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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.

New Ball State Athletic Director Mark Sandy has a Tough Task

BSULogoThis morning at 11am, Ball State will announce Mark Sandy as the newest Director of Athletics for BSU, as we broke last night (not to toot our own horn or anything). The last two athletic directors hired by BSU have been a study in dichotomy, one becoming the driving force of Cardinal athletics bringing themselves into the 21st century and the other the butt of more than a few jokes. Bill Scholl was the former, Tom Collins the latter, in case you were struggling with that evaluation. Try and keep up.

So with the university batting .500 in its two most recent AD hires and this being the first significant hire made by Dr. Paul Ferguson, new BSU president, it’s safe to say that high levels of success, while expected, are far from guaranteed. Replacing Bill Scholl, who was universally well-liked and personable from student athletes to high dollar donors, is also not the easiest thing in the world. To increase Cardinal successes on the field or court, one of the most important bullet point in the job description, isn’t the easiest thing either. Then throw in the aggravating circumstance of the operating budget and fan support of a MAC program and it’s a tall order. So it’s safe to say that hiring Mark Sandy, current athletic director of Eastern Kentucky University, is an absolutely critical decision and one that brings with it a whole host of issues for Sandy.

On the revenue program side of things, there’s a football program that aside from a rough 2014 is at a level that is satisfactory but the jump to the next level and retaining Pete Lembo will be a massive undertaking. There’s a men’s basketball program that was able to hire an assistant coach from a “name brand” program in James Whitford for the complex reconstruction job that has begun its bumpy road. Women’s basketball is a MAC contender year in and year out. That doesn’t take in to account all the other sports again that may not generate a ton of headlines but are notable programs. Softball, field hockey, volleyball, etc. are all programs that need to be tended to as well and supported en masse for Ball State to be significantly more competitive for the Reese and Jacoby Awards. (Note: The Reese Award is given to the most successful men’s athletic program and the Jacoby Award to the most successful women’s athletic program. In 2014 BSU finished 5th for the Reese Award and last for the Jacoby Award)

From his EKU bio regarding his successes as Colonel AD….

EKU Athletics Under Mark Sandy
2005-06
• Women’s soccer begins play
• EKU Athletics Hall of Fame initiated

2006-07
• Jacob Korir finishes seventh at NCAA Cross Country Championships
• Men’s basketball advances to NCAA tournament

2007-08
• Football ranked first in OVC and Commonwealth of Kentucky in NCAA APR (academic progress rate) report
• Football advances to NCAA FCS playoffs for the first time in 10 years

2008-09
• Women’s tennis wins first ever OVC championship and advances to NCAA tournament
• Football reaches NCAA FCS playoffs for second straight season

2009-10
• Men’s tennis advances to first ever NCAA tournament
• 100 Years Celebration for football and men’s basketball

2010-11
• EKU captures OVC Female Athlete of the Year and Steve Hamilton Sportsmanship awards
• Cross Country teams win fifth straight OVC titles

2011-12
• EKU wins first ever OVC Commissioner’s Cup (began in 2009)
• EKU Athletics Hall of Fame Room completed

2012-13
• EKU captures OVC Institutional Sportsmanship Award
• Men’s basketball won a program record 25 games, including a first round game in the CIT postseason tournament
• Women’s golf advances to first ever NCAA regional championship

2013-14
• EKU wins second OVC Commissioner’s Cup in last three years
• Men’s cross country finishes 15th at NCAA championships

So take a quick cruise above and you’ll notice that there is a consistent and steady improvement across the board. There are facilities improvements, program creation, and all-sport conference success. There’s significant successes in creating a higher profile in the monster programs of basketball and football. And perhaps the thing that no one will mention, much like Ball State competing for eyeballs and interest from IU, Purdue, and Notre Dame fans, Sandy was able to do all of the above with the University of Kentucky’s deathstar athletic program right down the road.

I’m not a fan of the term “homerun hire” because largely every rose has its share of thorns. Poison taught me that. But this is about as close to that as you’re going to find for the Mid-American Conference and Ball State. We’ll be back after the presser at 11 for some other Sandy related goodies.

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