Sports Outside the Beltway

Crystal Ball Time

My annual sports predictions for the upcoming year. Due to some unknown reason, I skipped doing this a year ago. What matters is I came back, right?

1 Cleveland beats the LA Lakers for the NBA Championship
2 Indianapolis defeats Arizona in the Super Bowl Crystall ball
3 San Jose defeats Washington for the Stanley Cup
4 St. Louis beats the Los Angeles Angels in the World Series
5 Tiger Woods returns to golf, wins at least one tournament but no major championships. That is a risky prediction in light of the fact that Tiger has won majors on 3 of this year’s host courses.(Augusta National, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews)
6 Phil Mickelson wins the US Open
7 Michelle Wie wins at least two tournaments, one of which is a major championship
8 Ji Yai Shin is LPGA player of the year
9 A non-Korean golfer will be LPGA rookie of the year
10 Yu-Na Kim wins figure skating gold at the 2010 Olympics
11 The Miami Dolphins don’t make this year’s playoffs but have a winning 2010 season
12 The Miami Heat make the playoffs but lose in the 1st round
13 The Florida Marlins have a winning record but don’t make the playoffs
14 Urban Meyer doesn’t return as coach of the Florida Gators
15 Joe Paterno announces his retirement after the 2010 Penn State season is complete
16 The Florida Panthers don’t make the playoffs
17 The Florida Panthers trade Goalie Tomas Vokoun
18 Manny Pacquiao loses to Floyd Mayweather
19 Kansas defeats Purdue for the NCAA Basketball Championship
20 Texas defeats Alabama in the BCS Championship game
21 Army has a winning football season and gets a bowl invitation
22 Washington Redskins fire Coach Jim Zorn
23 Serena Williams wins at Wimbledon
24 Versus and Directv finally settle their dispute
25 A North American horse racing track closes its doors.
26 Sebastian Vettel wins the Formula World Drivers Championship
27 New York Rangers fire Coach John Tortorella
28 The New Jersey Nets don’t finish with the worst record in NBA history
29 Connecticut defeats Tennessee for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship
30 At least half these predictions are wrong

We’ll come back on December 31st 2010 and see how I did.


Army hires Cornell assistant Zach Spiker to be men’s basketball coach

He replaces the recently fired Jim Crews. From the Times Herald-Record-

(Athletic Director) Anderson confirmed that Spiker agreed to a six-year deal. The Academy will introduce its new hire at a news conference at 3 p.m. Tuesday at West Point.

Spiker, who was on campus for an interview this week, expected to leave Cornell on Saturday morning and arrive at his new home on the Hudson Saturday afternoon

Army hasn’t had a winning season in 25 years. In light of the recruiting restrictions placed on service academies, Spiker will have a hard time reversing that trend.

Why did Army fire Crews only days before his basketball team was to begin practicing for the 2009-10 season?

He replaces Jim Crews, who last month was fired after being accused of physically and verbally abusing players.

If Crews abused his players, his firing is justifiable. I think abuse of college athletes is more common than the few and far between reports of it that emerge sometimes.


Army fires basketball coach Jim Crews

He played college ball at Indiana for former Black Knights head coach Bobby Knight. From AP-

Army fired Jim Crews as men’s basketball coach after seven seasons with the academy.

“There was a series of events that led me down the path to determine that I needed to make a change in leadership of the men’s basketball program and terminate coach Crews’ contract,” athletic director Kevin Anderson said in a statement. “I am very disappointed with some things that have come to my attention in recent days and I have decided that it is in the best interests of the basketball program and the institution to terminate our relationship.”

The timing of Crews’ firing is odd considering teams were allowed to start team workouts for two hours a week beginning Sept. 15. Official team practice begins Oct. 16.

Army was 60-139 in seven seasons with Crews. Crews, who coached at Evansville and played for Bob Knight at Indiana on the undefeated 1976 team, recently came back from a goodwill mission to Iraq with other coaches and ESPN analysts Fran Fraschilla and Steve Lavin, coaching U.S. troops during a basketball tournament.

Based on his record, Crews firing is justifiable. In light of the military service required of cadets and how that affects recruiting, I just don’t think Crews replacement will be able to make Army competitive on a year to year basis.


Former Heisman winner Doc Blanchard dead at 84

He played for Army in the mid-40′s. Because of his military obligation on graduation from the academy, he never played pro football but instead flew fighter planes in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. RIP.

Felix “Doc” Blanchard, who won the 1945 Heisman Trophy and teamed with Glenn Davis to form one of the most famous backfields in college football history, died at his home in Bulverde, Texas, on Saturday, according to family members. He was 84.

Blanchard and Davis helped lead Army to a 27-0-1 record from 1944-46, the only blemish coming in a famous 0-0 tie against Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 7, 1946.

New York Sun columnist George Trevor first described the bruising Blanchard as “Mr. Inside” and the swifter Davis as “Mr. Outside.” Along with Notre Dame’s famed “Four Horsemen,” “Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside” were perhaps college football’s most recognizable backfields.

Behind Blanchard and Davis, Army won consecutive national championships in 1944-45 and finished unbeaten again in 1946. The 1944 Army team averaged 56 points and allowed only 3.9. Army won 25 consecutive games before tying the Fighting Irish in 1946.

In a 28-game career, Blanchard scored 38 touchdowns, leading the country in scoring in 1945. Blanchard also played linebacker on defense and handled the team’s kicking duties.


Former NFL and NCAA Coach Lou Saban dead at 87

Saban, who was a distant relative of Nick Saban, had a history of never liking to stay long at University or pro team he worked for. Ask the University of Cincinnati, where Saban was AD for 19 days before taking the Miami Hurricane head coaching job.

I remember him mainly for his two year tenure at the University of Miami. Army was looking for a new head coach and wanted to talk to one of Saban’s assistants. Instead Saban said he was interested in the job. His abrupt departure from Coral Gables had some local sportswriters predicting doom for the Hurricanes.(Saban was 3-8 and 6-5 in his two years at Miami) Four years later, Howard Schnellenberger took the Hurricanes to a National Championship, where as Saban would spend the rest of his coaching days at places like Peru State and the Arena Football league. RIP Lou.


Ellerson leaves Cal Poly to take over at Army

Three of his family members went to the US Military Academy. From ESPN-

Rich Ellerson, who led Cal Poly to the FCS football playoffs this season and is considered one of the top coaches in the country at running the triple-option offense, has been picked to rebuild the Army football program.

Ellerson, 60-41 in his career as a head coach and 56-34 at Cal Poly, takes over for Stan Brock, who was fired on Dec. 12, days after the Black Knights lost to Navy 34-0.

Army went 3-9 in 2008 for the third straight season. Brock was 6-18 in two seasons as head coach.

“One of our primary goals of the search was to find someone capable of turning around our program immediately and we are confident Rich is the perfect individual to accomplish that,” Army athletic director Kevin Anderson said in a school-issued news release.

Ellerson’s offensive philosophy of running the triple option is appealing to Army, which uses the option as a base offense. He also has family ties to West Point.

Army hasn’t had a winning season in over a decade. Ellerson has his work cut out for him.


Army fires football coach Stan Brock

He had led the Black Knights for two years. From AP-

Army football coach Stan Brock has been fired.

Army athletic director Kevin Anderson notified Brock of the decision on Friday, six days after the Black Knights completed their season with a 34-0 loss to archrival Navy — their seventh straight loss to the Midshipmen. Brock compiled a 6-18 record in two years as coach.

Army, which finished 3-9 in each of Brock’s seasons, has not had a winning record since 1996.

Brock, a former NFL offensive lineman, served as Army’s offensive line coach for three years before replacing Bobby Ross in early 2007. He had no previous Division I college coaching experience.

Anyone with a theory as to why Army lags behind Air Force and Navy so far as their football programs go? Navy and Air Force have been if not top 25 teams, competitive and able to land a spot in a bowl game on a regular basis but not Army.


Navy defeats Army for the 7th straight time

The annual meeting between the two service academies was fought yesterday.

With President George W. Bush in attendance, Shun White ran for 148 yards and scored two touchdowns to lead bowl-bound Navy over Army 34-0 Saturday for its seventh straight win in the storied rivalry between service academies.

“We know what those guys go through. They go through the same things we do,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said. “For this one game, we’re trying to beat each other’s brains in. After it’s all said and done, we know we’ll be standing shoulder-to-shoulder to serve our country.”

Army (3-9) debuted camouflage helmets, pants and uniform numbers, and the backs of their jerseys had the words “Duty. Honor. Country.”

The Black Knights’ makeover was sharper than their play. Navy (8-4) got a 65-yard TD run from White on the third play of the game and improved to 53-49-7 overall against Army for its biggest lead in a series that began in 1890.

With Army bowlless since 1996 and without a winning season for almost as long, Navy looks likely to dominate this series for some time to come.


Army’s Caleb Campbell Drafted by Detroit Lions

Army’s Caleb Campbell Drafted by Detroit Lions Caleb Campbell, a safety out of West Point, has been drafted in the 7th round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.

At 218, he’s going to be one of the last players chosen this year but, because of the circumstances surrounding the pick, ESPN has been featuring him heavily in its coverage today. The Army has changed its rules to allow its graduates to go directly to the NFL and, if they can make the team, to fulfill their obligation via recruiting duty and service in the Army Reserve. I discussed this rule change almost exactly two years ago at OTB. Since its inception, this is the first time that it has been invoked.

Only a handful of elite athletes have gone on the play major sports. Navy’s Roger Staubach (Dallas Cowboys) and David Robinson (San Antonio Spurs) are the most prominent examples. Air Force’s Chad Henning (Dallas Cowboys) and Navy’s Napolean McCallum (Los Angeles Raiders) are other. All of them except McCallum, who was granted waivers because he was too tall after a growth spurt as a sophomore, were required to serve five years of active duty before joining their teams. Obviously, this both impedes the ability of the academies to recruit blue chip athletes and hinders the pro sports potential of graduates.

The ESPN coverge on Campbell focused on the fact that his classmates will graduate and serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, risking death, while he’s just going to have to risk concussions. But the amount of positive coverage his story is generating shows why the military thought this rule change worth making.

His gaining coach at Detroit, Rod Marinelli, is a Vietnam vet. His first coach at Army, Bobby Ross, is also a veteran — and, oddly enough, a former head coach of the Detroit Lions.


Coach Bobby Knight resigns from Texas Tech

He won his 900th game as a head coach last month. From AP-

LUBBOCK, Texas – Bob Knight resigned Monday at Texas Tech, a stunning midseason move by the winningest men’s coach in major college basketball.

Known as much for his fiery temper as his basketball brilliance, Knight gave no hint a change was coming. He will be replaced by his son, Pat, a Red Raiders assistant.

Chris Cook, a spokesman for athletic director Gerald Myers, confirmed the resignation, which was first reported by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

Related links
Bob Knight’s milestone wins
In September, Knight signed a three-year contract extension that runs through the 2011-12 season. In 2005, Pat Knight was appointed his father’s successor.

“Coach Knight has had a great career. His coaching record speaks for itself. His love for basketball is clear, but most importantly his love for teaching and the students has been a hallmark of his tenure here at Texas Tech,” said Sally Logue Post, a spokeswoman for Texas Tech.

Bob Knight has 902 career wins, more than any coach in the history of Division I men’s basketball. Win No. 900 came last month against Texas A&M. The Red Raiders are 12-8 this season.

Knight arrived at Texas Tech in March 2001, six months after being fired by Indiana for what school officials there called a “pattern of unacceptable behavior.”

I expect Knight is done with coaching. He certainly was a successful if controversial coach. Good luck in retirement Bobby.


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