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Ball State Sunday News and Notes, The Royal Rumble Edition

Royal_Rumble_2011.2

A BSU Royal Rumble? All my money would be on Sean Baker.

It’s Royal Rumble night at OTP Manor and the one night of the year when friends and folks gather to throwback behavior and passions to a simpler time when all we cared about was getting the newest Trapper Keepers or what was going to happen on the next GI Joe. If you listen to the OTPcast, you know that Jason calls fans of professional wrestling “booger eaters” and the “lowest common denominator” of society. I can say with absolute certainty I don’t eat anything from my nose and there’s bound to be lower forms of existence than getting together with several buddies, drinking too much beer, and tossing out 80s catchphrases from our favorite wrestlers gone by.

I did get to thinking though that if BSU athletics had a Royal Rumble, I’m not sure who I would put as the favorite. If we limited it to current athletes only, I’d say Nick Miles would be my selection. If we open it up to alumni, I’d have to go with Sean Baker. The Souleater knows no quit, and he would be damn near impossible to eliminate. Jason Whitlock would be up there as well, as Rashiki was a real pain in the ass to dump over the top rope too. I’d watch.

Should a Cardinal Royal Rumble ever exist, and I nominate myself and Chris Ulm to coordinate, the amount of funds raised would be HUGE. And speaking of huge funds raised, the Cardinal Commitment Campaign has surpassed its goal of $20M by $600k. While I’d like to say I’m taking some of the credit because of stories we ran, segments on the OTPcast we did, or the fact that a fraternity brother was the chair of the campaign, ALL the credit should go to Cardinal nation for stepping up and putting their money where their mouth is in relation to overall program success. For a lot of years, I’ve heard fans of multiple sports bemoan the lack of champagne results while through a lack of support forcing the U to operate athletics on a beer budget, so it is awesome that friends of the feather stepped up and made this happen.

Some other news from around the Nest…

NewsNotesLogoThe men’s basketball team lost a conference home game to Kent State on Saturday to drop them to 7-10 on the season and 2-4 in the MAC. I am by no means an expert on MAC basketball and frankly, haven’t been exceptionally well versed about BSU’s basketball program since the days of Ray McCallum and Tim Buckley, but it seems like the Coach Whitford era in Muncie perhaps had an even lower starting point than people thought. It appears to my exceptionally untrained eye that this may be yet another in the “prepping for next year” train of experiential learning. Perhaps we can sneak Brian Burns, Theron Smith, Petey Jackson and Matt McCollum back for a few games. I doubt anyone would notice. Right?

NewsNotesLogoThe women’s basketball team also fell on Saturday in their home contest against MAC East leader Ohio 60-53. The Cards sit at 9-9 overall and 5-2 in MAC play, so there is not only a ton of season left, there’s also well-placed belief that the Cards are capable of a post-season appearance and/or run. So that’s some good in an otherwise pretty suck BSU athletics news.

NewsNotesLogoIn what’s more negative news but sprinkled with at least a little bit of optimism, the Cardinals gymnastics squad did lose their MAC opener to CMU, but did score a season high total score in the process. They also set season-high event scores on the vault, the floor exercise, and the bars. I set some high scores in bars at my time at BSU, but I’m fairly positive that this score isn’t about Golden Tee. The Gym Cards are back in action Feb 2 when they travel to Southern Utah.

NewsNotesLogoWomen’s tennis also lost on Saturday, a home contest against Wright State 4-3. Nos. 1 and 2 singles, Courtney Wild and Bethany Moore both picked up wins and are both 2-0 on the season. Well done! Collegiate tennis doesn’t get a ton of publicity or eyes, but it’s really enjoyable. I’d strongly suggest you check out a match if you can. On the men’s side of the tennis ledger, the men’s team dropped two matches to Wisconsin-Green Bay and Illinois this weekend, but Lucas Anderson/Patrick Elliott and Ray Leonard/Andrew Stutz won 1 and 2 doubles respectively, and Anderson won #2 singles. Someone will at some point have to explain to me how collegiate tennis is scored, as it appears 8 matches were completed, but only 7 points were awarded between BSU and UW-GB. Math on a Sunday, or any day really, is not my strongest suit.

NewsNotesLogoIn case you were unaware, it’s men’s volleyball season and your Cardinals have started 2015 with quite the bang, losing only their first match of the season on Friday at Harvard, and rising to #14 in the national rankings. Admittedly, I know nothing about volleyball other than the volleyball players I lived behind in grad school were fun to hang out with. However, even with limited knowledge I can assume that the aura of Harvard carries over to their volleyball team. I would imagine it’s a whole court full of Winklevoss twins, and those guys were yutzes. The Cards did rebound on Saturday and sweep Sacred Heart, so the victory train is rolling once again. Toot chirpin’ toot, indeed. You can catch the Cardinal volleyballers in conference action at Worthen Arena on Friday against Quincy.

NewsNotesLogoIn continuing good Cardinal news, the women’s swimming and diving team got the win Friday against Milwaukee 128-114. Along the way of the double dual meet, the Cardinals posted 14 top three finishes and four event wins. Ever since we had Friend of the Pylon and coach Nick Gayes on, we’ve had a special place in our heart for the Pool Cards. The final women’s swimming and diving home match of the season was Saturday against Miami, a 186-111 win for the Red Hawks.

So, some ups, some downs, but some giant news about improving the infrastructure of Cardinal athletics and the experience of student athletes on campus. Today, much like yesterday was and tomorrow will be, is still a great day to be a Cardinal!

Ball State Football Announces Awards at Postseason Banquet

BSULogoWhen I was younger and actually played sports rather than blogging about them in an attempt to escape the soul crushing reality of working for a living, the postseason banquet was always one of the best things about the season. There were trophies, a good meal, the coaches did something other than scream their ass off about the mistakes you made, and really the toil and effort from the season seemed to be worth it regardless of the outcome of the season record. (That’s a good lesson for the Colts today too, and I hope Chuck Pagano has orange slices and ribbons for all his guys)

On Sunday, the Ball State football team officially put a wrap on their 2014 campaign with their own version of a fancy dinner at Ryan’s Steak House by hosting the annual Honors Banquet at the Horizon Convention Center in beautiful downtown Muncie. Aside from gathering this group of young men and Cardinals together for what is more likely than not the last time (which is a bit sad in and of itself) there was a plethora of hardware handed out as well:

  • John Magnabosco Award (Team MVP): Jahwan Edwards
  • John Hodge Award (Most Valuable Freshman): Corey Lacanaria & Dedrick Cromartie
  • Bill Reynolds Special Teams Award: Scott Secor
  • Gene Booker Academic Award: Taylor Hoke
  • Mark Hays Inspiration Award: Brian Jones
  • Paul Schudel Strength & Conditioning Award: Nick Miles
  • Bill Meitzler Scout Team Player of the Year: David Morrison & Joshua Posley
  • Dave McClain Leadership Award: Jacob Richard
  • Ray Louthen Award (Most Improved): Dylan Curry

I’d say there are approximately zero surprises in the above. Quake as the MVP, Secor as the Special Teams MVP, and Lacanaria and Cromartie as newcomers of the year were how I would have voted it as well. I can’t speak for the weightlifting and conditioning prowess of Nick Miles but I won’t question his award largely because he looks like he could deadlift a Smartcar and I’d like to see my kids grow up. The rest I’ll just take the staff’s word on.

There was also a new award given out, the 12th Man Award, presented to Ball State’s deputy AD Pat Quinn. Quinn’s career at BSU is long and distinguished, ranging from a remarkably successful tenure as the baseball coach and now a fruitful 20 years in compliance and administration. Quinn spoke to one of my grad school classes about athletic administration and he was informative and engaging along with incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about his field. When good professionals and better people get deserved recognition that’s a good thing. Congrats to Pat and all the award winners!

OTPcast 6.21

OTP Cast Logo200Your final post for this work week is the special edition OTPcast recorded live when Mark Sandy was introduced as the new Ball State Athletic Director last week. In true OTP fashion, there were some major technical difficulties that made publishing this things a real pain in the derrier. So witty song lyrics rebranded to be about Ball State have been replaced with this and an explanation as to why this OMG BREAKING! OTPcast isn’t quite so OMG BREAKING! tonight. But it’s still awesome all the same.

In this episode, Jason and Alan are back with a special ADcast to welcome Mark Sandy and toot the Pylon’s horn for breaking the story. The guys break down the press conference and thoughts on Sandy along with some priorities they hope he addresses. Finally, the guys introduce the new OTPHotline, where you the listener can call in and voice your thoughts on Cardinal athletics. It’s an OTPcast that’s not to be missed!

Couple of different ways to hear this puppy. Viewing OTP in a feedreader? Then visit the site or download the mp3 from iTunes by clicking here. Leave us a rating on iTunes if you like what you hear! Enjoy…

Lines Moving for Upcoming March Madness on Sportbet.com

Ball State HoopsCollege football is over and the NFL is winding down, but that doesn’t mean your eyeballs won’t have plenty of sport to feast on over the next few weeks. It’s conference season for your favorite college basketball teams, and we are roughly 6 weeks away from the greatest two days in sports, the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament. If you’re like me, you’re going to take off work, camp out at home or your local watering hole, and hunker down for wall to wall basketball for roughly 12 hours a day. If you’re like Jason, you’re going to build up a bankroll for those two days specifically for your entertainment wagering options. Incidentally, if you are of that persuasion, you can read more about the latest NCAA Basketball news at Sportbet. Spoiler alert: Much to Alan’s enjoyment, Kentucky is really good this year.

The Wildcats are actually less than even money to win the title. For those unfamiliar with sports betting about future events, the number you see with a + means that’s how much a $100 bet will win you. Take for example, Alan’s nemesis the Louisville Cardinals. At +2200, a $100 bet would win you your original stake ($100) and the $2200 on top of it. A negative number would be what you have to stake to win $100. In Kentucky’s case, you’d need to stake $110 to then win $100 on top of it, a total return of $210. It’s absurd that a team has a negative stake at this point in the season no matter how good they are.

In case you were curious, the Hoop Cards aren’t even listed. The highest longshot for the NCAA title is +50000 (or a $50,000 profit on a $100 stake) so the Cardinals odds are longer than that, assuming you can even find a casino to make that bet. I’d be willing to wager that you could convince Steve Wynn to give you his house, the casino, and a velvet painting of Ronnie Thompson tongue kissing Jason Whitlock against a $10 stake. Currently the Cards are 7-7 and 2-1 in the MAC so they aren’t last. They’re also tied for the lead (with three other teams) for the MAC West, so I suppose anything is possible. MACsketball is weird.

Ball State 2015 Schedule Taking Shape

MACThough it’s January, there’s still football in the air as the Mid American Conference announced which of their MAC brethren the Cardinals will take on in 2015. Ball State will host Central Michigan, Toledo, Massachusetts and Bowling Green, while playing at Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Ohio.  Dates for the 2015 league schedule will be announced at a later time. Get yourself ready for payback, UMass.

The Cardinals’ non-conference slate is set to start Sept. 5 at home vs. VMI.  Ball State still needs to add one non-conference tilt, but will play at Texas A&M Sept. 12 and at Northwestern Sept. 26. As for the final non-conference game, it’s anyone’s guess at this point. My hope is a home game against an FBS school, but that’s going to be hard to do on such short notice. Selfishly, there’s a gap in the home schedule for the University of Kentucky next fall thanks to UAB shuttering its doors, but I doubt either party would be exceptionally jazzed about playing that game.

The rumor of the month so far is that Ball State was going to fill out their schedule by playing at Florida State. Number one, FSU doesn’t need another game as their schedule as full. Number two, I’d be not ok with playing three FBS games all on the road. Number three, we are already going to be witness to a curbstomping when A&M opens their new stadium, so let’s try not be a MACrificial lamb in Tallahassee, mmmkay?

Pending 2015 NFL Draft

nfl-logoThe offseason has arrived for all but four NFL teams, and most are seeking to obtain more power and finesse to their band of players. April will be here before we know it, and the pending 2015 NFL Draft projection highlights the top priorities for the teams. The best options for the 32 first-round picks have analysts weighing pro and cons for players and teams.

The top pick for Tampa Bay would be Quarterback Jameis Winston of Florida State. Tampa took a chance and failed with Josh McCown, and with Winston’s place in the 2015 draft, he will be considered alongside Marcus Mariota of Oregon, who may have less efficiency in quickly navigating the field. Whereas Mariota makes more effective and intelligent passes, Winston has accuracy and stamina well into his games. Tampa is in desperate need of a stronger offensive line and defensive back, but their quarterback strength is also weak, so Mariota and Winston should be high on their list.

The Tennessee Titans could also have their sights on Mariota, as they also need a good quarterback, but Randy Gregory of Nebraska might be a higher priority. Gregory has the potential to be one of the greatest pass-rushers in the league if the Titans can get a hold of him. The team has loads of holes to plug, including a stronger defensive back, pass rusher, and wide receiver.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are also in bad shape, and require an offensive line, cornerback, wide receiver, and running back. Leonard Floyd is not out of the question for them, as the linebacker could help stabilize the Jaguars’ defense. Floyd helped the Georgia Bulldogs as their top pass-rusher, with six sacks and 17 quarterback hurries. If he is still available once the draft gets underway, the Jaguars should pounce on him.

The Washington Redskins had a flop with quarterback Robert Griffin III, and could benefit from Mariota, despite his setbacks. With the Redskins’ DeSean Jackson, Alfred Morris, and Pierre Garcon, Mariota could quickly learn the ropes of good offense. The team also needs to amp-up their defensive back and pass rusher positions.

The New York Jets recently took on Todd Bowles as head coach, and may not need to focus entirely on defense, yet draft-pick Vic Beasley could be what the team needs in terms of edge pass-rushing. Speaking of pass-rushers, Shane Ray of Missouri should be attracting the attention of the Chicago Bears, who exhibited troublesome defense in the 2014 season. Both the Jets and the Bears need a superb quarterback and offensive line.

Edge-rushers abound in the top-10 draft picks, with the Atlanta Falcons eyeing Dante Fowler, Jr. of Florida. He is tall and solidly built, and showed his swiftness and power in the 2014 college football season. Fowler is one part of the puzzle as the team seeks to repair its tight end, offensive line, and defensive back as well.

As twenty-eight NFL teams keep their eyes on their favorite draft picks, the Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, and Seattle Seahawks all vie for that Super Bowl trophy. Review the Super Bowl XLIX odds, picks, and betting analysis at betonsports.com

The Beginning of the Beginning of the End Narratives

Peyton_Manning_(cropped)I will be the first to admit I was never a big Peyton Manning fan. Maybe it has to do with the fact that most of my friends in college thought him to be the second coming. Maybe it’s because I watched him decimate Kentucky and every other SEC team not named Florida when he was in school at Tennessee. Maybe it’s because I just liked to be contrarian and was a tepid Colts fan at best. The reasons for my lack of Manning brainwashing like so many of my central Indiana peers is quite inconsequential. What is important is that since he’s left Indy and found his  new home in Denver, I actually kind of like him.

It could be the comeback story of being shown the exit with an aging body, an injured neck, and a giant salary by Jim Irsay. It could be the personality he is finally showing through commercials and guest spots that never really showed when he was younger, favoring instead to come across as a football robot incapable of human emotions and winning the big game. Again, the why doesn’t really matter. What does is that the ability to like or dislike Manning or to critique his performance in pressure situations is waning, if it isn’t already gone.

It’s a shame any time a legend decides to hang it up. Usually, they stick around too long and the lasting memories of their final performance is a vivid reminder that time and decreased performance is coming for us all, even the greatest around. I can only hope that when Peyton decides to say, “I’m done” he does so permanently and firmly. More Elway, less Favre. That’s what he deserves, we deserve, the NFL deserves.

NFL Quick Hits
* Whether Peyton decides to hang it up or not, I’m already sick of the Rick Reilly’s of the world with their passing of the torch column they all had ready to go in the event that Andrew Luck and the Colts beat the Broncos on Sunday. Last I checked one game did not a legacy make or end. Luck may be the next big thing and sure-fire Hall of Famer, but he has an awfully long way to go before he’s even in Peyton Manning’s stratosphere, much less surpassing it.

* There is a fantastic piece on Grantland about Rex Ryan, new coach of the Buffalo Bills, former coach of the New York Jets, forever king of my heart. Foot-porn aside, is there a more entertaining coach than Rex? I’m sure if I were a hardcore NFL fan I would have a much different reaction to Rex and my desire for him to coach my team would be much less, but as a fringe Bears fan, I cannot tell you how sad I was to not see Rex go to Chicago. At least that would have been good drama instead of the clusterf**k the last year was. Thanks, Jay Cutler!

* We’re down to the Final 4 in the NFL (Packers, Seahawks, Colts, Pats) and it’s a weekend chock full of good versus evil. You’ve got Rodgers’ bum leg against the mouthy Seahawk defense. You’ve got Andrew Luck’s War of Northern Aggression facial hair situation against Tom Brady and the Hoodie. Awful picks from me? NE (-7) and GB (+7). If you’re going to bet, promptly bet against those. Once we get our Super Bowl teams set, Jason and I will be along with all your Super Bowl betting needs as well.

It’s the NFL Playoffs. Yay?

nfl-logoIt dawned on me yesterday morning that this was the first Saturday without college football. I was cold. I was empty. I needed an adult. People remind me that college basketball is beginning to get good with conference games, apparently there’s European soccer, the NBA is a thing, but the obvious choice for a football fan without a game to watch is the NFL playoffs.

My OTPcast cohost Jason is thrilled with this development. He’s always been a “Sunday guy” so these playoffs are right up his alley. I’m not sure whether that has more to do with his love of the Colts or his love for Super Bowl prop bets. Either one is quite enjoyable, but only one of which will still be applicable and appropriate after Sunday night for Jason and scores of other blue-clad fans in the Circle City.

Those aforementioned fans are probably the reason why I’m not a tremendous NFL guy. Is there a more coddled and star-crossed destined team than Indianapolis? Their two worst seasons resulted in their drafting of two premier quarterbacks. One with a giant forehead, one with a giant beard, neither of which I particularly feel connected to. And maybe that’s the reason why. Maybe liking the marquee player on a team means that’s the team you root for. In that case, I’m going to need the Browns to put in Johnny Football sooner rather than later.

So forgive me for not being enthused with the NFL playoffs. I’d like to say it’s because it’s less pure, it’s less about good old State U, or some other altruistic platitude, but in reality, I just don’t care. There’s one college football game left this year, and no matter what happens Sunday in Denver or Green Bay, it’s going to pale in comparison to what’s going to happen Monday night in Dallas.

Ball State Cross Country Lands Three on Academic All-MAC

BSULogoLost in the shuffle of athletic directors, football transfers, and basketball come from behind wins was another feather in the cap of Cardinal athletics as cross country landed three student-athletes on the All-MAC Academic teams. For the second consecutive season, twin sisters Courtney Edon (New Palestine, Ind./New Palestine) and Caitlynn Edon (New Palestine, Ind./New Palestine) both earned the honor, while sophomore Ericka Rinehart (Angola, Ind./Angola) received the honor for the first time in her career. All three are nursing majors, all three have over a 3.7 GPA, all three are probably markedly smarter than I am as a former marketing guy with a GPA more than a few tenths of a point lower than that.

In all seriousness, though, it’s remarkable when I read of Cardinal athletes that excel in the classroom as well as on the playing field. Being a student athlete in and of itself is difficult and time consuming beyond belief. To be able to do so at a championship caliber while majoring in something substantive and worthwhile (and actually learn it!) is remarkable indeed. Congrats to Courtney, Caitlynn, and Ericka. Go Cards!

President Ferguson’s Email to the BSU Community Announcing Mark Sandy

Paul Ferguson Ball State

President Ferguson is so excited. And he just can’t hide it.

A loyal friend of the Pylon has sent along Ball State President Paul Ferguson’s email message to the Ball State community distributed this morning. He’s excited.

January 8, 2015

Colleagues in the Ball State Community:

There is much excitement in the air as we begin a new academic semester. We added to that excitement this morning as we introduced Mark Sandy as Ball State’s new director of intercollegiate athletics. He was selected from a talented pool of candidates following a nationwide search. I am especially appreciative to the AD Search Committee, led by Dr. Charlene Alexander, for the diligent and highly professional conduct of the search in providing this unanimous recommendation.

Mark has nearly 40 years of experience in intercollegiate athletics, and since 2005, he has served as the director of athletics at Eastern Kentucky University, where he was responsible for all athletic department activities, including NCAA compliance, hiring coaches, strategic planning, marketing and public relations, and fundraising. He understands the invaluable connections among departments at a university and has shown a great ability to forge alliances across campus. With his proven record of success of student-athletes in the classroom and in competition at Eastern Kentucky, Mark will be a great addition to the Ball State team.

During two of his last three years as director of athletics, EKU won the coveted Ohio Valley Conference Commissioner’s Cup, a symbol of overall athletics excellence in conference-sponsored championships.

Before arriving at Eastern Kentucky, he worked for five years at the University of Richmond as associate athletic director and senior associate athletic director. In the latter role, he directed the Spider Athletic Initiative, a $20 million campaign to build an on-campus stadium for the university’s football, soccer, lacrosse, and track teams.

I am confident that Mark is the right person to keep our athletics program continuing in its positive trajectory. I know you will welcome Mark, and his wife, Kitty, as great additions to our leadership team.

With best regards,

Paul W. Ferguson
President

It’s never official until the new boss sends an email out to the rest of the staff about a new hire, so mark it down. In my experience there’s also some sort of potluck or brown bag lunch, but admittedly this email probably went to way too many people for that. People would bring Tupperware, the lids would get all mixed up, it would be anarchy.

Press conference for the official introduction at 11 on BallStateSports.com.

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