Monthly Archives: October 2013

An American Stonehenge: Weird university abbreviations on the Great Plains

Adolph Rupp of UK and Phog Allen of KU holding a ball that for some reason says "KU vs KU." It's all so confusing.

Phog Allen of Kansas (KU), Adolph Rupp of Kentucky (UK), and a very confusing ball. Maybe the inscription referred to the fact that Rupp was a KU graduate. Maybe UK used to be called KU. Or maybe it had something to do with Bronze Age pagan rituals and the summer solstice.

At 345 of Division I’s 351 member institutions, the commonly accepted abbreviation of the school’s name preserves the sequence of the words being abbreviated. Take for instance the case of two Big Ten flagship universities in adjoining states that each begin with the letter “I.” “The U of I” denotes the University of Illinois, while “IU,” indubitably enough, refers to Indiana University.

Basically this is a proven system of human discourse, but try telling that to the brazen abbreviation-inverting iconoclasts sprinkled thinly across our nation’s Great Plains. Out there between the Mississippi River and the Rockies, all abbreviation heck breaks loose. Continue reading

What Duke Assistant Coach Syndrome taught us about athletic directors

Left: alum. Right: athletic director about to make a hire.

Left: a fan. Right: athletic director about to make a hire.

Hiring a coach is like throwing a paper airplane. You can persuade yourself that your design is the best, and you can even solicit the advice of self-proclaimed paper airplane experts. But at the moment of release you have no idea what will actually happen. And an athletic director’s job performance is more or less defined by one or two such throws, because every team’s most vocal fans possess unsurpassed omniscience on the subject of throwing paper airplanes. Continue reading

Kansas is your team of the century so far


Sometimes I feel like we make evaluating performance more difficult than it needs to be. Like when I see people touting a point guard who shoots 29 percent on his threes as the preseason national POY. What if he golfed? “We’re pleased to announce our choice as the 2014 PGA Preseason Player of the Year. The one facet of his game that could use improvement is recording fewer strokes over 18 holes.”

Anyway, in the spirit of straightforward evaluation, here are your teams of the century. There’s a good chance Nebraska, Northwestern, Oregon State, Providence, Rutgers and South Carolina will all merit mention here sometime before 2099. Their inspiration should be Minnesota, which just made the list in 2013. Continue reading

NYT blames NCAA for Grambling boycott, World War I, Star Wars prequels

William C. Rhoden swears Grambling has something to do with the NCAA.

Shelbyville understands the connection between Grambling football and NCAA reform.

Grambling State’s football players boycotted last week rather than play a game against Jackson State, a course of action that seems eminently rational when your school’s athletic budget has dwindled to the point that wearing the team’s uniform puts you at risk for an infection. Meanwhile up in Indianapolis, the NCAA fairly swims in all of its cash.

Today the New York Times connects those two dots with help from Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association. Continue reading

Reigning Final Four teams, preseason polls and recency effect

The ACC held its media day this week, and the assembled members of the press caught my eye by picking Syracuse to finish second in the league behind Duke. That struck me as a tad rosy for a team that lost three starters from a group that outscored the Big East by just 0.07 points per trip last year.

If indeed the ACC’s pollsters are viewing the world through Orange-colored glasses, my first ad hoc speculation was that this might be due to recency effect. Maybe the voters are thinking back to the incredible defense this team played on its way to the Final Four — and not of the more normal D this same team played during the Big East regular season.

That in turn led me to wonder whether past Final Four teams have been overrated in ensuing preseason league media polls. It turns out the answer to that question is a somewhat qualified yes….

Continue reading

High-major coaching hires are skewing older, not younger

The conventional wisdom holds that athletic directors are hiring younger and younger basketball coaches with each passing year. Certainly Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart showed what can happen when you hand the reins to an up-and-comer, right? And following in this same wake we now see precocious youngsters like Richard Pitino (head coach of Minnesota at the tender age of 31), Brandon Miller (Butler, 34), and even a familiar character like Josh Pastner (who, after all, is still just 36).

Verily, it is said, tomorrow belongs to these social-media-savvy cool guys. They “relate” to today’s recruits. They jump on the practice court and ball with their players. They blog. They tweet.

Those may indeed be good qualities for a coach to have, but it turns out the texting hipsters you’ve been hearing about are exceptions to an increasingly geriatric rule. If anything this is the golden age of geezers. There’s never been a better time to be a really old coach.

Consider the following active members of the coaching fraternity:

Continue reading