• Congressional Bowl Licensed

    Wed, April 30, 2008 by admin with 4 comments

    Air Force coach Troy Calhoun wants the academy to pursue direct tie-ins with bowl games similar to what Navy had with the Poinsettia Bowl last year.

    You become bowl eligible (by winning six or more games), you get an automatic invite to the bowl with which you have a direct tie-in.

    There appears to be a perfect scenario for such a partnership in the Congressional Bowl, which was sanctioned by the NCAA on Wednesday along with the St. Petersburg Bowl. Those two bowl games will join the 32 existing bowl games that were played last season and were licensed again by the NCAA Postseason Football Licensing Subcommittee on Wednesday. The proposed Rocky Mountain Bowl in Salt Lake City was not licensed.

    The 2008 Congressional Bowl will feature Navy (if it reaches six victories and thus becomes “bowl eligible”) against a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The bowl has a deal in place with Army for the 2009 game and would like to arrange a future tie-in with Air Force.

  • Injury/NFL Updates

    Tue, April 29, 2008 by admin with 9 comments

    Spoke with Air Force coach Troy Calhoun today and got some updates on some of the Falcons’ injured players:

    -Outside linebacker Hunter Altman, who had an arthroscopic procedure on his right ankle on April 11 (the day before the final spring scrimmage), is “doing pretty much everything right now,” Calhoun said. Altman is “a little limited,” pushing off his right foot, Calhoun said, but he should be back to full strength by May 15.

    -Tailback Savier Stephens is recovering from hernia surgery and is in rehab, Calhoun said. “He’s able to do some of the core work, and he ought to be able to do everything in early June,” Cahoun said.

    -Nose guard Jared Marvin continues to rehab his surgically repaired right knee. Calhoun said Marvin is looking at a mid-September return. …

    Calhoun also said that senior linebackers Drew Fowler and John Rabold are drawing interest from some NFL teams – Fowler with the Lions, Rabold with the Chiefs, specifically. Both are looking to sign with teams as undrafted free agents, participate in camps during the next two years and then join the teams (while continuing to serve in the reserves) after completing two years of active duty.

  • Cover Boys

    Mon, April 28, 2008 by admin with no comments

    Air Force’s 2008 football team will be one of the youngest in academy history, according to coach Troy Calhoun.

    The media guide – which has not yet been released – will suggest as much.

    Last year the media guide featured all seniors on the front and back covers. Linebacker Drew Fowler, quarterback Shaun Carney and fullback Ryan Williams were on the front, while running back/receiver Chad Hall, linebacker John Rabold and safety Bobby Giannini were on the back.

    This year’s media guide, according to sports information director Troy Garnhart, will feature seven players in some combination on the front and back. There will be four seniors (defensive end Ryan Kemp, linebacker Hunter Altman, tight end Travis Dekker and kicker/punter Ryan Harrison), two juniors (safety Chris Thomas and guard Nick Charles) and a sophomore (Reggie Rembert).

    Garnhart said he can’t remember a sophomore appearing on the cover of the media guide in his approximately 20 years at the academy and that it traditionally has been reserved for upperclassmen. However, he said a sophomore appearing might just suggest a change in philosophy under Calhoun – the best players are featured, regardless of class. …

    Air Force seniors have received their post-graduate assignments, and four football players from the Class of 2008 will stay around the academy next year. Fowler and Carney will serve as graduate assistants for the Air Force football team, while Blaine Guenther and Hall will serve as graduate assistants for the academy prep school’s football team.

  • Why the Price Increases?

    Thu, April 24, 2008 by admin with 2 comments

    As noted in this article that appeared in Tuesday’s edition of The Gazette, Air Force has raised prices for football season tickets.

    There were across-the-board price increases, and most ticket prices went up about five percent. Such increases are immediately understandable. The academy had not raised prices in three years, and many sections had not seen an increase in five years. Plus, Air Force is coming off a surprisingly successful 9-4 campaign and wants to capitalize on that momentum.

    But the premium seats at Falcon Stadium – four sections near the 50-yard line – were raised about 56 percent. And that increase shocked – if not angered – some season-ticket holders, some of whom expressed their displeasure to The Gazette.

    The academy, however, had reasons for the increase, said Chris Peludat, Air Force’s assistant athletic director for tickets and marketing. And it was not given the opportunity to explain those reasons in the aforementioned article. It is given that opportunity here.

    Peludat said that while the prices for 50-yard line seats increased by $100 ($175 to $275), there is $65 in value added to those seats. The academy is installing cushioned seat backs in those sections (a $35 value, Peludat said) and each individual game ticket for those seats will include $5 of stored value that can be used at concessions stands like a debit card for that particular game.

    “So it wasn’t just a $100 increase and they’re getting nothing for it,” Peludat said.

    And while the increase was dramatic, Air Force’s tickets still are among the lowest in the Mountain West Conference and are roughly commensurate to those at Army and Navy.

    If Air Force season ticket holders are members of the Blue and Silver Club, they receive a 15 percent discount on tickets (up to four). Factoring in that discount makes Air Force’s season tickets (around the 50-yard line) the lowest in the league.

    (Note: The base prices for season tickets in premium areas are lower at some other schools, but those schools require minimum donations as well. For instance, according to academy research, Wyoming season tickets near the 50 are $168 but require a $500 per-seat donation.)

    “We think our prices are very fair and in line with what other schools are charging, what Army and Navy are charging, plus ours include benefits,” Peludat said. “Nobody’s giving you $5 per game to spend. The seat-back is nice, not every school has that. We’re bringing things in to try to make those sections nicer, and there’s cost associated with that. We did raise the price, but we’re giving 65 percent of that increase back to our fans. Some like that and some don’t.”

    While Air Force premium tickets still are affordable in relation to other conference schools, it was the dramatic increase that might have caught fans off guard. Peludat understood that sentiment.

    “It probably would have gone over easier, especially in the center section, if we had increased prices incrementally each year,” he said. “It might have been easier to swallow.”

    So what’s the increase’s bottom-line effect on season ticket sales? While Peludat acknowledged they’ve received some upset phone calls, he said it’s far too early in the renewal process to tell.

    “We don’t keep a tote board, but if we did, it’s been pretty equal as far as complaints versus people buying in,” he said.

  • Coaching Clinics

    Fri, April 18, 2008 by admin with 1 comment

    Air Force football coaches are on the road this week, taking some time to learn from their peers.

    Offensive coaches visited West Virginia spring practices and now are at the University of Arizona. Defensive coaches are visiting Clemson and UCLA.

    The Falcons’ coaches are making these visits to watch how other programs work and to see if there’s anything they are doing schematically that might work well at the academy. “Professional development,” is how Calhoun explained it.

    Air Force’s coaches were unable to make such trips last year because Calhoun had just been hired and was scrambling to get settled. But he wants to make visiting other schools an annual activity, along with watching plenty of film of other schools.

    “I just think it’s really healthy to do, and sometimes you pick up things where you think, ‘Hey, maybe in two, three years when so-and-so and so-and-so are juniors at the academy, that’s something that could work pretty well for us,’” Calhoun said via phone from Arizona Thursday afternoon. “I just think you’ve got to do it.”

    Calhoun said “a couple” teams visited Air Force this spring, “and that’s something we try to encourage – let them know they’re welcome.”

    But something tells me Navy and BYU coaches wouldn’t exactly be greeted with open arms.

  • AF-Houston Time, TV Set

    Thu, April 17, 2008 by admin with 4 comments

    Kickoff for the Air Force football team’s third game of the 2008 season – at Houston on Sept. 13 – has been set for 1:30 p.m. (MT), according to an academy release.

    That means the Falcons likely will have to deal with hot and humid conditions. The game will begin at 2:30 local time, about the hottest part of the day, and – according to a National Weather Service site I visited – the typical high for Sept. 13 in Houston is 90 degrees. Air Force players’ conditioning will be tested.

    Air Force also announced the Houston game will be televised nationally by CBS College Sports Network, formerly known as College Sports Television (CSTV).

    That gives Air Force seven nationally televised regular season contests in 2008. The Falcons’ games at Wyoming (Sept. 6) and at home against New Mexico (Oct. 23) and BYU (Nov. 15) also will be televised by CBS College Sports Network. In addition, Air Force’s home games against Utah (Sept. 20) and Navy (Oct. 4) and its regular season finale at TCU (Nov. 22) will be televised on Versus.

    Air Force’s game at Army (Nov. 1) is expected to be televised by one of the ESPN family of networks.

  • Basketball Banquet Review

    Wed, April 16, 2008 by admin with 1 comment

    Thought I’d pass along some highlights from Wednesday night’s men’s basketball banquet for those of you unable to attend.

    -As one would expect, senior guard Tim Anderson was given the program’s top honor – the Bob Spear Award. Named after a former coach (known as the father of Air Force basketball), the award is given to “the student-athlete that is outstanding in all areas of the academy – academics, athletics and military performance.”

    Anderson was a no-brainer pick.

    Though he was a second-team All-Mountain West Conference selection and the league’s defensive player of the year, Anderson never was fully appreciated during his career by those outside academy grounds. It had something to do with his quiet demeanor, and it was in part because he played his junior season in the shadows of the academy’s outstanding Class of 2007. Mostly, though, it was because some of his most valuable contributions were little things that casual fans don’t notice – deflecting passes, picking up charges, helping out on defense.

    He led the 2007-08 Falcons in scoring, assists and steals, and he’ll graduate ranked No. 2 at the academy in career games played and career steals – behind Jacob Burtschi in both candidates.

    Anderson won’t be leaving the program totally, however. He’ll be back next year to serve as an assistant coach for the prep school’s team.

    -Junior Andrew Henke was given the Falcon Award, “given to the player that gives 100 percent regardless of the situation and his place on the team.”

    Henke won the award in large part because he willingly accepted the role of “sixth man” even though he played the minutes of a starter, led the team in rebounding and ranked second on the team in scoring.

    Coaches often like to say that who starts is insignificant. Back when I covered the Nuggets, George Karl would scoff when I asked him about his starting lineup. He said that was something that wasn’t a big deal and that “you guys” (the media) blew out of proportion.

    But players care. They’re lying if they say they don’t. And Henke, though he deserved to start (as it said several times in this blog and multiple times in columns in The Gazette), never complained.

    “He put himself behind the team,” Reynolds said.

    -Anderson and senior Eric Kenzik shared the Captain’s Award, and senior Keith Maren was given the Strength and Conditioning Athlete of the Year award.

    -Athletic director Hans Mueh praised the coaches and the team, calling it one “that will forever leave its mark on the academy.” Mueh said he is “as proud of this program now as I’ve ever been.”

    -Head trainer Larry Willock, who is retiring after 14 seasons at the academy, was given a framed No. 14 Air Force jersey.

    “I’ve been in coaching for 27 years, and he’s the best,” said Reynolds, who fought back tears as he introduced Willock. “There’s no one close.”

    -Reynolds said Air Force is trying to kick off the 2008-09 campaign with the second Air Force Classic. The tournament debuted last season. He also said there are preliminary plans to hold a second tournament at World Arena.

    The schedule, however, is coming together quite slowly as teams are shopping for the best deals for their programs.

    “It’s extremely difficult,” Reynolds said. “What we’re finding is more and more teams are paying a lot more money to get home games. Anywhere between $80,000 to $100,000 is what the big-time boys are paying to get home games. So consequently, it’s tougher. We’ve had some dialogue with teams. It’s just a work in progress.”

  • Rabold Hopeful for NFL Chance

    Mon, April 14, 2008 by admin with 9 comments

    Ran into John Rabold outside the Air Force football locker room the other day.

    Rabold, who will graduate in May, is one of several Air Force seniors hoping to continue his football career in the pros.

    I think it’s safe to say Rabold has been working hard to make that happen.

    The outside linebacker, who earned first-team All-Mountain West Conference honors last fall, looks much bigger after a few months of hitting the weights. Rabold, who was listed at 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds last season, said he’s up to about 250. And it looks like all muscle.

    According to Rabold, his agent has been getting calls from NFL teams. Most are wary of his military commitment, however, and that likely means he will go undrafted.

    (Air Force grads are required to spend five years on active duty, though those who have the opportunity to land a job that will have public relations benefits for the Air Force – like playing in the NFL – can get an early release from active duty. Instead of their final three years of active duty, they’d serve six in the reserves.)

    Rabold hopes if he does not get drafted a team will sign him as a free agent. He’d then use his 60 days of leave following graduation to participate in that team’s preseason camps. He’d then stay in shape while on active duty, use subsequent leave time to take part in other team camps and then hopefully make the team after two years of active duty service.

    Sounds like a tall order, but Rabold seems like he is serious about making it happen. And from what I’ve heard, Rabold is the most intriguing of the Air Force seniors with pro aspirations (including inside linebacker Drew Fowler and receiver/running back/returner Chad Hall, among others) to NFL scouts.

  • Scrimmage Review

    Sat, April 12, 2008 by admin with 2 comments

    As I wrote in my article for Sunday’s Gazette, I thought the defense controlled most of Saturday’s controlled scrimmage.

    The defense had trouble stopping the quarterback draw and there were some missed tackles, but for the most part I thought it had the better of the offense. Anyway, here are some quick-hit thoughts from the final day of spring practice:

    -Liked the way freshman tailback Kyle Lumpkin ran with the ball on one possession late in the day. He had six carries for 40 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown, on the 60-yard drive.

    “He had the one fumble today, which I think is unacceptable, but he’s got a little shake to him, and I just love the kid,” Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. “Attitude-wise, you’re around him as a kid, it’s contagious with the kind of determination he has and how much he loves football.”

    -The defensive line played extremely well, led by Ben Garland, who forced and recovered a fumble, and Jake Paulson. Also thought sophomore linebacker Myles Morales stood out. He had a sack and a couple tackles for losses and always seemed to be around the ball.

    -Thought freshman receiver Kevin Fogler played well. He made a bunch of grabs and in the situational part of the scrimmage (when the first-team offense would run three straight third-and-2 or third-and-6 plays) he hauled in a 46-yard strike from junior quarterback Shea Smith.

    -That was Smith’s finest moment of the practice. He stood in the pocket and launched the ball just before absorbing a big hit. It was impressive enough that he put a deep ball on the money. More impressive that he did it knowing he was about to get stung.

    -While quarterback Eric Herbort was really hard on himself after practice, I thought he had a few good moments, specifically the 60-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Hemphill.

    -Hemphill again flashed his potential with that grab but it was balanced out by a pair of drops.

    -This just in: Ryan Harrison is good.

    -Junior tight end Keith Madsen made a great catch in traffic for a 14-yard gain. But the tight ends were relatively quiet otherwise.

    -Spoke to senior-to-be nose guard Jared Marvin in the tunnel prior to the scrimmage. Marvin, one of five returning defensive starters, tore both the ACL and MCL in his right knee early in spring practice and had surgery on March 17.

    Calhoun had told me that Marvin would need five to seven months of rehabilitation, and I’ve been told that’s pretty much standard for the type of injury he suffered. But coaches rave about Marvin’s toughness and work ethic, and Calhoun said Marvin likely would be back “sooner than it’s supposed to be.”

    Marvin thinks so too.

    He was doing some exercises when I saw him, and he said his rehab was going well, and he is getting his range of motion back in his leg. According to my math, five months from March 17 is August 17. So I asked if he would be back in late August.

    “What?” he said. “Early August.”

    It was impossible not to believe him.

    -As I’ve written before, defensive line coach Ron Burton is one of my favorite coaches to watch during practices because of his intensity, energy and attention to detail. He’s also one of the more entertaining guys on the field.

    Saturday he stopped freshman defensive end William Dallas as Dallas ran onto the field with the third-team defense. Dallas, you see, was wearing around his waist one of those hand-warmer pouches that you’ll often see quarterbacks, receivers and kickers using. Burton obviously didn’t approve.

    “What are you doin’ with that mess on?” Burton asked. “Makes you look soft.”

    Dallas shed the hand-warmer and tossed it to a manager before lining up with his teammates.

  • Spring Game, er, Controlled Scrimmage Preview

    Fri, April 11, 2008 by admin with 2 comments

    Air Force will wrap up spring practice tomorrow at Falcon Stadium, but it won’t be with a Blue-Silver Game of years past.

    Like last spring, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun will finish spring drills with a practice that includes a controlled scrimmage. Instead of dividing players into two teams (Blue and Silver) and playing an actual game with a final score, Calhoun will keep units together and pit them against each other in a series of situations. So the No. 1 offense will drive against the No. 2 defense, the No. 2 offense will face the No. 1 defense, etc.

    Calhoun admits that it “probably takes a hair bit away from the entertainment aspect of it because you don’t have two teams.” But he believes this type of format is necessary – especially with such a young and inexperienced squad.

    “We just haven’t had that many guys that have spent time together playing together,” he said. “And I think to develop that kind of chemistry in an 11-on-11 environment where the coaches are off the field, we’ve got to get as much of that as we possibly can. And I think as soon as you start splitting teams up, then that Mike (LB) and that Will (LB) are on a different team and their communication – they don’t quite get a chance to get to play together quite as frequently. That center and the right guard are split up. That quarterback and a couple receivers. I just think it will work better this way.”

    “The other thing is I think you’re able to isolate many more situations. Now you can truly focus on playing 11 on 11 and executing situations rather than thinking you’re going to be on two different teams. We’re going to compete, I just think we’ll get so much more done production-wise. “

    And you can still glean plenty from this type of scrimmage. Here’s what I’ll be watching:

    1) The quarterbacks, of course. Junior-to-be Eric Herbort has played well and moved into the starting spot on the Falcons’ two-deep chart, but senior-to-be Shea Smith has been rock solid as ever. The starting role for the 2008 opener won’t be won tomorrow, but it’s the last chance to see both signal-callers in action.

    2) Reggie Rembert. As discussed in the post below, Rembert – a starting corner – has spent a few practices with the offense this spring because he gives an attack with few playmakers an explosive threat. I’ll be interested to see what kind of impact he makes with the ball in his hands.

    3) The inside linebackers and cornerbacks. Air Force’s defensive line is arguably the deepest and most talented unit on the team. The outside linebackers and safeties are talented and relatively experienced. But save for Rembert, the corners are brand new. And so are the inside linebackers. Will any step up tomorrow?

    4) The tailbacks. Air Force is paper thin at this position right now with Savier Stephens injured and Brenton Byrd playing corner. How will Kyle Lumpkin (who already has one of my favorite nicknames of 2008 – the obvious but perfect-for-a-back “Lump”), D.J. Ford and Chase Wilke look at full speed?

    5) Who are the leaders? Air Force lost 26 seniors from last year’s team. It will be interesting to see who takes on a leadership role.