Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Youth Hockey Players: ‘Heads Up, Don’t Duck’
banning fighting and tougher rules on head-checks, both common causes of head injuries in ice hockey, the new program addresses the fundamentals of the sport. "Heads Up, Don’t Duck" teaches players just that — to keep their heads up when colliding with the boards around the rink, which reduces the shock impact on the spine.
USA Hockey has teamed up with Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic on a new initiative to reduce spinal injuries in youth hockey players. While many campaigns have taken aim at |
“When the head is up, the normal curvature of the spine has more shock-absorbing ability,” explains Michael Stuart, co-director of Mayo Clinic’s Sports Medicine Center and chief medical officer for USA Hockey. “When the head is down, the spine is straight, which makes it more susceptible to fracture that can damage the spinal cord.”
Data collected since 2008 by the Sports Medicine Center has found that cervical spine fractures are the most common injury in youth hockey players, with spinal and head injuries accounting for the majority of injuries.
The training program includes a video demonstrating the dangers associated with players ducking their heads as they crash.
Blog: Rob Roots for His Alma Mater, and Only One Is Beaten
Barry and I are graduates of Bloomfield High School in New Jersey. Bloomfield was no football powerhouse when I played in the early 1980s, and had never won a state playoff game until this year. When the team reached the 2012 finals, played at MetLife Stadium in early December, I had to go.|
Making it even better, Bloomfield’s opponent was neighboring Montclair High School, a rival school for 80 years and Bloomfield’s traditional Thanksgiving Day opponent. In fact, Montclair had just beaten Bloomfield 14-7 on Thanksgiving, and now they were meeting again just two weeks later.
Even better than that, the team’s head coach for the past 22 years is a fellow who likely doesn’t know how much I cherish my memories of high school football. Mike Carter was fresh out of college, working as a part-time football assistant, when I was on the team. Mike, along with other young coaches working at Bloomfield at the time, was like “one of the guys.” Truth be told, I was too small and too slow to be playing high school football, but I was too dumb not to play. Mike and the other young coaches were the ones who believed in me, who spent their time in the weight room with me and helped me believe in myself.
Alumni of both schools were asked to wear their old letterman jackets. Yes, I wore mine. No, it didn't fit. The game was well played, exciting and went into double overtime. We lost, 16-13. On my way out of the stadium, I heard someone behind me say, "Class of ’84? I thought I was old from the class of ’96!" When I turned around, I found myself talking to a guy from the rival school, also wearing his letterman jacket. We talked briefly about what a great game it was. He introduced me to his wife, then we went our separate ways.
It occurred to me that I have read more than a few stories lately about fights breaking out in the parking lots of stadiums between rival fans. Fans have been beaten unconscious and even shot by opposing fans. I simply can't understand this. I had watched a great game, cheered my team, and felt bad that we had lost. But it never occurred to me to fight a man I had never met before because my team lost a football game.
This was what it’s supposed to be all about: Two schools with a long tradition and fierce rivalry playing on the biggest stage. Dedicated young men giving everything they had and leaving it all on the field. A coach on the sidelines who was just a kid like me all of those years ago, chasing the biggest prize of his career. And two former athletes who had never met before, taking a moment to appreciate what they had just witnessed and what used to be. I love football.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Blog: Women's Soccer Is Once Again Taking the Wrong Path
Professional women's soccer has a problem. Actually, a lot of problems. But here's one I'm not sure has occurred to the backers of the latest league: Women's soccer is running out of acronyms. There was the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA, 2001-3) and Women's Professional Soccer (WPS, 2009-11), and now there's going to be the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL, 2013-?). After this league folds (in 2015, if my math's correct), someone will be able to start up the WNSL and WNPS, but then they'll have to really dig deep in 2028 for a name that doesn't carry with it the stench of failure. Maybe by then it'll occur to women's soccer advocates that a different tack must be taken to establish it as a professional sport.|
I've written about this three times now, twice with regard to the WUSA and once after the first full season of WPS. The problem with women's soccer is that people insist that it must start out as a "Major" league, rather than go through the process of going from semipro to minor/lesser to major. Major League Baseball didn't spring up, fully formed, with 30 teams playing coast to coast and a $7 billion television contract, in 1876. To become "major," the league would have to change its rules dozens of times, stop spectators from standing on the field behind a rope line, produce the Cleveland Spiders, retire the dead ball, throw a World Series, ban Negro players (and reinstate them half a century later), and put an asterisk next to Roger Maris' name. From Abner Doubleday to Connie Mack to George Steinbrenner takes multiple generations.
The National Women’s Soccer League will begin play with four Northeast teams, two Midwest teams separated by 525 miles, and two teams in the Pacific Northwest. There will be, arguably, one true regional rivalry, and meanwhile, the league will spend millions on travel and marketing the sport as "national." There will be 4,000 people at the games (about what the WPS drew), and no television money to speak of. What makes anyone think that this league will fare any better than the last one?
The single biggest difference is that, this time around, U.S. Soccer will help administer the new league, and will subsidize the salaries of up to 24 players from the national team. To which I reply: So? Will that bring in more fans, or attract sponsors? Kate Markgraf, a former defender on the national team and now an analyst for NBC, told The New York Times yesterday that she thinks — you're not going to believe this one — that players like Megan Rapinoe will draw fans where players like Mia Hamm failed to. “I think this is a team that has become bigger, the biggest women’s soccer team this country has ever had,” she said. “These players are known as a team, but also as individuals, so I think this is the best chance they’re going to have.”
Listen, I love Megan Rapinoe — but Mia Hamm wasn't known as an individual? Did Markgraf intern for The Onion?
Who doesn't love Megan Rapinoe?
Nobody asked me — nobody ever asks me — but it's clear that, absent scads of national sponsorship and television revenue, and without media support, women's soccer doesn't have the fan base to survive on a national level. What women's soccer needs (and what it already has, semi-professionally, in several parts of the country) is a strong regional structure that can grow organically. Eight teams bunched closely together, where presumably fans will care about who dominates the sport between Washington and Baltimore, is what built and sustained the NFL for decades until Lamar Hunt and company hatched their socialist revenue-sharing plan and Super Bowl ideas. Long before that, there were epic battles between the Decatur Staleys and Chicago Cardinals, Green Bay and Chicago, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. They hated each other. Their fans hated each other. The Bears still suck.
But no — the NWSL will insist that the Western New York Flash charter a plane to fly to Portland for a match against Thorns FC, and about ten of the 6,000 fans in attendance (Portland is a soccer hotbed) will have even been to Western New York. They'll enjoy seeing Abby Wambach come to town, will probably cheer her politely because of her stellar play for the national women's team, but they won't live or die by the result. They won't pick up the newspaper or tune in to ESPN for analysis (mainly because they can't; the game won't be covered). Only diehard supporters will care, and there won't be enough of them for Gillette to buy the field naming rights or Vagistat to put up ads on the scrolling sideline message boards. If there are any.
Rome wasn't built in a day. Neither was Jim Rome. The National Women’s Soccer League isn't substantially different from the two national leagues that proceeded it. That's a serious problem.
Monday, December 17, 2012
Blog: NIMBYs’ Objections Sometimes Have a Darker Side
When your career involves sports and fitness facilities, it’s always kind of a buzz when you see a new field, court or pool going in.|
Sometimes, though, it makes you want to slap people upside the head.
Recently, a park in my neck of the woods announced plans to add a regulation-size cricket pitch. Make no mistake — it’s necessary. You can’t drive by many of our public parks without seeing cricket being played, and there are a lot of active leagues, as well as pickup games. So I was pretty happy about the concept of a new sports field, until it was replaced by annoyance at how much resistance the facility was getting from many neighborhood residents. In particular, I was annoyed to see someone say they thought ‘incumbent users of the park’ (their words) should have been asked for permission before the field construction was announced. Some questioned the importance of a field they thought everyone couldn’t relate to.
Despite the county’s assurance that the field also would be available for field hockey, football and soccer, one resident was quoted as saying he was concerned the field would be primarily used for cricket, and (a direct quote) “can’t imagine the kind of traffic the park will see.”
Um, let me guess. Cars driven by cricket players? Oh, yeah. There’s a scary thought. But it doesn’t take much to see what is going on here. The demographics of just about every city these days, particularly those where there is a diversifying ethnic population, are in flux. With those changes come new businesses, restaurants — and demand for different sports facilities.
It goes without saying the so-called incumbent users were upset about the presence of a field for a sport they consider outside the mainstream. But let’s remember that not so very long ago in the U.S., soccer was similarly outside the mainstream. In fact, soccer was brought to this country (and kept alive here) by immigrants. And those who can remember this far back (I’m one of them) will know that one of the American public’s early heroes of soccer wasn’t American, but Brazilian: Pelé. Yet today, soccer is wildly popular. We can’t imagine a park without soccer fields, let alone a school without a team.
So the problem becomes encouraging people to accept the presence of a sport they aren’t familiar with (yet). At its worst, it increases demands on fields. At its best, it encourages officials to build new facilities and expand their use. It keeps people healthy, and it keeps parks busy, meaning safer for everyone and less prone to vandalism. How is any of this bad?
With new sports come new opportunities. Let’s all remember that, and encourage their growth. Because ultimately, it’s how we as communities grow as well.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
Blog: And For $5, Barry Alvarez Will Autograph Your Program
Am I alone in wanting the NCAA to implode? I’m a sports guy — my livelihood is dependent on organizations like the NCAA, I’m a fan. I’m that fed up, that I’m wanting the biggest lawsuit of all time to hit college sports like a cataclysm that reduces every one of their television contracts to cinders and their stadiums and arenas to rubble? Am I nuts?|
Or am I just old? I turned 51 yesterday, and I want to see college football the way it was played 51 years before I was born: Leather helmets, walk-ons, students for Chrissakes. I want a coach who’s as much of an amateur as the players are, someone who can teach them about teamwork, not about how to wriggle out of contract or keep a mistress or two on the athletic department’s payroll. I don’t want major league, major bucks, a minor league for the NFL or sex with a minor. I don’t want a playoff. I don’t necessarily need pure, either: I’d take the football game from M*A*S*H that turns on a doubled halftime wager, a hypo of sedative in the opposing running back’s arm and a trick play to win it at the final gun. Real football.
If you’re wondering which college-sports outrage has spurred today’s rant, it’s actually one that’s relatively benign, something nowhere near the top-10 misdemeanors or felonies committed in so-called amateur sports in 2012. I ought to still be venting my spleen over Joe Paterno apologists — yet, instead, here I am apoplectic about the University of Wisconsin’s athletic director, Barry Alvarez, getting paid $118,500 to coach the team during the Rose Bowl in place of Bret Bielema, who departed for Arkansas a little over a week ago.
Alvarez, whose .508 winning percentage in the Big Ten was good enough to get him immortalized in bronze outside Camp Randall Stadium, is paid $1 million by the university and appears to have no problem augmenting that salary as a pitchman. He needs additional salary — calculated as 90 percent of Bielema’s monthly salary ($195,000) plus 10 percent of his current salary as AD ($8,500) — to coach his school’s football team for one game? Isn’t this the sort of thing that killed ancient Rome?
The money is coming from the $1 million buyout stipulated in Bielema’s contract, so Alvarez’s extra compensation (including a $50,000 bonus if UW beats Stanford on New Year’s Day) will in essence be paid by the University of Arkansas. None of this matters to me. This is what college football is in my lifetime: A grab for money. Alvarez runs the entire athletic department, and to step in for just these few weeks, to give the university a little extra, he’s got to be paid extra. It’s pathetic.
And they’re all in it together. The presidents, regents, ADs, coaches — everybody but the players. They’re taken something that was extracurricular, an extension of the classroom, and built an empire. They’ve taken billions from the corporate world, millions from taxpayers, thousands from fans, and they make sure that they all get a cut. “Coach Alvarez has a one-of-a-kind skill set that the university needs to be successful,” said UW interim chancellor David Ward, conveniently ignoring the fact that the football program has scores of assistant coaches, who have given this team their collective sweat all year long and who probably share Barry Alvarez’s one-of-a-kind skill set. “We believe that this package is fair and proportional.” Yes. And totally unnecessary.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Sudanese High School Hoops Players Win Off-Court Victory
last week allowed them to play until a final determination could be made by the 10-member IHSA board.
In a decision overruling the executive director of the Illinois High School Association, the organization's board of directors Monday voted unanimously to grant season-long eligibility to three Sudanese basketball players. Hailing from Mooseheart Child City & School near Batavia, the players were previously declared ineligible by the IHSA after coming to the school from their war-torn country and being "unduly influenced" by school officials. A Kane County judge |
After allowing the players to address board members and then participating in four hours of deliberation, the board determined that Manguisto Deng, Makur Puou, Hakim Nyang and cross country runner Wal Khat were taken advantage of by African Hoop Opportunities Providing an Education, or A-HOPE – the group that arranged for the Sudanese players to attend Mooseheart.
"The Board hereby overturns the decision of the Executive Director [and] notes the students have previously served a 365 day period of ineligibility," read a statement issued Monday night by the IHSA. "The Board has further determined that henceforth any school accepting referrals of students from A-Hope Foundation or any other organization having as its purpose the placement of student-athletes in educational settings, shall be presumptively ineligible."
To back up that statement, the IHSA placed Mooseheart on probation and declared the school ineligible to participate in the IHSA's 2013 state basketball tournament. The board also mandated a training and education program for all Mooseheart coaches and administrators to assure compliance with IHSA bylaws, and required the school to submit a compliance plan. If those steps are taken prior to tournament time, the Chicago Tribune reports that Mooseheart would be cleared to participate.
Additionally, the school must sever ties with A-HOPE – an organization IHSA board president Dan Klett called out in his remarks to the media: "We don't feel that they meet some of the things we would like to see as far as helping all students, regardless of whether they're basketball players or volleyball players or just kids that want to come over and ... get an education."
He did, however, praise the Sudanese players: "They did a very nice job ... presenting to us, speaking to us and explaining their particular situations. And I think that had a big effect on the board. ... Honestly, I don't think they knew what they were getting themselves into. They were just looking for a better life for themselves."
Klett told reporter Ted Gregory that the fact the four students had already served a year of ineligibility factored into the decision to overrule IHSA executive director Marty Hickman's original decision and allow them to play. He also did not fault school rivals for bringing the students to the IHSA's attention. "I feel sorry that the students had to go through this process, but I think other schools have a right to question it," he said. "I think any reasonable person would have questioned the situation, considering that A-HOPE deals strictly with basketball. ... They're tall young men and people look at those things."
Monday, December 10, 2012
Blog: We Who Are About to Hang Up on You Salute You
At the recently concluded Athletic Business Conference & Expo, one of the seminars we conducted was called “Say This, Not That.” The point of the talk was that business owners and managers know what they would like their staff to say in almost any business situation, and even how they would like it said, so why leave it to chance? We believe every aspect of a fitness operation should be scripted and the staff should be trained and drilled to memorize those scripts. It was a lively and fun seminar.|
Upon returning from New Orleans, we think we need to broaden our horizons with this idea. If we don’t, we may never pick up our phones again.
The first offensive call was a recent morning at 8 a.m. It was the same California phone number that had popped up on Barry’s phone three times the day before. It hadn’t been important enough for the person to leave voicemail after those other calls, but it was 5 a.m. Pacific time. Someone really wanted to talk.
“This is Barry.” A long delay followed…that wasn’t good.
“Is this Elevations Health Club?” Based on the delay, the background noise and the caller’s voice and behavior, this wasn’t coming from California. It was obviously from a call center halfway around the world.
[Annoyed] “This is Barry from Elevations.”
“What’s your address?”
[More annoyed] “Maybe you can start by telling me where you’re calling from and why you’re calling me at 8 a.m. on my cellular phone.”
“This is Google Maps.”
[Totally annoyed] “Goodbye.”
A short while later, the phone rang again and it was another unidentified number. It was Karen from our electric utility. Karen had left a message the day before at the health club, and had already been an annoyance. When she had called, our staff person had obviously followed our script on how to take a message because in addition to Karen’s first name, company and phone number, the staff person’s message read, “Would not provide any other information.” There was therefore no way to navigate the company’s phone system to leave Karen a personal message (something that was not our staff person’s fault). We had returned the call because she was from an existing vendor, but we had been forced to leave a message in the company’s general voicemail box.
She said, “I was returning your call because you left a message for me in the general voicemail box.”
“Yes, Karen, I did. Because yesterday you called us. You left a message for me.”
So Karen continued, “How can I help you?”
“I have no idea whatsoever, Karen. You called us.”
“Oh. Who is your electric utility company.”
“Oh, I’m very sorry. Goodbye.”
But wait, it gets better! Karen called back two minutes later saying that she thought she could save us money — off her company’s own rates! — and we would just need to fax her our latest bill. “Can’t you just pull our latest bill?” “No,” she said. [Laughter ensues]
So, to all of those attendees at ABC who came to our seminar on scripting, we say, “Good for you.” We are quite confident that by following our advice, your staff will be performing better in just a few short weeks than Google — freaking Google! — and a publicly traded utility company are able to do. Just tell them what to say in common situations and then train them on it. It’s not that hard…or, heck, maybe it is.
Friday, December 07, 2012
Balance Test Proving Effective in Concussion Evaluation
claim to exhibit no symptoms.
The University of Mississippi Medical Center is adding another tool to its concussion testing protocol. The Computerized Dynamic Posturography device has been commonly used to evaluate balance issues, but only recently has been found to be effective in detecting lingering signs of concussion, which can cause impaired balance. The test is especially useful in diagnosis of athletes who exhibit or |
"This test will not only help determine if a concussion has occurred, but it can also ... help answer the vital question: When is it safe for the athlete to play again?" says Dr. William Mustain, Ph.D. audiologist and the director of UMMC's Vestibular Laboratory.
Patients are asked to stand on a platform inside the device and maintain their balance both with open and closed eyes as the platform moves or remains stable. A harness protects patients from falling when they lose their balance.
Baseline testing with the device before any injury has occurred is still recommended, says Mustain, to establish a patient’s normal level of balance. While later tests can be compared to a range of what is considered normal balance, athletes in particular often have a more refined sense of balance.
The technology has been around since the 1980s and has been gaining in popularity as a concussion-testing tool in the last decade. The NCAA has endorsed its use, but it was only after the manufacturer of the CDP devices began circulating news of its potential in concussion evaluation that Mustain began researching its use and developing a plan for its use.
Thursday, December 06, 2012
Blog: Who Will Govern Obstacle Racing? Anybody?
Here's a question for enthusiasts of sports and fitness minutiae (I know you exist): When has a sport grown to the point that it requires a national governing body?|
Keep in mind, I'm not talking about a website used as a clearinghouse and to list upcoming events and registration portals. Nor am I talking about any kind of a fan site that has tips on how to get into a sport, how to train or where to buy equipment. I'm talking about a formal organization that has some kind of a regulatory or sanctioning function.
The function of an NGB is to set rules, decide when rule changes are necessary, and provide notification of those rule changes. It can also include disciplinary action for rules infractions, and it can set standards that cover various aspects of the sport. These might include something as general as the playing area to more specific regs concerning athlete safety, and even, depending on the sport, to the type of equipment and clothing used. In other words, it exists to establish some kind of consistency in competition, and some level of standardization.
Many sports (really, just pick any popular sport) already have an NGB, and chances are that organization is active in its management and in the governance of the sport.
So when a new sport emerges, at what point is it time to form an NGB? The reason I ask is this: With one summer Olympics just a few calendar pages behind us, I'm already hearing rumblings about the next one, and the one after that, and so on. And of course, that always brings up the issue of what new sports will be there.
Something that is increasingly being tossed around is obstacle racing. But at the moment, obstacle racing (or obstacle course racing, or OCR), though undoubtedly popular, lacks an NGB. And until there's more structure, we're not going to see it at the Olympics. Not even as a demonstration sport.
Does obstacle racing lend itself to having an NGB? Of course. In fact, something similar, the World Freerunning Parkour Federation, or WFPF, already exists. Parkour is a form of running and surmounting various obstacles and challenges. Unlike OCR, however, parkour is noncompetitive. [Editor’s note: See the January issue of AB for more on efforts to establish parkour in the U.S.]
WFPF also isn't yet recognized by the IOC and it's not a part of the Games, no matter how much its enthusiasts want to see it there. And a competitive element is essential to the Olympics, meaning parkour's potential as a podium sport is slim.
And that brings us back to obstacle racing, which has never lacked the competitive element. As I said, it needs a governing body, but as yet, no organization seems to be even in the formative stages. But is it possible to govern obstacle races? Do they lend themselves to standardization?
Of course they do. Obstacle courses could be defined by length, and by degree of difficulty. And there could be rules governing various aspects of competition. As the sport continues to evolve, those are sure to be needed, as well.
So here's the challenge, and the question. Isn't it time for an NGB for obstacle racing? And if so, why hasn't anyone stepped up to the plate?
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Blog: Why Do College Kids Whine About Swimming?
Wall Street Journal about colleges and universities requiring students to either pass a swimming test or take a beginner's learn-to-swim class in order to graduate. Not everyone is a fan of the prerequisites. "I guess it's a noble skill to have," 21-year-old Jessica McSweeney, a senior Human Development major at Cornell University, told reporter Melissa Korn. "But I don't intend to be a water-going person."
Given the excitement surrounding the Athletic Business Conference & Expo last week, you might have missed a front-page story in Thursday's |
Neither does someone who falls off a boat and drowns because that person can't swim.
"Cornell's century-old requirement is among the last remaining at colleges," Korn wrote. "The tests, which generally require students to prove they can paddle a few lengths of the pool, are among the more unusual graduation requirements in academia. But as schools focus more on career skills than on life skills, support for the requirements has been drying up."
High school and college students are drowning in physical education swimming classes and team pool workouts. Fourteen-year-old Malvrick Donkor slipped beneath the surface at Connecticut's Manchester High School pool the day before Thanksgiving and reportedly went undetected for 17 minutes, and Arianna Alioto, an 18-year-old varsity soccer player for Northern Michigan University, drowned last week in the Physical Education Instructional Facility pool after a team workout and was discovered after about 30 minutes. (Don't even get me started on the role lifeguards played — or didn't play — in those two cases.)
Meanwhile, the National Swimming Pool Foundation's Step Into Swim campaign is generating big bucks in a concerted effort to create one million new swimmers over the next decade.
All this, and still colleges and universities are throwing in the towel on an activity that can accompany students into old age?
The tests we're talking about here aren't hard to pass. McSweeney, for example, would receive her diploma if only she would stop whining to the national media and swim 75 yards in the university's pool. There won't even be any time limits, so she can take all day if she wants. The tests at MIT and Notre Dame are a bit tougher; students there must swim 100 yards, with no time restriction. And expectant grads at Bryn Mawr College have to swim non-stop for 10 minutes, float on their backs for one minute and then tread water for another minute.
Heck, I'm 44 years old and I can do that. My two kids, ages 12 and 15, swim 4,000 yards a night as competitive swimmers. But even if they weren't on swim teams, my wife and I would instill in them the value of swimming for fun, health and safety.
I recently spoke with Tom Lachocki, the NSPF's CEO, for a story about Step Into Swim that will appear in the January issue of AB. "By creating more swimmers, we do three things," he told me. "We help reduce drowning rates, because people who are more confident in water are less prone to drowning; we reduce healthcare cost inflation, because we now have opened the door to a spectrum of aquatic activities; and we help create growth for a health-focused economic segment.”
Fred DeBruyn, director of aquatics and assistant physical education director at Cornell, got straight to the point with Korn. "Anything that prevents people from dying needlessly is a valuable skill," he told her, adding that many non-swimmers don't know how to swim because their parents never learned, so college instruction can "break the cycle" of not passing on that life skill to younger generations.
I'm not saying all colleges and universities should have a swimming requirement to graduate; clearly, most don't. But I also don't see the need to abandon the ones that still exist. For many people, college might be a last chance to properly learn the sport, which is really so much more than just a sport. What's wrong with that?
Monday, December 03, 2012
Blog: The Life and Death of Rick Majerus
The West Bend News. Majerus, an assistant coach at Marquette at the time (this was the mid-’80s), was there to scout Kohler, Wis., phenom Joe Wolf, who would eventually attend North Carolina.
The first time I saw Rick Majerus in person, he was sitting in seldom-used end-court bleachers that had been wheeled into position for a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Class C basketball sectional at my high school alma mater’s field house. I was there to cover a game for my hometown newspaper, |
The next time I saw Majerus in person, he was sitting to my immediate left at the Facilities of Merit reception as part of ABC 2006 in Las Vegas. AB’s Mike Popke and I had escorted Majerus and his traveling companion through Mandalay Bay to the site of his keynote address. I remember talking to him along the way about having covered one of his early recruits at Utah, Terry Preston, while I was the sports editor for a paper that included Homestead High School in Mequon, Wis., among its beats. As Majerus huffed and puffed his way down the hallways, he told me that he remembered Preston fondly, but seemed more concerned about how many people would be hearing him speak. As the FOM winners were profiled via video, Majerus leaned over to me and expressed his genuine admiration for the work the architects had done. He was truly impressed. He scribbled a few words onto an empty file folder and carried it up to the podium. That was the extent of his prepared notes.
I was saddened to learn that Majerus died Saturday from heart failure at the age of 64, but I will long continue to retell one of the funniest snippets of that ABC speech. Majerus, who was raised Catholic and coached at Jesuit-led Marquette, said that the question that still haunted him didn’t deal with the miracle of virgin birth or the resurrection. “What I want to know is,” Majerus said, “did the Corinthians ever write back?”
Since then, Majerus took over a middling program at St. Louis University (another Jesuit institution) and got it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 12 years last season, losing in the second round to the top seed in the Billikens’ regional, Michigan State. He went 517-216 in 25 years as a head coach, took 12 teams to the tournament, and one (Utah) to the NCAA Final (in 1998). Prior to this season, he announced that he would not return to the SLU sidelines due to his heart condition, which dated back to 1989.
Like many successful coaches, he was controversial on and off the court. His appearance at a Hillary Clinton rally during the 2008 Democratic primary campaign caused a stir when he aired his pro-choice stance to a local TV reporter, prompting me to write about coaches and their politics.
I found Majerus utterly fascinating, even more so after reading S.L. Price’s 2008 Sports Illustrated piece about him — one of the best character examinations of a sports figure I’ve ever read. SI’s Seth Davis now offers his own interesting take. Both journalists got closer to the coach than I ever did, so if you’ve read this far, take the extra time to get to know a truly unique individual — one who leaves a sizable hole in the collegiate coaching universe.