• Remembering Anthony Schlegel, the Air Force linebacker who got away

    Tue, May 31, 2011 by David Ramsey with 2 comments

    Zach Bohannon’s recent departure from the Air Force Academy got me thinking about one of the most painful transfers in AFA sports history:

    Middle linebacker Anthony Schlegel.

    Schlegel arrived at the academy in 2001 as a lightly recruited career at Highland Park, a suburb of Dallas. National powers didn’t want him. The big-time schools considered him  too slow.

    Schlegel proved the powers wrong. In 2002, his sophomore season, he collected 118 tackles. He was on his way to one of the most dominating defensive careers in Air Force history.

    But he couldn’t handle the wide – make that extremely wide – array of rules at the academy.

    “I grew tired of playing the games there,” Schlegel told me in early 2003. “When football is the only thing making you happy, there is something wrong.”

    So he transferred to Ohio State.

    Schlegel’s departure is one of the big what-ifs of Air F.orce football history. If he had remained, the 2003 and 2004 seasons might have been much different.

    Instead, Schlegel starred for the Buckeyes for two seasons before being drafted in the third round by the New York Jets in 2006. He played for the Jets and the Bengals from 2006 to 2008.

    Athletic director Hans Mueh was laughing recently while he talked about Schlegel.

    “I worked harder to keep Anthony here than any cadet in my 30-plus years,” Mueh said. “Not because he was a great football player, but because I loved his spirit. He was the kind of guy who could be a (Navy) Seal. He had that kind of in-your-face confidence.

    “He’d go home to Texas on spring break and hunt wild boar with a knife. That was Anthony Schlegel. He was incredible.

    “He was a free spirit, ok, and the infractions at the academy in my mind were minor. They were just sort of mischievous.”

    Mueh wondered what had happened to Schlegel, and  with a little internet searching I was able to find the answer.

    He was hired in January as the assistant strength and conditioning coach at Ohio State, his alma mater.

  • DU heads to final four; The Evil Empire of the North grows more mighty

    Thu, May 26, 2011 by David Ramsey with no comments

    BILL TIERNEY

    Received a call late last week from an irate University of Denver fan. She wanted me to apologize, to her and the world, for once expressing my doubts  the Pioneers would ever win an NCAA lacrosse title.

    When I gently reminded her the Pioneers still have never won an NCAA lacrosse title, her anger multiplied.

    And yet …

    It is time to salute DU’s Bill Tierney, who left the comfort of Princeton to dive into the great unknown in Colorado. For decades, lacrosse has been dominated by a small collection of schools in the East. Only eight schools have won the NCAA title – Duke, Syracuse, Johns Hopkins, Virginia, Princeton, North Carolina, Cornell and Maryland – and all are situated within 270 miles of the Atlantic Ocean. (DU is 1,500 miles from the Atlantic.)

    College lacrosse is more than a little repetitive: my alma mater, Syracuse, has won the title five times since 2000. That’s why I was skeptical DU would win a title. That’s why I remain skeptical, even though the Pioneers face a dreamy scenario as they travel to the final four. All four of the top seeds have been eliminated, leaving an relatively easy path to the title.

    DU, on a 12-game winning streak, faces Virginia Saturday at Baltimore’s M&T Stadium. Virginia has won four national titles, including  two since 2003, but don’t be too quick to dismiss the Pioneers. Tierney is 8-2 in NCAA semis.

    Tierney has quickly established DU as a national presence, if not quite a national power. He’s one of the nation’s premier college coaches, regardless of sport, and his quick renovation job at DU is one of the highlights of his sensational career. Tierney won six titles – and traveled to the final eight times – during an amazing run at Princeton from 1992-2002.

    I thought Tierney had lost a touch of his magic when he took the DU job in 2009. Remember,  he’s failed to return to the final since 2002.

    I was wrong. Tierney has re-ignited his career in the shadow of the Rockies. He’s proven himself worthy of the considerable confidence of DU athletic director Peg Bradley-Doppes, who immediately – and rather arrogantly – announced her plans for a national title after hiring Tierney in 2009.

    Peg, congrats on the rapid rise. Turns out, you had reason for your arrogance.

    So, it looks as if The Evil Empire of the North is poised to become a national force in lacrosse. This is great news for lacrosse fans in Colorado, even though I suspect Colorado College fans are reluctant to join in applause for Tierney’s accomplishment.

    Here’s the column I wrote after Tierney was hired:

    http://daveramseysez.freedomblogging.com/wp-admin/

    I’m on Twitter. Hope you’ll join me @davidramz

  • Jaden Schwartz returns; is a special season ahead?

    Tue, May 24, 2011 by David Ramsey with 3 comments

    In their next-to-last game of the 2010-2011 season, Colorado College offered a preview into the 2011-2012 season. The Tigers obliterated No. 1 seed Boston College in the NCAA Tournament, scoring early, scoring often while revealing their immense potential.

    But one massive, troubling question hovered over the team:

    Would Jaden Schwartz return for his sophomore season?

    On Sunday, The Gazette’s Joe Paisley delivered the news that, yes, Schwartz would come back.

    That means next season’s Tigers team has a chance to be one of the most powerful in CC history. Of course, the probable does not always turn into reality, but there’s no way around the truth:

    This is a stacked CC team.

    Coach Scott Owens can look to a wide collection of talented forwards. He’s blessed with two goaltenders, Joe Howe and Josh Thorimbert, who will push each other. If Howe falters, he knows Thorimbert is right there, ready to take his place. This goaltender duo are friends, which makes the rivalry even better.

    Owens believes incoming freshmen Aaron Harstad, Ian Young and Peter Stoykewych  will  be immediately ready to play.

    And, best of all, Schwartz is back to lead the way. He has a chance to reign as the nation’s best player in what will probably be his farewell season at CC. Last year, he collected 47 points (17 goals, 30 assists) despite missing 15 games. If he’s healthy this season, CC fans will more fully see one of the most versatile and deceptively dangerous players in the program’s history.

    Is a special season ahead?

    It should be.

    I’m on Twitter. Hope you’ll join me. @davidramz

  • DeBerry’s parting gift to Air Force Academy – Chad Hall

    Wed, May 18, 2011 by David Ramsey with no comments

    When Fisher DeBerry resigned as Air Force’s head coach following the 2006 season, his football empire was in shambles. The Falcons had suffered three straight losing seasons, and the 2007 season looked as if it would be No. 4. A couple dozen of the AFA players and Gazette columnist Milo Bryant were the only people on earth who believed immediate good times were ahead for Air Force’s football team.

    But DeBerry left behind a spectacular parting gift.

    Chad Hall.

    Hall is the last of DeBerry’s great finds. DeBerry is quick to give credit to former assistant coach Richard Bell for finding Hall and believing in his potential.

    Hall was a 5-foot-7, 155-pound high school quarterback with limited speed. He believed – fiercely believed – he could excel in D-1 college football, but virtually no one agreed with him.

    Bell and DeBerry believed. They believed Hall could follow a line of unlikely AFA stars. Nobody had wanted Dee Dowis, either, and Dowis became the greatest quarterback in Air Force’s history. (DeBerry said the first time he saw Dowis, he wondered if the young, shockingly skinny quaterback suffered from anemia.)

    DeBerry saw something in Hall, something other coaches missed.

    “God didn’t give Chad a big body,” DeBerry said, “but he did give him a big ol’ heart.”

    You probably know the rest of the story. In 2007, Hall gained 1,478 yards and carried – we’re talking almost literally – the Falcons to a 9-4 record.

    I’m on Twitter. Hope you’ll join me: @davidramz

     

  • Time to celebrate: Fisher receives deserved place in college football’s hall

    Tue, May 17, 2011 by David Ramsey with 5 comments

    FISHER DEBERRY

    There are a few subjects just about everyone who is normal agrees on. If you don’t enjoy The Beatles music, sorry, but you better start wondering if there’s something haywire in your mind.

    Same thing with Fisher DeBerry. If you’ve spent time with him and fail to see he’s an honorable, kind, genuine person, it’s your problem, not his. Other than a few thousand BYU, Navy and Army football fans, everyone likes Fisher DeBerry.

    So it’s a day to celebrate for Air Force football fans and for football fans in general. Fisher has been voted into the College Football Hall of Fame, a reward for his sensational career at the academy.

    Fisher battled, and defeated, the odds for so long that after a couple decades everyone forgot the odds were against him and his program. He led the Falcons to only two losing campaigns in his first 20 seasons. He twice flirted with perfect seasons, winning 12 games in 1985 and 1998.

    His final three seasons, all losing, blurred his early success. His system broke down, largely because of a porous defense. He was always intensely loyal to his assistants, but this loyalty cost him in his final seasons. The program required fresh, youthful viewpoints, but DeBerry stubbornly stuck with his staff.

    But that was Fisher. He didn’t bend to the winds.

    He showed tremendous dignity during those final seasons. Even under often harsh scrutiny from reporters – and this certainly includes me – he declined to lash back. I have never met a journalist who had bad things to say about Fisher DeBerry.

    Today is the day to remember the many, many highlights of the DeBerry era.

    If you’re a football fan – if you’re a fan of the best of humanity – today is a day to celebrate.

  • The final chapter (I hope) in the strange, entertaining saga of Streeter and USOC

    Mon, May 16, 2011 by David Ramsey with 1 comment

    Stephanie Streeter swooped in to replace Jim Scherr as CEO of the United States Olympic Committee. After swooping in, she declined to discuss rumors she led the crusade to oust Scherr. She said, in her trademark voice of ice, those rumors had no relevance.

    She marched into a sweet deal, earning more than a million dollars in 2009 to run the USOC. This was before she marched out almost as quickly as she had arrived.

    Today, The Gazette’s Brian Gomez revealed Streeter earned $135,385 from the USOC in 2010 even though, as far as I can tell, she did not work for the USOC in 2010.

    This $135,385 paycheck is on top of her severence package.

    A sweet deal, but Streeter had this remarkable knack for working sweet deals with the USOC.

    For more on the financial workings of the USOC, check out Brian’s story:

    http://www.gazette.com/sports/year-118176-paid-usoc.html

  • Zach Bohannon departs for Wisconsin; why doesn’t this happen more often?

    Fri, May 13, 2011 by David Ramsey with 5 comments

    Zach Bohannon recently departed Air Force Academy’s basketball team after his sophomore season. He’s transferring to Big 10-power Wisconsin. This hardly follows a trend. (And, yes, I remember Trevor Noonan, who transferred following his freshman year to the University of Denver.)

    To my eyes, AFA athletics boasts a remarkable retention rate for its successful athletes. If one of the Falcons proves himself as a big-time college athlete, he (or she) can leave after the sophomore year to play somewhere else with no strings attached.. And, remember, at those somewhere elses you can wear tattered jeans to class while enjoying a level of personal freedom never found at a service academy.

    I will be writing more on this subject this month.

    Right now, I’m interested in your thoughts.

    Why does AFA boast such a strong retention rate for its highest-quality athletes? There is an undeniable temptation to depart for an easier lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong. I did not say better. I said easier.

    Let me know your answer.

  • The Kobe Era is over; will LeBron – finally – emerge as the NBA’s best player?

    Mon, May 9, 2011 by David Ramsey with 2 comments

    Kobe Bryant was the NBA’s best player, but that’s all over. Kobe is worn out, and it’s time for the new king of basketbal to emerge.

    Who will it be?

    Please,  don’t tell me the answer is obvious. I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking the best player is LeBron James.

    That’s fine. All James has to now do is prove he’s worthy.

    There’s no doubt James is the most gifted team athlete in our United States.

    But there’s also no doubt he tends to fade when it matters most. He’s so wondrously talented that he sometimes forgets about this extremely important part of winning:

    It’s called competing. James has been known to get distracted in the clutch. The great ones are elevated by massive challenges. James tends to get deflated in those situations.

    He surrendered in last season’s playoff series against Boston. He tanked it. He gave up. He shamed himself and then, just to add to the fun, abandoned Cleveland.

    I know. LeBron is already known as The King, but there’s one problem with his title.

    He’s not The King.  He hasn’t earned the crown.

    Not yet, anyway.

  • What’s your view of new rules governing football violence?

    Thu, May 5, 2011 by David Ramsey with 1 comment

    Recently talked with Broncos great Floyd Little, who is still angry about cheap shots delivered decades ago. He believes yesterday’s shots to the head from maurading linebackers are the reason he struggles with his memory today.

    What’s your view?

    I know some old-school football coaches, players and fans who miss the day when a big hit was applauded and rewarded. Today, when an NFL player delivers a shot to the head, he can expect swift and severe justice.

    Is this the right move? Or is it a needless attempt to police a game that is, at its core, violent?

    Let me know what you think.

  • Fisher DeBerry makes early (!) call to comment on Osama’s demise

    Wed, May 4, 2011 by David Ramsey with 2 comments

    I called Fisher DeBerry earlier this week to ask for his reaction to Osama bin Laden’s demise. Reporters at The Gazette talked with dozens of present and past Springs residents about the most important news stories of 2011. 

    Fisher called back to offer his thoughts.

    He called me at 5:30 a.m.

    Fortunately for Fisher, I had turned off the ringer of my phone. If Fisher had awakened my wife at 5:30, he would have faced some serious wrath.

    Here’s Fisher’s comments on the end of Osama:

    “My grandmother always told me, ‘Be sure your sins will find you out,’ and there’s no doubt Osama’s sins found him out.

    “My hat is off to the Navy Seals and the courage they showed. They deserve all the praise in the world.

    “And what my grandmother always said proved to be true.”