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Canzano misses boat on Pilots hoop - like everyone else

Wed, 03/25/2020 - 8:37am
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To get a handle on the University of Portland men's basketball program these days, you only had to follow the website coachesdatabase.com in February and look for head coach Terry Porter's name. The site has a section called the Hot Seat Report. From the hottest to just warm, the editors give you a good idea of who needs to perform the most, and the fastest, including Danny Manning at Wake Forest, Donyell Marshall at Central Connecticut and, for a time, Patrick Ewing at Georgetown.

But, Porter's name wasn't on that list.

At the tail end of a 15-game losing streak that closed the program's fourth straight season of finishing last or ninth in the 10-team West Coast Conference, Porter didn't make the even mildly hot list until Feb. 26. What's that say? Nobody's paying attention. And when nobody's paying attention to your basketball program, it probably shouldn't be your basketball program anymore.

In these challenging times, though, Portland announced Tuesday that Porter would return for the fifth and final year of the 2016 contract he signed that directed his focus from the NBA, where he was head coach for both the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns, to the college game, where he has gotten to coach his two sons. The excitement Porter initially brought due to his long, memorable playing career with the Trail Blazers helped the school attract boosters, but it never transferred to the court. In four seasons, the Pilots won just seven conference games combined, including just one the past two seasons.

John Canzano, The Oregonian's sports columnist, wrote the school probably should work its way out of Porter's final year back in February. After Tuesday's announcement, he wrote again the school should have worked its way into another coach. "They punted," Canzano wrote. I'd agree with that except for the state of the world today, and making a coaching move of a popular and well-respected guy in charge truly unnecessary regardless of wins. The need to win at UP just isn't that great these days, and Porter already has a contract.

Anything short of a Disney+ "Miracle on the Bluff" season, though, and UP will be looking for another coach in 12 months.

In compiling a short list of candidates, Canzano showcased just how little attention the Pilots generate even to experienced journalists, and he missed the perfect candidate who's just two miles away from the Chiles Center. It's Tony Broadous, head coach of the Portland Community College program for the past eight seasons (and Grant High for a decade before that).

There is not a better choice for the Portland Pilots than Broadous, and he needs to be on the radar for the school because when I've talked with sports folks in the area about him at the University of Portland the main response has been "now that would be exciting."

Broadous moved from Grant, which won the state title in 2008 under his guidance, to PCC in 2012 with the idea that might lead to a four-year school in the future. The Panthers had just come off a winless season in which they lost games by an average of 37 points. The program had never been to the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges playoffs in spite of the fact half the eight teams in their division qualified each year by finishing fourth or higher. In spite of sitting directly across the street from Jefferson High, the program had basically no pulse. That changed quickly.

In year one under Broadous, Portland missed the playoffs by just one win, and in year two ... it won the NWAACC title. Two years removed from a winless season, PCC had a league title (2014) in its first-ever trip to the playoffs.

In the past six seasons, in spite of being the only full-time coach and having no budget for anything but Facetime chats, Portland has been to the playoffs again four times, and reached the NWAACC tournament semifinals in 2018. They were headed to the tournament again this season before it was cancelled.

Moving from a former NBA coach and local basketball legend to a community college coach would be quite a gamble for UP, but that's exactly the kind of thing Disney+ was made for - and the Pilots desperately need that kind of attention. Broadous, 51, is worthy of that opportunity starting with his connections in Portland. People know him. And, his connections around the region - coaches know him. And, his work on the court - PCC is a regular winner and has all-league players each season.

Given the opportunity to recruit to a four-year program, with numerous full-time assistants, it's exciting to think what might happen in the Chiles Center starting in 2021.

Broadous isn't going to be an expensive hire - maybe the program could use some of that savings on an additional recruiting coordinator - and he's probably going to be extremely loyal if some success brings other schools calling.

Canzano's short list of successors had a few names tossed in to look impressive starting with Portlander and former Blazer Damon Stoudamire, the head coach of WCC rival Pacific. After three losing seasons, Stoudamire was on the Hot Seat for much of this season, but the Tigers won 23 games, and he was recently named the nation's minority coach of the year. One more solid season and big name programs will come calling. Portland's calls next season - even this past season - would be going to voicemail.

Former UC Santa Barbara coach Bob Williams made the list, but he's, well, who is he again to Portland fans?

Greg Clink has guided Chico State to regular success at Div. II, but he's been there for 12 secure seasons and, again, who's he to Portland fans?

Barret Peery is the head coach at Portland State, and has averaged 18 wins per season in his first three years there. Moving across town wouldn't be a stretch, but would involve rebuilding another program and he's got a lot more of a shot at winning a conference title in the program he's already building.

And, finally, former UNLV head coach Dave Rice, who led his alma mater to NCAA trips twice in five (full) seasons, more than a dozen wins over higher ranked teams, and claimed the top pick in the NBA Draft (2013 - Anthony Bennett) as program highlights. But, the school abruptly fired him during his sixth season - that doesn't speak well about making boosters happy. Since 2017, he's been an assistant at Washington, which finished last in the Pac-12 this season.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few has been vocal about WCC members needing to spend more on their programs so as to get more teams to the NCAA Tournament - and the riches that conference members share in. But, money doesn't always buy success in any sport, and neither do big names as the school has found out. Coaches sell dreams that need to turn into reality, and Broadous has enough of that on his resume to be able to recruit on Day One, in spite of that resume just being at the high school and community college level. And he's going to need to jump right in on Day One because of not having any ability to recruit during the season.

UP is still feeling the glow of its women's basketball team performing a Disney+ miracle by playing its way into the NCAA Tournament under a first-year coach and having been picked for last by conference head coaches. That coach, Michael Meek, was a former high school coach at Southridge in Beaverton, who moved to NCAA Div. III's George Fox in 2011.

So, the Pilots are secure for another season under Porter, but the coaching search for his replacement has likely already begun. When the names start to go on the big chalkboard, hopefully the school's athletic director, Scott Leykam, and his associates will take more than a few minutes to dream about what the Chiles Center might look like with maybe the nation's biggest underdog on the sideline at one of the nation's biggest underdogs as a program. That's a story made for the Magic Kingdom.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misidentified Barret Peery as the former head coach at Portland State and assistant on the UP staff. We regret that error.

I like beer, even Corona

Tue, 03/10/2020 - 10:56am
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In one of the most frustrating seasons for the Portland Trail Blazers and their fans, it's hard to think of a way for things to get more frustrating. And, yet they are about to get that way.

And, it's really bad timing, too - at the start of a homestand.

Portland plays its second game of a six-game homestand tonight against the Phoenix Suns with the issue of the coronavirus hanging right over the Moda Center. The prospect of 20,000 fans/citizens congregating in one place while an international pandemic works its way through every part of the world, seemingly one nation, one state, one town at a time. And, Portland appears right in the line of being next, since the virus has already shut down one school in Lake Oswego for a couple days.

Washington has lost nearly a dozen residents to the virus, and it shut down the Northwest Athletic Conference basketball tournament this weekend in Everett, Wash.

Stadiums are being closed, events shuttered or cancelled/postponed across America. The San Jose Sharks of the NHL might play games before no fans at all. 

And, the Winterhawks are going to get stung by this dilemma, too, as they have a home game on Saturday.

Daily, we follow the world trying to control the spread of the virus by keeping people apart.

And, yet, it's ... so easy to just want to let it pass by - all that concern about thed dangers of bringing people together when you're an organization that survives on bringing people together because that's the source of your revenue.

No crowd, no money.

The Portland Timbers squeezed through this dilemma in the last 10 days with the first two games of their season and don't play at again Providence Park until the end of the month. The Blazers, though, have tonight and four more home games in what should have been a key point of their playoff drive - the way they looked at it when building the schedule in the offseason.

Now, that homestand is a big "what are we going to do?"

High school's final three state basketball tournaments are this weekend, but they are poised to squeeze through this dilemma by just hoping the state-by-state, town-by-town spread doesn't reach Portland or Corvallis or Forest Grove before Sunday.

All the event organizers are saying the same thing: "we're watching the situation, and will act accordingly." That's really all they can do until civic leaders tell them what to do, and they are definitely in touch with those leaders telling them be really sure what you tell us.

So, here's the real dilemma for those leaders, and one I have myself. How really dangerous is this virus, and is it so dangerous we have to cancel events?

The basic answer is yes it is enough to cancel an event like tonight's game with the Suns, or the state hoop tournaments this weekend due to the potential for the spread of the virus. We're reasoning about public health and the best way to keep the virus from spreading is to keep people apart at the start of the pandemic. Cancel or postpone stuff through this weekend, and that might stop it from spreading dramatically through Portland and the many parts of the state entirely. Let's just be extra cautious is likely right on the desk of Portland's City Council right now.

But, that's the really, really cautious way to address this issue - the spread of the virus. But, how much of our daily lives do we really have to change due to what just seems to be the flu, and not even close to the flu by the measurements available? Is the public just overreacting due to the media's need for drama?

The flu kills tens of thousands of Americans every year, and there's a shot that's available to keep many more people from dying. The coronavirus? It might be infecting people by the thousands weekly, but the number of deaths is still not even close to 100. Tens of thousands of people infected, but only a couple dozen have died. 

As much as I'm not a fan of the President and how he talks or what he says because of ... so many reasons, he outlined what a lot of people probably did or have come to think during his press conference that interruped Galen Rupp winning the U.S. Marathon Trial, Feb. 29. If you're healthy, you're probably not going to die, but just get flu-like symptoms for a couple weeks, and then it'll be over.

Most of the people who have died were in failing health anyway, so this just sped up that process. Can you imagine a public leader even intimating that? And, yet, he did. But, it does seem to be the reality. Healthy people are dying in the U.S. seemingly at a rate of - it's hard to put a rate on it. By comparison, handfuls of people die everyday from auto accidents, but highways are not closed due to that. NBA games are not cancelled because of the flu, because people who think they have the flu generally just stay home. The coronavirus is different as far as we know because you probably won't know you've got it until several days after you get it, but then it's going to turn into ... the flu.

And when you've got the flu, you stay home, watch TV, eat a bunch of Ramen noodles, drink a bunch of water and get better.

If I had tickets for the Blazers tonight, I wouldn't have a problem attending, although for the next four games that might change to some degree because the virus might have infected people in this part of the world by then.

I'm actually more concerned about the state high school basketball tournaments scheduled for this weekend because there's going to be so many young people involved - those who've had less time to build up their immune system - on and off the court. So there's more potential for ... whatever the coronavirus is ... to infect them and spread to others.

And, yet, I'd hate to see those tournaments cancelled because of what could easily be termed media overreation due to a need for the drama that media needs to develop on an hourly basis so people with watch and read. What we seem to have here is the flu - or even diet flu - with a different name. Is that enough to cancel what is the conclusion of a glorious period in the lives of so many student/athletes of their playing careers, which might end up with a trophy or a ferocious celebration and cutting down of a net? It's definitely a lasting memory however it plays out and that's a good thing for education. That's an interesting call to make for tournament organizers. Civic officials. School officials.

Health officials have already said it's likely going to be 18 months before an antidote for this virus is readily available. There is, though, a shot for the flu that exists and it still doesn't work on everyone. I've never gotten a flu shot and don't plan to, either, because I think it's more likely to make me sick than not getting it. That's probably how I would react to a coronavirus shot - I'd pass.

And, that's how it works for my family, too - wife and two kids. We get sick all the time, but think it's more related to just cold weather, and lack of sleep that causes it. Or a desire not to go to school. Then, there's sleep, TV, ramen, water and back to business as usual. We probably get it from someone else, too, but that's just daily life, just like driving a car or riding a bike. There's always potential for danger. 

It would take a lot more bad news on infections and/or deaths to think we should be treating the coronavirus as being worse than the flu or anywhere near the Black Plague. Or even worse than an AR-15. But, I'm not dealing with worst-case scenario for tens of thousands of people. So, good luck with those upcoming decisions. I know how I'd react, but I also don't get a flu shot.

The Fire should be burning in Portland

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 5:25pm
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An election year is a good time to debate about women's issues.

Especially, when it's an Olympic year, too (that's always the General Election). 

In the sports world, over here in Portland, women's sports actually have it pretty good these days, starting with the Portland Thorns. The Thorns, the ladies' side of the Portland Timbers franchise, regularly fill Providence Park, and can fill it up on some occasions. 

The women's soccer team at the University of Portland still has one of the proudest histories in the nation, and also can fill up Merlo Field when the right opponent shows up. Investing in women's soccer was one of the great moves the school made in the '90s with coach Clive Charles.

But, it's basketball I'm looking at these days, and that's not a part of the landscape here. It was at one time, but not today. Maybe it's time for a looksy again.

The WNBA has been around since 1997, and had the Portland Fire along for the ride from 2000-02. Team owner Paul Allen, was having trouble with hid men's team staying under the Luxury Tax - and by a lot - and couldn't seem to afford to lose any money on the women's team and tossed it.

These days, the women's game is making a big comeback ... in Oregon. In Eugene and Corvallis to be exact, and there's no reason to think it wouldn't get support in Portland again, especially with the same name and logo involved - they both fit the city pretty good.

Attendance for women's basketball in Eugene actually outpaces the men's team, which happens often in Corvallis as well. It figures because both women's teams are ranked in the Top 12 and have been all season.

Oregon, the nation's preseason No. 1, is going bonkers at the gate with more than 10,000 fans per game. That's up from 4,255 just two seasons ago. Enter Sabrina Ionescu and friends, and the MAT has been rocking. The Ducks get 12,000-plus for games these days heading toward the NCAA Tournament and a run towards the school's first title in a TV sport since, before it was on TV.

The Beavers were 16th in the nation in attendance last season with more than 5,400 fans per game.

So, what's with Portland?

Portland's got all kinds of fans who want to build a baseball stadium to LURE a team to the Rose City. All the town needs for a WNBA team is an owner and a marketing team to corral a fan base.

The Fire would step right into a hot situation with Northwest rival Seattle involved with the Storm. Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix are in as well, so there's easy road trips to be had. 

Now is a perfect time for a local investor to look into this, and the league needs some new energy. It really needs some new energy for the 12 other teams. Average game attendance has fallen from 7,700 fans to 6,500 fans in just two years and things such as travelling conditions have been in the news beyond just simple salaries.

With Oregon's Ionescu figuring to be the top pick in the draft, the opportunity to begin a franchise may not be better, especially without the luxury tax on the men's team to hold it down.

 

 

When is the Rose Bowl a cheap thrill?

Mon, 11/25/2019 - 1:14am
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Is it possible to think playing in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day is the end to a lame season?

For fans of the University of Oregon it might be a challenge to get hyped for that prospect, even if they'd get to the game by winning the Pac-12 Conference title over Utah - potentially keeping the Utes from a College Football Playoff berth.

Oregon hasn't played in the Rose Bowl since 2015 when it was the semifinals of the playoffs - a rousing 59-20 win over Florida State.

In fact, since the rebirth of the Oregon program to the national level that closed with the 1995 Rose Bowl, the Ducks have played in the Rose Bowl only four times. So, getting to the game is a true victory for the program.

It should be, anyway, but not this year.

After the 31-28 shellacking at Arizona State Saturday, Oregon's best finish would be in the Rose Bowl, likely against Penn State. That would be following a win over Utah in the conference title game, Dec. 6, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

Even though the score was just a thre-point loss, the "shellacking" would be the feel for fans following a loss to an ASU team that lost to Oregon State the week before. With a No. 6 spot in the CFP rankings, Oregon had hopes for a semifinal berth and chance to win a national championship entering the game.

But, a horribly subpar performance by both the Oregon offense and defense allowed the Sun Devils to record a huge upset, handing the Ducks a second loss from a team starting a freshman at quarterback.

Oregon finishes the regular season at home Saturday against Oregon State, then gets to the post season against Utah, which has lost only to USC.

 

 

 

 

Follow the money Team USA

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 4:04pm
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As America celebrates its heroes from the Women’s World Cup, the real key to the month of success on the soccer pitch will be on the fields of the U.S., in such towns as Kansas City and Atlanta.

Now that Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and company have dominated the world on behalf of the nation, it’s time to see if anyone will show up to see them when they’re not repping for the Stars and Stripes.

This is the challenge that’s truly bigger than the world, too, because it’s the future, in the attendance figures of the National Women’s Soccer League.

The nation fell in love with Team USA’s players as a unit, but will that translate into more paid ticket sales and sponsors for the league the players star in?

Getting better or even equal pay from the U.S. Soccer Federation seems very logical for the top players, but getting better pay for the breadth of the NWSL’s players will be the greater success of the World Cup win.

One of those keys to success has actually happened, too - the NWSL has a beer sponsor.

As the U.S. was beating The Netherlands in France on Sunday, the league announced Budweiser had become its first beer sponsor and will attach its name to a host of elements such as the championship game.

A check of the league website shows Budweiser adds a significant sense of legitimacy to the league along with Nike. The three other NWSL sponsors are Cutter, which is an insect repellent, Thorne, which produces supplements, and Lifetime Network, although it doesn’t seem to have much if any involvement in airing league matches. ESPN will air matches on ESPN2 and ESPN News for the remainder of the season.

Budweiser is a step the NWSL has needed, and the Team USA players should address directly because that’s where the future of the professional games lies. And, women need to recognize that because equal pay requires equal results within capitalism. Kansas City can be a valuable asset in this arena. Atlanta, too.

During the World Cup final the FOX broadcast switched to a party being held in a public section of Kansas City that attracted a reported 10,000 fans. It was a wild atmosphere worthy of such an event. Kansas City officials used the party to promote the city as a host site for men’s World Cup headed for North American in 2026.

Kansas City is a great soccer town, evident by 10,000 fans showing up to watch Team USA win the World Cup. But, where is the town on women’s soccer? It had one, but it folded and its players moved to Salt Lake City, Utah to form the Utah Royals FC.

Atlanta joined the MLS in 2017 and immediately set the soccer world on fire with its raucous crowds at Mercedes Benz Stadium. The team led the league in attendance its opening year and set a record of 53,000 fans per game in 2018 on the way to winning the league title. Atlanta does not have a team in the NWSL.

And, moving across sport lines, Portland has some women’s equality issues to deal with, too - in basketball. For all his wealth, the late Paul Allen didn’t have much passion for the Rose City in terms of women’s sports. Allen owned the Portland Fire in the early years of the WNBA, but folded the team after only three seasons (2000-02) because of economics. It was an era when the Blazers were losing a tremendous amount of money due to luxury tax issues, and Allen’s company was on the way to filing for bankruptcy from just running the Rose Garden.

A women’s team in the WNBA would seem like a solid economic gamble these days considering the University of Oregon and Oregon State have some of the best attended games in women’s basketball these days, and win on the court regularly. Would Portland’s basketball fans support the Portland Fire the way its soccer fans support the Thorns? Portland would be a great market for the WNBA, and in the process serve as a step forward for women’s pro sports if it works economically.

Team USA can beat the world in the World Cup and in the Olympic Games, but can its players survive as professionals within their own league? It requires fans in seats.

Of the NWSL’s nine teams, only Portland and Utah, which features Team USA players such as Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara and Christen Press, average more than 10,000 fans per game. The other seven teams aren’t past 5,000 fans per game even though they also have Team USA players on their rosters.

Fans in seats, eyes on screens, sponsors on jerseys and beyond.

Team USA’s stars have earned some celebration time in the very near future, but they need to capitalize on this momentum to make the NWSL a stronger league, which is how women’s soccer, and women’s pro sports, will truly win going into the future.

ABC gets an F for its football coverage

Sat, 09/01/2018 - 8:38pm
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The college football seasons opened up for teams across Oregon Saturday and the results were basically as they were predicted ... by Las Vegas ... with No. 24 Oregon scoring a blowout at home against Bowling Green and Oregon State getting mauled at No. 5 Ohio State on national television.

Portland State lost at Nevada .. and Div. II and NAIA teams also kicked off to spirited fanfare - George Fox opened with 122 players on its roster.

The thing that caught my attention most, at least in the morning hours, was ABC’s coverage of the OSU at OSU game, and it owes an apology to Oregon State and Beaver Nation for how it turned the game into a local broadcast of the Buckeyes.

Oregon State traveled halfway across the country to face a very difficult game - underdogs by 39 points and with a new head coach (the program’s fourth in five years), but it pretty much wasn’t even involved in the game, other than as the program getting fed to the host school.

Jonathan Smith, a former Beavers standout at quarterback, was coaching his first game as a head coach, but ABC didn’t even acknowledge him until more than 12 minutes had gone by. The Beavers had the ball for the fourth time, had already scored a touchdown and been in OSU territory three times before they put the camera on him and let the nation know he was one of the brightest offensive minds in the game. The Beavers even lost their starting quarterback after just one possession to make the game that much harder, yet back-up Conor Blount was performing admirably against one of the premier defensive lines in the game.

The network, and rightly so, opened the broadcast with an update of the drama surrounding Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer’s three-game suspension that led to assistant Ryan Day taking over as interim head coach. ABC’s broadcast team of Dave Pasch and Greg McElroy covered Day extensively, as it should have.

But, Oregon State actually played in the game, too, and they pretty much forgot to include that element as part of the broadcast for most of the first quarter. They eventually got around to Smith and former coach Mike Riley returning to become an assistant on the team’s fourth possession.

The score by the team’s fourth possession was getting out of hand, and it was a disaster of a game on defense along the way to giving up 77 points. But, the offense played heroically behind Blount, receiver Trevon Bradford and running back Artavis Pierce, and eventually scored 31 points.

ABC just covered Ohio State for almost the entire first quarter, something that shows no respect for a major college program, which might be in a rocky spot in football - almost half of the team had never played in a Div. I game before, but is still celebrating a national title in baseball so there’s plenty to talk about regarding the teams from Corvallis. None of that drama or excitement got anywhere near the broadcast until a half-hour had passed.

The game wasn’t much in doubt pretty quickly, but Oregon State deserved a lot more respect that it got shown by ABC Saturday morning. And, it’s apology worthy - to coach Smith and Beaver Nation, regardless of the eventual score.

NCAA shows very little interest in women

Tue, 03/20/2018 - 6:14am
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When the NCAA Tournament bracket was released for women’s basketball last week, Oregon State University didn’t get treated very well. And, it kinda got worse, because even though the Beavers’ program produced some unprecedented success, the entire women’s game got fairly well disrespected this weekend.

For starters, Oregon State, despite being ranked No. 13 nationally in the Associated Press poll, which is promoted on ncaa.com, the Beavers were relegated to a No. 6 seed, something that would put them ranked 24th or worse. With that seed, OSU didn’t get to play host to one of the 16 four-team sub-regional tournaments, which the sixth-ranked Oregon Ducks did as a No. 2 seed. The Beavers were the only team among the top 16 that didn’t get to host games over the weekend.

When the results came in, though, the NCAA did plenty to disrespect more than just the Beavers. They did it to the women’s game.

Oregon State won its two games, including a win over host Tennessee that was the Vols’ first ever at home in the tournament. The Beavers might not have gotten seeded where they should have, but they played like a team that should have been seeded higher. Great job OSU.

It’s in looking for results on the game via the NCAA website that you find out how much respect the organization has for women’s basketball, or perhaps women’s sports in general.

As the men’s tournament is taking place at the same time, there’s tournament games aplenty to provide results on, and the NCAA did that ... for men’s games. Every game Sunday got a video, a short recap of the game and the game box score. The front page of the NCAA website shows off the thrill of the tournament. And, there’s one story on the women’s game.

Each one of the women’s games got a box score, and a link to a story that turned out to be the tournament bracket. The games involving a No. 1 or 2 seed got a short video, but all the website story links went to the same place - the tournament bracket. Even the headlines from Monday that promoted some excitement of the day - “8 more teams vie for Sweet 16 berths” - went to the bracket.

Today, after those eight games were decided, the NCAA website promoted the men’s tournament Sweet 16 being set with a video and story, and the women’s Sweet 16 being set with a listing of the scores from the previous two days.

This actually seems like an opportunity for women to address the importance of their sports to their governing body - why does the NCAA care more about the men’s game than the women’s game? Obvioiusly, it’s money. But, it shouldn’t affect something as basic as the NCAA website where the economic affect of putting a little more effort into promotion of the women’s tournament is just flat out effort.

Oregon and Oregon State are getting covered just fine by local media, which has put them at the top of their news. And, the Ducks and Beavers have plenty of fans - show off by the Ducks getting more than 7,500 fans for their game Sunday. But the NCAA is showing off just how little it thinks of women’s athletics by putting effort into only promoting the men’s tournament.

 

This year's Tournament is only halfway interesting

Thu, 03/15/2018 - 7:27am
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The NCAA Tournament begins today, at least the men's portion does, and I'm probably the least interested that I've ever been in the bracket.

Again, at least the men's side.

With the Oregon men's team pretty much making next season far more interesting than this one due to recruiting, and playing only into the NIT, and Oregon State just in the background of the conference, the local need to pay attention went away in the past month. And, that's

Then, there's the national scene that went haywire, which I'll get to later.

Oregon's women, and the Beavers, too, helped save some my attention for college hoop, but sports fans on the national level still aren't ready for women's basketball other than on cable television. The Ducks are going to be televised, but only at a neighboring restaurant that pays for the most expanded cable package available.

Oregon State, too.

One of the key issues in college men's basketball this season has been all the scandals involving the biggest programs. North Carolina, Louisvill, Arizona. And, there's the issue of whether high school players should be able to return to simply bypassing college altogher and go to the NBA.

And, there's Lavar Ball and European basketball. In covering high school games, I've taken to asking players being recruited by Div. I colleges if they'd consider heading to Europe if a two-year contract worth more than $100,000 per season were offered them by a team in Greece. Would they sign that? So far, the answer has been "no - my education comes first," but, perhaps, only because that thought never came up before. When asked a second time, and the amount of money being stressed further, the answer came back as, "I'd have to talk to my parents," for both the players I talked with.

The high school season really captivated my interest in the game, but it's over.

If you have a television in your house, and who doesn't, you can't miss the men's tournament, and it is fun to await the crazy upsets that happen today and tomorrow. I picked the Pac-12 teams to advance at least to their region finals in my online bracket, but two of the three teams already lost their play-in games. Thanks UCLA and Arizona State.

Hopefully, the Ducks will blow out their first two opponents this weekend in the women's tournament.

Probably the most interest I'll have this weekend is in Knoxville, Tenn., where Oregon State got sent with a sixth seed. I might even follow their game Sunday against Tennessee - if it happens - online, to pull for the Beavers giving a big middle finger to the NCAA selection committee for making them a six seed despite being ranked 13th.

The NCAA doesn't seem to think much of Corvallis, so this is a great year for Oregon State to make a playoff run like the Ducks did last year as a 10-seed reaching the Elite Eight.

I'm a fan of the underdog, so Oregon State might actually be the team I'm pulling for most, at least this weekend.

 

Don't forget your homework

Fri, 03/09/2018 - 7:21am
Cliff Pfenning
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Homework came up a couple times in entertaining ways in basketball environs Thursday.

While chatting with Western Oregon senior Malik Morgan about the upcoming NCAA Div. II men's basketball regional, I asked him about the other three games set for today on the WOU campus, if he planned to attend any of those games. His senior-dominated team plays at 7:30 p.m., with the other games beginning at noon.

He answered as a committed student-athlete:

"That's one of the bad things about having the tournament in our gym," he said. "You still have to go to class, take tests, pay attention and all that."

In Corvallis, following Marist's comeback win over Silverton in the Class 5A semis, the Marist girls went directly to their fan section and got mobbed, something that hasn't happened to them this season, even though they've been at the top of the state all year and have lost just three times.

"It's nice to finally have some students at our games," junior Kayley Elliott said. "We've been getting great support since we got to the tournament."

But, not, she admitted, before the tournament.

Listening over my shoulder, a grandparent of one of the girls got in my ear.

"You know, we take homework very seriously at Marist," she said. "So the kids don't have all the time to go to basketball games."

They did Thursday, taking a bus from Eugene to Corvallis in the middle of the day as the game started at 1:30 p.m.

The prep state playoffs are an odd connection between teams and fans, and teams don't seem to mind because they get that tournament feel - a feel they might never get again.

High school playoffs, and even small colleges, would be much better served with a Final Four set-up, something the community college playoffs have now adopted instead of playing so many games in such a short time. At the NAIA national tournaments, teams, Eastern Oregon and Southern Oregon are in Iowa playing in their national tournament, have to sin five games - in five days for half the tournament, to win their national title.

For starters, at a tournament - both high school and small college, almost none of the games are played at the time from the regular season, when parents and students are most likely to be able to attend a game - that's 7 p.m. or later. Especially for the prep quarterfinals, it drastically reduces the level of team support available for virtually every team, especially ones that are even a moderate distance from the tournament.

And, with a quarterfinal loss, a team is headed for the consolation bracket, which features games that begin as early as 8 a.m. Nyssa, playing in the Class 3A tournament in Pendleton last weekend, lost it's quarterfinal at 1:30 p.m., then won its second game at 8 a.m. the following morning, and played in the fourth-place final - at 8 a.m. Saturday. The Bulldogs, who lost Satuday and finished 17-11 with a sixth-place trophy, played three games in three days and two started before the school day would have even started back home.

But, they probably loved it, because the games had "tournament" attached to them.

Quarterfinals played at home sites would attract much more attention and bigger crowds basically everywhere, and students would miss less class time, with a Final Four being a lot more vibrant as it would have several days of pre-game anticipation. And, it would be less expensive on the OSAA, which manages the tournaments and reimburses schools for travel and other expenses.

But, the schools and teams don't want it, said OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber.

"We look at it every few years, but the schools ... they really don't support it," he said at the Class 6A tournament Wednesday, acknowledging that a Final Four would be more financially attractive for the OSAA. "They really like the tournaments."

And, Clackamas senior Elly Bankofier said the game itself was the key part of the experience - the Cavaliers having lost to Southridge in the quarterfinals Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. They did have a couple dozen classmates in their student section, who were kept away from them until after they appeared from their lockerroom.

"I like that it was played on a neutral court," she said. "There probably would have been more people at a game at their gym, but I like the way it is with the tournament."

So, a Final Four would be much better for high schools, but the players involved don't want that because for at least one week they get to be athletes 100 percent of the time, and students on the way to making up homework sometime in the future.

 

A great reason to coach photography

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 12:36pm
Cliff Pfenning
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This weekend I'll probably coach my son for the final time in a sporting event.

It's been quite a few seasons, and a lot of fun, mostly, anyway.

We started with his first throw of a small, plush football that was a perfect spiral at age 18 months. And, while we never got to the level of club teams for more than a season, playing a sport three seasons per school year has been a wonderful experience and forged a strong bond between us. Until the teenage years, at least.

As we draw to a close in the Portland Parks Goldenball basketball season, it's a time to look back and think upon what I taught my son and/or what I hoped he learned from all the seasons of soccer, basketball, baseball and one season of football and lacrosse.

I'm not sure I have a good answer, which is a bit disappointing.

In contemplating these two thoughts, though, I reinforced my belief that photography is something every parent should focus on more as it relates to their children. And, it should be taught as a basic requirement in the education system. People should know how to take good pictures, how to print them out and what their importance is in the world.

It's something that should be talked about at the start of every season for every team - "hey, make sure we capture some of these moments on film (they're going to be printed on paper).

For one thing, pictures don't lie, at least not without Photoshop.

And, they tell stories that don't need words - words being one of the great methods of ruining any situation in parenting.

A whole lot of teams, especially ones that play indoors, have a handle on the value of photos at the end of a season through "Senior Night." That's when seniors and their families get a moment to celebrate the close of their son or daughter's athletic career with public recognition and a family picture. It's a very strong moment for most of these families and captured with a photo.

Or course, you don't know when your athletic career might end, so getting a photo from every season is important.

This past week I did the play-by-play for a webcast of the Grant at Jefferson boys basketball game, which was a great experience especially as the color guy ended up being Portland Community College coach Tony Broadous. We had a great time and the webcast showcased that, but I missed having someone take a photo of us, which would have multiplied the value of the experience. Thursday, I sang the national anthem at a high school basketball game ... with a parent as a duet, but missed getting a photo, which would have made my Facebook page go wild.

It's not something just for athletics either. How many parents are able to get a photo of their son or daughter studying? Some of the great photos from American history are of people just thinking - President John Kennedy and his brother Bobby during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The skill of photography that might be taught is how to isolate specific photos. Everyone has a camera now via their cell phone, and can take thousands of pictures. They forward many of those photos to social media, and that's where the photos end. Getting a physical copy of photos is a tremendous loss in our society.

I think I have enough good pictures of my son, and daughter's athletic career, too, that I feel good about how he'll look back upon all those practices and games in two, five, 10 years and beyond. How we will look back upon them as we grow older.

 

 

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