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Coach Whitford Wants Thursday Ball State Notes

james-whitford1Hello there, friends. How’s your Thursday? Mine is just delightful. What’s that? There was a football game last night? Hmmm. Didn’t watch. Did I miss anything? Of course I did. Ball State basketball signed the first class of the James Whitford era, inking four recruits including one from Canada by way of Connecticut. Admittedly, I’m more of a BSU pigskin guy than BSU basketball but if his recruiting prowess is any indication of the success we’ll see on the floor, then perhaps that balance may shift a bit going forward.

One of my fondest athletic memories while I was a student at BSU was the infamous Maui Classic that saw BSU throw a loss on Kansas and UCLA back to back and play Duke tight for a half. Guys like Petey Jackson, T Smith, and Brian Burns colored my time there and I do hope to one day soon be able to pencil in BSU to the Sweet 16 in my office bracket that will inevitably be ripped to shreds after the first Thursday of the tourney.

NewsNotesLogo Whitford and the Cardinals inked high school teammates Jeremie Tyler and Rashaun Richardson from Arsenal Tech in Indianapolis along with another Indiana product in Sean Sellers of Greensburg. Francis Kiapway, from Canada by way of St. Thomas More School in Connecticut, also signed. (via)

NewsNotesLogo It wasn’t all men’s basketball yesterday, as Brady Sallee inked three recruits of his own. Moriah Monaco (Dover, Ohio/Dover HS), Khadijah Moore (Elkhart, Ind./Elkhart Memorial HS) and Brionna Simond (Milwaukee, Wis./Riverside University HS) have each signed NLI’s to play basketball at Ball State. (via)

NewsNotesLogo As we mentioned on Twitter last night, news broke on the football front about an hour before the game that running back Horactio Banks tore his ACL in practice earlier this week. The injury bug struck again in-game when Quintin Cooper broke his leg. Both players are done for the season. A real shame for a team that’s been relatively injury free. Get well soon from the Pylon to both of them.

NewsNotesLogo Speaking of injuries, it was good to see Connor Ryan out there again catching balls from Keith Wenning. Now, if we can just get KeVonn Mabon and Chris Shillings back, that receiving corps is back to full strength.

NewsNotesLogo People sometimes know our fine university because of Dave Letterman, Papa John, or Garfield the Cat. The hard core BSU faithful will remind you about things like Joyce DeWitt and Bob Ross. The Huffington Post infuses BSU into the national stream of consciousness for the Ball Brothers’ rockin’ mustaches. For real. (via)

NewsNotesLogo Your Ball State Tweet of the Day comes to you from @allygarrett_:

I don’t seem to remember BSU being exceptionally windy, but I’m going to take her word for it. My advice: skip class. It worked for me.

Ball State Basketball Rolls the Dice

If Ball State A.D. Bill Scholl hires a coach during the Final Four does it make a sound?

If Ball State A.D. Bill Scholl hires a coach during the Final Four does it make a sound?

Ball State has a new basketball coach. You may not know this because the athletic department made the mistake of announcing this move on the Saturday afternoon of Final Four weekend. The news of James Whitford coming to Muncie was buried on local stations and pushed to page three of the Indianapolis Star.

Even worse it will take four days from the announcement for the welcoming press conference and by then no one will care anymore. I guess making a splash was not what the athletic department and Bill Scholl was looking for. Let’s face it, the last time Ball State landed a big name and created buzz was Ronny Thompson. The welcoming press conference became the pinnacle of his coaching stay as the program nosedived into a volcano over the next year.

Given that flashback maybe it’s a good thing there is not much hype about Whitford. There was little hype about Pete Lembo and Brady Sallee and that has not been much of a problem.

However, there are two concerns that can be seen from quick observation.

1. Hiring a man who has never been a head coach before is a risk as NCAA regulations may not be verbatim quite yet. Minor things such as what dates a coach can talk to a recruit can be easier to mess up the first time around. There were candidates out there with head coaching experience making the selection of Whitford interesting.

2. The second concern being the fact Whitford could have taken other head coaching jobs in the past but chose not to. The most alarming being Miami University. In terms of the college basketball landscape there is little difference between Miami U and your Ball State Cardinals. Whitford was an assistant for Miami making it strange he would shoot down a job that would appear to be a good fit only to take a position at the school’s rival. Both schools have relatively the same tradition and the same recruiting bases. It just does not make any sense.

So for now I’m excited about the hire as it’s a clean slate for Ball State basketball. Whitford will face more pressure in his first year than Billy Taylor did but the program will start from a better place too.

A big press conference Wednesday can be a good start. Because right now, no one outside Delaware County seems to know Ball State basketball exists.

This one’s for you Billy

Billy BallAfter time for some reflection (and being force to watch an NCAA tournament filled with teams I kind of hate) I feel that we should look back at the six years Billy Taylor coached in Muncie.

Why? Mainly because I feel like the Billy Taylor era needs it.

Phrases like “Billy Failure” are harsh and probably unfair. Yes Taylor had to go. Heck I thought he should have left last year. But to call his tenure a failure seems uneducated.

Doug Zaleski wrote in a column that Taylor just didn’t win enough.
“Taylor simply didn’t win enough games. He had one winning record. He never took BSU to the postseason.”

You mean coaches could get fired for not winning enough games? Wow I had no idea.

Some may be able to paint sports into a black and white picture of wins and losses. I can’t.

If sports were just wins and losses it would be no different from watching the stock market. Sure Ball State loss more games than it won the past six seasons. But the departures of key players through transfers and questionable decisions did more damage.

The fact that women’s basketball coach Brady Sallee has been so successful in his first season made it clear a change was needed on the men’s side too.

Yet Taylor came really close to keep in his job if a few things had gone differently.


Taylor inherited a mess left by, insert adjective here, Ronny Thompson. The Cards were short on scholarship players and just short overall. Malik Perry was the tallest player at 6’4” and he was just a freshmen. Senior guard Peyton Stovall was really the only player on the roster that would have seen minutes on a quality team that season. The fear of Ball State going winless that year was quite real. Thankfully a win came at home on New Year’s Eve against bigger cupcake IFPW. Ball State somehow won six games that season. While the record was Ball State’s worst it was actually a great coaching job by Taylor. So far so good.


This season opened with a victory against Eastern Illinois where freshmen Jarrod Jones was given a standing ovation for his performance that day. Team captain Anthony Newell went down for the year before conference play as many thought the year was lost. Taylor utilized a mix of transfer players, a good freshmen class, and a slow tempo to compensate for the team’s lack of depth. Thanks to the MAC West being God awful the Cardinals stole the two seed for the conference tournament. The high point coming with a MAC quarterfinal win over Central Michigan in overtime. I remember where I was when ESPN cut into the Big East Tournament to show an update of Ball State advancing after a made jumper from guard Brandon Lampley. The Cards lost in the semis to Buffalo, as the season was forgotten thanks to the women’s team beating Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament that year.


The Cards were inexperience this season as sophomores Randy Davis and Jones were becoming the main guys along with Perry entering his junior year. The up and down year lead to an eight seed hosting Ohio in the first round of the MAC tournament. The game went to overtime with the Bobcats on top. Ohio would surprisingly go on to win the MAC even beat three seeded Georgetown in the NCAA tournament. I still say the difference between Ball State and Ohio that season was small. A win over Ohio and it might have been Ball State grabbing the glory.


A make or break year for Taylor and the Cardinals came through winning 19 games. Ball State even beat Big East DePaul on the road. That may have been Taylor’s best win. The bad news was a loss to a division II Alaska Anchorage. That was his worst loss as it prevented the Cardinals form reaching 20 wins. Ball State would get revenge over Ohio in the MAC quarterfinals only to lose to Kent State in the semis. Then came the strange decision of opting out of postseason tournaments like the CBI to save money for a preseason trip to Canada in August. Anytime you can play exhibition games in Canada where no one will give a crap over playing in a postseason tourney in front of your own fans you have to do it. Hiring Stan Parrish made more sense than this move. Heck, hiring Ronny Thompson may … nah can’t say it. It was hands down the worst decision in Taylor’s six years here. Momentum from the season was lost and Malik Perry, the soul of the team, graduated.


Expectations were through the roof as the Cardinals had experience and depth coming into the season. The depth took a hit with guard Tyrae Robinson having academic issues first semester. In addition players who were starting earlier in the season were losing playing time to some of the newcomers. The problems became noticeable in a blowout defeat to Akron at home. Ball State came in hoping to challenge the MAC’s best instead it imploded. The Cardinals lost their next seven conference games and went out with a whimper in the first round of the MAC tournament at Western Michigan. Teams that win 19 games the year before don’t struggle the next with most of the squad returning. Possible reasons included the death of player’s brother, but more had to have been going on than that. Taylor’s tendency to be calm on the sidelines was seen as a weakness when the season was falling apart. The lockeroom must have had issues that never came to the surface. If it was an NBA team or a bigger school we would know what happen but the internal issues from this season appears to remain a mystery. This season marked three straight years of missed opportunities.


With losses from graduation and transfers Ball State had plenty of issues coming into this season. Forward Majok Majok and guards Jauwan Scaife and Jesse Berry made a season out of it leading Ball State to the 5 seed in the MAC tournament. But terrible early season losses, including a blowout from Indiana State at home killed fan interest. Not that there was much interest going into the season anyway. A loss to Buffalo in the second round of the MAC tournament sealed Taylor’s fate.

The last two seasons got away from Taylor with missed opportunities in the two seasons before that. Taylor never got to the MAC tournament final but then again no else did from the MAC West in that time either. I can’t say he failed as the program is much stronger today than it was when he came in. Kids graduated and we did not have any big scandals for six years. The next coach who comes in will have a program that’s just in need of improvement on the court. That should make it a job somebody wants.

As for Taylor I feel like he can still be a head coach somewhere else. Good luck.

BSU Football has a Schedule, Hoop Cards Start MAC Tourney Wednesday

It’s been relatively quiet around the Cards’ nest since National Signing Day, and as I emphasize more often than not, in the offseason, quiet is good. This time of the year, the only football teams that get significant headlines are national powerhouse programs or smaller market teams that have players that fire off uzis in a Pizza Hut bathroom. Thankfully, BSU football is neither the latter nor regrettably, the former. But that doesn’t mean that BSU football doesn’t have a story to tell this time of the year. It’s a short story, but a story all the same.

ball state schedule 2013The more sizable of the two main BSU football news of note is that the MAC released their version of the schedule, thus making it possible to compile a complete BSU football agenda for the fall. Hat tip for the version of it at left.

At first glance, you’ll see the out of conference schedule is not quite the murderer’s row that BSU fans had grown accustomed to in the past. Two home games, one of which is FCS Illinois State. Virginia and North Texas, both on the road, went 4-8 last season preventing the sort of worry and dread that the likes of Michigan, Nebraska, and K-State have produced in the past. Army finished out 2012 2-10. And for the record, Illinois State clocked in a 8-3 regular season and ended up winning their first-round FCS playoff game against App State and then losing to Eastern Washington. As much as it pains me to say this, Illinois State may very well be the most talented and toughest to beat team on the Cards’ 2013 schedule out of conference.

In-conference, the road games for the Cards are EMU, WMU, Akron, and NIU. The home crowd gets Toledo, Kent State, CMU, and Miami. For crossover opponents, Kent State and Akron were the top and bottom of the MAC East though I’d expect both to revert back more to the median this fall. I can’t say I’m super pumped about NIU on the road, but for me to complain at all about the conference schedule would be silly. The MAC certainly didn’t do BSU any favors, but they didn’t quite stick it to the Cards either. The conference schedule crossover I can live with.

My only real complaint is the out of conference schedule, but that is a small complaint if a legitimate one at all. I, among others, think that BSU is capable of pulling a 12 NIU and busting the BCS. However, I’m having trouble coming up with a scenario where an undefeated BSU team with this schedule can make that happen.

In 2008, the Cards used an exceptionally similar schedule to climb to #12, but most experts agree that even with a win against Buffalo in the MAC Championship, the Cardinals would not have made a BCS Bowl. This year’s similarity, schedule-wise is shocking. FCS team at home (08: Northeastern, 13: Illinois State), BCS AQ school on road (08: Indiana, 13: Virginia), service academy at home (08: Navy, 13: Army), non-AQ on road (08: Western Kentucky, 13: North Texas). The difference in my mind is that the MAC in 2008 with Dan Lefevour had significantly more eyes on them, meaning that the Cardinals could increase their standing with conference wins. If BSU runs roughshod over the out of conference schedule, I don’t see a team in-conference that the Cardinals won’t be favored over. That’s a good problem to have.

The mid-week games for the Cards also don’t present a significant schedule issue, as their two Wednesday games are bookended by open dates. No short weeks, no quick turnarounds. That’s a good thing as well. All in all, a nice little present to have this time of the year, and something to drool on as you scroll down the list and make the W’s in your head for what could be a significantly special season for the Cardinals.

Spring Is Here

The spring schedule for the Cards has been released and you can check that out here. The Cards have a spring game on April 20th, and all practices before then are open to the public. You should check it out if you have the chance to. It’s a great way to feel some connection with the football program and get a glimpse into what kind of team will be on the field in the fall.

HoopCards Heading to Cleveland

The men’s and women’s basketball team are on their way to Cleveland where both did well enough in the regular season to advance them into the bracket without that pesky home game play-in nonsense. The men’s team plays Buffalo on Wednesday evening at 6:30 and the women got quite the bye, into the semi-finals. They won’t play until March 15th at 2:30, and the opponent will be either Akron, Miami, or Buffalo. At the midpoint of the season it seemed like a considerable long shot for either team to be a serious conference contender (and get the subsequent NCAA bid) so this is a nice thing to keep your eye on this week.

Can Scaife save season?

I must admit I did not see this coming.

While this is a Ball State football blog Ball State basketball is my favorite sport on campus. I have never left Worthen Arena saying “Man, I wish I did not go to the game.” I can’t say the same for Scheumann Stadium.

Jauwan Scaife is still open for three.

Jauwan Scaife is still open for three.

But after the Cardinals crashed and burned a season ago and saw key players transfer I assumed the 2012-13 season would be one to forget. So much so I chose to not attend a single home game this year. Not being a student living in Muncie anymore made that an easy goal.
For most of the season it appeared to be a smart choice. In November, Ball State was getting demolished at home by the likes of Indiana State. December and January were not that much better as the Cardinals were dropping winnable MAC games. The low point being a second half disappearing act in a lost to cannon fodder Central Michigan back in January.

A home loss to Ohio on Feb. 6 caused a series of tweets that were truly embarrassing. Even the Code Red Dance seemed to be on defensive boasting about having to stay the whole game.

basketball tweet 1bb tweetbasketball tweet 2CRD tweet

The past few games though a switch has turned on. That switch being Senior guard and Muncie native Jauwan Scaife. Scaife has become the offensive weapon we thought he would be this past month starting with a 30-point outburst in a home win over MAC West leader Western Michigan. The Cardinals have won five of their last six and Scaife has been hitting his threes going 11-20 from behind the arc the past two games.

Ball State scored a big road win at Toledo Saturday bringing Ball State’s record to 13-14 (6-8 MAC). With the win the Cardinals are a lock to host a first round game of the MAC tournament. Something they were unable to do in last year’s wrecked season. A win at Western Michigan (unlikely) and a win versus Northern Illinois (take it to the bank) and Ball State will finish above .500. Even better, Ball State may slide up to a top 5 seed and grab a first round bye in the MAC tournament. This season was supposed to be a throw away to just get a new athletic director comfortable but it now has the chance to do some real positives. Who knows, if Ball State does damage in the MAC tournament Taylor may the coming back next year. Yes, I wrote this a year ago but it is not too late for Taylor to turn it around. When a team does not quit on its coach that is a great sign.

It looked like players quit on Taylor last year, partly because some thought he quit on them. I know from a source that even Scaife was upset about his role on the team last year and thought about leaving the team. That is why I am so happy to see Scaife perform the way he is right now. His freshman year Ball State fans were excited about his potential. That potential seemed to never materialize during his sophomore and junior years as Scaife lost playing time to guard Jesse Berry. Berry will probably be the face of the team next year for sure… assuming he does not transfer like his former teammates.

But for Scaife this is the happiest I have been for a Ball State athlete in a few years. It is not easy playing college ball in your hometown. College basketball is the hardest sport for an athlete to spend four years in one place because the player movement is so fluid compared to other sports. He truly has had to stick it out through some tough situations and will exit his senior year with nothing else to prove. Instead of saying “Jauwan Scaife had potential,” Ball State fans will be saying “Thank God that Jauwan Scaife kid persevered in his four years here.”

This program will more than likely be overhauled in the next few months, but because of Jauwan Scaife the 2012-2013 season is not something to be discarded just yet. Did not think I would say that three months ago. Heck, I might even drive up from Indy for the Northern Illinois game Saturday. How much are gas prices again?

Nathan Pace is a 2012 Ball State graduate and writes for the Southsider Voice newspaper.

The MAC’s one shining moment

Who would have thought that on a weekend the where Ball State gets a bowl bid the bigger story would be our bronze stalk rival Northern Illinois.Yes, your Ball State Cardinals are less than three weeks away from winning, cough, I mean playing in a bowl game against Central Florida. For those who were able to stomach the disinteresting Conference USA championship, you saw how UCF is not exactly strong. If the Cards can heal up they should take this one.

Losing to NIU in October actually scored Ball State a big pay check. Nice loss Cards!

Losing to NIU in October actually scored Ball State a big pay check. Nice loss Cards!

Plenty of other news overshadowed the bowl bid. Specifically, the Northern Illinois Huskies flipping the bird at the BCS. Kent State would have done the same had it had been on the other side of an epic MAC Championship Friday.

Northern jumped from 21 to 15 in the BCS standings thanks to teams like Texas, Nebraska, and UCLA losing.

During the week leading up to the MAC Championship game, ESPN did everything to promote the game talking how the winner could bust the BCS. Once that fantasy became a reality the worldwide leader in talking heads took a different tune.

Next thing I knew people I have been watching on College Gameday my whole life began ripping the Huskies a new one. Instead of talking about how monumental this was for a small schools everywhere it was all NIU does not belong and never will belong.

Does NIU belong in the BCS? If Louisville and Wisconsin belong then they absolutely do. Heck, we were close Saturday night to a 6-6 Georgia Tech Tech team knocking off Florida State in the ACC championship. Had the Yellow Jackets won would Jesse Palmer tell them to go away too?

Instead all ESPN could talk about was how Kansas was the only good win NIU had all year and how it lost to Iowa. The Iowa game was at the start of the year when the Huskies were breaking in a new quarterback. Why did no one on ESPN mention that?

As Jordan Lynch adjusted, NIU became even better than they were a year ago.

No one could admit that the MAC is simply better than the Big East and has gotten to the point where winning in conference matters. Northern beat Ball State, Kent State, and Toledo. All are good teams who would have finished high in the Big East conference this year. Kent State won at Rutgers. Toledo beat Cincinnati, Western Michigan beat Connecticut, and Ball State beat South Florida involving what might have been the most memorable touchdown grab in Muncie.

Don’t forget Ohio’s win over Penn State. Penn State actually finished 8-4 which inflated the MAC’s rankings with the computers. Even Central Michigan got in on the act topping Iowa on the road. And of course, Ball State beat the school from Bloomington with the ugly logo.

Bottom line, the MAC killed it in non conference action this year and had a whopping seven bowl eligible teams this year. The best part all seven got in.

That is a good conference. More worthy than the geography challenged Big East of having an automatic bid.

You might not like it ESPN, but as Dr. Phil would say in a dumb car commercial, “Tough tinsel.”

As for the game Ball State and the MAC has a lot on the line with this year’s Orange Bowl. If Northern is blown out then we have some credibility issues going forward. From observing the Big Ten the last few years, having a lack of credibility from bad bowl defeats can cripple a conference for future postseasons.

On the other side if Northern does well then I would not be surprised if another conference makes a play for the Huskies. As desperate as the Big East and Conference USA have been the last few weeks, an invitation is probably already in the mail. Tulane and East Carolina? Really Big East?

Maybe ESPN was intentionally bashing NIU Sunday night in their bowl selection show to drum up interest for the game. Think about it. If Oklahoma was playing Florida State it would just be another BCS bowl with no implications on the national championship. Instead the Orange bowl is now highly intriguing. It is similar to the Fiesta bowl with Boise State and Oklahoma a few years ago. How many other Fiesta Bowl games can you recall? That game and ….

In short, it’s a big game. Especially with the money being pumped in. Maybe Ball State can stop charging student fees? HAHA!

Rick Majerus

The other big news for Ball State this weekend was the passing of a former coaching great. When Rick Majerus coached Ball State to the sweet sixteen I was in diapers. Instead I only know him as a rotund man coaching Utah against my Kentucky Wildcats in big games.

Whenever Majerus would come in conversations I had with Muncie natives their eyes would light up. That pretty much says it all. Majerus did for the basketball program what Brady Hoke did for the football program. If anyone has any Majerus stories please share them in the comments.

Well Central Florida I guess we are no longer friends for the next few weeks. May the best team win. Oh wait, that’s us.

Jarrod Jones Hits the Job Market

Jarrod Jones can give Ball State basketball fans something to cheer about Thursday if NBA teams give the man a chance.

This Thursday may be a big night for Ball State, but for Jarrod Jones it is going to be a big night no matter what.

Whether you love the NBA draft or not Ball State can use the positive news of Jarrod Jones getting picked. Let’s face it, the winter and spring sports seasons did not go according to plan. With the both the women’s basketball and baseball coaches resigning along with the men’s basketball coach under fire it’s been a long six months of 2012 for Ball State sports.

Sure, the softball team won the conference regular season title and men’s volleyball upset Ohio State at home but the bad has outweighed the good.

The NBA draft is a chance to break the streak. If Jones is picked then maybe fans go from burying the basketball teams to a positive spin for next season. Heck, Billy Taylor will have the “I recruited and coached and NBA draft pick” defense the next time fans call for his head. For Ball State to produce a draft pick it is a big deal, no matter when he is drafted.

If Jones does not get drafted fans have to wait for the football opener to snap the streak of negativity in 2012 and we all know that Eastern Michigan is not a sure thing anymore.

I know many Ball State fans have their doubts about Jones in the NBA. Hearing his name on mock drafts or seeing scouts in Worthen Arena appeared to give fans more puzzling looks than excitement.

There is a market for Jones. His senior season he developed his jump shot to the point where he was launching threes. A 6’9’’ guy who pushes defenders to the perimeter has potential value as a power forward in the NBA. Tall men who can shoot are hard to come by giving Jones a chance to be drafted.

The video below show Jones doing everything he can to bring Ball State back in their game with IUPUI. Jones scores, rebounds, and is fouled inside a minute of action. Ball State would go on to lose in what turned out to be the final game in Conseco before it was renamed Banker’s Life.

On the negative side one could say that since Jones was focusing on his jumper he lost his aggressiveness as a post player senior year. Detractors also point out his relatively skinny frame will hinder him more in the NBA than it did in college. It was frustrating to watch opponents put less talented big men on Jones but were able to guard him because of their girth. This was the result of Jones having to play center or the five spot even though his body was suited for the four. Jones was pretty much the only big the Cardinals could roll out to play that position so he was forced to guard players with weight advantages. When he played with the added muscle of Malik Perry junior year the Cardinals had more success.

Jones does not have to worry about being double teamed as often in the NBA. MAC coaches gave Jones first priority as defenders would swarm every time he touched the ball. If Ball State’s guards failed to hit jumpers, Jones did not have a chance to reach his potential. Jones will not be the only threat on his new NBA team. Then again what if he gets drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats?

I would love my Pacers to draft him. Jones has to be better than say Jeff Pendergraph. If you do not know who that is that is the point. Sadly, Indiana traded their second rounder to Toronto to rent Leandro Barbosa for three months enabling him to commit turnover after turnover against the Miami Heat. How did that work out?

Turn this ship around Jones. For the first time I will be watching the second round of the NBA draft like it is a playoff game.

Big Weekend for Ball State Volleyball and the MAC

Ball State Men’s Volleyball Upsets No. 10 Ohio State

Ball State snapped an 11-match losing streak to Ohio State Sunday winning 3-2 (21-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-23, 15-12) in one of the best performances I have seen in person as a Ball State fan.

The win meant clearing a mental hurdle for Ball State. Hopefully, Ball State can get back to winning MIVA championships in the future. Ohio State can no longer claim Muncie as a second residence and that is a start.

Whenever Ball State takes one from the juggernaut from Columbus it is time to celebrate.

What is shocking is this Ball State team only has one senior on the roster and were still able to win. Even more shocking is Ball State gave away the first and third sets as it had chances in both. This match did not have to go five sets.

The fact is men’s volleyball games are typically more exciting to the student body than basketball and football games in my four years here.

The men’s volleyball team has the ability to compete for national championships (few schools have a team) if adequately funded.  Coach Joel Walton has had to build a team with a meager amount of scholarships in the past. Tom Collins has increased the team’s budget in recent years but it could be a moot point when the new athletic director comes in.

President Gora has a huge decision ahead of her. She could find an athletic director that is all about football and let the other sports fight for themselves. Or she could hire one who is dedicated to the “Olympic” sports. Mid-majors like Ball State do not have the resources to go all out in both.

Personally, I want the latter. The geography favors Ball State in both basketball  and volleyball.  Muncie is the volleyball capital of the Midwest and the state is loaded with great basketball players. Indiana is weaker than Ohio and Michigan in terms of high school football talent.

Given the chance, the men’s and women’s volleyball programs can do some special things. I hope the new athletic director is more than accommodating to those programs.

Billy Taylor is Back

Collins made it clear that Billy Taylor will be returning as men’s basketball coach next season. In other news women’s basketball coach Kelly Packard bit her last fingernail as no word has come down on her future.  The fingernail part is a joke but why say one coach is back without mentioning the other?

Here is a quote from Collins in the news release.

“When we hired Coach Taylor we knew we were in for a major rebuilding project in regards to our men’s basketball program. When he became our coach prior to the 2007 season, we had to address many concerns within the program.  There were on-court issues, academic issues, APR and compliance concerns.  In addition, we had severe community and public relations issues.  Coach Taylor and his staff have done an outstanding job and worked tirelessly to improve our program in many areas.  Although, we were all disappointed with the 2011-12 season, it will not deter us from reaching all of our goals with the program and with its place in Ball State University’s mission.”

There is enough spin in that paragraph to make Bill O’Reilly sick. We do not know how much impact of having a lame duck athletic director had to do with this but given the flimsy “APR” defense we know it had quite a bit. Nothing inspires fan support and sells tickets like good APR scores.

Nice smile Billy. That is more emotion than what we see in some of your games.

The new argument for Ball State having a chance next season in the Muncie Star Press is the quantity of 3-point shooters. Ball State had plenty of 3-point shooters this past year so it is not an argument that makes a great deal of sense.

Ball State needs guard Juwan Scaife back to his former self. Once Taylor benched him in favor of other guards he became frustrated. If Scaife is not a key part of the offense and fails to take the role as senior leader the season will be get away from Ball State quick.

Ohio Advances to the Sweet Sixteen

With Ohio showing up Big Ten and Big East teams I hope the days of the MAC champion getting a 13 seed or worse are over.  Akron was a 15 last year and Ohio was a 14 two years ago.

MAC fans know the conference is better than that as the rest of the country is discovering. Akron was not even seen as bubble team this year. We will see a MAC school get an at-large bid to the big dance sometime this decade. Maybe Ball State will be that team with their amazing 3-point shooting next year.

While we are at it maybe Newt Gingrich will be president.

Time for the OTP Bracket Challenge

If you know who this is, you're a basketball fan. If you don't, you'll probably win the pool.

7 days, ladies and gents. That’s all we have left until your Thursday stops being productive at approximately 12:01pm. For many, myself included, things like work, socializing, and/or sleeping begins to become secondary when maybe the two best days of sports happen. Of course, I’m talking about the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. (NOTE: Yes, I know they have now rebranded the Tuesday play in games as the first round. I refuse to acknowledge this. Deal with it.) But even more exciting than watching the games is being able to compete with friends, colleagues, or strangers about who can randomly select basketball games the best. Competition? Basketball? No other sports happening to speak of? Prizes? No entry fee? Sign you up, right?

How about you sign yourself up, Mr. (or Ms.) Lazypants. We’ve really done most of the hard work anyway, including but not limited to, lauding Kentucky since the season started. Your welcome for the advice. As for the game, we’re running this through Yahoo Sports this year. The link you’d need to sign up is this one. If you don’t have a Yahoo! username and password, you’ll need to make one, then you’ll need to let me know how you made it through the 90s without one. Continue to read on if you’d like some info about the rules, prizes, etc. Or if you really want to live dangerously, just blindly charge on without really knowing what you’re doing. I’m sure that strategy has flaws, but I’ll be damned if I know what they are.

Some things to note about the rules and such as this isn’t your run of the mill bracket challenge. The finer details:

  • Unlike prior years where people went banana sandwich with multiple entries, this contest is limited to one entry per contestant. If you want to be shady and create multiple Yahoo! accounts just to win a fairly unimpressive prize, then so be it. We would probably need to have a talk about how you value your time however.
  • The scoring system is a little different from the stock Yahoo! scoring. As the rounds progress, the scoring for correct picks increase. 1 point for a first round correct pick, 32 points for picking the national champion.
  • The twist this year is we’re throwing in some upset bonuses. Up until the Final 4, picking lower seeded teams gives you bonus points, assuming you get it right. The difference in seeding multiplied by a round-specific number gives you your total bonus points. Example: Louisville is a 5th seed. They get beat by 12th seeded Morehead State in the first round. Again. The seed difference is 7, the round multiplier is 1, and if you picked Morehead, you get the 1 point for the correct pick and 7 bonus points for 8 total. First two rounds have a multiplier of 1, next two rounds have a multiplier of 2. The Final 4 has no multiplier.

    Upset Multipliers and Round Scoring

  • As mentioned, there is no buy in.

Everyone loves prizes, and it’s time once again to do a little spring cleaning in the OTP Prize closet. Here’s what’s up for grabs:

  • Overall winner: Mini-helmet of the college team of their choosing. We are a football blog after all.
  • Highest First Round Score: To be decided. We’ll figure something out and throw it on the group’s message board.
  • Most Creative Entry Name: A random piece of memorabilia of our choosing. We will take your fan allegiance into consideration, but not a guarantee. This is a highly subjective decision decided by Edge, RV, and myself. We may narrow it down to finalists and let the collective vote. Know your audience if you’re trying to get on our good sides.

That’s the long and the short of it, boys and girls. Get yourself signed up and enjoy the next week of talking heads, prognosticators, and learning how someone’s aunt won their office pool three years ago by picking the fiercest mascots, or how a neighbor won their bracket by selecting based on the attractiveness of the starting point guard. March Madness, indeed.

Is Tonight Billy Taylor’s Last Stand?

Billy Taylor is in a much better position of Ball State coaches who have lost their jobs. Take a look at his competition.

Stan Parrish: Last stand came in 2010 when Ball State football took winless Eastern Michigan to overtime and lost at home destroying the hearts of the 20 fans who still believed in him.

Ronny Thompson: Last stand came in court. Enough said.

Those two examples are not exactly glorious. Just add some Chicago Bulls music and Taylor is five times better off. Here are some reasons why Taylor should return or hit the road after the season.

Reasons for Taylor’s return.

The” bad hand” argument: Taylor inherited a total disaster of a basketball program in 2007 from Thompson and fans all knew it would take time to repair. Taylor had plenty of forgiveness for losses as fans saw progress for the program as a whole each year, well until 2012. Not many wanted to coach at Ball State when he took the job and Taylor deserves a lot of credit for taking a chance on Ball State.

The “good guy” argument: After Thompson, any guy who is normal is seen as a saint. Add to the fact how calm Taylor is on the sideline shows more proof of the “good guy” mentality.  No one has ever said anything bad about Taylor the person.

The “who is going to replace him” argument: Rick Majerus is not walking through that door. A new coach would have to maintain the players signed on for next year, and be able to relate for Muncie. Does not sound too hard but how many coaches have been hired and fired at Ball State because he or she was not good fit in East Central Indiana?

The “able to recruit Indiana” argument: Taylor has been able to keep local players in Muncie and that is no small achievement. Jarrod Jones, Randy Davis, Jauwan Scaife, Tyrae Robinson, Chris Bond, Tyler Koch, are all Indiana boys. MAC schools are not going to recruit nationally but keeping the shields up locally is encouraging as high school players are not turned off to the program.

Reason’s for Taylor’s dismissal.

The “It’s all downhill from here” argument: With Jarrod Jones and Randy Davis graduating one can say Ball State has maxed out after this season. Hard to see how the Cardinals will be better next year so might as well end the Taylor era now.

The “team has quit listening to him” argument: This is something that is hard to prove. Fans question the effort of the players but that does not mean the players have turned on Taylor. If it is true that the players have lost all confidence in him then it is clearly time for a coaching change. This is something that Taylor can prove false tonight by Ball State playing hard from start to finish at Western Michigan. Fans want to see a will to win in the Cardinals tonight and if they do not then the hot seat will get hotter for Taylor.

The “bad schedule” argument: The days of Ball State playing teams worthy of Yorktown and Muncie Southside seems to be getting on the nerves of Cardinals fans. Fans are accusing Ball State of getting fat on cupcakes in non-conference play to the point where the team cannot compete in MAC action. Personally I think this is a bogus argument as this is a team with seniors who know about MAC play all ready. Butler, Morehead State, and IUPUI are similar to MAC teams so it is not like Ball State was not ready for the MAC.

The “not inspiring players” argument: Ball State has had collapses before under Taylor. Two years ago Ball State dropped all the way down to the eight seed in the MAC tournament. With Ball State dropping down to the nine seed this year many are questioning Taylor’s ability to lead. This is where his calmness on the sideline does not help. Some fans see it as apathy, but Taylor is not one to yell at a player in public. What goes on in practice and closed meetings stay in those places. I seriously think Taylor would benefit from wearing a microphone during a game or in practice and posting the recording on the school’s website. This would persuade some fans that he is actually working on the sidelines.

The wild card.

The new athletic director: With the men’s and women’s basketball coaches trying to keep their jobs nothing causes more chaos than having a lame duck AD in Collins who really wants to just ease his way out. The new AD may want to put his (or her) stamp on the program with his own hire. If that is the case then no matter what Taylor does tonight in MAC tournament he is out of luck.

Tonight at the Broncos

The fact is Taylor put himself in this position. Injuries and suspensions have happened this year, but not to the point where it warrants as an excuse. Fans know Ball State has the talent to be better than the ninth best team in the MAC.

Ball State does not need to win the MAC tournament for Taylor to keep his job, but the team must prove it still wants him as head coach with strong performances. Going one and done as Western could be game over.

Ball State beat the two weakest teams in the MAC to close out the regular season this past week but did so unconvincingly. Trailing Northern Illinois (four wins on the year) at halftime on senior day is offensive. Ball State was clearly a better team yet Northern acted like the game was more important to them. That cannot happen tonight.

Best case scenario is the Cardinals wake up tonight. Jones gets 20 points and 10 boards. The guards play defense on the perimeter for the first time this season and make shots of their own.

Worst case scenario is Ball State continues to let three-point shooters get open. Jones continues to struggle. Davis gets upset near the end of a certain loss and starts punching people like he is Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest. Taylor is fired, players transfer, recruits decomitt and the basketball program enters another dimension called the Ronny Thompson Zone. That sounded like one of those new commercials for satellite TV.

Honestly, I hope Taylor is back next year. I hope I am not in minority of Cardinals fans who feel this way. Taylor fits in here in Muncie and like I said that is not an easy find. Some wins this week should quiet the critics long enough to give him another year.

Show us what you got Billy Taylor. This may be your last chance to do so.