Navy tops Cornell 6-5 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA lacrosse tournament.
Navy tops Cornell 6-5 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA lacrosse tournament.
#6 Navy Lacrosse tops 4th-ranked Army, 12-9.
TURN TO IT
Now, about parking…
— Inside Lacrosse is reporting that Richie Meade will be named as the first head coach of the new lacrosse program at Furman. It’ll be weird seeing him on another college sideline, but we all knew it would happen at some point. Good for him, and good for Furman.
— Navy won the Patriot League Presidents’ Cup for the 2011-2012 academic year. It’s the first time Navy has won. Bucknell had won the last six, with the Mids finishing second in five of those years. Navy doesn’t play Patriot League football, field hockey, or softball, and only recently added women’s lacrosse and women’s tennis. Both of those programs have become very successful very quickly, and their rise (along with the rise of women’s programs in general) helped to finally push Navy over the top. I’ve never worried much about the Presidents’ Cup, but it’s a nice to get a bit of affirmation for a great year by the athletic department.
— Speaking of the rise of women’s lacrosse, Cindy Timchal shall now be addressed as Hall of Famer Cindy Timchal.
— Not all the news is good. As the kids say, “smh.” Sperry had dropped on the depth chart this spring thanks to the rise of Jonathan Wev, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have fought back. At the very least he would’ve provided experienced depth for a defense that had none last year. I hate the offseason.
— On to the conference expansion mess… The headline here says “Texas AD not for expanding,” but that’s not really the impression I get from reading the article. The way I read it, DeLoss Dodds is just trying to remain noncommittal, either for the sake of not tipping his hand or just not wanting to set off a firestorm of rumors based on his comments. Like this. I do believe that Big 12 expansion is far from a given, though, especially after their recent monster television deal. Would Florida State and Clemson really add that much value? Would a championship game make enough money to offset splitting television revenue by two (or more) additional teams? Maybe, but I don’t know if that’s a certainty. Let’s hope not.
— The Big East’s league meetings are wrapping up today, but there is plenty to talk about already through days 1 & 2:
I went to the Navy vs. Lehigh lacrosse game on Friday night along with around 2,200 of my closest friends. That’s about 500 more people than attended the Navy vs. Holy Cross game last weekend, despite a cold, wet night on a day the temperatures never seemed to break out of the 40’s. And by the end of the evening it was the Lehigh fans that were cheering the loudest as their Mountain Hawks closed out a 9-4 victory over the Midshipmen.
It was a tale of one quarter going well for the Mids followed by three quarters of Lehigh dominance. One could say it was a game of missed opportunities for Navy, but that really just applies to the first 20 minutes. During that time, Navy built a 4-1 lead, but they also had a number of quality looks that missed and a few turnovers after stall warnings were called. Even if they converted all those chances, it still would have been difficult to pull out a victory given their performance over the final three quarters.
To put it plainly, Lehigh dominated the final 45 minutes. Their defense showed why it is ranked #1 in the country, holding Navy to just 7 shots in the 2nd half and not allowing a goal after the 12-minute mark in the 2nd quarter. Wickham had some nice saves, but as I tweeted during the game, you’re not going to win many games when you’re allowing multiple goals from 10+ yards out (Lehigh had at least 3 of those by my count). Combine that with a couple of second-chance goals by the Mountain Hawks off of juicy rebounds, and you’ve dug yourself a deep hole.
Ok, so enough about the nuts and bolts of the game. There are a couple of more meta things I’d like to address. The first is the stall warning issue. There are those who say college lacrosse needs a shot clock. To them, I say balderdash. Well, balderdash to a degree. Tonight exemplified what is wrong with the stall warning in college lacrosse – it’s purely subjective. There were times where Navy was given stall warnings after 60 or so seconds of possession on offense. And there was a time where Lehigh held the ball for over two minutes before they were given a stall. This creates an unequal situation for teams to deal with and leaves players unable to tell what they need to do to stay off the stall. The solution I see is not a shot clock, but a stall clock.
My proposal, had I a voice to use, would be a 45-second (not married to that number) stall clock. This would start the moment a team touched the ball inside the offensive box. If the team takes a shot before the clock expires, it automatically resets. After it expires, a stall warning is issued and the possession proceeds as it does under today’s rule. But you know how long you have before the stall comes into play every single time. A shot clock would suggest a turnover if the ball is not shot, and while that may be OK for the few elite players that make up the pro teams, it’s not a good idea for college. Just like the Princeton and other slow-moving offenses help equalize games in college basketball, a good controlling offense that can take the air out of the ball can help level the lacrosse playing field. Teams need to be allowed to possess for extended periods of time – refs don’t need to be given control over a game that is purely based on their opinion. Opinion is about as opposite from a rule as you can get. It’s time to end this nonsense.
And while we’re addressing delays in the game, can we please do something about mass midfield substitutions? There were times tonight where teams spent nearly a minute switching players in and out as they transitioned from defense to offense. Maybe this is my first crotchety old man rant, but what ever happened to middies who can play both ways? I understand specialization, but when we spend over half an offensive possession just making sure we’re getting the right guys on the field, it loses something. Imagine having a middie who plays both ways as you transition to defense. Now the offense has to go a man down for a few seconds just to get their switch in and expose themselves to a double team, or they leave their non-offensive mid on the field and have to deal with a less than ideal situation. When I played, we ran lines much like hockey teams do. You’d do subs on horns from balls going out or after goals. Not every time the ball crossed midfield. Then again, maybe it’s just me that’s annoyed by this.
Finally, I’m going to give what some may call a sour grapes moment, but I was tweeting about it before we started losing. Lehigh sent their entire team, even the goalie, to the Navy goal for high fives every time they scored. I thought it was a low rent move, and one that caused delays in faceoffs. Many times Navy was set and ready to go while Lehigh was walking back to their defensive positions. Just something that I noted early on and hoped would be greeted by a little more wood being laid on hits. But in the end, the Navy team looked like it just wanted to get out of there after failing to back up such a promising 1st quarter. Such is life – onwards and upwards to Maryland on Friday at College Park.
Global warming may or may not exist, but I am sure of one thing – whatever the hell is going on right now is making some awesome early-March weather happen in Annapolis. I went to Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium today to watch the Mids take on the Crusaders of Holy Cross on the latest upper-60’s, sunny, and breezy day. Despite Spring Break flinging the Brigade to the far corners of wherever the drinking age is under 21, there were still what looked to be a couple thousand fans filling the west stands to see the Midshipmen win 13-7.
Thanks to my terrible work ethic, the M.O. for this blog over the last year or so has been for me to comment on things about a month after everyone stops caring (Man, the Casey Anthony verdict is making my Twitter timeline unreadable! And can you believe the U.S. women lost to Sweden?). But I can’t move on to other things without mentioning a few items of varying levels of interest, so let’s do that first.
LACROSSE: Obviously, item #1 on the docket is the hiring of Rick Sowell as the new lacrosse coach. Sowell comes to Navy by way of Stony Brook, where he went 47-26 over five seasons. The Seawolves won the America East regular season the last two seasons, and won the conference tournament in 2010. Stony Brook was a respectable America East program when Sowell took over, but the 2010 season was the best in the program’s short history, earning the #8 seed in the tournament and advancing to the quarterfinals before dropping a 10-9 decision to top-seeded Virginia. Stony Brook again advanced to the America East finals in 2011 before losing a heartbreaker to Hartford in the final seconds (or second, actually).
I like the hire. If Richie Meade had retired on his own terms instead of being forced to resign, I think most people would share my optimism. Unfortunately, the nature of Meade’s dismissal means that some people aren’t going to give any new coach a chance. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some legitimate questions to be asked, though. Is Sowell the kind of coach that the old-timers had in mind as they spent the last 5 years calling for Meade’s dismissal? He certainly isn’t as accomplished as Meade. He could be when all is said and done, but were the ’60s laxers expecting more of a sure thing? We’ll find out the answer when we see how long it takes for them to start complaining again. And make no mistake, they will; the kind of success that they want isn’t sustainable at many schools, let alone a service academy. Keep in mind that these guys were complaining before the struggles of the last two seasons. I’ll be happy if Sowell matches Meade’s record at Navy.
Some might question whether or not he can, but the basis for some of the criticism of the hire is unfair, in my opinion. While his record at Stony Brook was better, Sowell’s overall record is just a hair over .500 at 86-81. Not all .500 records are the same, though. Sowell took on some thankless jobs. Before taking the helm at Stony Brook, Sowell started the St. John’s program from scratch. Before that, he took over a Dartmouth program that had two winning seasons in the 16 years that preceded him. By the time he left the Big Green, he had won the Ivy League and had notched the program’s first win at Princeton since 1956. Seriously, he won the Ivy League at Dartmouth. I don’t think that can be said enough. They’ve had a steady downhill trend ever since he left. So yes, he’s about .500, but with some of the challenges he took on, that’s an accomplishment.
Everyone knows what I thought about Coach Meade’s dismissal, but none of that matters anymore. The program marches on– the Mids themselves will march on– and I’m excited to see where Coach Sowell can take them. Welcome aboard.
#@$%ING CBS: John Feinstein’s 14 years in the Navy football radio booth have come to an end. After having pitched the idea of an Army-Navy documentary for a while now, he was understandably upset when CBS decided to move forward with a documentary of their own. He says that he isn’t throwing a fit, but to watch CBS working on this documentary in front of him all year would be too much to take.
It’s a little bit like dating a girl for 10 years, getting dumped and then being invited to her wedding. I just don’t want to watch it.
It certainly does sound like a hissy fit, but I’m more than willing to give Feinstein the benefit of the doubt. One, because everyone I’ve ever talked to that knows Feinstein has nothing but nice things to say about him; and two, because I have no idea how much of a slap in the face this is professionally and can’t possibly relate to any of it. I might be a little disappointed in his decision since NAAA stood by John after he dropped an F-bomb on the air, but only a little; it wasn’t that big of a deal.
In fact, I’m actually sort of glad to see him go. I’ve never liked him on the radio. His ability to tell a story makes him a great writer (and probably would have made him a good documentarian for that matter), but that doesn’t translate much to an in-the-booth game broadcast. Yes, he’s a national media voice in a time when there aren’t many others who give a rat’s ass about the Naval Academy. On the other hand, I disagree with just about everything that comes out of his mouth on the air. I don’t know if losing Feinstein will lead to decreased interest in Navy radio broadcasts, but I do know that I’ll do less in-game yelling at people who can’t hear me, so my blood pressure likes the news.
I’m sure Feinstein will be back when he realizes how much he misses the postgame Juicy Juice benders with Socci.
THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THAT STORY: Showtime is going to air a two-hour documentary on Army-Navy!
SPEAKING OF CBS: They’ll be showing the Air Force game. That’s CBS as in CBS, not the CBS Sports Network as usual. That’s a big deal, but the cherry on top is that the game is now going to be played at noon. TAILGATERS REJOICE. Seriously though, noon game on CBS? The decision to partner with CSTV instead of ESPN looks better every year. Unless the game is preempted by some garbage ACC game locally, in which case I will embark on a murderous rampage (just kidding) (or am I) (I am) (maybe).
OTHER PEOPLE’S PROBLEMS: Georgia Tech has become the latest program to be flattened by the NCAA regulatory bulldozer. OK, “flattened” might not be the best way to describe it, but the punishment includes probation, a $100K fine, and forfeiture of all 2009 wins after November 24 (including the ACC championship). The From The Rumble Seat reaction ranges from acceptance to WTF as details of the story became public. Those details can be found here.
If the punishment seems excessive, it is. Remember, though, that Georgia Tech was already on probation when all this was happening, so any violations that happen during the probationary period are going to deliver an extra dose of boomshakalaka. Still, I don’t know if forfeiting Tech’s ACC championship makes sense. The school plans to appeal, and while it will probably be denied like most appeals are in the new NCAA process, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a point. The NCAA forces a forfeiture of wins when it finds that ineligible players were used in these contests. While they did find that one of the two investigated players received “preferential treatment” by being given $312 worth of clothes from his cousin’s roommate, the NCAA did not say that either player was ineligible in its report. If either player was in fact ineligible, the NCAA should have made that clear. If they did not determine that the players were ineligible, then Tech shouldn’t have to forfeit any wins. As for the rest of the penalties, meh.
I bring it up because Paul Johnson’s connection might be of some interest to Navy fans. His involvement in all of this is apparently that 1) he was told of the investigation when he shouldn’t have been, and 2) he then told the players in question. I know, rules are rules, but if I was in Johnson’s position I don’t think I would have done anything differently; coaches make their living in part by earning the trust of teenagers. Keeping something like this from them might feel like a betrayal of that trust, and I suspect that part of the reason why the NCAA doesn’t want coaches to know about investigations like this is for the coach’s sake. Still, if it is normal practice for schools to suspend players pending the result of inquiries into their eligibility, how can anyone not know what is happening? That sort of lets the cat out of the bag, doesn’t it? Someone explain it to me.
Anyway, for his part Coach Johnson has been pretty quiet on the subject LOL NO HE’S NOT.
WHAT REALLY SHOULD BE AN NCAA VIOLATION: Army’s duck-hunter uniforms from 2008 were certainly a violation of something. The all-camo getup against VMI had a little more to offer in gimmicky appeal, but didn’t exactly raise the bar aesthetically. Hopefully Nike takes a different direction with the Pro Combat unis they’ll be giving Army and Navy this year.
IN OTHER SERVICE ACADEMY NEWS: Troy Calhoun’s solution for graduation rates? Bribery!
NIUMAT’S CONTRACT EXTENSION: It was really just a down payment for a plane ticket to Guam.
My blog is sort of like the chicken pox virus: causes itchy bumps, then lays dormant for years before stress causes another painful breakout that can only be treated with herpes medication. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. If you’re institutionalized and miss the pain, though, don’t forget that you can find me on Twitter even when this place is gathering dust.
Naval Academy fans spend a lot of time talking about the importance of having a coach that “gets it.” The exact definition of “it” depends on the person making the comment, but in general “getting it” means embracing the mission of the school to produce officers for the Navy and Marine Corps. We’ve all heard people say that they want a coach who takes that mission personally and incorporates it into his program. When I hear things like that, I just laugh. Sure, people say those things, but they should know better. None of that matters if the team isn’t winning.
Nothing proves that point better than the forced resignation of Richie Meade as the Naval Academy’s lacrosse coach. No coach on the yard reveled in the mission of the school more than Meade. You could see it in everything from the pride he takes in his players’ careers, to his team’s offseason conditioning program based on Marine Corps training, to his attire on game day. He is an Annapolis institution, respected not only by his peers in coaching for his success on the field, but throughout the Yard for his leadership. There is a reason why he was offered a position at the Stockdale Center. Speakers at the Academy’s Corbin Leadership Summit have included military leaders, corporate CEOs… and Meade. Hell, even the best sandwich at Drydock was named after him. Richie Meade was made to be a coach at the Naval Academy. You will never find a more perfect pairing of an individual with a school. But as I said before, none of that really matters. A coach could churn out a team full of war heroes every year, but that won’t be the standard to which he’s sooner or later held accountable.
I’m not one of those hyperventilating idiots who thinks that the athletic department should revolve around the lacrosse program, and that any AD decision made for the benefit of higher-profile programs (read: football) is evil. Major college athletics is a business. That business is to serve as the proverbial front porch for the school, increasing exposure and awareness, and driving interest that turns into applications for admission. Football, being the most mainstream of American sports, is the primary vehicle both for exposure and for revenue generation. Making money allows the athletic department to reinvest in itself with things like facilities, recruiting budgets, and hiring and retaining coaches. That, in turn, drives winning. Winning is ultimately what maximizes interest in a given team, enabling it to carry out its role in fulfilling the athletic department’s mission. It is important to the school that their teams win. These are the basics, and the opinions of those who won’t acknowledge these fundamentals should be ignored.
That’s the real problem with Coach Meade’s ouster: it’s a bad business decision. The fact that he has been such an excellent ambassador for the school is just icing on a really crappy cake.
There is no doubt that the last two seasons were a disappointment. It should take more than that, though, to justify firing a coach that has won 60% of his games, won 5 conference tournament or regular-season titles in the last 8 years, and taken his team to 7 NCAA tournaments. It’ll be hard to find a coach with a better resume than that. Hasn’t Richie done enough to earn the benefit of the doubt? Hasn’t he earned chance to turn his program around? Don DeVoe got 3 seasons before he was forced out, and his team fell a lot farther than the lacrosse program has. Billy Lange had two winning seasons in seven years, and he was going to be allowed to finish out his contract. Yes, these were the first back-to-back losing seasons in program history; but if the standard for Naval Academy athletic programs is to compete for conference championships, how can anyone claim that Coach Meade hasn’t done so, even during the 7-8 2010 season?
The problem is that the standard to which the lacrosse team is held is apparently different. Competing for conference titles isn’t enough for those influential lacrosse alumni from Navy’s heyday in the ’60s. In their view, Navy should be playing for national titles. Never mind that the game has completely evolved away from those days, where you could build a championship contender by stacking your team with football players to simply out-athlete the opposition. Today’s game is a specialized, year-round enterprise. The same challenges that Navy teams face in recruiting academically qualified talent willing to make a military commitment are just as applicable to the lacrosse team. You might expect the lacrosse team to be a little better nationally than others on the yard since there just aren’t very many lacrosse teams to begin with, but expecting a national powerhouse on a regular basis is unreasonable. One might argue that it wasn’t just the two losing seasons that led to Richie’s exit; it was the gradual downward trend since the 2004 dream season. Even that train of thought is short-sighted; what you call a downward trend, I call regression to the mean. Navy has never won an NCAA championship, and only played in one other title game back in 1975. In the 36 years since then, the typical Navy season has been somewhere between 6-6 and 8-5 or so, with only a handful of exceptions. Those who expect more are not only ignoring decades of precedent, but also ignoring the fact that Meade’s teams have outperformed that standard for most of the last seven years.
Most, but obviously not all. The Mids beat Johns Hopkins to put a silver lining on the 2010 season, but 2011 was all cloud. Holding Coach Meade solely responsible, though, is wrong. Coaching at the Naval Academy presents unique challenges; one of those challenges is dealing with NAPS. You’ll often hear people describe NAPS as some great advantage that Navy has over its opponents, but those who say so don’t understand how it works. The prep school is not USNA; players are not obligated to attend the Academy after going through NAPS. And in recent years, many haven’t been. Someone once told me that the NAPS administration at the time viewed the school not as a preparatory school, but as a pre-screening to weed people out. NAPS retention has been a problem for several sports, not just lacrosse. The football team doesn’t feel quite the same effects simply due to the size of its roster; each lost football player potentially represents only 1/22 of a starting lineup as opposed to 1/5 of a basketball lineup or 1/10 of a lacrosse lineup. With the players who left the lacrosse program, it’s no wonder that the team struggled last year. Take 15-20 players away from any coach in the country and see if he does any better. Now that NAPS has new leadership, retention is picking up. Coach Niumatalolo recently brought in one of the smallest football direct admit classes in recent memory, citing improved NAPS retention as the reason. It’s getting better for the lacrosse program too, with last year’s team dominated by freshmen. This has the potential to be a fantastic class. Coach Meade has proven that he can do special things with players like these, and he deserved the chance to do it again.
It’s been almost two weeks, but I’m still having a hard time gathering my thoughts. I should probably be focused on the future by now, but that is apparently easier said than done. We’ve seen a lot of good moves from NAAA over the past several years, including where the lacrosse program is concerned. Forcing Richie Meade to resign, though, was a mistake. I am eager to see who the next coach will be and I will support him wholeheartedly once he’s named, but I may be in the minority. The next coach will not only have to live up to the standard of the old-timers who think Navy is entitled to games on Memorial Day weekend every year, but he’ll have to contend with another faction that will constantly compare him to Meade. It will be hard not to. Letting Richie Meade go isn’t the end of the world for Navy lacrosse, but it is the end of something really, really special.
It didn’t have to be.