to the coaches and players than it did to the college football world.

Also, lest we forget, the Cards have the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Clemson lost their all-star quarterback, and Florida State was embarrassed by this same Louisville team just 12 months ago.

I hereby declare the Cardinals title contenders.

THE STATE OF KENTUCKY FOOTBALL 

Ah, Kentucky. You are quite the lovable football character. You are the program we pat on the head like a good dog who just brought back the ball we launched into the neighbor’s yard.

Sure, you may urinate in a million places that we don’t really appreciate (like vs. Southern Mississippi), but every once in a while, you find a bone (like at Louisville).

And for some reason, the majority of fans seem fine with this. It’s like they said “hey, we’ll take all your 7-5’s and your 6-6’s and your 5-7’s. Just get us to basketball season and try not to embarrass us.”

And this season is no different. Kentucky feels like another mediocre-at-best member of the aforementioned below-average-after-Bama SEC.

THE STATE OF INDIANA FOOTBALL 

Let us start off the field. I, your leader of Sports Gasbag Nation (an admitted IU fan), am still a little salty with how athletic director Fred Glass introduced Tom Allen as the new head coach of Indiana University football.

Glass made Allen, on what quite possibly was the best day of Allen’s professional life, sit mostly idle at the press conference table while Glass announced the very sudden firing of former coach Kevin Wilson. Save for a quick statement from the new head coach on how this was the opportunity of a lifetime, the press only cared about “Where’d the old coach go?” Glass didn’t give his new head coach his own day filled with positivity about the football team. That’s sat with me all offseason.

Now, as far as the actual football is concerned: see Kentucky.

So, let it be written. So, let it be done.

– Your Leader of Sports Gasbag Nation

Louisville Baseball’s Success Was Perfect Timing

screen-shot-2017-07-05-at-11-58-21-pmThe boys of summer were at it again in June.

University of Louisville baseball was once again a College World Series participant. And they were the lipstick on the pig.

Let me explain.

For the fourth time in school history and third time in five years the Cardinals have made it to the promised land of college baseball — Omaha, Nebraska.

But this time, it’s while the UofL athletics program, and the university as a whole, has been under the most scrutiny they have ever been in.

FIRST, LETS TALK ABOUT THE PIG 

It’s been a tough month for the pig. University of Louisville Athletics. I hate to be so broad, but such is the tumult with the program as a whole — not on the field or the court, but off.

Where would you like to begin? The men’s basketball sex scandal is never any fun to talk about for anyone, but with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions levying down their final penalties on the basketball program last month, perhaps that’s a good place to start.

It’s the death penalty, retroactive to 2010 through 2014. Barring a successful appeal (good luck!) by UofL, the 2013 National Championship banner is coming down.

This perhaps begins the tying of a bow on a package that surfaced back in August 2015, when UofL brass first learned of Katina Powell. The now-infamous escort claimed that she and other escorts were paid thousands of dollars by former staff member Andre McGee in exchange for dancing and having sex with Cardinal players and recruits for a span of over four years.

With the NCAA releasing its penalties in June, the wounds of that scandal not only reopened. They became bigger.

Combine that with the University of Louisville Foundation’s forensic audit that was made public on June 9.

Of the 135 pages of financial information, 11 of them have to do directly with athletics. Included in the findings are the President’s Office buying up over $800,000 worth of football and men’s basketball tickets through University of Louisville Foundation funds and selling them off, except no one knows where the money went or to whom the tickets went.

Also among the numerous items the audit discovered, the Foundation also funded the compensation of many names (at least last names) known to many fans in the region. Athletics Director Tom Jurich, along with Jurich’s son, Mark, and former men’s basketball coach Denny Crum have received approximately $4.9 million in compensation from 2010 to 2016.

Tom Jurich, a man whom you cannot tell the story of the successful rise of Cardinal Athletics without, was paid over $5.3 million in total in 2016. That’s astronomical for an A.D., but I’m not even mad at that. Get yours, Tom. Get yours.

The big problem I got with it, and with a lot of what’s going on between the athletics department and the UofL Foundation, is that you’re using Foundation funds to help cover a lot of financial deficits, some of them unnecessary.

Oh, and according to emails revealed in the audit, you’re trying to cover it up. That’s never a good look.

According to the Foundation website, “The Foundation’s vision is to make the University of Louisville a premier metropolitan research university recognized for advancing the intellectual, social and economic development of our community and its citizens while placing the University among the top tier of similar universities in the nation.”

Nowhere on the website could I find anything that says the Foundation’s vision is to compensate people in athletics or to buy tickets and then sell them off to unknown people without any receipt.

It’s all money that could’ve helped research a cure for a disease or (gasp) eliminate the need for the mandatory Student Athletics Fee that the Athletics Association receives from every student.

Fans may not care much about all of these parts of the pig. In fact, I can hear some fans now saying “Who cares about any of this. Just win games.” Those fans care less about the university than they claim. Embarrassment outside of the games be damned, right? Fair enough.

But for the rest of us…

HERE COMES THE LIPSTICK 

So, let’s leave it at this: there has been bad news-aplenty on campus.

Meanwhile Louisville baseball coach Dan McDonnell, on top of giving the Cardinal fans quite the “offseason” bridge between the Kentucky Derby and college football season, is the biggest thing to happen to baseball in this metro area since the Louisville Slugger Factory planted the “World’s Largest Bat” out in front of their place.

Forget the result of the Cardinals’ trip to Omaha.

What matters more is that when you can separate yourself from “College Sports, Inc.” and the money and corruption surrounding college athletics all over the country, you can see someone like McDonnell and his team.

When you go out to Jim Patterson Stadium, you can watch a kid from Pennsylvania (home of the Little League World Series) light up both the scoreboard and his teammate’s catcher’s mitt in Brendan McKay. He was named Collegiate Baseball’s Player of the Year this season, and you wouldn’t even know it. He’s got a humility to him that’s near non-existent to many when they’re showered with those sorts of accolades.

Or you can take in another home run from Jeffersonville’s own Drew Ellis, whose energy reverberates the same as when he was 10 years old lighting up the George Rogers Clark ballparks.

Louisville’s baseball team reminds you that they’re kids that love a game. That reminder is fleeting in college athletics these days.

The Louisville Cardinals baseball team were a glowing representative for a university that desperately needed it. Perfect timing. Kudos on an outstanding year.

I mean this in the most sincere way possible: they were a damn fine lipstick for the pig.

Want to find Zach on Twitter? Just follow @BigEZ. 


 

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The Final Say | The Offseason: Where We Celebrate Sports Hope

By Zach McCrite

To the regular human, there are four seasons.

And here we are, embarking on one of those seasons: summer. The sun shines (usually), the temperature is hot (most of the time) and the kids are out of school (have fun, parents).

That’s to the regular human being.

However, to most of you who would bother to flip to this back page to read the thoughts of this mind-wandering gasbag, there may be only three seasons.

Regular season. Postseason. Offseason.

And for a sea of fans wearing the Cardinal Red or the Wildcat Blue or the Hoosier Crimson who love their football or basketball, we are in the longest of those three seasons: the offseason.

Of course, it’s a bummer for most of you to not have actual games going on during the offseason. I feel the same way. The offseason drags when you don’t have something to look forward to watching.

But, especially with the advances in technology over the last decade and a half, many people have cashed in on your offseason boredom.

Offseason is now the recruiting season.

Many of you out there get so fired up this time of year. You want to know where the top prospects are going to go to school. You marvel at their ability to shake a defender or get fancy with their moves. With every “ooh” and “ahh” they make you belt out, you become more and more like a child who sees bubbles being blown for the first time.

You hope they go to your favorite team. You hope they shun the enemy.

And you create this vision of your team with that recruit on it, even though, except in the rarest of cases (perhaps like local basketball star Romeo Langford), you’ve only seen a 2-minute YouTube clip of any high-profile recruit’s very best moments from his high school career.

Don’t lie. You’ve done this. I’ve done it, too.

The offseason feels good. New players come in. Veteran players get healthy, fans get excited, and at some schools (ahem, Indiana) you get a new coach as a cherry on top. Every year, it feels like a new beginning.

And new beginnings spawn hope. Lots of hope. We hope with the “hopiest” of hopes. And it gives us the warm-and-fuzzies.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like to hope, too. But I’m over this particular kind of hoping.

Too many times I’ve looked at that YouTube clip, I’ve looked at the recruiting rankings scattered all over the internet, I’ve imagined that awesome recruit on my favorite team. You have too.

And when that player shows interest in coming to play for our school, we tell our friends, “This is the guy.”

And like more summer beverages into summer beverage cooler, the recruiting services toss hope into our summer party. Even if our team is truly terrible, we start to believe anyway. Because “what if,” right?

Then, after the hopeful “offseason,” the best players commit to colleges all over the land and some of them may even go to your school.

And now it’s time for regular season. Ya know, actual games! And those recruits start playing in our favorite team’s jersey. And, it’s not nearly what we imagined. We were fantasizing about unicorns and lollipops and national championships. Instead, we got less than that. Almost every time.

Let me let you in on a little secret: the same thing happens with your favorite team as well.

In other words, all that chatter about those recruits coming in – it’s a ruse. It’s us being tricked into thinking that “this might be the year.” We fall for it every time.

And, hey, every once in a blue moon, it IS our year. Sometimes our favorite team got the right mix of new recruits and old savvy vets and the coach works his wizardry and — voila — we are the champions! But, it’s hard to win a national championship.

Only one team does. And come to find out, that mixtape someone threw on the internet about the recruit that ended up at your school? Well, turns out that guy, along with every other college recruit, makes mistakes on the floor (and sometimes off the floor, too). The guy who produced the video failed to get those mistakes into that mixtape, I guess (wink, wink).

And then the regular season ends, the postseason ends, and here we are in the offseason again.

And we rinse and we repeat. Because next year might be the year.

Look, if this is what you want to do, more power to you. I’m not saying you’re wrong for doing it. I’m just saying that, for me, it feels like an exercise in futility.

I’m not trying to be “Debbie Downer.” Far from it. I just have no idea what my team is going to look like even if we got every great recruit in the country to come to my team.

Newsflash: neither do you.

And in all honesty, the recruiting services out there that tell us how good each recruit is at basketball, they’re guessing too, albeit with more information.

Shoot, even the millionaire head coaches have whiffed on highly-touted recruits. Louisville fans remember Carlos Hurt. Kentucky had Daniel Orton. Indiana and Hanner Parea parted.

Yet, here we are, having seen very little of these college-bound kids ever shoot a basketball or catch a football, and we’re convinced that we’ll go far if they sign to play with our school.

Combine all of this with the fact that we’re grown adults following around kids who are barely old enough to drive.

Ah, you smell that? That breezy morning air? That fresh coffee? It’s that time of year.

There may be four seasons for Jane and John Doe and family. But, for the basketball- or football-crazed fanatic, there are only three.

And we’re in the longest season right now. The offseason.

It’s hopeful. And annoying.

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Everyone Else Has The Power Except The Student-Athlete In College Sports

By Zach McCrite

It’s a wonderful thing… if used properly. The problem with college athletics is that “power” and “properly” are never used in the same sentence.

We’ve lived in this world for quite some time now where the coach (and by extension, the athletic director who hired the coach) at a big conference school gets a ton of the money. Yet, the both of them are only mildly responsible for the product we pay to watch.

They are only mildly responsible for, let’s say, the $8.8 billion — with a “b” — contract that the NCAA made with CBS and Turner Sports for the rights to broadcast all of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games. A lion’s share of that revenue trickles back down to the member institutions.

The ones largely responsible for the entertainment that makes March Madness a multi-billion-dollar industry? You guessed it. The student-athletes, most of whom aren’t old enough to legally have an adult libation.

Instead they are paid in education. They get to leave their university without being buried under a mountain of student loan debt. That’s certainly a blessing. And for a lot of you reading this, that’s a fair deal.

Well, not from where I sit.

Imagine Roy Williams, head coach of the national champion North Carolina Tarheels, has a blue-chip recruit in his office, trying to woo him to come continue to championship legacy in Chapel Hill.

I imagine Williams says something to the effect of, “There’s more to this than just winning titles and getting you to the NBA, son. It’s also about setting you up for life. Basketball won’t be around forever. You’ll get an education and be ready for the real world when it’s time.”

But, if you strip away the pomp and circumstance, I envision a truth serum-infused Roy Williams sounding more like this: “Son, if you come to North Carolina, you’ll be under my control for as long as you want to wear the Carolina Blue, and I truly think you’ve got the talent that will help me make millions of dollars and keep my legacy intact.

“Oh, and you’ll get to go to school for free.”

Look, I’m just using the Tarheels’ coach as an example. After all, according to USA Today, Williams just received a total of $925,000 in bonuses from the University of North Carolina during his run to a national title last month. But this happens all over college basketball. Rick Pitino earned an extra $425,000 in bonuses from the University of Louisville when the Cardinals won the 2013 championship (and another $375,000 from team outfitter Adidas). These bonuses may vary in value, depending on what program the coach oversees, but they are commonplace in the sport.

The coaches have the power.

What else is commonplace? The economic lift that Final Four host cities receive. The Arizona Republic reports that the city of Houston, the host of the Final Four in 2016, “benefitted from $300 million in direct economic impact.”

This is all on the backs of the unpaid, barely of-age labor.

Well, let me back up for a second. I guess the players do get a stipend over and above the benefits of a scholarship – as much as $5,000, according to the Kansas City Star. That’s with one comma.

Let’s call it what it is: “shamateurism.” Stay in our minor-league system for the NBA (the league that is in lockstep with college basketball so much so that they make sure no games are being played concurrently with the national championship game) for anywhere from one to four years. By the way, your coach can leave whenever he wants without penalty. If you do it, you’ll have to sit out a season.

The NCAA has the power.

Consider this: When most of these NCAA (sh)amateurism rules were written, television was barely even a part of societal consciousness. “Television deals” weren’t even a thought. “March Madness” was probably something more associated with St. Patrick’s Day.

And when those rules were written, players still received full scholarships while the schools and conferences for which those players played got next to nothing in terms of television revenue. In other words, the value of a scholarship for a student-athlete was a much bigger piece of the overall pie in the 1950s and 1960s. It was far more fair.

These days, the pockets of the university administrators, coaches, athletic directors and many more are overflowing thanks to the players lacing them up in front of a nightly, nationally-televised audience. Everyone is splitting all of this television money that wasn’t around when these rules were made.

Except the players mainly responsible for creating said revenue. They get a couple grand over with their scholarship, maybe.

Could you imagine the profits of a company going up by the billions and the employees of said company making just about the same amount they made a half century ago?

It would never happen.

I’m sure some of you are reading this experiencing a reaction to the effect of, “Back off! These players are getting something you can’t put a price on.” Fair enough. Why shouldn’t we pay them more?

Or, better yet, let’s start paying the millionaire. College basketball coaches in those priceless college credits instead of in dollars. Sound good?

But this is the construct we, the fans, have built for our own entertainment. And this is also the construct we, the media, have let be built for our own financial gain as well.

I am in a moral conundrum every time I watch a basketball game, get paid to talk about it or fill out a bracket. The same moral conundrum should be felt tenfold by the people who make the millions – with two commas – off of this same barely-paid labor.

And it’s why I wrote this.

Power is being abused.