This is the one of many columns to be written by UMBC Director of Athletics Dr. Charles Brown. Dr. Brown is believed to be the longest-tenured AD in the state, with over 20 years at the helm of the Retrievers. He has been an athletic director since 1981 and has served two terms as president of the Maryland Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and one term on the NCAA Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet.
I’m sure that we all have things that annoy and frustrate us, and sometimes we need to vent. These “pet peeves” continually crop up, and we are exposed to them on a regular basis. For example, how many times have you heard someone say they gave 110% effort. How is that possible? Some people begin talking by saying, “To be honest…” Are they usually dishonest? When waiters don’t write down your order, does it make you wonder whether you will get what you asked for? And finally, who is that guy in all those GEICO commercials?
I’ve got lots of sports pet peeves, and I’ve put down in this piece some of the biggest of the bunch. So here goes!
Stoppage Time—The world’s most popular sport is played in 2-45 minute halves. In international soccer/football, once the whistle is blown to start the game, the clock never stops. Action on the field, however, does stop to tend to injuries, arguments among players and officials, or replacement of a ball that was kicked into the stands. At the end of each half, a small sign is lifted overhead by a sideline official that indicates the “alleged” time to be added to the game—time accrued from various forms of stoppages during play. Once this occurs, no one in the stadium or in the TV audience knows exactly when the game will end-- only the official on the field knows this. To compound the confusion, there can be additional stoppages during stoppage time. Ridiculous!
BCS Championships—There was a time when the NIT Basketball Tournament was more important than the NCAA’s. This changed years ago, and now we hold a true basketball championship each year run by the NCAA which culminates in the “Final Four.” It’s huge.
Now take college football. The college football bowl setup is very lucrative and steeped in tradition, but to call the current championship game a true championship is a farce. Computer rankings determining the two finalists is just plain wrong.
Even the most recent U.S. Presidents both have expressed interest in creating a new championship format, with a play-off system that is inclusive of all the top ranked teams. Orrin Hatch, Senator from Utah, once raised the issue on the Senate floor! I realize some bowl games will be lost/diminished, but the benefits and financial rewards, as well as the public interest, will be greatly enhanced. Get it on!
The Spike—Why is the quarterback spiking the ball to stop the clock not considered intentional grounding? It’s intentional! It’s grounding the ball with no interest to complete the pass. It’s like adding extra time outs for the offense. And, the game officials actually scurry around to get the play off quickly, so the clock can be stopped. It makes no sense to me.
College Athletic Conferences—When Texas Christian joined the Big East, I just knew I needed to re-educate myself in geography. Is the Big Ten now the Big 11, or is it the Big 12 with the additions of Penn State and Nebraska? The landscape of the Big Twelve has shrunk and the PAC 10 has grown—What’s going on? Is it all about money? You THINK?
Conference expansion has taken some very strange twists. Even at the mid-major level, the footprint of ever expanding conferences is asking schools to log thousands more miles with a great deal of added expenses. Added to this is the burden put on student-athletes, including missed class time for tedious travel requirements.
In our ideal world, UMBC Athletics would be in a conference with universities one-two hours from our campus. Imagine a local conference with UMBC, Towson, Loyola, Mount St. Mary’s, American, George Washington, Navy, Delaware, and George Mason. A conference with local rivalries, easy team travel, better media coverage, and fan-base enhancement-it makes too much sense.
Of course, the Ivy League, the MEAC, and maybe the ACC and Big East make sense as long distance conferences. Take football out of the mix and set up separate football conferences so that the “tail is not always wagging the dog.” For the rest of us, let’s keep our egos in check!
Pay for Play—I’ve listened to so much commentary on TV about the topic that I’m “fed up to the gills” on the subject. Pay college athletes for participation because we’re making so much money and taking advantage of them? Reality check! Only a very small percentage of schools turn a profit—most break even at best, or are in deficit. The multi-billion dollar CBS deal with the NCAA to televise March Madness is what allows the NCAA to run its more than 90 NCAA championships in 3 divisions (which don’t make money) and run the overall administration of the NCAA. NCAA Division I student-athletes receive “scholarships for play.” At a school like Duke, a full scholarship for a men’s basketball player is approximately $50,000 annually! Add coaching by a “world class” coach, lots of free publicity, tutoring, strength & conditioning programs, and the total skyrockets. Giving pay for student-athletes can open “Pandora’s Box.” Can we fire student-athletes who perform poorly or get injured? What happens if the team loses, like the Duke football team? Do we pay only high profile sport student-athletes and forget about volleyball, track & field, field hockey, and all the other non-revenue sports? How many schools can afford to pay? Won’t this make for an even greater disparity among Division I programs?
Forget it—It’s not necessary—Federal Pell Grants up to $5,500 annually cover expenses that scholarships can’t for poor student-athletes. NCAA participation for the gifted student-athletes in revenue sports gives them great publicity and exposure for their future careers—IN THE PROs.
Baseball & Softball out of the Olympics—What a shame! While synchronized swimming, trampoline, and rhythmic gymnastics will continue to be “played” at the London games, the conspicuous absence of baseball and softball will be felt by the millions of fans of those two sports and especially by the participants. These are huge sports played around the world, especially in the Western hemisphere and Far East. I feel especially bad for the softball players, as this is their premier event.
I am always amazed at the politics and selfishness involved in the Olympics.
Play Baseball—I cringe every time I hear a reporter, announcer, or player say that when pitchers intentionally throw at batters or runners intentionally smash into catchers, it’s “part of the game”—Balderdash!
Think back to that great film clip of Jackie Robinson sliding under Yogi Berra trying to steal home plate in the World Series. That was baseball. Brush-back pitches are a part of the game, but throwing at batters in retaliation for one of many reasons is not acceptable in my book—our youth watch the game. Would it be part of the game in Little League, Pony League, or High School—I think not. Play Baseball.
Stalling in Women’s Lacrosse—Women’s lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in the NCAA. With championship brackets about to expand once again, the sport is attracting great athletes and great young coaches. There have been many rule changes in the recent past. Most notably, the addition of boundaries, seemingly a no-brainer, and other changes have enhanced the game and have made it more understandable to the general public as well as rabid fans.
One area for future consideration by the lacrosse hierarchy is to prevent excessive stalling at the end of a game. Last season, we lost our Conference title by 1 goal, as our opponent held the ball for nearly 5 minutes. No attempt toward going to goal was made, and I feel the players, coaches, and fans of both teams were cheated out of a great finish to a hotly contested game. This year, I saw several games with stalling tactics, including NCAA playoff games. Our team has also stalled with the lead. Change the rules. Give the defense the ability to get a turnover. Women’s Lacrosse Rules Committee: Make the game better for all!
Everyone who knows me can testify to my love of sports. I’ve coached multiple sports, participated in a wide array of activities including long distance running, team sports, and individual sports. I’m often on a soap box to “make it better” or criticizing what I think makes no sense. I hope I haven’t offended anyone, and I’d love to hear what you think on any of the topics I’ve talked about or anything else related to sports!