Scary times in the CCHA

November 10, 2009
Why the Cheetah Cheats

CCHA stands for "Cheating Cheetahs Hockey Association"

Cheaters never prosper, unless they play in the CCHA. That’s what college hockey fans learned over Halloween weekend via a league ruling that was all trick and no treat.

Bowling Green used an ineligible player to win an overtime shootout against Nebraska-Omaha, a detail the four referees did not see until after the game ended. The real crime, however, is that the league refused to punish the Falcons or reward the Mavericks once the error was caught. Instead of taking the extra standings point away from Bowling Green and giving it to Nebraska, CCHA officials decided to let the result stand.

cheetah

“I think that’s a terrible precedent for a league, and I think the integrity of the league’s at stake when you make that sort of decision,” Nebraska-Omaha athletic director Trev Alberts told the Omaha World-Herald. “You’re actually encouraging member institutions to cheat, as long as they don’t get caught before the game is declared over.”

Let’s start with the facts.

After playing to a 3-3 tie in both regulation and overtime, Friday’s contest between Bowling Green and Nebraska-Omaha went to a shootout. Jordan Samuels-Thomas, who was whistled for a roughing-after-the-whistle penalty with 16 seconds left in the game, scored the Falcons’ winning shootout goal. According to NCAA rules, any player who gets called for an OT penalty cannot participate in the shootout.

In a statement released by the CCHA Saturday, the conference declared that an “error in rules enforcement during the course of the game, while unfortunate, can only be corrected during the course of the game. Once the game is concluded, there are no further actions that can take place to correct the situation.”

According to CCHA Rule V.8, protests arising from decisions of game officials or from errors or misinterpretations of the rules will not be considered — and according to NCAA Rule 6-SECTION 39, protests are not recognized or allowed.

cheetah2

Ok, now its time for my opinion: that is a load of garbage, especially on a night that is supposed to be about passing out candy.

It’s one thing to say that the CCHA will not field complaints about officiating. I understand why that is necessary. Without that rule the league would receive endless letters about all the missed calls we Miami fans (in our completely objective viewpoints) see from the stands every Friday and Saturday night.

This is completely different. This is not about a “misinterpretation of the rules” or a bad call by the ref. With intention or not, Bowling Green cheated; now the Falcons are getting away with it while all of college hockey watches. That’s what this is about.

I agree with Alberts. This is terrible for the CCHA’s reputation and integrity. It really does encourage cheating. I don’t expect this exact situation to happen again since everyone will now be looking for it, but doesn’t this make all coaches and players want to look for similarly obscure rules to exploit? According to the ruling, they’ll be scott free once the final whistle blows.

Other sports punish cheaters long after the final results come in. The International Olympic Committee stripped a juiced Marion Jones of all five of her medals from the 2000 games. Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden stands on the cusp of losing 14 of his wins as punishment for academic fraud. Pending appeal, the 2007-08 Memphis Tigers will lose all 38 of its wins from their season, including all five NCAA tournament wins, in response to the Derrick Rose scandal. College basketball’s dirty laundry list of revoked Final Four appearances also includes Ohio State (1999-2002), Michigan (1992-1993), UCLA (1980), UMass (1996), Minnesota (1997), Saint Joseph’s (1961), Villanova (1971) and Western Kentucky (1971).

Certainly these examples come from a much higher stage than the one we are dealing with here. You may argue that if spilt milk isn’t worth crying over then one point in the CCHA standings isn’t either. I, however, am far more concerned with the precedent the ruling sets and the glaring lack of ethics behind it. I also wouldn’t mind seeing that one little point significantly change the CCHA playoff picture at the end of the season so this whole thing blows up in the league’s face.

In the opinion of Inside College Hockey writers Mike Eidelbes and Joe Gladziszewski, “the happy-happy-joy-joy CCHA could use a little piss and vinegar.”

I’ll add a tall glass of spilt sour milk to the tab.

spiltmilk


There’s always room for Dysert

September 30, 2009

DYSERTtime

I’m guessing that with hockey season just around the corner most Miami fans have already lost their appetite for RedHawk football this season. Before you leave the table, I’d like to offer you some Dysert.

Zac Dysert made his first career collegiate start Saturday against Kent State, putting up a stat line that can only be described as tantalizing. Can I tempt you with 31 completed passes on 53 attempts for 337 yards and a touchdown? If throwing isn’t your fancy then maybe a little bit of ‘scramble-ability’ will do the trick. How does 107 yards on 17 carries sound?

Beyond the stats, however, the real treat was watching how they came to be. To end the first half, Dysert led a 78-yard two-minute drill ending in a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Rodgers. Someone clearly forgot to tell this gunslinger that he is just a red-shirt freshman. He calmly and coolly directed the offense down the field, avoiding constant pressure and finding the open receiver. Here I saw Dysert do three things Raudabaugh could not: escape sacks, throw the ball deep and provide leadership in the clutch.

On Miami’s second touchdown drive of the game, Dysert dished out a second serving of sweetness. This time taking his team 81 yards for the score, Dysert completed 7 of nine passes before Thomas Merriweather punched it in from one yard out. Usually the run is used to set up the pass but on both of these drives Miami stuck almost strictly with the freshman’s arm, calling 20 passes on 23 plays.

Dysert’s third drive of note, however, provided a completely different flavor. This time he beat Kent with his legs. Midway through the fourth quarter and down by two scores, Miami’s play calling remained pass heavy. The Golden Flashes, learning from past mistakes, determined to put pressure on the freshman to avoid being picked apart once again. On three separate plays Kent defenders appeared to have Zac down for a sack. All three times those defenders either tackled each other or just fell to the ground as Dysert cut, spun or simply ran away.

Words cannot describe how impossible this guy is to catch. He is blessed with an eye-popping ability to both escape defenders in the backfield and run past them down field. Raudabaugh certainly showed occasional signs of brilliance as a short-route passer but Dysert’s mobility brings a completely new weapon to this RedHawk offense.

The Bearcats may be more than the RedHawks can chew Saturday, but they may find Miami's Dysert more than a mouthful as well

The Bearcats may be more than the RedHawks can chew Saturday, but they may find Miami's Dysert more than a mouthful as well

Miami plays its first true home game of the season Saturday. With the Cincinnati Bearcats entering the contest as the only Yager opponent to ever be ranked in the nation’s top 10, the odds of Miami winning or even keeping it close seem fairly long. You may not be too excited about trekking all the way down Weeb Ewbank Way just to watch UC ring the Victory Bell 114 times, but I’ll assert that every football fan on this campus needs to see this kid play.

Miami vs Cincinnati is the fifth oldest annual rivalry in the entire country. What’s more, Bearcat head coach Brain Kelly has said in years past that he wants to end it.

Hate for the ‘UC in suck’ is drilled into Miami players. Whether they are visiting a locker or a urinal they see signs that say ‘beat UC.’ To say this series is filled with tradition wouldn’t begin to do it justice.

This year, however, part of that tradition is broken. With Cincinnati ranked No. 10 in the AP poll, this game is no longer just a local battle between two southwest Ohio schools for a bell. All of sudden, this game takes on huge national significance. Sure Miami may be leagues away from playing in a national championship but Saturday it can deny another team (its arch rival none the less) of that privilege as well.

So before you make your way over to the Goggin to christen the 2009-08 hockey season, go check out the Dysert menu down at Yager. Considering the upgrade in competition Zac probably won’t put up another 444-all-purpose-yards performance. Even so, I’m willing to the Bearcats find him to be more than they can stomach.


The good, bad and ugly of Miami Football

September 15, 2009

Nine months ago the Miami community lifted up hosannas and laid down palm branches as coach Haywood rode gloriously into Oxford. After watching a less-than-majestic start to the season, I just hope nobody starts yelling “crucify him!”

Losing the first two games by a combined score of 90-0 certainly failed to meet the hopes and expectations of the Miami faithful. But before anyone lights a torch we need to realize that Haywood’s proverbial kingdom is not of this year but of one yet to come.

Right now Haywood is coaching a team comprised mostly of Shane Montgomery recruits. I’m not saying those players are second-class citizens. The stats, however, are saying they are the same players who posted a 2-10 record last season. Rich Rodriguez and the Wolverines found out last season what happens when players don’t match a coach’s system.

Give Haywood time. Give at least him one, probably two more recruiting classes before expecting to see real, substantial change. As for the here and now, I think a good and honest conversation concerning just that needs to take place.

The Good News

Amidst all the forehead slapping, fist pounding and object throwing it may be hard to notice the positives from Miami’s first two defeats. All though few and far between, however, I assure you they are there. For starters, the RedHawks remained undefeated in MAC play and that generally is the only record that really matters around here. A significant change from last year is that MU receivers are consistently catching the ball; Chris Givens especially impressed me the last two weekends with his ability to make grabs in traffic. With the exception of one series during the Boise State game, the RedHawks seem to have eliminated sloppy penalties, another plague of 2008. Finally, six true freshmen started in either one or both of Miami’s games, meaning this team is loaded with young talent.

The Bad News

Six true freshmen started in either one or both of Miami’s games, meaning this team has lots of youth and inexperience. There will be plenty of growing pains as Haywood develops the youngsters and motivates the veterans by giving a healthy dose of playing time to underclassmen. Playing three (really four) road games to start the season doesn’t help matters either, and when the ’Hawks finally do play at home they get the defending Big East champs. Buffalo, Bowling Green and Toledo are also shaping up to be difficult contests in Oxford as well. With this schedule and youth, Miami fans need to keep extremely conservative expectations for the win column this year. A better gauge of success and failure in 2009 will be how this team develops as a unit. This means the progressive elimination of mistakes and progressive improvement in executing plays on both offense and defense.

The Ugly News

Miami’s quarterbacks are a complete mess right now. Fifth-year senior Dan Raudabaugh showed flashes of brilliance in the early portions of both games with his ability to complete passes on the run. His accuracy on passes over 20 yards, however, is miserable. Raudabaugh’s longest completion went for 22 yards and he is only averaging 8.2 yards per successful pass. Tack on his four interceptions and it makes you hungry for Dysert. But when the highly desired appearance of the red-shirt freshman QB finally did come, his performance didn’t taste so great either. The two of four with two picks stat line was hard to swallow for everyone involved, coaches, players and fans alike. I am strongly opposed to burning Austin Boucher’s red shirt during a season such as this, so its up to the vet and the rook to get their acts together. For a team that doesn’t run the ball particularly well, quarterback play will make or break Miami’s season in 2009.

Former New York Jets head coach Herm Edwards is famous for exclaiming, “You play to win the game!” Right now, however, the ugly truth for the RedHawks is that developing as a team may be a higher priority. Don’t worry though, when the belief of his followers began to fade, Jesus performed miracles to provide the means for faith. Perhaps Haywood will dial up a touchdown next week to raise our spirits.


We’re talkin’ about practice, man. Not a game. Practice.

August 26, 2009

Why should RedHawk fans go watch the Miami football team play this year? Considering this is coach Haywood’s first season in Oxford, this may be an unfair question to ask him. I did anyway.

Whether he was in charge of them at the time or not, the fact of the matter is that the team he currently coaches posted a record of 2-10 in two of the past three years. It ranks dead last in the MAC preseason poll and nearly lost to a D-1AA school last season. So new coach or not I feel the question still stands: why should fans, students in particular, go watch the RedHawks on the gridiron this season?

“Win or lose, you will be pleased with their performance every time they walk off the field,” Haywood said.

Ok, so this is not exactly the riveting answer I was going for and (all journalistic objectivity aside) hoping to hear. Come on coach. Tell me your RedHawks are ready to turn the Wildcats domestic! Tell me the blue field in Boise will run red with Bronco blood! Tell me the Victory Bell is coming back to Oxford to stay!

On second thought, maybe it’s good he didn’t say those things. And what’s more, each time I watch a practice I become increasingly convinced of his actual words, no matter how uninspiring they may be. Go down to Yager Stadium around 4:30 p.m. during the week and you will see something I never saw in my first four years at this school: football players competing in practice.

It struck me as odd when I heard shouting coming from inside the stadium as I walked down Webb Ewbank Way for my first reporting of the season. That gives you an idea of what the Montgomery era was like. I was legitimately surprised to hear yelling at a football practice. What really caught me off guard, however, was where the yelling came from. I stared in amazement as players, not coaches, shouted at other players.

My goodness, what could possibly be causing such a ruckus? No one was fighting. No one had messed up. They were just running a simple play at the goal line. Could they really be… just, you know… encouraging each other? As Allen Iverson might say, we’re not talking about a game, man. We’re talking about practice. What is everyone so excited about?

I found out later that this was not just a simple play I witnessed. Coach put sprints on the line. If the offense scored, the defense ran. If the defense produced a stop, the offense ran. It’s genius. Instantly Haywood cooked up a full course of effort with a side of team camaraderie.

This is just Exhibit A in a huge pile of evidence pointing toward change. Coach also had place kicker Trevor Cook attempt a live 50-yard field goal under similar circumstances. If he made it, practice was over. If he missed it, everyone ran. How’s that for simulating a late-game, high-pressure kick.

Still not convinced? I’ll give you 22 more pieces of evidence: every starting position on offense and defense. They are all up for grabs and coach means it. After the first fall scrimmage, he bumped freshman running back Danny Green into the top spot on the depth chart. Haywood doesn’t care what upperclassmen Merriweather, Bratton and Taylor did from the backfield in past seasons.

Well, they certainly got the message because coach told me that ever since that move all three progressed considerably in the following practices.

So what’s the point? Maybe Mr. Iverson is right. Maybe it is just practice and none of this makes any difference whatsoever. So what if Haywood can run a good camp, he still hasn’t won a game yet.

I certainly understand and sympathize with all naysayers. The product on the field in recent years has been mediocre at best and tough to stomach on a weekly basis. But as the old adage says, you practice like you play and right now the RedHawks are practicing with more energy, enthusiasm and discipline then they ever came close to playing with in 2008.

Like coach Haywood, I’m not saying this team is ready to turn the Wildcats domestic or the blue field in Boise red. Heck, this could easily end up being yet another 2-10 season. What I am saying, however, is that this team will compete. Haywood’s words and practices stand as testament to that fact.

Now that I think about it, my question to coach was indeed completely unfair. He may be coaching many of the same players that went 2-10 in 2008, but I will correct myself and say that he is certainly not coaching the same team.

“There may be a lot of the same faces but they’re new players,” Raudabaugh said. “There is new energy, new schemes and a new attitude and a new team. We are going to be able to play Miami football again.”

That is why you should come out to watch the RedHawks play football this year.