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  • A Bit More on Wright

    Sun, May 31, 2009 by admin with 1 comment

    Received a nice e-mail this weekend from Eric Stromgren, a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota.

    Stromgren came across the story I wrote on Air Force hockey player Kevin Wright and his fight to re-gain NCAA eligibility. (If you’re not familiar with Wright’s plight, check a few of the posts below this one)

    Anyhow, Stromgren was interested because prior to working in Bemidji he worked for the newspaper in Owatonna, where he covered the Southern Minnesota Express – the junior team for which Wright played prior to coming to Air Force.

    Here’s part of what Stromgren wrote me:

    “Kevin was a quiet guy who led by example more than anything … but he was definitely a leader on that team. He was very driven and a good member of the community. He also worked well with the kids in the community as a role model. … This is really unfortunate.”

    Indeed it is.

  • Frawley Flies High

    Fri, May 29, 2009 by admin with 3 comments

    I wrote a story for today’s edition of The Gazette about Air Force junior pole vaulter Nick Frawley. He holds the academy indoor vault record (18 feet, 1 inch) and this weekend is competing at the NCAA Regional meet in Norman, Okla. You can find the story (and the very cool graphic produced by Matt Steiner) here.

    One thing that didn’t make it in the paper was a step-by-step chart I came up with for how Fawley executes a vault. I pasted that below and included a video of Frawley’s record-setting indoor vault. It’s extremely cool to watch.

    1) The Mental Prep
    Frawley has written down a set routine – detailing everything from what he eats to what he thinks on the day of a meet – and he tries to follow it exactly. A crucial part of his routine happens just before he takes off down the runway to perform a vault: He’ll close his eyes and picture a perfect jump from different angles. “I try to see myself doing it, and I think that really fires the same type of neurons that I would use if I was actually completing the jump,” Frawley said.

    2) The Approach
    After picturing his vault, Frawley sprints down the runway – his run covers 132 feet – carrying the pole in both hands by his right hip. He tries to attain maximum speed. “The faster and more powerful you can be, the better you’re going to be in the pole vault,” he said.

    3) Preparing for Takeoff
    Frawley morphs from sprinter to vaulter with his last three steps. On his third-to-last-step (with his left foot), he begins to shift the pole upwards. On his second-to-last-step (with his right) the pole is at about his right ear. By his last step (with his left) the pole is high above his head.

    4) The Launch
    With his final step, Frawley explodes off his left leg into the air – “You want to be quick and powerful,” he said – and simultaneously plants the pole.

    5) The Swing
    As Frawley gets airborne, he swings his legs forward. “It creates a lot of energy, it moves the pole and it gets your hips up on top of everything.” The pole bends backward toward the ground at first but begins to straighten and cast Frawley up toward the bar. At the same time, the swinging motion inverts Frawley. By the time the pole has bent back and is perpendicular to the ground, Frawley is too – head pointing toward the ground and feet to the sky.

    6) The Dismount
    With his body and the pole perpendicular to the ground, Frawley begins to twist his body180 degrees so the front of his body is facing the bar. He then lets go of the pole and arches his body over the bar.

    7) The Fall
    Once Frawley twists, he can see the bar. And he knows if he has cleared it cleanly before he starts to fall back to earth. If he has, it’s time to admire his work. “Because you’re falling from 18 feet, you have some time to look at it and celebrate on the way down,” he said.

  • More on Wright

    Thu, May 28, 2009 by admin with 4 comments

    If you haven’t yet heard about the NCAA’s unfortunate stance on Air Force hockey player Kevin Wright, please check the two posts below and this link to a story I wrote that appeared on the front page of today’s Gazette.

    If you have heard about Wright’s situation, here’s one more tidbit that will frustrate you even further:

    Air Force didn’t find out that Wright had inadvertently started his five-year clock until the fall of his freshman year when he was attending a compliance meeting. Linda Huggler, who handles compliance issues at Air Force, asked the incoming hockey players if they’d taken any classes prior to coming to Air Force. Most raised their hands. She then asked how many hours they all took, and when Wright told Huggler his total, she was shocked.

    So was Wright. He had no idea that being a full-time student would start his eligibility clock, which  proves he had no intent to deceive or commit wrongdoing.

    And consider this: Had Wright never mentioned to the Air Force powers-that-be that he’d attended that community college full-time for a year, the NCAA never would have figured out that he’d inadvertently started his five-year clock. Think about it. Would the NCAA waste its time tracking down the transcripts of a role player on a hockey team? Especially transcripts from some obscure community college? No way.

    So in addition to being punished, ostensibly, for being too diligent when it comes to academics, Wright is being punished for being honest.

    One question you might have is how did Air Force not already know Wright had started his clock?

    I asked Air Force coach Frank Serratore this. Once the Falcons started recruiting Wright, he was playing juniors and only taking classes on a part-time basis. But Wright’s high school grades and ACT scores were so exemplary that his community college grades were unneccessary in the application process. So Air Force never requested them. (Serratore said he encourages players who might be on the bubble as far as being accepted at Air Force to take part-time classes while playing junior hockey. By doing so they show the admissions board that they are serious about education. It’s one more thing that can help them gain admittance.)

    Wright, however, was a slam dunk for admittance. He didn’t need to show what work he’d done during juniors. So the first the academy found out about his full-time status (three years before coming to the academy) was in that meeting.

    Academy officials then brought the matter to the attention of the NCAA. It was done, I’m sure, to keep things above board and be honest about an honest mistake. But at the same time, everyone associated with Wright and the Air Force program was convinced the NCAA would come back with a favorable ruling.

    No such luck.

  • Weighing in on Wright

    Thu, May 28, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Here is an e-mail former Bemidji State athletic director and College Hockey America commissioner Bob Peters which was sent to Air Force hockey coach Frank Serratore regarding the Kevin Wright situation (if you haven’t yet heard about Wright’s situation, check the post below).

    Serratore shared it with me and said I could post it here. It’s a very good take.

    >>Frank: Very, very sorry to hear about the Kevin Wright/NCAA issue. I am of the opinion that Kevin has a legitimate case and it should be pursued. The NCAA objective regarding eligibility, should be a fair and honest effort to insure that every athlete has an opportunity to compete. Opportunity, opportunity it should always be about opportunity for young adults to participate. Seems to be very clear that Kevin was given incorrect advice by an academic counselor in whom Kevin trusted. For this reason alone he should have his eligibility restored. There was no attempt on Kevin’s part to circumvent the NCAA rules. The key words are TRUST and INTENT. Kevin delayed his entry into DI athletics in order to better prepare himself to compete. At least 95% of all hockey players contemplating D-I hockey competition, play junior or some other level of hockey in order match the experience level of their contemporaries. Football and basketball players don’t have to go the same route as hockey players in order to be on the same competitive level as their contemporaries. Unfortunately, most of the NCAA staff members that deal with eligibility have no hockey background. The end result is that Kevin becomes an innocent victim. <<

  • Wright Being Wronged?

    Thu, May 28, 2009 by admin with 2 comments

    Air Force hockey player Kevin Wright, who will be a junior in the fall, is out of eligibility, according to the NCAA.

    Why? Not for anything nefarious, but because he inadvertently started his “five-year clock,” during which an athlete must play his or her four seasons, three years before coming to the academy.

    He did it – get this – by taking classes at a community college that is not affiliated with the NCAA and does not have a hockey program.

    After high school Wright had no Division I offers, so he played midget hockey to attempt to attract the attention of junior league teams, from which colleges recruit players. Nearly all of Air Force’s players came to the academy after playing for junior league teams.

    Nearly all those players also take some classes at community colleges to show they haven’t given up on academics (it looks better for applicants trying to impress admissions folks).

    So why didn’t they start their five-year clocks? Because they took classes part-time, while Wright took enough classes to be considered full-time. That’s right – he’s being punished for doing too much academic work.

    If that sounds crazy, consider these facts:

    1. He was told by a counselor at the community college that his eligibility would not be affected. So he received bad counsel.

    2. He was unable to bring the credits he amassed to Air Force (he had to start from scratch), so he received no benefit other than the knowledge that he gained.

    3. Again, players taking classes prior to starting their clocks is common. The only reason Wright was affected was because he was considered full-time.

    Still, the NCAA rejected his request for a waiver and his subsequent appeal.

    “I just think it’s a horrible injustice,” Falcons coach Frank Serratore said. “If he doesn’t qualify for an exemption, a waiver from the five-year rule, who the hell would?

    I wrote a lot more about this in a story that appeared on the front page of The Gazette this morning. You can find that story here. Also, you can find the NCAA bylaws that pertain to Wright’s case here.

    Let me know what you think about this.

  • Calhoun Heading Overseas

    Tue, May 26, 2009 by admin with no comments

    Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun will leave Wednesday on the second annual Under Armour Coaches Tour to visit U.S. troops overseas.

    You can find my article dealing with Calhoun’s thoughts on the trip here.

    One thing I couldn’t fit in the story – the trip coincides with some rare down time for Calhoun and his coaching staff, which has completed its evaluations of potential members of the upcoming season’s recruiting class.

    “We’ve got a list already of guys that we’re going to recruit that are completing their junior years in high school,” he said. “We’ve gathered a bunch of transcripts and we’ve got a ton of video, so we’re well ahead on what we need to be doing.”

  • Tragic News

    Mon, May 25, 2009 by admin with 2 comments

    According to Houston television station KHOU, Air Force football recruit Jordan Wilson was killed Sunday night when the car in which he was a passenger hit a tree. You can find the station’s report here on its web site.

    Wilson was a 6-foot, 240-pound lineman from Conroe High in Conroe, Texas. He was planning to attend the prep school prior to coming to the academy. The Courier of Montgomery County wrote this article about Wilson when he chose Air Force.

    Air Force coaches are not allowed to comment on recruits before they get to the academy, but I did talk to Wilson’s coach, Roger Holtkamp, around national signing day. Holtkamp had high praise for Wilson, and mentioned Wilson played both sides of the football, “which is unheard of in (Texas) 5A football,” Holtkamp said.

  • Calhoun on Pro Policy

    Sat, May 23, 2009 by admin with 3 comments

    Air Force coach Troy Calhoun thinks service academies’ pro policies should be altered. I wrote about this in today’s edition of The Gazette. You can find it here.

    One note – I wrote this a couple weeks ago, and we’ve been waiting for a day when we’d have space in the paper to run it. So the camp in which Travis Dekker participated wasn’t last week, it was a few weeks ago.

  • More Baseball News

    Fri, May 22, 2009 by admin with 3 comments

    Four baseball players were cut this week, continuing a trend of significant turnover within the program.

    You can find the story I wrote about it here.

  • Baseball Story

    Sat, May 16, 2009 by admin with 3 comments

    As promised, here is a link to the story that appeared in today’s edition of The Gazette.