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Friday, November 30, 2007

Big year for ULM

First, there was ULM's upset win at Alabama in football.

And now, in men's basketball, the Warhawks rally from 16 down to defeat Iowa in the Hawkeyes' own tournament.

Wow. What a year for ULM. In fact, it may be one of the better years for ULM since moving up to Division I-A.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Looking good

The Dallas Cowboys' 37-27 win over Green Bay was an impressive one.

If you don't have NFL Network, you missed some offensive fireworks.

My only question with the Cowboys is whether the team can keep playing at this high of a level for the next two months?

Last year, the Cowboys flamed out in December. So you've got to figure this year they want to play well in December going into the playoffs.

But how bad would it be to go 15-1 or 14-2 and then flame out in the playoffs?

Of course, that may not happen because the Cowboys may just be that much better than everyone else in the NFC.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Techsters, Lady Vols see end of era

Some news emanating from Knoxville this week has long time Lady Techsters fans feeling a little nostalgic.

It seems that Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt has decided to end the long-running series with Leon Barmore's former club. She also made it appear that it was partly at Tech's request.

Folks who've been around the program since its inception in the mid-1970s remember the series as a treat to look forward to each season. For a couple of decades, there wasn't a more significant women's basketball game played nationally each season.

But the series has denigrated into a slobber-knocker fun fest for the Lady Vols over the last decade. The difference in money thrown Summitt's way has made a wide cavern between the two programs. Heck, Summitt's annual salary alone is nearly twice the Lady Techsters' total budget.

The Techsters get one more shot at the vaunted Vols next season in Knoxville ... then it's sayonara to a big piece of women's college basketball history.

Centenary has something to smile about

Centenary's Tuesday night doubleheader sweep of Northwestern State was a big step forward for the Gents and Ladies basketball programs.

It was the first time in four years that the Gents have defeated the Demons, who are picked to finish first in their SLC divisional race. The Ladies had never topped the Ladies in 16 tries, but the programs have been moving closer together over the past three seasons.

Neither Gent's coach Rob Flaska nor Ladies coach Steve Curtis wanted to make too much of their respective win, but it was important nonetheless. And you could feel the enthusiasm in their voices as they talked about the milestone victories.

Both NSU men's coach Mike McConathy and Lady Demons coach Jennifer Graf displayed their displeasure with the officiating during the contest and both were hit with technicals. Graf's technical resulted in a pair of converted free throws by Centenary, significant since the Ladies won 62-61. McConathy's tech came with less than two minutes remaining in the contest and after the game was well in hand by the Gents.

Neither of the games will mean much in a couple of weeks, when both schools begin competing in their respective league races, but for at least one night the Centenary faithful had something to smile about.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Community Tennis Association has lot to be proud of

Members of Shreveport-Bossier City's Community Tennis Association gathered Tuesday night at East Ridge Country Club to honor the best in local tennis over the past year.

About 150 people filled the banquet dining room to hear emcee and Querbes Park tennis pro Richard Verzaal recognize the accomplishments of local players.

And Shreveport-Bossier City has plenty to be proud of when it comes to local tennis.

Area juniors fared well this past year with several making their marks at the state and sectional level. The Byrd tennis team was recognized for winning the Class 5A regional.

Area pros were recognized for their contributions in making the CTA the fastest growing in the South over the past three years -- according to Southern Hills pro David Kimball -- with programs like "Fun, Friends and Fitness."

Teams from local leagues were recognized for winning state, regional and even national competitions.

The Bossier Tennis Center 7.0 Senior Mixed Doubles team won the National Eastern Championships tournament in Orlando, Fla. , earlier this month with a 2-1 victory over the 2-1. Team members are: Captain Bonnie Cox, Shirley Martin, Sonia Killen, Sue Allender, Nancy Doerner, Kayla Lettow, Jay Boyd, Mike White, Billy Thurman, Fred Flurry, Cliff Coffman, Mike Munn and Andrew Porter.

It will be tough for the CTA to surpass its accomplishments next year, but you can bet its members will try.

Christmas wish list

Arkansas fans who wanted Houston Nutt gone got their wish on Monday.

What may not have been their wish was for Nutt to end up in the Western Division at Ole Miss.

So here is a wish list compile from Arkansas media outlets.

Butch Davis - Probably not likely since he just started at North Carolina this season.

Tommy Tuberville - He has $6 million reasons to stay at Auburn.

Reggie Herring - Would probably jump for the job.

Paul Johnson -- Good coach who would probably welcome recruiting without service academy standards.

Mike Leach -- Could be a return to the SEC for him.

Bo Pelini -- If he doesn't go to Nebraska first.

Gary Crowton -- He has head coaching experience.

David Cutcliffe -- That would be the definition of irony.

Will Muschamp -- Just a matter of time before he becomes a head coach.

Brent Venables -- Stoops sends them on.

Charlie Strong -- Somebody will give him a chance once day.

Terry Bowden -- His window of opportunity may be closed.

Glen Mason - Retread.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A week in Hockeytown

My trip home to Michigan for Thanksgiving began in rotten fashion.

My alma mater, Michigan, lost for the sixth time in seven years to Ohio State. Two days later, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr confirmed what everybody had been speculating - his retirement.

Despite the Wolverines' lousy start, including falling victim to the biggest upset in college football history, and his record vs. the Buckeyes the last seven years, Carr was a class coach who will be missed.

It speaks volumes about Carr's person when he quotes poetry during his news conference. There's more to the man than football. It's not often the media applaud a coach at the end of his news conference. Carr is one of the last of a rare breed of coaches. The Michigan philosophy preached, the team, the team, the team, and Carr embraced it.

As for Michigan's next coach, I don't think it's going to be Les Miles. I've a gut feeling that it's going to be Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly (right). He coached Division II Grand Valley State in Michigan to two national championships then took a Central Michigan team from 4-7 to 9-4 and a MAC Championship three years later.

Despite growing up in Michigan, I've never attended a Lions Thanksgiving game. Hockey, on the other hand, is pretty big in my family. We spent the day before Thanksgiving watching the Red Wings take on the St. Louis Blues.

There's a lot of talk in Detroit that the Wings will have a sub-par season's attendance because of all the financial difficulties and employment hardships in the state. There were a lot of empty seats, more so than usual. We were less than 10 rows from the top of the arena, and the tickets were $50 each. I don't understand how the NHL can price out the average fan like it does. They've worked out the CBA with the players, so that it's more cost effective for teams. Salaries may be more cost effective for owners, but fans aren't seeing any trickle-down effect.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sweet Home Alabama

Just a year ago at this time, Mike Shula was about to be dumped at Alabama after going 6-6. Nick Saban was denying interest in the job. And the Alabama job search was about to drag into the new year.

Now a year later, Shula is gone. Saban is the Tide's man.

And what do you know, Alabama's record is 6-6.

And Saban fared no better against Auburn's Tommy Tuberville than Shula did.

This isn't to pile on Saban. Regardless of what anyone around here thinks, he is a good coach. He will, eventually, have some good teams at Alabama.

Nope, this is just to reinforce what some, myself included, thought after watching Alabama in the Independence Bowl last year. This is a team in dire need of playmakers.

The talent level at Alabama just isn't what it needs to be to compete at the level Alabama fans want.

Bear Bryant would have had a hard time winning eight games the last two seasons with these teams.

As it is, Bama will be fortunate to find a bowl spot to land in this year.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Saturday football musings

I'm real close to swearing off college football. Seriously.

This "system'' is getting ready to spit out a national championship game that will likely be West Virginia vs. Ohio State, or Missouri vs. West Virginia.

This is a joke. Anybody who watched USC the other night think any of those three teams are better than the Trojans with a healthy John David Booty? Anybody who has watched Georgia for the last month think any of those three teams are better than Georgia?

Sorry, I'll find something better to do on Jan. 7.

Switching gears, I'm a little surprised Ed Orgeron got fired today at Ole Miss. I realize Orgeron's record was 10-25 and he rubbed some folks the wrong way. But Ole Miss is making its job even tougher by firing him after three losing seasons and David Cutcliffe after one losing season.

There's a lot of Coach Fran to Ole Miss talk. Personally, I don't see it. It'll be interesting to see who lands in Oxford.

Bill Callahan's firing was expected at Nebraska. Personally, I think that's going to be a tough a rebuilding job just because of the dependence on national recruiting.

Friday, November 23, 2007

College football musings

Dennis Franchione announced his resignation following A&M's win over Texas today. Despite winning his last two over the Longhorns, Franchione never quite got the Aggies where they thought he would get them after dumping R.C. Slocum. You can be sure A&M already has a coach in mind.

Elsewhere in the Big 12 on Friday, Bill Callahan should have done what Franchione did - step aside. Instead, Callahan will likely be fired early next week at Nebraska. Wonder if anyone in Nebraska would want Frank Solich back after this disaster?

Just call Ed Orgeron "Coach O-for-the SEC.'' Orgeron's boneheaded fourth-down call ignited rival Mississippi State in the fourth quarter. Ole Miss is winless in the SEC for the first time since 1982. You can make a case for firing Orgeron with three consecutive losing seasons and players stealing clocks and radios from hotel rooms. But Orgeron figures to be back for one final season next year.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Christmas gift for Derek Dooley?

It would have been a long two weeks for the Louisiana Tech football team had the Bulldogs lost last Saturday's game to San Jose State. With nothing the play for, the team would have struggled through the Thanksgiving holiday just trying to play out the string.

Instead, the Bulldogs will have a lot on the line when they visit Nevada on Dec. 1. Defeat the Wolf Pack and Tech becomes bowl eligible, along with finishing with a 5-3 mark in their first year under Derek Dooley.

If Hawaii or Bosie State qualifies for a BCS bowl, which is very likely, a victory over Nevada could vault the Bulldogs into the New Mexico Bowl, against possibly TCU, as the WAC's fourth place team.

That might be the best Christmas gift that Dooley has ever received.

Monday, November 19, 2007

'The Mist' versus Notre Dame football

Just returned from a preview showing of "The Mist" and it wasn't a pretty sight. Think of the worst football game you've watched this season (Notre Dame vs. anyone) and you've got it.

In case you haven't noticed, Stephen King is a weird guy. So when you throw a weird guy's story in with bad acting, you're got a recipe for disaster. Look for the movie out on DVD in a couple of months.

Although the very, very end of the credits denotes that the movie was shot on location in Shreveport, Louisiana, don't attend the movie looking for recognizable sights. You get some quick views of Cross Lake at the beginning, along with some fake mountains in the background, and you get to see some woody areas off North Lakeshore Drive at the end.

But the bulk of the movie is shot in a store that could be anywhere in America. In between there's a lot of blood and guts. One guy leaves the store and comes back without his better half ... that would be his upper body.

Save your money for that extra Christmas gift you've been thinking about buying ... like a look back at the Irish's outstanding 2007 football season.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Coaching carousel

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr told the AP today he will announce his retirement on Monday. That has led to a lot of Les Miles to Michigan speculation. A name to remember if Michigan goes outside of the current staff -- Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly.

Baylor fired Guy Morriss today after five straight losing season. While that decision is certainly understandable, I can't imagine an overwhelming pool of great candidates. That job is probably the toughest in the Big 12. Some will suggest Mike Singletary coming back for the job, but you have to wonder if Singletary wouldn't be better off waiting for an NFL job to come open.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

College football musings

Wow. I'm stunned.

No, not by the Alabama loss to ULM.

I'm talking about Ohio State beating Michigan. Stunned, I tell you.

Well actually, I'm not. To me, this was a gimme. Michigan has had injury problems. You figured Ohio State would bounce back.

Heck, if Ohio State sits tight, the Buckeyes might get back in the BCS title game.

Oklahoma is showing how important the quarterback position is because of an injury to Sam Bradford.

Speaking of Alabama, I told people after the I-Bowl that I didn't think the talent level was very good there. Of course some folks thought I was crazy. Some actually liked John Parker Wilson and D.J. Hall.

Sorry, I didn't see playmakers then. I don't see them now. The Tide is a mediocre team. It just took them three months to get the record that matched the talent.

I was on the Mississippi State bandwagon. But good grief -- four touchdown passes for Casey Dick.

Arkansas is a tough out for LSU on Friday. The Hogs will be fired up for coach Houston Nutt. But you have to think LSU has enough motivation to be ready to play. Don't you?

Michigan has called a news conference for Monday at 10 a.m. Speculation is Lloyd Carr is stepping down as head football coach.

Gee, you don't think Les Miles' name will came up after the news conference do you?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Who for Heisman?

I got my Heisman Trophy ballot in the mail today. And for the first time in my 10 years of voting, I have no idea who I will be voting for this year.

I liked Dennis Dixon of Oregon. But his getting hurt and his team losing last night didn't help.

I like Tim Tebow of Florida and Darren McFadden of Arkansas. But I'm not ready to say I'd vote for either one.

If you're reading and have a suggestion, by all means, add a comment.

As it is, I will hold this vote longer than any other before making a decision.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Now we know

There wasn't a seat to be had at the CenturyTel Center for the Hannah Montana concert.

So now we know this: At least Shreveport-Bossier City likes something.

For years we have moaned about fan apathy here. Remember when Miami was good and came here to play Tech, and there were at least 7,000 (more like 10,000) empty seats at Independence Stadium.

Remember when the Hornets and Spurs played in a half-empty CenturyTel Center.

So maybe it takes a teen pop star, a national cable television show and outrageous ticket demand to fill the building.

But the building can be filled. There's hope for us all.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A tough call

By this time next week, you've got to figure that Northwestern State athletic director Greg Burke will have made a decision on the future of coach Scott Stoker and the football program.

I say this time next week because the Thanksgiving holiday will take out the end of the week and this is something that doesn't need to linger.

Burke will face a tough decision on this one.

The Demons have posted back-to-back losing seasons and three consecutive non-winning seasons.

But those back-to-back losing seasons also include games against five BCS opponents. Throw in two games this year where the top two quarterbacks were knocked out by injury and the decision isn't so easy.

It would take some courage to bring back a coach coming off three non-winning seasons in a row. But courage has paid off for a couple of SEC athletic directors - Mitch Barnhart at Kentucky and Larry Templeton at Mississippi State. Those schools have been rewarded for their patience this year.

After talking to Burke yesterday, I got the feeling that he has yet to come to a decision on this one. And after talking to Stoker, I got the feeling that while he wants to come back he understands the nature of the business.

The Demons will have some 20 seniors on next year's team. The NSU coach in 2008, whether it's Stoker or someone else, will probably look pretty good.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Upon further review

Sometimes we in the media get a bad rap from the public. And sometimes, the bad rap is deserved.

Here is an example.

An Associated Press story out of Alabama on Monday carried this paragraph.

"Now, Alabama is preparing for the home finale against Louisiana-Monroe (4-6) from the Sun Belt Conference. Then it's on to the Iron Bowl and trying to snap a five-year losing streak to rival Auburn - and maybe avoid a repeat trip to Shreveport, La., by landing a better bowl invitation.''

Of course if the writer has bothered to ask anyone at the Independence Bowl, he would have known Nick Saban has a better chance of being elected governor of Louisiana than coaching in the I-Bowl this year.

That's because the I-Bowl DOESN'T WANT ALABAMA THIS YEAR.

Yes, the I-Bowl had representatives at Alabama's game with Mississippi State. That's because they were there to WATCH MISSISSIPPI STATE.

I-Bowl chairman Joe Darwin has been candid and forthcoming about the bowl's plans all season. Those plans at no point in the last two weeks have included Alabama.

For the record, the pool has pretty much been narrowed down to State and Arkansas.

The I-Bowl, like most bowls, doesn't like repeat teams. They seem to be more open to Oklahoma State on the Big 12 side, but that's in part because of proximity and a track record of traveling well to Shreveport.

Alabama will be bowling somewhere this December, but it won't be in Shreveport.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I-Bowl talk

The Independence Bowl picture is a little clearer after last week's games.

Mississippi State's win over Alabama gives the SEC 10 qualifiers, meaning the I-Bowl won't be sweating out an SEC team.

The leading possibilities on the SEC side remain Mississippi State and Arkansas. Those two teams meet on Saturday in Little Rock.

If State wins Saturday and then again against Ole Miss, the Bulldogs might play their way out of the Shreveport picture. The same could be said for Arkansas with its final game at LSU.

The Big 12 side got a little more interesting last weekend. The I-Bowl had representatives at Nebraska-Kansas State on Saturday. They came to look at Kansas State, only to see Nebraska steamroll the Wildcats.

Still, the leaders on that side remain Texas A&M and Kansas State.

In a perfect ticket-selling world, A&M would play either Arkansas or Mississippi State on Dec. 30. There is some sentiment for a rematch of the Snow Bowl with A&M-State. But there is also the possibility of a Heisman winner/finalist in Darren McFadden playing here.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

On scheduling

ULM took a risk and was greatly rewarded on Saturday.

The school's athletic department scheduled a football game with Grambling State for the first time in school history and a record crowd of more than 30,000 showed up.

There was some risk in that Grambling isn't a gimme on the schedule. ULM won 28-14 and won at the box office.

Louisiana Tech played at LSU for the first time since 2003. Although the Bulldogs lost 58-10, you can make a case that Tech was much more competitive this time in Baton Rouge.

Tech trailed 27-7 at the half on Saturday. The Bulldogs trailed 49-3 at the half in 2003.

Still, neither Grambling coach Rod Broadway nor Tech coach Derek Dooley are too thrilled with multiple games against higher-level programs.

Before the game, Broadway said, "I don't have a problem playing one Division I team a year. But I do have a problem playing two. Hopefully in the future, we can play one and the rest of the season will be against people in our league or I-AA teams.''

Dooley is adamant about cutting back his guarantee games to one.

And listening to him talk, you get the idea that he would prefer an in-state rivalry (Tulane perhaps)with someone other than LSU.

"I think in-state rivals can be very healthy,'' Dooley said. "But when one of them is No. 2 in the country and the other one is in a building process, it makes it a tough situation.

"I'm not sure that playing LSU is something our program wants to do every year because LSU will never come to our place. And they shouldn't. I think a good in-state rivalry is when you've got a nice home-and-away between two schools and there is a lot of passion between the fans. And I think that is something we could probably generate, but not with LSU.''

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Shoulda skipped the game

The Centenary-LSUS basketball exhibition game was a great game for fans to watch, but it was a game that Centenary probably shouldn't have played this season if they wanted to save face.

The Pilots had the senior leadership in Josh Porter and J'Quincy Jones to get the job done. Meanwhile, the Gents are in a re-building season with seven true freshmen and three sophomores. Centenary might have been okay in the contest had junior leaders Nick Stallings and Tyrone Hamilton not gotten in early foul trouble.

Faced with playing his youngsters more than he'd planned, coach Rob Flaska found himself behind the 8-ball.

Now, the Division I Gents are left with the ignominy of losing to an NAIA school, albeit it a very, very good one. Regardless of what the Gents do the remainder of the season, local people will say, "yeah, but they got beat by LSUS."

Buying into the rumors

Anybody else out there get caught by the rumors of Tom Brady's suspension like I did?

I was shaking off a night's sleep when I heard on XM that Tom Brady was suspended for four games after testing positive for an illegal substance.

The fact the shock jock pair of Opie and Anthony were reporting it should have been the first sign that a prank was in the works, but when you're just waking up in the morning signs like that can be overlooked.

When it was repeated 15 minutes later, I was fully awake and munching on some cereal. By that point, I was interested in how Tom Brady could get busted for breaking the NFL substance abuse policy.

Not Tom Brady! Not Mr. Clean Cut! Hmmm. Nothing on ESPN. Nothing on SI.com.

It really didn't start to sink in that I'm a gullible moron until the first sip of coffee. I'm sure there are quite a few readers out there that won't disagree with me.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Hall of Fame talk

Hall of Famers Tony Dorsett and Mel Renfro were in town today as they open up an office locally of their Hall of Fame Mortgage company.

Dorsett said he has made "a smooth transition'' from the NFL to life after football.

Actually, both guys look like they could still play today.

We'll have a story in Tuesday's paper about their visit to town and some more stories later in the week with the two talking Cowboys and pro football.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Attention helmetheads

After New England's 24-20 victory over Indianapolis, we can now turn our attention away from the NFL and on to college football, the NBA, baseball's hot stove, heck, even hockey.

Why? Because we know how this is going to end. It's going to end with sourpuss Bill Belichick holding up the Lombardi trophy in the Arizona desert with a fourth Super Bowl championship since the turn of the century.

A lot of helmetheads like to point to parity in the NFL as the reason for the sport's popularity.

Let me destroy this myth. Since the 2000 season, the Patriots have won three Super Bowls. The Colts, Rams, Bucs and Ravens have the other four.

Baseball has six teams hoisting championship trophies since the start of the season. Only the Red Sox this year are a repeat champion.

So please, put the parity argument to rest.

If you like football because it's easier to bet on, so be it.

If you like it for the violence, fine.

Don't talk to me about baseball being slow either. Some NFL games are pushing the limits of anyone's attention span.

I like football as much as the next guy. It's just I know how this NFL season is going to end. Maybe DirecTV will give me my money back for the Sunday Ticket.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

College football musings

After watching some of the day's college football here are some thoughts:

1) Bill Callahan has to be fired either today or tomorrow doesn't he? I mean Nebraska giving up 76 points to Kansas. How much more does Tom Osborne need to see. Either that team is terrible or has quit. Check that, maybe the Huskers are terrible and have quit.

2) Ohio State is looking like a pretty good bet to be in New Orleans for the national championship game as an unbeaten team. Here is what Ohio State has left this season: Illinois at home and Michigan on the road. Maybe Jim Tressel should be a Coach of the Year candidate for his job this season.

3) I'm starting to become a believer in Kansas.

4) South Florida is starting to look like the team I thought South Florida was.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Hoops talk

Exhibit 101 for why you can't go off of a comparative scores in college basketball.

LSUS goes on the road and wins at McNeese State earlier in the week. It's an exhibition game, but still it's a win over a D-I team.

Tonight, LSUS needs a 3-point shot from Paul Quinn to miss at the buzzer to win 88-86.

What does it mean? Not much.

Comparative scores, particularly in basketball, don't mean a whole lot.

LSUS should have a fine season. Just don't read too much into the scores either way.