Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Troy University Edges out Auburn U. and Alabama

August 18, 2009

TROY UNIVERSITY’S  ATHLETIC DIRECTOR TALKS MORE ABOUT ACADEMICS THAN ATHLETICS WHEN HE ADDRESSES PHENIX CITY ROTARIANS

Steve Dennis, Troy University Athletic Director,  speaking to Phenix City Rotarians, Phenix City, AL

Steve Dennis, Troy University Athletic Director, speaking to Phenix City Rotarians, Phenix City, AL

According to Forbes magazine, Troy University is the number one university in Alabama, edging out both Auburn U. and the University of Alabama.  That’s what Troy’s Director of Athletics Steve Dennis told members of the Phenix City Rotary Club Monday.  He said that Forbes listed the rankings of all U.S. universities and Troy came out ahead of all other Alabama schools of higher education.

He spent the majority of his speech on academics,  how the school makes learning its top priority, and how important online learning has become.  He says the school has a number of online course now,  but that is just the beginning.  Troy U. hopes to eventually offer just about all of its course online.  He was especially proud of  Troy’s program of teaching America’s active duty military personnel,  commenting that soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are now taking online courses.  

While he did emphasize academics, he also made it clear that college life is about a lot more.  “It is where young people start deciding who they really are,  what they plan to do in life, and quite often meet their life-partners.” 

And, while he didn’t concentrate on athletics, he did make it clear how important athletic programs are for students.  He said coaches are primarily teachers, mentors who have a tremendous responsibility of instilling the proper values in their students, not just winning,  but being responsible human beings.

When he did get around to discussing athletics, he did admit that some coaches make millions of dollars a year, and that includes both Auburn and Alabama.  But, he said,  if a coach is in it just for the money, he is not the type of coach that Troy wants.  He said when Troy learns that an applicant says he is in it for the money, Troy looses interest in that applicant.  Troy wants coaches that are in it because they love the game and they love positively molding young people.

Afterwards I asked him what his head football coach makes.  He said, “$300,000.”  I said, “Why is he making that when coaches at other schools, schools like Alabama and Auburn,  are making millions?”

He explained that Alabama and Auburn are SEC teams,  and making millions for coaches on those teams is standard.  However, Troy is a Sun Belt Conference team and his coach, Larry Blakeney, is making a top salary for that division.  No doubt, he should, because he is the winningest coach in Troy U’s history,  and the fourth winningest coach in state history, only behind “Bear” Bryant,  Cleve Abott, and Shug Jordan.

“Isn’t the tail waging the dog when so much money is being spent on athletics, money that should on academics?”

He said that school teams pull in millions of dollars for the schools, and that the money doesn’t just go for athletic programs, but also for academic buildings, etc.  Some it goes to the huge, nationally honored,  Sound of the South Band that plays for the halftime ceremonies. He added that academics is the top priority for schools, and that athletic programs are the tail of the school.

Maybe so, but when that tail wags,  mammoth stadiums fill up,  and millions of folks sit in front of their television sets to watch.  Millions of dollars are wagered on outcomes,  and many conversations are dominated for days by what happened on the football field.

Troy University has campuses in Troy, Dothan,  Phenix City, and Montgomery in Alabama,  and facilities in 14 other states, including one in Atlanta.  It also has facilities in nine other countries.

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$17,750,000 of E-SPLOST Money Will Go to Athletic Facilities Improvements

August 10, 2009

A NEW $7 MILLION STADIUM,  A NEW $5 MILLION GYM,  AND OTHER  UPGRADES FOR ATHLETIC FACILITIES WOULD BE FINANCED BY NEW E-SPLOST

When I was growing up in Columbus, all of the school football games were played at Memorial Stadium.  Now,  seven are played there, and 40 at Kinnett Stadium, which is much smaller.   Seven games is all the system can get at Memorial because of other events there.  The City of Columbus owns the stadium,  but the school district owns Kinnett.

Dr. Gary Gibson, Director of Athletics, MCSD, at Kinnett Stadium, Columbus, GA

Dr. Gary Gibson, Director of Athletics, MCSD, at Kinnett Stadium, Columbus, GA

Dr, Gary Gibson, Director of  Athletics for the MCSD says Kinnett is used so much that it needs artificial turf for the football, soccer, lacrosse field,  and a new 9-lane track, plus a new scoreboard, and sound system.  He wants $17, 750, 000 of the proposed Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax to pay for improving Kinnett stadium and other projects,  including a small, new stadium at Brewer Elementary. That stadium, plus a track, tennis courts,  and parking will cost $7,500,000. 

Dr. Gibson explained that the new $2.5 million track at Kinnett will be nine lanes, all wider than the lanes on the present track

Dr. Gibson explained that the new $2.5 million track at Kinnett will be nine lanes, all wider than the lanes on the present track

The Brewer Stadium will be small,  but Dr. Gibson says, “There are a number of games that don’t draw very large crowds.    Kinnett will hold about six thousand people,  and Memorial Stadium seats about 16,000.  There are games that just don’t draw crowds that large.”

He says the Brewer stadium, which, like Kinnett,  will be used for football, soccer, and lacrosse,  will take some pressure off Kinnett.

The total cost for Kinnett upgrades is $2,750,000.

Part of the Kinnett expenditure will go for a new scoreboard to replace the broken and obsolete one now in use,  and for a new sound system. The old sound system doesn’t work any more. Portable speakers are brought in and mounted on top of the press box  for games.  Dr. Gibson says, “The new scoreboard will be better, but not in the class with the high-tech ones at schools like Valdosta High, which have digital screens that show instant replays.”

Kinnett Stadium obsolete and broken scoreboard, with stadium sized speakers on top that haven't worked for years

Kinnett Stadium's obsolete and broken scoreboard, with stadium-sized speakers on top that haven't worked for years

Dr. Gibson has greater plans for Kinnett,  but realizes that the SPLOST won’t cover those expenses.  For one thing, he wants to build a new dressing room facility.  “The old one is inadequate,” he says.  “It will only hold about 20 members of each team so the coaches have to talk to them at half time by having the offensive team in for one session, and the defensive for another one.” 

Kinnett Stadium locker room, which has no lockers, or showers,  and is so small teams have to use it in shifts

Kinnett Stadium locker room, which has no lockers, nor showers, and is so small teams have to use it in shifts

Torn training table in Kinnett Stadium locker room

Torn training table in Kinnett Stadium locker room

He hopes  to pay for the new locker room facility and other upgrades with what he calls licensing.  Businesses or individuals can license a facility, which means they will get its name on it  by making a financial contribution.  He said, “You know, maybe the new locker room could be the Aflac Locker Room.  The renovated press box could be the Synovus Press Box, for instance, and so on.”  While explaining that idea, he emphasized how greatful the system is to the Kinnett family for its contributions in getting the stadium built.

But, all of that will have to wait.  The projects that the SPLOST will pay for have the top priority. 

Besides the big ticket items at Kinnett and Brewer,  Fort Middle School will get a new system-wide gymnasium that will have four locker rooms, and seat 2,500 people for $5,000,000.

Spencer will get $650,000 improvements, including track and baseball field upgrades, and a new softball field.

Northside, Jordan, and Kendrick will get track upgrades, costing $200,00 each.  

Columbus High will get $200,000 for an upgrade of the softball field at Lakebottom.

And the new Carver High school will receive $825,000 for its baseball and softball fields, and a warm-up track around the football practice field.

What does he have to say to those who say that academics should come first. Is it a good idea to spend all that money on sports?

“Studies have shown,” he told me, “that students who participate in programs, on average, perform better in academics than those who don’t. Also, schools with good athletic programs have fewer behavioral problems. And programs engender strong school spirit, uniting students and faculty to support he school teams.”

I think he’s right.  Bands do that, too.  I told him about the Bob Barr Alumni Band doing a memorial half-time show at Kinnett a few years ago and the huge crowd that it attracted at a Jordan-Columbus football game. Dr. Gibson said he understood the importance of music programs.  He said,  “While I was a high school athlete, I also played the piano and sang in the chorus.” 

I said, “That’s good. In other words, you were well rounded.” 

He replied, “My mother insisted on it!”

A Very Unusual Boat Show

April 4, 2009

When I pulled into Lake Oliver Marina to check out the boat show,  I couldn’t find the boat show.  I expected to see boats all over the parking lot.  Turns out the boats for sale were on the water,  and there were only four of them, and none was cheap,  ranging in prices from $24,000 to $44,000.  But,  before I had left I realized I had just attended the most enjoyable boat show ever. 

John McCroskey, President, Singleton Marine Group,  Blue Creek Marina, Fafeville, Alabama,  taking me for a ride on Lake Oliver

John McCroskey, President, Singleton Marine Group, Blue Creek Marina, Dadeville, Alabama, taking me for a ride on Lake Oliver

The president of Singleton Marine Croup, which has stores on Lake Martin, Lake Lanier, Lake Oconee, Lake Hartwell and Lake Burton, and is headquartered at Blue Creek Marina on Alabama’s Lake Martin,  personally took me out for a ride on a plush Harris FloteBote.  And it wasn’t because it was me.  He had just taken out a family of about six people before he offered me a ride.

“If I can get someone to go out on the water with me,  the odds are very high that he’ll end up buying a boat from me,  maybe not on that day nor the boat we rode in,  but some boat that my company sells,”  John McCroskey told me.

John McCroskey getting ready to cast off for our ride on Lake Oliver

John McCroskey getting ready to cast off for our ride on Lake Oliver

Since I had no intention of buying the $24,000 Harris pontoon boat he was showing me, I thought maybe I shouldn’t take him up on his offer of a ride,  but I explained to him that I was going to feature the boat show on my blog, and decided to take a little spin around Lake Oliver.  He was happy to oblige.

We had a very pleasant time on the lake.  Boating on a big pontoon boat can be a very relaxing experience.  I showed him the former Bill Heard mansion that he could pick up for $19 million if he desired.  As we approached it he said, “It looks like a hotel.”

$19,000,000 mansion on Lake Oliver formerly owned by Bill Heard, Jr.

$19,000,000 mansion on Lake Oliver formerly owned by Bill Heard, Jr.

I said, “it reminds me of one of those 1930’s Hollywood movie star mansions.”

“Right, you can almost see Clark Gable standing on the patio,”  he rejoined.

Then John, getting into the swing of the picture taking, spotted a house with an elaborate flower garden,  and  said,  “Those are some beautiful flowers.”

“Can you get a little closer?”

“Sure,”  he said as he swung the Harris around.

House with nice garden on Lake Oliver

House with nice garden on Lake Oliver

Actually,  I have been thinking about maybe getting a small boat to enjoy cruising again on our wonderful Chattahoochee River – in past years I have owned one motor boat and three sail boats – so I asked him if he had anything cheaper.

“We have one for $1 4,000.  When you add the trailer and hitch it’ll bring it up a couple thousand.”

“How big is it?”

“20 feet.”

The $24, 000 doozy we were riding in is 24 feet.  That meant I could get a pontoon boat that is 4 feet shorter for $10,000 less.  I’m not saying I’ll buy a boat, but if I do, it will probably be from John McCroskey.  He’s a likable good ole boy who gave me an enjoyable Saturday afternoon boat ride on a $24,000 boat.  Thanks John.

NBC Needs to Look at The Big Picture in It’s Olympic Coverage

August 12, 2008

  Like a few billion other people, I’m enjoying the novelty of the Olympics, and, for the most part, I think NBC is doing a good job. However – yes, there is a “however” – I don’t understand why they don’t take a few minutes to update us on the big picture. Who is ahead in the medals and whether they are meeting expectations or not.  I have been able to find out who’s winning the most medals on Google, but the network could do a better job of putting the big picture into persepctive. They should have hired me as a consultant. Maybe you, too.

The Olympics Bring Me Back to Sports

August 11, 2008

   Usually, I don’t watch sports a lot. Occasionally I’ll catch a Braves game, and I watch some of the Georgia, Auburn, Tech and Alabama football games. But, I have been watching the Olympics a lot. And some of my friends who don’t watch sports hardly ever are watching the Olympics.

 

  “It’s so different from what is usually on TV,” said one. “And the opening ceremonies were just incredible.”

 

  Right on both counts.  And to think that those ceremonies were choreographed by an American. Well, he is now an American, but he was raised and learned to do his world class dancing in China. He became an American citizen and now lives in New York. That didn’t stop the Chinese government from asking to come back to his mother country to choreograph probably the biggest dance routine the world has ever seen or will ever see.

 

  Also, I find it fun to catch live coverage of sports you just never normally see on TV.  Skeet shooting was fun to watch. Maybe it was because I did it once – that’s right just once – at Fort Benning many years ago and I did manage to hit a few of the clay targets. But, just that one experience was enough to understand what it was all about.

 

  And there will be the one Olympic sport that Columbus hosted for the Atlanta Olympics, women’s fast pitch softball. But, it appears the sport is going to be dropped. Too bad, but Columbus will always be in the Olympic history books because of the fine work of former Mayor Frank Martin and former City Manager Carmen Cavezza’s efforts to make an Olympic sport a reality for Columbus.

 

  Well, gotta go now so I can catch the diving event. Just like skeet shooting. I dived off a high dive board once.  It was in the great spring fed, icy cold water pool at Roosevelt State Park. I’ll never forget it. I didn’t arch my back when I hit the water and hit my head on the drain grate on the bottom of the pool.  Maybe that’s why I keep forgetting where I put my glasses.