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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.

BREAKING: Sources: Ball State’s New AD Coming from the OVC

Mark Sandy

Eastern Kentucky’s Mark Sandy, the next man up in Muncie for the BSU AD job if sources are to be believed

Admittedly, most things around Ball State when it comes to searches and athletics have more holes in them than the Iraqi Navy, but the current vacancy for the director of athletics has been as tight-lipped as they come. Even your friendly neighborhood blogger has had a hard time tracking down enough viable and credible people who could at least give me the same answers as others have, complicated further by the fact that none were willing to go on the record largely because none of them were authorized to speak about the results of the search.

If our multiple unrelated sources are to be believed (and they usually are based on our/their track record) the new athletic director to be named Thursday in an 11am news conference in Muncie will be the current Director of Athletics at Eastern Kentucky University, Mark Sandy.

UPDATE: Another unconnected high-ranking university source has confirmed our earlier report that Mark Sandy will be named the next director of athletics at Ball State.

In his nine years at EKU, Sandy has had an impressive track record of success on the field/court/playing surface of your choosing for his teams and student athletes, most notably winning the Ohio Valley Conference’s Commissioner’s Cup, which symbolizes overall athletics excellence. His background also has a touch of MAC in it, as he was the former associate AD for marketing and major gifts at Miami University, and not for nothing, but those two areas are pretty important when it comes to BSU. Not for nothing, but Sandy also has served on the NCAA Football Issues Committee and NCAA Football Championship Committee for those who may have demanded that the new AD be a football guy. Surprisingly enough a very notable “football guy” was much closer than some would have thought before this whole thing started, but that is for another day.

Perhaps the best bullet points on Sandy’s resume are his infrastructure achievements and facility improvements. From new playing surfaces to fan amenities like video boards and audio systems are things he’s overseen, in addition to construction efforts like tennis complexes and locker room facilities and multipurpose construction on the football stadium. There’s also the academic side of things if you care to be bothered by the “student” in “student-athlete” where 10 of Sandy’s EKU teams scored perfect on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Report last year.

For all intents and purposes it appears like Sandy was custom-made for the Ball State job, as the initiatives he undertook at EKU are remarkably parallel to what former AD Bill Scholl did while he was running the show in Muncie. I can’t imagine the learning curve or next brass ring to grab for infrastructure would be beyond his reach as he’s been planning that on his own campus. He’s also a former student-athlete himself as a basketball and baseball player at Concord College in West Virginia so the empathy and connectivity that Scholl and interim AD Brian Hardin were known for, and what former AD Tom Collins was most definitely not, is something at which Sandy should excel.

They say that the most honest reviews are those from your peer group, and another OVC AD that I reached out to told me that Sandy is one of the best guys he knows in the business and it be a shame for EKU and the OVC to lose him. So that, to me, speaks volumes about the quality of the hire that BSU may have made.

Is this carved in stone? No. But, as I’ve said from time to time when we get things like Brady Hoke leaving, Pete Lembo being hired, or other goings on, we don’t run things we aren’t at least better than 50% comfortable with. So could these sources be trying to roger us? Sure, it’s possible, but there’s no particular reason why they would. We are pretty nice people and are moms think we are just the best.

This still isn’t carved in stone, but whomever the stone etcher in Muncie is is sharpening his chisel.

Football Adds Three as Second Semester Begins

BSULogoSince we’ve taken some time off from the blogging happy fun time for the holidays, allow us to give you the cursory “We hope you had a great holiday…” kind of sentiment. With that, though, time for some Cardinal news as 2015 dawns. To the BSU release!

Ball State head football coach Pete Lembo has announced the arrival of three student-athletes who have signed grant-in-aid papers to play football for the Cardinals.

James Gilbert and Morgan Hagee graduated from their respective high schools in December and have enrolled at Ball State for the beginning of the 2014 spring semester. Jacob White, who signed a national letter of intent with the Cardinals last February, sat out the 2014 fall semester and has enrolled in classes this spring.

“We are pleased to welcome Jacob, James and Morgan to Ball State as we begin the spring semester,” Lembo said. “These three young men are truly excited to join our football program and the Ball State community. By enrolling midyear, they will have an opportunity to begin bonding and competing with our returning players this winter and spring. We look forward to working with them in the weeks and months ahead to help them successfully adjust to life as an NCAA Division I student-athlete.”

Gilbert graduated from Arsenal Tech High School in Indianapolis after playing football for Coach Anthony Henderson. A 5-10, 190-pound running back, Gilbert set the school’s career record for rushing yards with 4,817. He was the Indianapolis Public Schools Player of the Year in 2014 and earned all-state honors this past season. A three-time All-City player, Gilbert was named Tech’s Most Valuable Player as a sophomore and junior.

Hagee graduated from Plainfield High School in Indiana after playing for Coach Brian Woodard. He earned three letters for the Quakers and was named to the All-Mid-State Conference First Team and Academic All-Conference squad as a senior. Hagee, a 5-11, 165-pound placekicker and punter, made 11-of-14 field goals with a long of 49 as a senior. He connected on 25-of-26 extra point kicks and averaged 35.8 yards per punt in his final season. In his career, Hagee made 16-of-21 field goals and 58-60 extra points while averaging 36.0 yards per punt. He set the Plainfield school records for field goals in a game (3), field goals in a season (11) and field goals in a career (16). Hagee was named to the Indiana Football Coaches Association Top-50 All-State Team plus was selected All-Hendricks County as a senior. With a 3.76 grade-point average in high school, Hagee plans on majoring in interpersonal communications at Ball State.

White is a 2014 graduate of Hinsdale Central High School in Illinois where he earned three letters in football for Coach Rich Tarka. An All-West Suburban Silver Conference selection as a junior and senior, White was Hinsdale Central’s Most Valuable Player in his final season. The 6-0, 215-pound, linebacker was a team captain as a senior and tallied 69 tackles while also rushing for 429 yards with four touchdowns. He managed 137 tackles with five sacks and four quarterback hurries in his career. White tallied a 4.23 GPA on the school’s 5.0 scale (equivalent to a 3.23 GPA on a 4.0 scale) and plans to major in entrepreneurship at Ball State.”

So welcome to those new Cardinals and we’re only like 8 months away from the 2015 season. Let’s go!

Quake Edwards Heading to NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

Quake EdwardsNeed some more Jahwan Edwards in your life? You’ll have the chance on January 17 because a Quake warning has been issued for Carson, California and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

Jahwan Edwards, a senior running back on the 2014 Ball State football team, has been selected to compete in the National Football League Players Association Collegiate Bowl Jan. 17 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

Mike Holmgren and Mike Martz will serve as head coaches for the American and National teams, and the game will air live on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. Practices from the all-star game will be broadcast live the Wednesday and Thursday of game week on ESPNU.

Edwards finished his Ball State career as the school’s all-time leader in rushing yards (4,558), rushing touchdowns (51), total touchdowns (51) and rushing attempts (884). He ranks fifth in Mid-American Conference history in career rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, while ranking sixth in rushing attempts. The 5-10, 219-pound senior rushed for 100 or more yards six times in his final season and 18 times in his career.

In 2014, Edward tallied 262 rushes for 1,252 yards and 12 touchdowns, while averaging 104.3 rushing yards a game in his 12 starts. He became only the second player in Cardinals’ history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons after rushing for 1,410 in 2012, 1,110 in 2013 and 1,252 in 2014.

The Matthews, N.C., native is one of the draft-eligible seniors competing in the all-star game after helping Ball State to 30 wins and two bowl appearances in his four seasons.

It should be noted that that is the same complex that does some kind of Crossfit games or something. Quake also probably plans to win that too. You’ve been warned, Crossfitters.

Second-Half Rally Lifts Ball State MBB Over Indiana State

BSULogoWell hello there friends. I’m sure, like me, you’ve spent your Saturday clutching to the last few precious college football games remaining for 2014. However, the sooner we get it through our head that football is over for the Cardinals this season, the sooner we can move ahead to focusing solely on basketball. Not coincidentally, the Hoop Cards were in action today at Worthen against the Fighting Sycamores of Indiana State, notching their third win of the season 70-63 over our Terra Haute brethren, snapping a three-game losing streak to ISU in the process. This doesn’t take away the pain of the football upset, but, it’s a start. To the release

MUNCIE, Ind. — Francis Kiapway was on the floor for during crunch time Saturday because of how well he had played defensively throughout the game with Indiana State.

At the end of the day, it was his two clutch 3-pointers that helped the Cardinals to a 70-63 victory, snapping a three-game losing streak to the Sycamores (3-5).

The Cardinals (3-3) overcame a 30-22 halftime deficit by shooting nearly 64 percent from the floor and knocking down 6 of 10 from 3-point range in the second half.

“That was a great college basketball game; the energy in the building was outstanding,” Ball State head coach James Whitford said. “I was really proud of our team. We have let some bad plays mushroom for us this year, and it was a big theme for us in the second half to focus on the next play. I thought we did that for the whole half.”

Zavier Turner led five double-figure scorers for Ball State with 15 points, including 14 in the second half, to go along with six assists. Bo Calhoun scored a career-high 13 points, while Kiapway, Matt Kamieniecki and Franko House all had 11.

“Zavier made some really important decisions in transition in the second half,” Whitford said. “Getting those points in crunch time was really the difference in the game for us.”

Kamieniecki also grabbed 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season. His lay-in after a pass from Turner gave the Cardinals a 60-58 lead in a back-and-forth game with 2:11 to play.

Indiana State briefly regained the lead on a Brenton Scott 3-pointer, but Kiapway answered with treys on the next two Ball State possessions for a 66-61 lead. The Cardinals were then able to ice the game at the free throw line.

“Francis stayed in the game not because of his ability to shoot but because he was very sound defensively,” Whitford said. “He made some huge defensive plays prior to that. I couldn’t be happier for him because he loves the game as much as any player I’ve ever coached. It was great to see him step up and play well.”

In addition to improved shooting, the Cardinals began to dominate the glass in the second half. Indiana State held a 22-18 rebounding advantage at halftime, but Ball State out-rebounded the Sycamores by a 17-8 margin after the break.

Justin Gant and Khristian Smith led Indiana State with 16 and 15 points, respectively.

Ball State will now have the week off for final exams. The Cardinals will return to action Saturday, Dec. 13 with a 7 p.m. CT (8 p.m. ET) tipoff at Valparaiso.

There’s a decent sized alumni contingent up around Valpo, so check out the Cards next week if you can.

OTPcast 6.19

OTP Cast Logo200BSU and me, we go way back
For better or for worse
I can’t believe this season’s gone
And the proof’s in the way it hurts
For months on end I’ve had my doubts
Denying every tear
I can’t believe it’s over now
Cause I know that I still need games here
You say I’m crazy
‘Cause you think I have too much fun
But when you download the podcast
I know I’m not the only one

Jason and Alan are back to recap the Black Friday victory over Bowling Green and talk about how that win shifts perspective on the 2014 season. They talk offseason shuffling and which current Cards might find themselves suiting up on Sunday. Finally, it’s all about the playoffs and rivalries as the national news this week was off the charts. All that and more in this week’s OTPcast!

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…

AFCA Honors Ball State Football for Graduation Rate

BSULogoLet it not be said that Ball State football doesn’t put the “student” in student-athlete. Sure, other institutions may be competing for national championships and Bahamas Bowl berths, but some of those programs have athletes that I would assume probably wear Velcro shoes and can’t spell their team name correctly without looking at their sweatshirt. Not the case in Muncie, sports fans, as today the American Football Coaches Association honored your Ball State Cardinals for their graduation rate being over 90% for the football program.

Think that’s not impressive? You’re wrong. The Cardinals are one of only 13 teams in the country to achieve that kind of classroom success. To the Ball State release!

Ball State’s football program was recognized by the American Football Coaches Association as one of only 13 schools in the country to graduate at least 90 percent of its student-athletes in the latest NCAA Graduation Success Rate Report.

Of the 13 football playing Mid-American Conference schools, Ball State was one of only two to have a GSR score of at least 90 and is the only state school in Indiana to graduate over 90 percent of its 2007 class in the six years allowed for GSR purposes.

Among the football student-athletes including in this time frame for Ball State were Capital One Academic All-Americans Briggs Orsbon and Zane Fakes. Twenty-one of the Cardinals during this six year time frame were named to the MAC All-Academic team, while six were honored on the Capital One Academic All-District squad.

Congrats to the Cards and I hope someone put some of those good grade cards on the football office’s refrigerator.

Cardinals End Season On High Note, Upset Bowling Green

BSULogoI think with Friday’s 41-24 upset victory over MAC East Champion Bowling Green that included:

  • Bowling Green needing two plays (a 75-yard run a 96-yard kick return) to jump out to a 14-7 lead (after an Ozzie Mann 62-yard TD pass of his own)
  • Bowling Green taking a 21-7 lead with 9 minutes to go in the 1st quarter
  • Ozzie Mann starting his first game since October 4’s loss at Army in place of injured Jack Milas

we can officially call 2014 the absolute weirdest damn season that I can remember covering this team. Fluke plays, freak injuries, upsets of favorites, being upset as the favorite, this season officially had everything possible. And let’s not forget the record-breaking year and career that Quake Edwards turned in.

For Friday’s game, a game that admittedly both Jason and I thought would end the Cards’ season on a bit of a sour note, it is a ray of hope for fans to take away from this season and the coaching staff to go out and recruit on for the next class. After losing a slew of NFL-caliber talent and a deep senior class, the Cardinals still managed to pull a .500 record in the MAC, which (being honest, here) seemed somewhere just short of impossible after the loss to Western Michigan dropped the Cards to 1-5.

But a funny thing happened on the Cards’ way to irrelevancy this season, as QB1 was bestowed to Jack Milas and the Cards at pulled Ws in four of their last six. There’s plenty of opportunities for the pessimistic fans among us to cherry-pick the games that were basic coin flips that could have easily gone the Cards’ way (Iowa, WMU, and UMass at bare minimum) but that would be overlooking the Cards victories that could have easily gone the other way as well. Plus, it takes away from the stellar finish to this season for this senior class.

It’s funny how as a season progresses expectations and definitions change. If you had told me at the beginning of the season this year would be a 5-7 experience, I’d have been a tad bit unhappy and unsatisfied. Now, after the early losing streak and the (at times) complete unsatisfying experience known as Ball State football, I’m thrilled with 5-7 and just about ready to drive to Muncie to celebrate and tongue kiss whoever I see. Alas, it’s Thanksgiving break, so that would be a fruitless endeavor.

Friday’s BG win was a return to the Cardinal brand of football we have come to sort of expect and get awfully used to. It was a balanced attack through the air and the ground, and kudos to Joey Lynch for putting together a gameplan and playcalling that allowed the Cards to thrive. The Cards had no turnovers, no significant mistakes or penalties, dominated the time of possession, and most importantly in the second half: got the hell out of Quake’s way.

Edwards finishes his Cardinal career in true Quake-ian fashion, gashing the Falcons for 165 yards and 2 TDs. It is a fitting end to the career of the school’s career rushing leader, career rushing TDs leader, and career attempts leader. They don’t make ‘em like Quake much anymore, so count your blessings you were able to see him play.

The focus around these parts will shift a bit over the next few weeks to season recaps, lookaheads to the NFL futures of our graduating Cardinals, and trying to put an appropriate bow on this season. We’ll be there right there with you for all of it. More on BG tomorrow, but for now, it’s just enjoying this win, some leftover turkey and such, and just generally being in a much more pleasant mood than I expected to be at this particular juncture. So thank you Cards, for this game, this season, and everything else. Final word tomorrow, Go Cards!

OTPcast 6.18

OTP Cast Logo200Love to throw a chirp
‘Cause it’s good
Love to throw a chirp
Like a good boy should
Chirps for me
Chirps for you
Let’s get to chirpin’
At the Scheu
Love to chirp chirp
When I’m able
I once saw a movie
With Betty Grable
Chirp your ass off
All night long
Fifty million Elvis fans
Can’t be wrong
Chirpy lurpey doo and
Chirpy lurpey dap
I chirp my heart out
Then I take a nap

Jason and Alan are back just in time to get you ready for the Ball State/Bowling Green game on Black Friday. While the townspeople are in turkey comas or standing in line for a $4 television, you can get your learn on about the Falcons, chat up the Eastern Michigan win and the loss of Jack Milas, and the fella’s takes on the last regular season week of the season. All that and more in this week’s OTPcast!

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…

Ball State Men’s Basketball Shoots Past Grambling

BSULogoPart of me wants to point out the poor choice of words in the BSU media relations lede given the current goings on in Missouri where firefighters are getting shot at, a CNN lady got hit with a rock, and you know, a teenager got shot by a police officer, but that would be blending current events and sports and that seems like more Alan’s bag. So yeah, Ball State men’s basketball beat Grambling. Go Cards!

MUNCIE, Ind. — The Ball State men’s basketball team knocked down 14 3-pointers Monday night and cruised to an 88-46 victory over Grambling State at Worthen Arena.

Jeremie Tyler led five double-figure scorers for the Cardinals (2-2) with 18 points, while Rocco Belcaster knocked down his first four treys of the night on his way to a career-high 15 points. Franko House and Sean Sellers finished with 12 points each, while Bik Gill added a career-high 11.

Ball State moved the ball well, recording 23 assists on 30 made baskets, led by Sellers with six assists and Kaleb Mallory with five. Mallory and Francis Kiapway shared the point guard duties for the Cardinals, which had only 10 turnovers against Grambling State (1-3) after giving it away 25 times Saturday in an overtime loss at IUPUI.

“The biggest thing for us coming off Saturday’s game was taking care of the ball; it was a huge deal,” Ball State head coach James Whitford said. “For us to come in with Francis and Kaleb running the show and to have 10 turnovers, that was the stat of the game, no question about it. I thought we played very unselfishly and shared the ball.”

Kiapway scored eight points and knocked down a pair of 3-pointers of his own in his second career game after missing time early because of injury. The 14 3-pointers were the most by a Ball State team since the 2006 season and two shy of the school record.

“Francis did a very good job of being poised,” Whitford said. “He didn’t play too fast; he kind of set the tone. There were a couple chances where he could have tried to make home run plays and he didn’t. He really controlled the rhythm and the tempo of the game, and I though Kaleb did a good job with it, too.”

Ball State won the battle on the boards for the third straight game, outrebounding Grambling State by a 35-23 margin. Matt Kamieniecki had a game-high 13 rebounds just two days after grabbing a career-high 15 boards at IUPUI.

The Cardinals finished the night shooting 54.5 percent from the floor (30 for 55) and 50 percent from beyond the arc (14 for 28). Grambling State was able to score 36 points in the paint, but the Tigers shot 1 for 8 from 3-point range as the Cardinals outscored them 42-3 from distance.

Ball State is now off until a Dec. 3 road game at Eastern Illinois. The Cardinals will return home Dec. 6 to host Indiana State at Worthen Arena.

Indiana State, you say? Seems like the basketball team could dole out some revenge for the football bed-shatting and that would be fine by me.

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