Sports Outside the Beltway

East Carolina hires Jeff Lebo to be its next basketball coach

He replaces Mark McCarthy. From the Charlotte Observer-

East Carolina has turned to former Auburn coach Jeff Lebo to lead its long-struggling men’s basketball program.

The school announced Monday it had hired Lebo to replace Mack McCarthy, who spent three seasons on the sideline for the Pirates before stepping down to take a fundraising job in the school’s athletics department. Lebo had spent the past six seasons at Auburn, going 96-93 overall before he was fired earlier this month.

The 43-year-old coach played at North Carolina under Dean Smith in the late 1980s and had coached at Tennessee Tech and Chattanooga previously.

The school has scheduled a news conference for Lebo on Tuesday.

Lebo inherits a difficult job at East Carolina, a Conference USAb school located in the shadows of instate Atlantic Coast Conference programs Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State.

East Carolina hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 1993 and has had only been .500 or better once since then. Lebo faces a next impossible task in turning around the Pirates fortunes.


Houston Cougars Basketball Coach Tom Penders resigns

Inconsistent play by the Conference USA team may have done him in. From AP-

Tom Penders has resigned as coach at Houston, ending a six-year tenure that culminated in the Cougars’ first trip to the NCAA tournament since 1992.Tom Penders

The Cougars qualified after winning the Conference USA tournament, but lost to Maryland 89-77 in the first round Friday night.

The 64-year-old Penders became just the eighth coach to take four different schools to the NCAA tournament. He had also led George Washington, Rhode Island and Texas there.

Penders has been successful whereever he has coached. Considering his age, I don’t know if Penders will want to try a fifth school.

The rumor mill is already at work in concern to who will be Penders’ replacement. Right now the name that is being floated around is Sam Houston State’s Bob Marlin.


Central Florida fires Basketball coach Kirk Speraw

The Knights last made the NCAA tournament in 2005. From AP-

Kirk Speraw is out after 17 years as Central Florida’s coach.Kirk Speraw

UCF announced Monday that Speraw would not be retained after a disappointing 15-17 season, ending one of the longest active tenures in the nation. Associate head coach Mike Jaskulski will serve as interim coach.

UCF athletics director Keith Tribble said in a statement that it “was not an easy decision, but one we felt will serve in the best interest of our program’s direction.”

Speraw finished as the school’s winningest coach with a 279-233 record.

UCF has always been a lesser college basketball in Florida. If the goal of the school is to upgrade the basketball program, the firing of Speraw makes sense. I just don’t think the Knights will be more than the 4th best school in the states for at least a few more years.


Houston Cougar WR fractures leg after running into cart

2008 must be the year for fluke injuries in sports. The latest happened in Marshall’s 37-23 defeat of Houston last night.

Nothing seemed to go right for the Cougars. They lost tackle Josh Bell to a torn Achilles tendon then later lost freshman wide receiver Patrick Edwards after he suffered a serious leg injury in the third quarter.

Edwards, running deep for a pass from Blake Joseph, ran out of the back of the end zone into a band equipment cart parked just beyond the out-of-bounds line. The impact, captured by ESPN’s cameras, caused a compound fracture of Edwards’ right leg according to the Houston Chronicle.

Cougars coach Kevin Sumlin told the Chronicle that while he had “his opinions” on the subject, he would offer no comment on such a dangerous situation. Houston athletics director Dave Maggard said he will pursue the subject with Marshall officials.

Having watched the video, I think Houston has a legitimate gripe. Equipment like the cart shouldn’t have been anywhere near the playing field.

If you want to see the video, click on the link at the top of this post.


Did the University of Central Florida practice a football player to death?

Players and coaches are telling entirely different stories as to how Ereck Plancher died last month. From the Orlando Sentinel-

Ereck Plancher, a 19-year-old receiver from Naples, was taken to a hospital March 18 and was pronounced dead about an hour after the workout, known as a “mat drill.”

A preliminary autopsy was inconclusive. Further tests are under way to determine the cause of Plancher’s death.

The UCF players, who asked for anonymity because they fear retribution from football coaches, said Plancher’s final practice was more intense than the basic-conditioning workout described by UCF officials.

Students on scholarship have a great deal to lose by speaking up. Whereas government officials want annonymity for a myriad of reasons when they leak which is often done for their egos, I’m more inclined to believe these students.

In an interview with the Sentinel, UCF coach George O’Leary and his football staff disputed the four players’ account of Plancher’s final practice.

“I did not see him struggle on the field,” O’Leary said of the morning Plancher died. “From my professional opinion, what should have been done for his care was being done.”

O’Leary’s professional opinion included puffing up his resume which when discovered caused him to resign as head coach of Notre Dame. This coach has lied when its suited his purposes in the past. Is he lying now?

The next part of the article is interesting.

The players said they decided to talk to Sentinel reporters because they were upset about the school’s portrayal of a “10-minute, 26-second” workout that included a “weights component” described by UCF Athletic Director Keith Tribble in a news conference the afternoon of Plancher’s death. UCF Executive Associate Athletic Director David Chambers a week later clarified Tribble’s statement, saying the workout lasted about 20 minutes. UCF spokesman Grant Heston said Thursday that officials were relaying what they thought was accurate information.

“We were acting on the best information we had available in the hours immediately after Ereck’s death,” Heston said. “Subsequently, we learned that the workout was lengthier than we originally believed.”

The school is backtracking already. UCF coaches had to know what drills were conducted. How or why misleading information was given out, I think we all can take a guess at that.

I’m putting the rest of the Sentinel article beneath the fold. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. George O’Leary may soon be out of work again. UCF gave this disgraced coach a second chance. If O”Leary is found to be lying, he should be fired. Football isn’t worth dying for.


On KU vs. Memphis

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that my bracket was terrible–I had Texas beating Memphis to advance to the Final Four, which just goes to show what I know. But I’m going to throw myself on the mercy of the court because I simply didn’t have much time to follow basketball this year, so my pro-KU, pro-Big 12 prejudices dominated my thinking about the brackets.

I’ve gotten caught up in a hurry so that I can fully savor tonight’s game.

On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, all I heard about in the media was about how there was simply no way that Kansas could beat UNC. After all, they had a high speed offense led by Tyler Hansbrough that had been shutting down defenses all year.

Well, after reading that I did some stats looking, and determined that while it was true that UNC had a high powered offense, it’s also true that KU does too–only one that’s more balanced and doesn’t depend on a single player for execution. So that real battle, I decided was going to be on the defensive end. It didn’t take long to conclude that here KU had a monster advantage–UNC’s defense was, at the time, ranked only 17th in the nation, and its performance tended to be worse against top-25 teams. So I went around obnoxiously telling everyone I talked to the game about on Friday and Saturday (before the game) that KU’s defense was going to be the reason why KU would win it.

And, as it turns out, I was right.

Defense, however, is not Memphis’s weak point. They’ve got some great action and good shot blockers, and have been consistently performing well all year. Indeed, as every sports columnist in the country has noted–KU and Memphis boast similar offensive strategies. I agree–we should be looking at a fast-paced, high scoring game. In all probability. And in a fast-paced, high scoring game, I have to give a slight edge to the Jayhawks. The simple reason?

Depth. KU is balanced enough down the bench that will simply have the ability to out-rotate players over Memphis. In a fast paced game, that can make all the difference. It certainly made a big difference against UNC, who staged a pretty scary comeback but couldn’t make it stick because their players just. got. tired.

There is also, I admit, something nagging me in the back of my mind. As noted above, I do agree with sports pundrity that we’re likely to see a fast-paced, high scoring game–lots of intensity and crowd pleasing steals and alley oops.

But here’s the thing…

Bill Self likes to mix it up. He likes to focus on other team’s weaknesses and stab at them, like he did with weak side defense against UNC. KU and Memphis typically play with similar styles–fast pace, etc. But where KU almost stumbled in the tournament was against Davidson–who managed to slow down the tempo of the game and make it a grinding defensive and outside shooting battle. Seeing as how Memphis plays a similar game to KU, one can’t help but wonder if a slower game might cause them to stumble, too.

So here’s where that might come in–when it comes to the frontcourt and post, KU has an edge over Memphis. I can’t help but wonder if it might not be a bad strategy for KU to simply slow the game down by playing a zone, eschewing their three-guard setup in favor of a big man in the middle and keeping Memphis to the perimeter, creating a lower-scoring, outside shooting battle. That’s the kind of game Self liked to coach when he started at KU, and still does it occasionally. I don’t honestly expect to see that, but I won’t be too surprised if it happens, either.

In either case, I do think that if KU can keep their mistakes to a minimum, they have an edge over Memphis and will take the national title for the first time in 20 years. We’ll know for sure tonight.


Baylor hires Univ. of Houston’s Art Briles as football coach

Not too long ago this would have been a move from one Southwest Conference school to another. From AP-

FORT WORTH, Texas – Houston coach Art Briles is next to take on the task of pulling Baylor out of the Big 12 basement.

Briles confirmed he was leaving in a news conference Wednesday at Houston after meeting with his players.

Baylor spokesman Nick Joos said a news conference was scheduled later in the day on the Waco campus to announce the school’s new football coach.

Briles led Houston to four bowls in his five seasons. He was offered the job Wednesday, a day after meeting with Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw in Dallas.

“Life is full of decisions. Sometimes, you have to look at things from a professional, personal standpoint,” Briles said. “Professionally, (Houston) … is great university with a situation I’m proud to be a part of. Personally, the move allows a person of my nature a little more security. When you’re getting up in my age, that’s an important factor in life.”

The Houston Chronicle reported on its Web site that Briles will get a seven-year contract for about $1.8 million per season. Briles, who turns 52 Monday, had four years left on his Houston contract with a base salary of $900,000 annually.

Briles replaces Guy Morriss, who was fired Nov. 18 after five seasons. Morriss’ firing came the day after the Bears (3-9) completed their 12th straight losing season with their 12th consecutive Big 12 loss, 45-14 to Oklahoma State.

Unless Briles’ status as UH coach was shaky for some unknown reason, this is certainly a down market move. Baylor has been hapless since Grant Teaff retired as head coach. I’m betting the 100% increase in salary was the motivating factor for Briles. Athletes, Coaches, plaintiffs in lawsuits are all alike. They never say it’s never about the money.


Conference USA may not fill all its bowl tie-ins

Not enough teams may get the six wins needed for a bowl game berth. From the Orlando Sentinel-

The Conference USA bowl scenario is going to get interesting over the last three weeks of the regular season.

Entering the week, UCF is one of four C-USA teams now eligible for bowl berths.

While Knights Coach George O’Leary was safe not to say his club was definitely going bowling by just reaching the necessary six victories Saturday with its win over Marshall, there doesn’t appear to be any scenario in which UCF will be left out of the postseason. Especially with UCF’s remaining opponents boasting a combined 7-20 record.

But C-USA is actually in danger of not qualifying enough teams to fill its six tie-ins this season. UCF, East Carolina, Houston and Tulsa all have six wins. But it may come down to the wire to get two more teams there.

The East Division’s bubble teams are Southern Miss (5-4) and Memphis (4-5).

The West’s only remaining candidate is UTEP, which is 4-5.

The Golden Eagles should be safe to get one more win with remaining games against Memphis on Saturday, followed by a trip to UTEP and a finale against Arkansas State (4-5).

UTEP will be favored Saturday at Tulane (2-7) but will have to upset either Southern Miss or win at UCF to get its sixth win of the year.

Memphis has it a little easier, hosting UAB (2-7) and SMU (1-8) after traveling to Hattiesburg.

I think the moral of the story is- There are too many darn bowl games. Outside of Oklahoma and Oregon, Who would watch a Oregon St-Tulsa game?(I’m making up a bowl match up)Does a 6-6 deserve a trip? I can remember Florida State getting no bowl bid after going 8-3 in 1978.


University of Memphis football player shot dead

From AP-

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A University of Memphis football player was fatally shot on campus in a targeted attack and classes were canceled Monday as a precaution, officials said.

“We found him with a bullet wound to the body and the ambulance took him to the hospital where he was pronounced (dead),” said Roger Prewitt, a Memphis Police inspector.

University police declined to release the name of the student, but the incident “may have involved a current or former football player,” said Bob Winn, associate athletic director at University of Memphis.

Taylor Bradford, 21, was taken to Regional Medical Center at 10:15 p.m. Sunday and pronounced dead, hospital spokeswoman Sandy Snell said.

Bradford, a 5-foot-11, 300-pound defensive lineman from Nashville, was a junior who transferred to Memphis after two seasons at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.

University officials closed residence halls on campus for about a half-hour after the shooting before police learned that the shooting was likely personal, spokesman Curt Gunther said.

Tragic. God bless Bradford’s family.

Note how schools are reacting since the Virginia Tech tragedy. A recent incident at Delaware State saw school officials take similar actions. Then why does VT President Charles Steger insist he wouldn’t do anything different? Other Universities have learned a lesson.


NFL Draft 2007 – Philadelphia Eagles Take Houston QB Kevin Kolb

NFL Draft Logo 2007 To the surprise of everyone not in their front office, the Philadelphia Eagles took Houston quarterback Kevin Kolb with the 36th pick in the draft, which was their first, having traded out of the first round to pick up a 3rd and 5th from the Dallas Cowboys.

Here is what Scouts, Inc. reports that he’s 6’3-1/8″, 218 pounds, and runs a 4.85 40. Their evaluation:

Strengths: Possesses a very good combination of size, arm strength and mobility. He has adequate height and is well-built. He shows above average arm strength with good zip on the deep out and on vertical throws. Shows good overall touch and knows how to lead his receivers on quick slants and crossing routes. Shows better accuracy in short-to-intermediate passing game than he does in the vertical passing game. He is an effective passer on the run. When on time with his delivery, he can fit the ball into tight spots that many other prospects in this class simply can’t hit. He shows good initial quickness and vision as a runner. He lacks explosive speed but is very much a threat to run. He is a tough, competitive and instinctive runner, who will break some tackles and find the first-down marker. He is intelligent and picks things up quickly. Coaches speak highly of his work ethic, leadership and dedication. He also has been extremely durable and has great experience.

Kevin Kolb Photo Weaknesses: Comes from a passer-friendly spread offensive scheme in college. He’s intelligent but his NFL learning curve could be steep — he has almost no experience in a pro-style scheme and he’s coming from the mid-major collegiate level. His decision making can be erratic and he must learn to do a better job of protecting the football. He has a bit of a wind-up delivery and will need some mechanical work in order to speed up his release. He also has a bit of a three-quarter delivery and will have too many passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, as a result. He is a streaky passer that will lose the “strike zone” at times. His deep ball sails too often. He still has room to improve in terms of finding “hot reads” and beating the blitz with his arm.

Overall: Kolb started all 13 games as a true freshman and was named Conference USA Freshman of the Year and selected to the All-Conference USA Third Team. He finished the season completing 61-percent of his attempts for 3,131 yards, 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions. In 2004, Kolb again started every game (11) and tallied 2,766 passing yards with a 56-percent completion percentage, threw 11 touchdown passes, and six interceptions. He returned for his third-consecutive year as Houston’s starter in 2005 (12 contests) and was named to the C-USA third team, when he completed 60.5-percent of his passes for 3,258 yards and 19 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. In 2006, Kolb was named the C-USA Player of the Year after he completed 67.6-percent of his attempts for 3,809 yards, 30 touchdowns, and just four interceptions during the 14-game season. Over the course of his career, he also rushed for 751 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Kolb hasn’t consistently played against top competition in college (C-USA) and he also comes from a passer-friendly spread-offense, which generates some legitimate concerns regarding his transition to the NFL game. Even with that in mind, we believe Kolb is one of the more underrated prospects in the 2007 NFL draft class. He possesses a fine combination of size, arm strength and mobility, and he has great experience as a four-year starter. Kolb has enough upside to warrant consideration late on Day 1 or early on Day 2.

So, he’s a four year starter — which Rick Gooselin points out is a huge advantage — but from a third-rate conference. Who was expected to go late on Day 1 or early Day 2 but went at the top of the 2nd round. Hmm.

Obviously, if Kolb turns out to be the second coming of Tom Brady, the Eagles brain trust will look like geniuses. Otherwise….


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