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A Crazy Conclusion to 2010
December 31, 2010 - Al Stephenson
The sports world is coming to a wacky and controversial conclusion this calendar year. With today being the last day, I'm betting more shenanigans will be put forth after this blog is filed. The chance of no controversy in the last dozen hours of 2010 is very low. That is, if you take the last few days into consideration, it is.
I will touch on four events from the past week. The streak, the request, the rant and the salute made for interesting sports watching - and fodder for sports writers and broadcasters, as well as fans across the nation. Let's start with the streak, or should I say the end of it.
The Stanford Cardinal women's basketball team brought UCONN's 90 game winning streak to a halt last night. It was only appropriate that it was Stanford to beat the Huskies as they were also the last team to beat them. In between Connecticut dusted off 90 consecutive opponents, often be wide margins. Say what you want about UCONN's program, winning that many games in a row is very, very impressive. The steak brought the women's game to the public's eye and that has to be good for the sport. It's my opinion that the defeat was also good for the women's game. It was fun to watch the streak grow and it's even more exciting to think that other teams may have a chance to win the title this year. I don't know if I would bet against the Lady Huskies however.
Many people thought the five suspended Ohio State Buckeye football players, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor should not be allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl. When the NCAA decided to suspend the players for the first five games next season but allow them to play in this year's bowl game, many thought coach Jim Tressel should take it upon himself to sit the players now. Delayed punishment didn't seem proper to people who believe that the four juniors may turn pro before next season and thus avoid the punishment.
So Tressel decides to ask for a guarantee that the players will return next year in order to participate in the Sugar Bowl. His request was agreed to (at least for now) and the five will suit up against Arkansas on Tuesday night. Fair enough? Legitimate? I say yes, if (and it's a big if) the players honor their commitment and stay out of trouble on Bourbon Street this week.
Five games is a huge punishment for what seems to be minor violations and I'm guessing most Buckeye fans would trade this year's Sugar Bowl for game five (Michigan St.) next year. What the future holds for the Buckeye Five is hard to predict. Here's hoping it's positive from here on out.
Why did Mark May suggest that the Big Ten is the NCAA's sacred cow? He felt that allowing the Buckeye violators to play in the Sugar Bowl would not have happened to players from schools in other conferences such as the SEC. His rant on ESPN was interesting, if not particularly believable. I agree that the punishment should have began with the bowl game and really don't understand why it didn't, but to suggest that it happened because the NCAA is partial to the Big Ten makes no sense to me. Show me proof of your theory Mr. May.
If you watched the end of the Pinstripe Bowl from Yankee Stadium, you might want to see a clarification of the celebration rule in college football. Kansas State trailed Syracuse by 8 points when Adrian Hilburn scored on a 30-yard TD with 1:13 left in the game. At the back of the end zone he saluted the fans (briefly I might add) and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The two-point conversion attempt to tie the game then became much more difficult and was unsuccessful. We'll never know how K-State would have fared without the penalty, but what is at question here is should there have been a penalty in the first place.
The rule suggests that a player cannot call attention to himself after scoring. One could argue that if you just scored you are going to get a lot of attention. I don't like some of the goofiness that goes on in the college or pro game after TD's (why can't people hand the ball to the official like Barry Sanders always did?), but this was not a big display of boorishness. A change in the wording of the rule will probably come about as a result of this call. Hey, maybe players will start to emulate Barry!
The view from my seat would suggest that sports at the end of 2010 have been exciting and interesting. I would bet that trend will continue as we enter 2011.
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