Saturday update from the road

Saturday update from the road

note: I wrote this last night, but forgot to post it here before I went to bed. So, “today” = “yesterday.”

It’s the end of my first full day in Kansas, and I must say today was a good day. I miss this town.

Tom took me on a tour of the entire new west-side football press box at K-State today, and it’s so amazing, even in its dramatically unfinished state, that it brought tears to my eyes. It was only the second time I had been back in the stadium since I left here in 2001, and being able to stand in the press box and point to the field – Kevin Lockett’s catch against Colorado was there; Darnell McDonald’s touchdown catch against Nebraska was over there; Michael Bishop’s dive into the end zone against Missouri was over there; over and over again through all of my amazing memories of that place – was overwhelming. It still tears my heart out that I had to leave here. I can’t wait to be back here for the North Dakota State game in August; that’s going to be one incredible experience.

The best part of today was seeing eight of the nine kids in my family together; it would have been nice to have had Megan here, but getting her over here last night would have been very difficult on me just from a stamina perspective (and also that much rougher on the kids), and getting her here this morning would’ve destroyed the day via four hours in the car. That’s just how it goes I guess. Still, it was pretty great to finally meet my nephew, and Helen and Millie had an absolute blast with their cousins.

Millie spent a lot of time rolling a scooter around on my parents’ back patio repeating “YOLO, YOLO, YOLO.”

I watched Tomorrow When the War Began tonight with dad after the kids were in bed; it’s Australia’s version of Red Dawn, about a group of kids rising up to fight back against an invasion of their country (plot: China invaded Australia for its natural resources). It was actually a surprisingly OK movie, although the ending was atrocious. The movie basically ends with them deciding to become full-on revolutionaries and to officially organize to fight back against the invasion; it would be like Red Dawn ending as soon as they decided to become the Wolverines. There’s a sequel coming in 2014, according to Phoebe Tonkin’s IMDB page, so hopefully that means they’ll actually get to the full-on fighting. This movie came out in 2010, so there will be a four-year age difference in the cast by then, which will be noticeable; that’ll be strange, unless they just time-shift the movie and not have it start immediately after the events of this one.

Other minutia from today:

  • I got new tires for my car;
  • I found some fun things at Hastings for super-cheap, including this huge coffee table book of black and white portraits of characters from the Watchmen movie for five bucks and a four-dollar trade of a New Teen Titans storyline about Donna Troy. Awesomely, they also had Star Wars #4 and Hawkeye #10, rescuing me from their absence in my stacks of barely-read illustrated paper at home; and
  • I picked up the Lego Minotaur board game on clearance at Walmart for $10 when I bought my tires.

NCAA rules changes for Division I

What I’m Reading

I’m looking over the list of the dozen or so rules changes passed at last week’s NCAA Convention in Texas, and some of them are interesting.

Two of them directly impact athletic media relations, a subject near and dear to my heart:

  • 13-5-A, which will eliminate restrictions on sending printed recruiting materials to recruits. Conferences still will be prohibited from sending printed recruiting materials.
  • 13-7, which will eliminate restrictions on publicity once a prospective student-athlete has signed a National Letter of Intent or written offer of financial aid or admission.

In the past, the restriction on sending printed recruiting materials to recruits in many instances precluded those materials from being produced altogether. Whether this trend will reverse itself given the advances in the quality of material being made available online; this will be interesting to watch.

The 13-7 change means it’s open season for coverage of recruits once they’ve signed NLIs; this will lead to some interesting (and potentially time-consuming) new activities for media relations offices to promote student athletes before they have even arrived on campus.

There are a few other bylaws pertaining to travel and a student-athlete’s expenses that at first blush seem to lend themselves to some interesting interpretations and, perhaps, some creative ways for schools to fund travel. It’s going to be interesting to see how all of this plays out once the rules take effect in August.

Back to School

What I am studying
I started my final semester of graduate school tonight; I am taking two courses this spring, but one is going to require me to write a short paper and nothing else, so it doesn’t count. The one that counts is called Common Good, in the educational leadership core. I don’t have a good handle on it yet — after all, tonight was only the intro — but it seems like it could be pretty interesting. More to come on this as the course unfolds.
What I am watching
The fourth season of Archer debuted tonight on FX; pretty solid start for what is hands down my favorite show (although The Walking Dead gives it a run for its ones some weeks).
I am glad Archer started strong, because another show I have become quite invested in — American Horror Story — has had the bottom fall out of it during the second season, and now it is a complete train wreck of a show. It is just a wild unfocused mess with too many characters and no ability to decide what the main story is — or even who the main character is. The first season — which is fantastic — focused on the house. It may have seemed to be a show about Dylan McDermott’s family, but it was about the house and Tate. Clarity. The second season could be about any of a half dozen characters really; could’ve been Dr. Arden; could’ve been Lana; looked early on to be about Jude (but isn’t); pick anyone really. But the second season never decided if it was about insane asylum inmates or Nazi war criminals or alien abduction or zombies or or or or. There is just too much shoehorned into the show, so it isn’t abut anything and the things it includes never have time to be adequately developed. I am glad next week is the season finale; it needs a break to reset and try again in season three.
Between Lance, Mantei and nobody getting elected to the baseball Hall of Fame this year, it has been a pretty crappy month for sports. At least the NHL lockout ended; I am not even an NHL fan but at least it is good news in sports. That, and the NFL playoffs so far have been fantastic.
In the college realm, the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers were finally admitted to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association today, putting a merciful end to their three-year effective exile from the sport as an independent. The CCHA giving them the stiff-arm three years ago quite nearly killed them, but they have been heroic in working to keep their program afloat until they could finally secure a conference home.
Having the Chargers in the WCHA is good for the league and good for college hockey. And it will allow Bemidji State to resurrect one of its greatest rivalries. Everyone wins. Kudos to the WCHA for giving Huntsville the home it deserved.
I have been playing catchup on my comic pile after falling basically the entire month of December behind. I caught up on the last two issues of Hawkeye, which remains a completely terrific title, and I have been slowly catching up on Saga, which remains my favorite current book — and there really isn’t even a close second.
Invincible seems to be getting back on track after an entirely-too-long time with powerless Mark (and therefore an entirely too long time with a book called Invincible that wasn’t really about Invincible); IDW’s G.I. Joe franchise continues to be a hot, barely readable mess aside from the always excellent Cobra series; and I am so far behind on Transformers I barely know where to start. I will get to those.
Finally, the new Dark Horse Star Wars series, set between A New Hope and Empire, actually isn’t bad. It is a testament to Brian Wood’s abilities as a writer — which are high — that he was able to pull this off. I am in for a few issues to see where he goes with this.

Incoming: two more Loomis reprints

What I’m Pre-Ordering
Amazon has pre-orders listed for two more hardcover reprints of Andrew Loomis’ art instruction books that were originally published in the 1940s – Creative Illustration coming next week, and Fun with a Pencil coming in April of 2013.  I’ve picked up the first three Loomis reprints so far – Figure Drawing for All It’s WorthSuccessful Drawing, and Drawing the Head and Hands. They’re great books and I haven’t spent nearly enough time with them; I’m definitely going to have to pick up these two newest ones as well.

What I’m Reading
Yahoo! Sports threw down  one of the biggest pieces of publicity Bemidji State football has ever received today when Pat Forde’s column “Forde-Yard Dash” led with “Go Jump in a Lake” – a feature on BSU’s tradition of jumping into Lake Bemidji after a win on Homecoming. It was the lead story on Yahoo! Sports for a time today, and it got retweeted like mad on Twitter and picked up a nice pile of shares on Facebook as well. Huge publicity for one of college football’s greatest unknown traditions. Getting a little bit of national attention for this is probably long overdue; our Athletic Media Relations staff deserves a ton of credit for helping to get this done.

Twitter stupidity in Kentucky

At the Chronicle of Higher Education today, there’s a story about the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville instituting new Twitter policies for student-athletes that include banned-word lists — hundreds of words and phrases that student-athletes are forbidden from using in Tweets.

This is the worst possible way to teach student-athletes how to appropriately use Twitter. First, it assumes that the people making the “banned word list” are savvy enough about the community they’re spying on to have every naughty keyword covered. This will never happen; the community will always be ahead of the censors. Always. Second, the lists are both overly broad; Kentucky’s list includes “fight,” which is a kick in the teeth to any Wildcat student-athlete who’s a gamer and wants to talk about boss fights. Louisville’s list includes brand names for alcoholic beverages, which for student athletes who are of legal drinking age means they’re banned from mentioning products they’re legally able to consume. Third, the only thing this really achieves is to force student-athletes into creating their own slang, or just using other terms, to talk about whatever is banned. Finally, it’ll likely just cause student-athletes to have a profile that administrators know about and track, and a “real” profile where they actually communicate with their friends, free of these absurd banned-word lists.

Also, imagine the nightmare it will be for the compliance staffs at both institutions to parse every single tweet coming from student athletes. It would be great if the athletes would pool together for one week and flood these two compliance offices with tens and tens of thousands of tweets, and simply overwhelm the office’s ability to keep track of them all.

By putting these policies in place, neither Kentucky nor Louisville are ultimately solving the problem they think they need to be solving. Instead of this approach, both departments should be using Twitter as a vehicle to teach their students about the power of these tools in a social, instant-communication world; this aspect of communicating in a modern, global society is not going to change or diminish in importance any time soon. If anything, as time goes on the ability to masterfully use these tools will become more and more important in order to succeed — it’s akin to what email was 20 years ago.

Both Kentucky and Louisville are institutions of higher learning. They should be taking advantage of this opportunity to be teaching ways to effectively communicate on Twitter rather than cracking down on the words student-athletes are allowed to say in order to make things easier on their administration. Because that’s what this is really about — these schools are cracking down on kids as part of some misguided effort to manage the workload for their compliance staff.

What these schools should be doing is running mandatory education sessions, where it is made it perfectly clear that despite the fact that student-athletes may primarily use these tools to talk with their friends, their stature as Division I athletes at high-profile institutions means the public is watching them in that arena. Then give them media training and teach them how to communicate, and teach them how to use the tools to ultimately build their personal fan bases and, therefore, the fan bases for their home athletic departments. Then, everybody wins.

What Kentucky and Louisville are doing here ultimately benefits no one.



Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

Conversations with an almost-two-year old
Millie, looking at my phone’s lock-screen picture of Helen: “Sissy?”
Me: “Yes! That’s your sissy.”
Millie: “Megan?”
Me: “You want to see pictures of Megan? OK.” (I find a picture of her on my phone)
Millie: “Megan!”
Me: “Honey, Megan is your sissy, too. Can you say Sissy Megan?”
Millie: “Yuck!”

iBooks Producer update
I spent about 10 minutes with iBooks Producer yesterday and was able to drop in some graphics from the front cover of the latest issue of our alumni magazine and have something presentable in just a few seconds. Today I’m going to try and spend some more time with it and get at least a story or two and the Campus Notes section laid out. Not sure it’s necessary to do the entire issue yet, since I’m just trying to figure out the software and see what the build process is like. But if it ends up being as easy as building the cover ultimately was, then I’ll probably go ahead and build the entire thing just to see how it looks.

What I’m reading
I finally got around to reading this week’s issue of Batman yesterday morning; what an absolutely fantastic read. In the previous issue, Batman was drugged by an assassin, and this week we got a look inside Batman’s head as the drug caused confusion, disorientation and hallucinations. As the story moved on, the reader first had to turn the book sideways to read the pages; then after a few pages, you had to read it upside down and turn the pages in the opposite direction you typically would — paging backwards to advance the story, and eventually the book ended right-side up again. It was an absolutely genius layout trick, involving the reader in Batman’s spiraling journey into drug-fueled insanity right beside him. The fact that the story so far in this series has been really fun to read and Greg Capullo is doing absolutely beautiful work on the art is just icing on the cake. This was a brilliant comic book.

It was proof that in the hands of exceptionally talented creators, print still maintains some significant advantages that digital will have a really difficult time overcoming.

I also read the first issue of IDW’s new Transformers series, “More Than Meets the Eye.” It’s the first of two concurrent series IDW has launched to continue their Transformers universe; the second series, “Robots in Disguise,” launches this Wednesday, I believe. The art was quite a bit different than what the Transformers books have had in the past – it was very reminiscent of the look in the Transformers Animated TV series; long, thin, angular limbs and basic shapes without a tremendous amount of detail. It was a good look. Interesting premise for the series, too; it was an entertaining launching point for a new series and I’m curious to see where IDW goes with it.

In other reading, I’d like to try and make a dent in my “to read” pile today. I’m going to try and catch up on Batgirl, which shouldn’t be too bad since I only have two issues to read, and I think I’m going to grab my entire nine-issue run of Moon Knight and just re-read that from the beginning since I’m probably at least four issues behind on that series.

What I’m watching
I’m going  to try and camp out in the bedroom as much as I can today and watch the NFL conference championship games. I can almost guarantee I won’t be able to watch both games in their entirety; having kids running amok makes six uninterrupted hours of football basically impossible. If I had to choose, I hope I get to watch most of the AFC game between the Patriots and Ravens, although I suspect the 49ers/Giants matchup on the NFC side might actually be the better game.

What I’m playing
I actually stole some time with the big TV to get some Playstation 3 time in yesterday morning. Granted, it was only about an hour, but it was about an hour more than I’ve had in the last few months. I got through a level or two in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II; that’s a fun, but frustrating game. I’m only about six hours into it, in total, but it feels similar to the first one in that as your character gets more powerful, your opponents keep pace with you so you never feel like you can dominate a group of enemies. There’s always an opponent with a counter to whatever powerup you just received, it seems. Ah, well. It’s still an entertaining game.

Cotton Bowl memories

I’m watching Kansas State play Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl tonight. I have great memories of the Cotton Bowl, having been fortunate enough to have attended two of them in person while I was working in K-State’s sports information office in the late 1990s, before I moved to Bemidji in 2001.

I went as a fan and sat in the stands in 1997 and watched K-State lose a close 19-15 decision to BYU; I went down with my girlfriend, Laurie, and my buddy Brian. Brian Kavanaugh threw a 40-something yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to end the first half and give K-State its first lead, but it didn’t hold up.

My second Cotton Bowl was as a member of K-State’s traveling party in 2001; Laurie also came along, although this time we were married. K-State was matched up with Tennessee, which had spent the entire year touting defensive tackle John Henderson as the greatest defensive player in the history of the universe. K-State shoved the ball right down Tennessee’s throat, spending most of the game running right over Henderson instead of around him, as everyone expected them to. The Wildcats averaged better than five yards a carry that game, after Tennessee had given up about 2.5 per rush over the course of the regular season. The final was 35-21 K-State, and it really wasn’t even that close. K-State called off the dogs in the third quarter, knowing it had an insurmountable lead; you had the feeling all game that the ‘Cats could’ve scored 50 had they wanted to.

The 2001 game was fun from the outset. Dallas got hit with an ice storm just a day or so before the game, and the grounds crews were scraping slush off the field before kickoff, and if I remember right it was only in the 30s or 40s at kickoff. K-State seemed to flourish in the bad weather, while Tennessee seemed to struggle with it until it was too late.

That, sadly, was the last K-State football game I saw in person. I was in Bemidji about four months later, and I haven’t had a chance to watch a game live since. I miss it terribly. The Cotton Bowls were great memories, some of the most fun I had at bowl games.


“In chaos, there is opportunity.”

“In chaos, there is opportunity.”

Those were the words of Minnesota State University, Moorhead President Edna Szymanski earlier today in a press conference where the Dragons became the first school to pounce on this week’s college hockey apocalypse as an opportunity to make a name for itself (Moorhead’s official release is here).

Moorhead first announced it was exploring the possibility of adding ice hockey in the spring of 2009, but at that time really didn’t have a viable conference home to join. The WCHA was, at that point, full, and publicly deflecting Bemidji State’s desire to join; that wasn’t an option. Travel costs would have made the CCHA impossible, and the CCHA was in the midst of proving it couldn’t care less about the fate of smaller hockey programs by allowing Wayne State to fold and giving the stiff-arm to Alabama-Huntsville’s formal application request. So, really, even if Moorhead would’ve had the money in 2009, they had nowhere to play.

All that changed this week when the WCHA blew up like the Death Star.

The conference dropped to five members for 2013-14 when the five breakaway schools poached Miami University to form the NCHC, and will likely make quick work of the Northern Michigan application to get back to an NCAA conference-legal six members, while also further plundering the CCHA and making that conference’s prospects for long-term survival look pretty bleak (unless they start pillaging Atlantic Hockey for expansion members, which could happen). Bruce McLeod, the commissioner of the WCHA, has said his ideal WCHA has eight members – that leaves Moorhead staring down the barrel of two open slots in its dream conference and, in fact, probably the only conference affiliation that makes any financial sense if they’re to get hockey off the ground.

It’s a tremendous opportunity – for Moorhead, if they can pull it off, but also for the schools that splintered off from the WCHA and CCHA to form the Big Ten (along with Penn State’s expansion program) and the NCHC. If Moorhead can get its money together, launch men’s and women’s hockey and get itself into the WCHA, then this sport-shattering conference realignment will have allowed college hockey to expand by two programs in one year. That is huge for a sport that has seen more programs fold than start in the decade since I’ve been, directly and indirectly, following college hockey as part of my job here.

It also gives the Big Ten and NCHC no small portion of moral high ground. They’ll be able to – rightly – say “Look, you may not like what we’ve done, but these moves have directly and indirectly led to the creation of two new programs — and you all have said you wanted college hockey to grow again.”

I hope Moorhead’s efforts are successful. It’d be fun to have another program in the state, they’re a natural rival with BSU in our Division II sports, and they’re in a part of the state that has a college hockey void. They have a lot to accomplish before they green-light it, but the next three months will be fun as the college hockey world watches to see if they can pull it off.`

Boise State

Last night, Boise State beat Louisiana Tech, 49-20.

At one point during the highlights on the 11 p.m. SportsCenter, one of the talking heads reminded the audience that Kirk Herbstreit had said during pregame analysis of this contest that Boise State needed to “win with style.” In College Football Speak, this means “blow them out.” This reminder came after a highlight of the kickoff return fumble that gave Louisiana Tech an opportunity to cut the score to 28-20 in the third quarter.

The Broncos beat a team by 29 points and are criticized for not winning by more. However, had they “won with style” and defeated Louisiana Tech by, say, a margin of 70-0, it also would’ve been used against them to illustrate the weakness of their schedule in defense of keeping them out of the BCS.

Even in a four-touchdown victory, Boise State can’t win.

College Football Saturday

A great day for college football yesterday.

My alma mater, Kansas State, scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to beat UCLA, 30-22, and North Dakota State, from just a couple of hours down the road, shocked Kansas, 6-3, in Lawrence.

I actually got to watch the K-State game; ABC was showing the Michigan-UConn game since Minnesota is in its Big Ten region, but thankfully ESPN2 stepped up and had the Wildcats. So not only did I get to watch K-State, I got to watch K-State in HD. It was a great afternoon, although as always I miss actually being at the games.

Great game to watch, but a note to all high school and junior college quarterbacks: There’s a job for you at Kansas State. Please call them and get recruited.

The post-game commentary for the Michigan game was hilarious, though. All you heard from ESPN was how huge a win that was for the Michigan program. Actually, no, that shows how pathetic Michigan is right now, when a win over Connecticut is considered a potential turning point for your program when you’re supposed to be competing for national titles. It just shows how far over the cliff they’ve fallen in the last few years.

Probably will take a break from football today and look forward to Boise State/Virginia Tech tomorrow night. That should be an excellent game.