2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • FINAL: Wyoming 72, Air Force 59

    Tue, January 27, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Air Force played one of its best games in recent weeks Tuesday night at Wyoming’s Arena-Auditorium.

     

    The Falcons ran their offense hard and with purpose, played aggressive defense and did not back down, trading runs with the Cowboys for about three-quarters of their contest.

     

    But all that still wasn’t enough to prevent a 72-59 loss, the Falcons’ seventh straight and eighth in their last nine games. Air Force, which fell to 9-10, is below .500 in the regular season for the first time since the 2002-03 campaign. And at 0-6 in the MWC, the Falcons are off to their worst start in league play since 1993-94, when they began their Western Athletic Conference slate 0-13.

     

    Wyoming, which now is 10-0 at home, improved to 14-6 and 3-3 in the MWC.

    Senior guard/forward Andrew Henke led Air Force with 18 points, while senior guard Anwar Johnson and freshman forward Taylor Stewart added 10 and nine apiece.

     

    Wyoming senior forward Tyson Johnson led four Cowboys in double-figures with 18 points. Senior guard Brandon Ewing added 17.

  • Halftime: Air Force 32, Wyoming 31

    Tue, January 27, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Air Force freshman forward Taylor Stewart hit a hanging runner with less than 10 seconds to play in the first half tonight to give the Falcons a 32-31 lead over Wyoming at halftime of their Mountain West Conference game.

     

    The Falcons, who have lost six straight and seven of eight, played arguably their best half since the start of league play, making 13-of-26 shots from the floor, including 4-of-13 3-pointers.

     

    Senior forward Andrew Henke led Air Force with 10 first-half points, while Stewart had six. Both players also had two assists.

     

    The Falcons trailed 18-11 but went on a 9-2 run to tie the game at 20. Air Force caught Wyoming at 25 and 27 and finally took its first lead of the game, 30-29, when Henke hit a 3-pointer with 1:55 to play. Wyoming’s Tyson Johnson scored to put the Cowboys back up in front before Stewart’s basket.

     

    Air Force used four reserves in the first half, and all were freshmen – Stewart, center Sammy Schafer and guards Shawn Hempsey and Brandon Provost.

  • 15 Minutes to Tip

    Tue, January 27, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Greetings from the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie. Watching the Cowboys and Falcons warm up on the floor in front of me.

     

    So far not much of a crowd. Wondering if the cold is keeping people at home. It is freezing up here.

     

    I think this game will be all about who can establish its preferred tempo. If Air Force can limit the number of possessions in the game, I think it has a chance. But Wyoming is tough at home and might be able to enforce its will. We’ll see. I’ll check back in at halftime.

  • Tuesday Morning Links

    Tue, January 27, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Good morning. For those who haven’t seen today’s edition of The Gazette, here is a link to my preview story, which has to do with the question of playing for today or playing for the future. Also, here are my three things to watch for the game.

     

    For views from the other side, here is a Wyoming Tribune-Eagle feature story on Cowboys transfer Djibril Thiam, along with some notes. And here is the preview from the Casper Star-Tribune.

  • More From Reynolds

    Mon, January 26, 2009 by admin with 4 comments

    Hello. Sorry for the radio silence on the blog the last couple of days – I was away over the weekend for a wedding.

     

    Anyway, for those of you who haven’t yet seen it, here is a link to my article about the men’s basketball team’s struggles that appeared in Sunday’s edition of The Gazette.

     

    I’d be interested to hear what people think, especially about this question: Did Air Force simply catch lightning in a bottle from 2003 through 2008? Or can the academy have a hoops team that consistently is a contender in the Mountain West Conference?

     

    I talked with coach Jeff Reynolds last Thursday for the article, and some of his thoughts did not appear in the paper. I’ve included them here.

     

    -On how playing better on offense will help the defense: “I think sometimes when you don’t shoot the ball well, it’s hard to sustain the defense on the other end if you’ve got a young team. If you’ve got a senior team, kids who’ve been through the wars before, they have a tendency to know that they’ve got to get stops at critical times.”

     

    -On whether his offense needs more players who can shoot the 3: “It would be great to be able to put five guys on the floor who could all shoot the 3. We haven’t had that luxury in a couple of years. Now, do I think our guys are shooters? I think our guys are better-than-average shooters. Now the problem right now is they’re pressing. They’re pressing. They want to please. They want to win as much as anybody does. And the harder they press, the nervouser they get. That’s just how I see it right now.”

     

    -I also asked Reynolds if he would do anything differently if he could go back to the beginning of the season. Initially he said: “No. No. I think what we have to do now, it’s easy to point fingers right now when things aren’t going as well as everyone would like for them to go. But we’re working hard. We’re confident in our abilities as coaches and as players.”

     

    But then, after a pause, he continued: “You ask that question, and if we were 19-0 there’s some things I’d do differently. So to answer your question, yeah, I’m sure there would be some things I’d do differently and handle some things differently. For example, I’ve been ridiculed by many for not calling a timeout the last possession against TCU. Had we called a timeout, needing a 3, what if they’d have fouled us? So we had a play already designed, and we knew no matter what we weren’t going to call timeout whether we needed a 2 or a 3. Consequently, we didn’t give them a chance to set because they didn’t know what they were going to do. But I’ve been very much ridiculed because of that.”

     

    I asked Reynolds who had “ridiculed” him, and he said “Numerous people.” When I asked if it was fans, he responded “Numerous people. We’ll leave it at that.”

  • Calhoun Now Highest-Paid Coach in AFA History

    Wed, January 21, 2009 by admin with 5 comments

    Air Force has made Troy Calhoun the highest-paid athletic department employee in academy history, agreeing to a new five-year contract with the football coach that will pay him $725,000 annually.

     

    As part of the deal, which was announced Wednesday, Calhoun will receive a benefits package worth approximately $110,000 per year that brings the contract’s total value to $4.175 million.

     

    The new contract represents a significant raise – especially by academy standards – as Calhoun made a base salary of $560,000 in 2008. And athletic director Hans Mueh hopes it will help keep his hot commodity at the academy. Calhoun, who has led the Falcons to a 17-9 record and two bowl games in his two seasons, was a candidate for the jobs at Clemson and Tennessee in late December and was linked to several other openings.

     

    “It seems like sizeable bump in salary, and it probably is,” Mueh said. “But I’ll be honest with you, when we hired Troy, I think we got him for a steal. … I think this contract says to Troy Calhoun, ‘We’re interested in keeping you for the long haul.’”

     

    Mueh said Calhoun’s salary now ranks fourth in the Mountain West Conference, behind Gary Patterson at TCU, Kyle Whittingham at Utah and Bronco Mendenhall at BYU. Air Force finished fourth in the MWC in 2008 behind those three teams.

     

    The percentage figures in Calhoun’s incentive package are the same as in his previous contract – though the payouts will be larger because of his increased base salary. Among the incentives are a 2.5-percent bonus for earning Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year honors, a 5-percent bonus for winning or retaining the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, a 7.5-percent bonus for winning the MWC, a 10-percent bonus for a non-BCS bowl invitation and a 20 percent bonus for a BCS bowl invitation. Incentives could earn him as much as $217,500.

     

    Like his previous contract, this one is structured as a “rolling” deal, meaning it will be reviewed annually and another year will be added automatically each Dec. 31. Ostensibly, this is the academy’s way of giving Calhoun a long-term deal, because it is not permitted to give contracts of more than five years.

     

    “The government rules for contracting don’t allow me to give him more than five years at a time,” Mueh said. “I’d love to, and coach actually would like that. … But the best we can do is to have in his contract that as of Dec. 31 every year, we will roll this contract over another year. And barring any catastrophic event, I don’t see that changing. My hope is that he would be the next Fisher DeBerry and stay for 25 years here.”

     

    While the contract will be discussed at the end of each year, Mueh does not have to re-negotiate it.

     

    “We can talk about it, but I’m hoping Troy is satisfied with this package and its benefits and that we can keep this running for about five years, because I am sensitive to the economy,” Mueh said.

     

    If Calhoun leaves before the end of his contract, he or the school/team for which he leaves would have to pay 25 percent of his remaining total base salary. In other words, if he leaves after the 2009 season but before the contract rolls over and adds a fifth year, he’d still have four years and $2.9 million remaining on his deal. Thus, the buyout would be $725,000. If he leaves after the contract rolls over, the buyout figure would be $906,250. Mueh hopes that acts as a deterrent.

     

    Calhoun’s assistants also got raises. The pool of money for his nine contract assistants was increased from $885,000 to $1.17 million annually. How that money will be dispersed has not yet been released, but Mueh said each of Air Force’s top seven assistants will be the highest paid in the Mountain West Conference for their position.

     

    Calhoun released a statement that read, in part: “The academy’s purpose – to educate and develop young people of integrity and fortitude who serve as outstanding leaders for our country – is both unique and quite moving. With regards to Air Force football, for over 50 years there have been many exciting moments, and we look forward to many more in the coming years.”

     

    Other notes from Mueh’s Wednesday press conference in which he discussed the contract:

     

    -Mueh was asked if it’s frustrating that Calhoun likely will continue to be pursued by other schools in the coming years. Here’s how he responded:

     

    “That’s just the way it is. If you look around at the very high-profile coaches and the very high-profile conferences, that’s just the way business is done. … If he’s successful and continues to be successful, I think I’m going to face that every year. And I’ll have to address that every year and hope that I can make this place attractive to him maybe with some intangibles as opposed to keep raiding my pocket book.”

     

    According to Mueh, Calhoun’s three biggest desires in negotiations were helping his assistants, continuing to look at future schedules and making sure that Charlton Warren, the Falcons’ cornerbacks coach and recruiting coordinator, would be hired on as a contract coach when he exits the Air Force.

     

    “We’ve taken care of all of those, sort of,” Mueh said. “The scheduling thing is still a work in progress.”

     

    -Mueh said he hoped ground could be broken for the proposed indoor facility that Calhoun has championed within the year. “Spring is a little bit optimistic, but I still have my fingers crossed that we might be able to pull this off by summer because it is privately funded, and that gives us a little extra flexibility.”

  • Calhoun, Air Force Agree to New Deal

    Wed, January 21, 2009 by admin with 1 comment

    Air Force and football coach Troy Calhoun have agreed to a new five-year contract worth $4.175 million, the academy announced Wednesday.

     

    Calhoun will be paid a base salary of $725,000 in each of the five years of the contract (it will not increase annually). In addition to his $3.625 million base salary over the duration of the deal, his benefits package will be worth approximately $110,000 per year.

     

    The new contract represents a significant raise – especially by academy athletic standards – as Calhoun made a base salary of $560,000 in 2008. Athletic director Hans Mueh hopes it will help keep his hot commodity coach at the academy. Calhoun, who has led the Falcons to a 17-9 record and two bowl games in his two seasons, was a candidate for the openings at Clemson and Tennessee in late December and was linked to several other openings.

     

    The percentage figures in Calhoun’s incentive package are the same as in his previous contract – though the payouts will be larger because of his increased base salary. Among the incentives are a 2.5-percent bonus for earning Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year honors, a 5-percent bonus for winning or retaining the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy, a 7.5-percent bonus for winning the MWC, a 10-percent bonus for a non-BCS bowl invitation and a 20 percent bonus for a BCS bowl invitation.

     

    If Calhoun leaves before the end of his contract, he or the team for which he leaves would have to pay 25 percent of his remaining total base salary. In other words, if he leaves after the 2009 season, he’d still have four years and $2.9 million remaining on his deal – thus, the buyout would be $725,000.

     

    Like his previous contract, this one is structured as a “rolling” deal, meaning it will be reviewed annually and, if both sides agree, another year will be added so Calhoun always will have five years left on his contract. Ostensibly, this is the academy’s way of giving Calhoun a long-term deal, because it is not permitted to extend contracts of more than five years. But it also keeps the buyout figure high.

     

    Calhoun’s assistants also got raises. The pool of money for his nine contract assistants was increased from $885,000 to $1.17 million annually. How that money will be dispersed has not yet been released.

     

    Calhoun released a statement that read, in part: “The academy’s purpose – to educate and develop young people of integrity and fortitude who serve as outstanding leaders for our country – is both unique and quite moving. With regards to Air Force football, for over 50 years there have been many exciting moments, and we look forward to many more in the coming years.”

  • Wednesday Morning Links

    Wed, January 21, 2009 by admin with no comments

    As promised, here is the link to my CSU-Air Force game story and my notebook. Also a game story from The Fort Collins Coloradoan can be found here. My post-game thoughts are in the post below.

  • CSU Wrap

    Wed, January 21, 2009 by admin with 1 comment

    The keys to the Mountain West Conference basement have been handed over to Air Force.

     

    After losing tonight to lowly Colorado State, 67-56, the Falcons clearly have the cellar all to themselves.

     

    I’ll post a link to my game story tomorrow morning, but I have to reiterate the gist of it here: This game set up perfectly for Air Force.

     

    The Falcons were coming off an encouraging performance and facing a team they’ve owned in recent years. Not only that, but the Rams – already without 6-foot-10, 260-pound center Dan Vandervieren (back spasms) – announced before the game that three of their other contributors would not play. Guard Josh Simmons had left the team, and guards Harvey Perry and Marcus Walker (the Rams’ leading scorer who averaged 20.5 points in two games against Air Force last season) were sitting because of academic issues. In addition, starting point guard Willis Gardner spent the day throwing up.

     

    Depleted Rams plus desperate Falcons should have added up to victory.

     

    But Air Force couldn’t get it done.

     

    Some of the ugly particulars from an ugly game:

     

    -The Falcons missed 13 of 22 free throws.

     

    -They turned the ball over 14 times.

     

    -They missed a handful of layups.

     

    -The allowed the league’s worst-shooting team to make 20 of 39 shots, including 9 of 18 from 3-point range.

     

    And, as was the case against Utah, Colorado State was far from perfect. The Rams turned the ball over 15 times themselves, and Air Force had plenty of chances to seize control of the game.

     

    The question now: If not tonight, then when?

     

    After this loss, 0-for-conference suddenly seems like a realistic possibility. Air Force next plays at Wyoming – a better team that Colorado State with a much tougher home floor – then returns home for games against UNLV and BYU, the teams picked to finish first and second in the league this year. After that is a trip to San Diego State, where Air Force has had trouble even in its best years, and then games against three teams that already have beaten the Falcons – New Mexico, Utah and TCU – before paying host to Colorado State.

     

    It could get really ugly the next few weeks.

     

    Other thoughts:

     

    -The opening few minutes of that game were about as brutal as I’ve seen this season. In the opening 4:27, the teams combined for more fouls (nine) than points (eight).  At the 13-minute mark the teams had managed a combined 12 points – and a combined 12 fouls.

     

    -Things didn’t get much better. In the first half the teams combined for more fouls (23) than field goals (19) and also turned the ball over a combined 15 times.

     

    -Exactly how ugly was it? Here was one sequence mid-way through the first half: Air Force’s Anwar Johnson is whistled for an offensive foul on a fast break. Colorado State turns it over. Air Force’s Evan Washington misses a layup. Colorado State turns it right back over. Air Force’s Andrew Henke misses a layup.

    -Three small silver linings:

     

    One: Matt Holland nearly shot Air Force to victory. He made 7-of-11 3-pointers en route to 25 points, and his seven 3s were the most by an Air Force player in one game since Jarvis Croff hit seven in December of 2000.

     

    Two: I thought Evan Washington showed some flashes of the potential he seemed to display a lot more last season. He made several aggressive, acrobatic drives to the hoop for scores. Now he just needs to get his shot figured out. He went 2-of-4 from the free throw line and 5-of-14 from the floor, including 0-of-2 from beyond the 3-point arc, where he clearly lacks confidence.

     

    Three: Air Force still can win its season series with Colorado State. It just needs to win at the academy on Feb. 21 and then in the MWC Tournament play-in game in Las Vegas. Yep, that’s where these teams will be.

  • FINAL: CSU 67, Air Force 56

    Wed, January 21, 2009 by admin with no comments

    An Air Force season teetering on the verge of collapse took another significant shot Tuesday night.

     

    The Falcons lost, 67-56, to Colorado State at Moby Arena.

     

    The Colorado State program that went 0-16 in league play last year. That Air Force had beaten eight straight times. That was without two of its top six scorers.

     

    The loss was Air Force’s seventh in its last eight games and sixth in a row – its longest streak of futility since it ended the 2001-02 season with seven straight defeats.

     

    The Falcons fell to 9-9 and 0-5 in the Mountain West Conference – their worst start in league play since the 1997-98 season, when it played in the Western Athletic Conference – and remained the only team in the MWC without a victory in league play.