KNOXVILLE — Turns out January’s fuss over the death of Tennessee-Memphis wasn’t a eulogy.
Bringing order to a rivalry nearly gone awry, UT athletic director Dave Hart told the News Sentinel on Wednesday that Tennessee and Memphis have “agreed in principle to a four-year home-and-home series in men’s basketball.”
While discussions related to the universities meeting in football are ongoing, the basketball conversation has reached closure.
“We’re going to play,” Hart said. “We’re going to continue the basketball series.”
When the Vols and Tigers met on Jan. 4 at Thompson-Boling Arena, the affair was billed as the last meeting between the two for the foreseeable future. An eight-year home-and-home series beginning in 2005-06 had come to an end.
Memphis won the day, 85-80, to narrow the all-time series 14-11.
As he has been since he was a second-year coach in 2011, Memphis coach Josh Pastner outwardly objected to continuing the Tennessee series past this season. Prior to the January game he said, “We will not play Tennessee anymore as long as I’m the head coach and I’m doing my scheduling.”
Asked Wednesday about the potential of a new four-year home-and-home with the UT, Pastner, who received an extension for an undisclosed amount of years on a contract signed through 2015-16, said, “Whatever my athletic director says is what I roll with. We’re locked arm-in-arm on this one.”
In response to a request for comment, Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen said through a university spokesperson, “We have had talks and they do pertain to both football and basketball. Nothing can be scheduled until the American Athletic Conference works out its future scheduling issues.”
Hart and Bowen have spoken in the last three weeks about renewing the series.
On Wednesday, Hart said Tennessee and Memphis could return to the floor as soon as 2014-15. A meeting next season is off the table.
The schools are scheduled to meet in football in 2017. The game is left over from the previous contract between the schools — a deal signed in 2003 for five football times in a nine-year period and an eight-year home-and-home basketball series.
Hart said a basketball agreement between the schools will not be stipulated by future football games, but added, “We’re having very serious conversations about going beyond the one (2017) football commitment.”
“I think football is a little different in the sense of the variables,” he continued. “We need to see where we’re going in scheduling before we absolutely put something in stone that we can’t keep on the books. That’s not a forecast. That’s a common sense caution.”
A caution based on unpredictability. Memphis is set to embark on its new membership in the newly aligned and maligned American Athletic Conference. The league is home to the remnants of the Big East Conference and a jumble of nemcomers. Future scheduling in the AAC is tough when the future is unclear.
The same can be said for the Vols and down-the-road SEC scheduling. A switch to a nine-game league slate could trim potential non-conference scheduling opportunities.
Hart said a formal announcement will be made when a contract is agreed upon, but that “there’s no timetable.”
“I don’t want to set a false expectation there,” he said. “We’ll take that agreement in principle and turn it into a formal agreement.”
Tennessee leads the all-time football series 22-1 with the Tigers’ lone win coming in 1996 at the Liberty Bowl. The Vols have won the last seven, including the last meeting in 2010, a 50-14 thumping.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn.
(c)2013 the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Visit the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.) at www.knoxnews.com
SALT LAKE CITY — It has been a long time — half a century, really — since Utah State athletics had a home like this.
Since it had a real place of its own.
After that, the Aggies were in the PCAA/Big West, but what did they have in common with Long Beach, Fullerton, Santa Barbara and Irvine? In football terms, those were glorified community colleges. Some didn’t even have football.
Later came a turn in the Sun Belt Conference, featuring glamour trips to Jonesboro, Murfreesboro and Monroe. If you don’t know where those towns are, well, neither did the Aggies.
The whole thing fit like buckle-up galoshes.
The WAC was OK, but its football programs started leaving when realignment commenced.
Nowadays, though, things are changing. July 1 the Aggies will join the Mountain West Conference, in what will be their best fit since the Skyline Conference in the 1950s and early ’60s. That league included Utah, BYU, New Mexico, Montana, Colorado, Denver, Colorado State and Wyoming.
Although the Cougars and Utes moved on in search of national acclaim — and continue to do so — the Aggies are happy where they are, with good reason. They’re scheduling games in places they know. Along with former WAC opponents San Jose State, Fresno State, Nevada, Boise State and Hawaii, there will be such logical inclusions as Colorado State, Wyoming, Air Force, New Mexico, San Diego State and UNLV.
Playing with the neighbors — what a concept.
“When you look at the changes across the college landscape, I don’t think any conference got it any more correct than the Mountain West, when it comes to like institutions,” USU athletics director Scott Barnes said. “Some of them have 115, 120-year histories.” (USU first played CSU in 1902; Wyoming in 1903.)
It’s a respectable conference in both football and basketball. Furthermore, it’s the most comfortable company USU has kept since the Eisenhower Administration. As Barnes describes it, “relative stability as it relates to conference alignment.”
It’s good to be back in the neighborhood.
“The Mountain West got it right,” Barnes said.
The MWC isn’t the country’s biggest conference, but USU is set to play seven football games this year on national sports networks. The school is pushing ahead on four building projects, including a strength and conditioning center, which will open in about a month. Additionally, there is a new basketball/volleyball facility, a remodeling of the old football weight room into locker rooms for women’s sports, and the installation of bleacher seats in the south end zone.
Three years ago, things didn’t look nearly this good. Alignment fever was sweeping the nation. BYU had looked into joining the WAC as a non-football member, but suddenly Fresno State and Nevada announced they were joining the MWC. With BYU going independent, the WAC was left vulnerable.
This didn’t entirely imperil Aggie athletics, but it did leave conference stability in question. Meanwhile, independence had already proven unworkable in Logan.
So USU leaped at the chance to join the MWC.
“Certainly, when we look in the mirror we’re thankful and excited and can’t wait to have a chance to compete for championships on this new level and platform,” Barnes said.
The MWC is actually what some conferences wish they were, a league of philosophically and academically aligned, geographically connected universities. Best of all, they have a chance to develop true rivalries.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines rivalry as “a state or situation in which people or groups are competing with each other.” While I know and understand this to be the proper definition, a NFL rivalry takes on a much more passionate meaning. In a top-notch sports rivalry, the words “despise, hate, loath” come into play.
While I agree sports and football in particular bring out the best in humans and athletes, the same can be said about the worst of mankind. NFL fans have been shot outside the stadium in California as one example. When an opposing player gets hurt in certain stadiums, the crowd cheers.
While I do not condone rowdy behavior by fans or players, I understand the time, effort, money, hurt and all other emotions that go into sports. The NFL is the top sport in the world for a reason. Fans love the action and violence. They love the strategy and raw emotion. In the heat of the action, rivalries are formed and if the teams consistently play each other, the rivalry can stay intact.
I think there are three key ingredients that make up a great NFL rivalry and I will touch on all three in this article. Granted, there may be other fringe ideas that could be added to the pot, but I feel that any other thoughts fall under the umbrella of these three main categories.
One of the greatest rivalries in all of the NFL is the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. Not only do the mascots invoke Wild West America, but also childhood games most of us played. The simple fact the teams have played each other at least twice a year since 1961 makes the rivalry much more heated.
But let’s be honest. With any rivalry, there must be good games that are not too lopsided. In the late 1970s, the Cowboys/Redskins rivalry was as good as any in football and this rolled into the 1980s. Each game seemed to hang on a play or two.
Even in the 1990s, when the Cowboys claimed three Super Bowl victories, the Redskins battled Dallas tooth and nail. Between both teams, there are eight Super Bowl championships. Every year, both fanbases circle their calendars for this matchup.
But if one of these teams went downhill for an extended period of time, the rivalry would lose a little bit of the luster. This happened in the 1980s with the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. While that rivalry was and still is great, most Packers fans did not expect much of a game when they played the Bears in that era. It happens in sports and in football. And as quickly as one of the rival teams can be on top, they can fall to the bottom quickly. That happened to the Bears in the 1990s and early 2000s.
But even when one team is weaker on paper, there is something special about rivalry games that bring out the best in the opposition. Practices are crisper, there is an unspoken tension in the air and players’ adrenaline pumps a little bit harder during rivalry week.
Fans and players alike know what is at stake. As a matter of fact, when former Bears head coach Lovie Smith took over as the head man for Chicago, he said his first goal was to beat the Packers. Statements like that can get a rivalry jump-started, but the play on the field needs to be backed up. Just like the Cowboys versus the Redskins, the Packers and Bears rivalry is one to watch again each season.
The best rivalries in all sports but especially in football have long pasts. The two opponents have been playing for decades and being common opponents builds the rivalry organically. As I stated earlier, the Cowboys/Redskins rivalry dates back to 1961. They did play before this time, but that is the year the rivalry took off.
Part of the historical jigsaw puzzle is that each team must see each other more than once a season. In the 1970s, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders had some of the most classic games in sports history. But since the NFL has expanded and the teams rarely face each other anymore, the rivalry is left to the archives.
We all understand the Packers versus the Bears as an outstanding rivalry, but the Packers also have a solid rival in the Minnesota Vikings. And even though neither team has been of Super Bowl caliber for a while, there is still a familiarity with the Cleveland Browns versus the Cincinnati Bengals.
Joe Patronite/Getty Images
NFL expansion and alignment has caused some natural rivalries to fall by the wayside, but others have popped up in recent years as well. The Seattle Seahawks versus the San Francisco 49ers looks like a backyard brawl about to happen every game. The Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts looks like a rivalry that could take off as well. But even these rivalries seem a bit forced, and I think it will take another decade or two before we feel the true effects and emotions that an authentic rivalry exudes.
This factor is a key to the NFC North. Take the first two factors into consideration and then add this to the recipe. A case can be made that all four teams have some sort of rivalry with each other. Maybe the Minnesota Vikings versus the Detroit Lions does not invoke the same since of passion as the Packers/Bears, but each team has something to fight for and this is what makes each game a dogfight.
Granted, if you simply used this factor as the deciding factor of the equation, the New York Jets and New York Giants would be a bloodbath. They are so close that they share the same stadium. But they lack the history of the rivalry and they play in different conferences.
The battle for the local fanbase is what makes the Oakland Raiders versus the San Diego Chargers such a solid rivalry. I have already touched on the Browns/Bengals rivalry. And now that the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons are competitive on a consistent basis, we have seen this rivalry starting to take shape in the NFC South.
I know Commissioner Roger Goodell talks about more NFL expansion. He has talked about putting teams in London and even Canada. As a football historian and fan, I understand change is inevitable. But if the growth causes the NFL to lose the key rivalries, the NFL will lose overall. There is just something cosmically wrong about a Cowboys fan and a Redskins fan seeing eye to eye, but even they would never want to lose their rivalry.
Marc Lillibridge is a former NFL linebacker who scouted for six years in the NFL following his retirement. He is now a certified NFLPA contract advisor for www.profootballsyndicate.com.
A new kind of flash mob is growing in Madison, and it’s one that may help those tired of the gym or their regular routine to get motivated to work out.
Described as a “fitness flash mob,” the November Project uses social media to recruit random people to participate in early morning workouts, with the objective of turning fitness into a social event.
It’s similar to a running club, but with an element of spontaneity. Workouts might have an injection of sit-ups, push-ups or a few rigorous runs up the steps of the Capitol or UW-Madison’s iconic Bascom Hill.
Outside Magazine recently covered the phenomenon in its June issue, interviewing its Boston founders. November Project MSN, the name of the Madison chapter and the second such group to form, got its start on a cold, snowy morning in February.
“Being a Madison guy we started at Bascom Hill,” said Dan Graham, 32, who founded the group. “We were tired and cold. We ran the hill a few times, laughed, and then went and got coffee.”
That day, it was just Graham, or DG as he’s known to friends, and three guys he knew who got up to run at 6:30 a.m.
But that initial workout morphed into a regularly scheduled Wednesday workout. The number of participants is growing; Graham hopes to hit 50 participants soon for a single workout.
Most times, about three dozen people show up, and Friday was the first time November Project MSN held a 6:30 a.m. workout. The group plans to continue meeting at 6:30 a.m. each Wednesday and Friday. The workouts last for 45 minutes.
Graham said the group includes a variety of participants, from middle-aged moms to college students. The athletic-skills level also runs the gamut, with Ironman participants training alongside others prepping for their first 5K race.
To date, November Project MSN’s Facebook page has 346 likes and 114 people follow @Nov_Project_MSN on Twitter. While the time and days of workouts are set and may expand in the future, the group meets up at different places.
Social media is used to update and recruit the fitness followers. Participants also build momentum and enthusiasm for the November Project by posting photos, words of inspiration or stories of triumph on social media.
Started in Boston in November of 2011 by Graham’s younger brother, Brogan, 30, and Brogan’s friend Bojan Mandaric, 31, the concept is slowly spreading across the country.
Graham described the idea as “such a goofball thing.” He held off on starting a group in Madison because he’s competitive and didn’t want to copy his younger brother.
“There’s a bit of sibling rivalry there,” he jokes. “We’re competitive, but we’re also best friends.”
Still, when he sought out advice on how to get November Project MSN going, he didn’t ask his brother. Instead, he talked over plans with his brother’s friend, Mandaric.
The original November Project has grown to include hundreds of members and has even sparked the interest of athletic sponsors. According to the Outside article, New Balance recently filmed a promo with the November Project, giving free shoes to some local and Boston participants.
“Boston has that great big-city atmosphere,” Graham said. “I’m not sure how big ours will get, yet, but I know there is a huge running community in this town in their 40s and 50s that could get involved.”
Besides the size of the cities where they operate, the only other difference between the Graham brothers’ November Projects is a tradition, a shout that starts each workout in Boston.
“We decided not to do the ‘F— yeah,’ because here in the Midwest we watch our language,” Graham said. “But there is still a lot of hugging and high-fiving going on.”
Spoken like a true older brother.
Now that Johns Hopkins has opened the door for conferences to woo the illustrious program, the most pressing question centers on if there is one league that best suits the Blue Jays – and vice versa.
If coach Dave Pietramala and athletic director Tom Calder are steadfast in retaining traditional rivalries, the Atlantic Coast Conference would appear to be the best fit. Joining that league would allow Johns Hopkins to maintain traditional series with North Carolina, Syracuse and Virginia, and the team would simply have to carve out space for Duke and Notre Dame. Those five opponents would be more than enough to enhance the Blue Jays’ strength of schedule, too.
The Big East would be a league that might make sense geographically and competitively. Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s and Villanova are on the East Coast with Marquette requiring a flight, and Johns Hopkins’ strength would make it a preseason favorite for the conference title on an annual basis.
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A potential Big Ten would offer players and recruits to play on historic fields like Michigan Stadium, Ohio Stadium (Ohio State), and Byrd Stadium (Maryland). Plus, the Blue Jays could continue their rivalry with the Terps.
The problem with joining a conference is that games involving league opponents would crowd out contests entailing non-conference opponents that have been mainstays on Johns Hopkins’ schedule. So local rivalries like Loyola, Navy, Towson and UMBC could be on the outside looking in.
While acknowledging that there are several series he would like to protect, Pietramala said he does not want to cede traditions with other programs.
“I don’t want to forget our local rivalries,” he said. “There’s a lot to consider here. Where some teams have one or two rivals, when you look at Johns Hopkins, one of the unique things about us is, we have several. And if you go through the different eras, you might get a different answer from the guys in the 70s and 80s as to who their rivals was and then the late 80s and 90s and then the 90s and 2000s. All of that is an important consideration, and I think there is a group of schools that we feel like it’s important that we do all we can to maintain those rivalries.”
The underlying element in this decision is that if the Blue Jays and a conference can agree to join forces, the league will get a top-tier member in the sport of lacrosse and Johns Hopkins will get another avenue by which to qualify for the NCAA tournament. That additional option was not lost on Calder.
“The important thing for us is to win a national championship and how do you do that?” he asked rhetorically. “You get into the NCAAs, and what’s the best way to get in? Well, give yourself two options. You can play an extremely strong schedule, but at the same time, there’s another advantage to being in a conference championship. So we wanted a second chance to get into the NCAAs.”
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Lipscomb has turned to a former rival to lead its men’s basketball program.
Former Belmont player and assistant Casey Alexander will be introduced as the Bisons’ new head coach at a press conference on Sunday. Alexander just finished his second season as head coach at Atlantic Sun Conference rival Stetson. He replaces Scott Sanderson, who resigned on April 9 after 14 seasons.
Athletic director Philip Hutcheson could not be reached for comment.
Alexander’s nephew, Harrison Alexander, posted the following on his Twitter account Friday: “well the news is already out so i can break the silence now: congrats to my uncle case, now the head basketball coach at lipscomb.”
Casey Alexander is an interesting choice considering his lineage. The prevailing feeling was Hutcheson, a former Lipscomb player under Don Meyer, would hire someone with Lipscomb ties. Instead, he hired a longtime nemesis.
A graduate of Brentwood Academy, Alexander played point guard at Belmont from 1992-95 and helped the Bruins to a 119-25 record. He then jumped straight into coaching and spent the next 16 years at Belmont as an assistant for Rick Byrd. He was named the associate head coach in 2002 and helped the Bruins in their transition from NAIA to NCAA Division I. Belmont reached the NCAA Tournament four times while Alexander was on staff.
Two years ago, he landed his first head coach at Stetson in DeLand, Fla. He went 9-20 in his first season but guided the Hatters to a 15-16 record this past winter. Stetson finished third in the A-Sun with an 11-7 mark and reached the semifinals of the conference tournament before falling to eventual champion Florida Gulf Coast.
Though Belmont is no longer in the Atlantic Sun, Alexander will still have to face his former boss twice. The Bruins and Bisons are scheduled to continue their Battle of the Boulevard rivalry with two games a year for the foreseeable future.
Earlier Friday, Lipscomb granted redshirt-freshman center Stephen Hurt his release from the school. The 6-foot-10, 285-pounder from Murfreesboro is expected to transfer.
He was the Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year after averaging 11.5 points and a team-high 7.8 rebounds.
Source: Islamic Republic News Agency
Rich Bender: Iranian wrestlers preferred to return to Tehran
New York, May 17, IRNA – Executive Director of US Wrestling Federation Rich Bender said here Friday, ˈWe could not accept responsibility of Iranian Wrestling Team in Los Angeles, and therefore the Iranians preferred to return to Tehran.
Bender added in an interview with IRNA New York correspondent, ˈThe Iranian and US Free Style wrestling teams were scheduled to have a 2nd set of friendly competitions in Los Angeles on Sunday, but we announced that despite our previous vowed commitments, we were not in a position to accept the responsibility of the Iranian teamˈs presence in Los Angeles, which was the main reason why the Iranians preferred to return to Tehran right away.ˈ
He added, ˈUnfortunately, the non-sports side-events are beyond our control, which is why we are sorry and we do understand the conditions with which the Iranians were entangled in United States.ˈ
On elections to choose the FILA head, Bender said, ˈThe US Wrestling Federationˈs favorite for heading FILA is Nenad Lalovic, whom I hope would manage to maintain the presence of wrestling in 2020 Olympic Games.ˈ
Focusing on the United States plans for promoting the wrestling culture, he said, ˈWe work of low age groups, particularly the teen aged enthusiasts of wrestling and we would try to introduce this sport as far a possible to the public.ˈ
Asked about the main objective behind sponsoring the Rumble on the Rails wrestling competitions, Bender said, ˈWrestling must remain in the Olympic Games and we must try to get back this athletic sport to its deserved main status by planning various programs.ˈ
He reiterated, ˈThe gathering of the Iranian, US, and Russian wrestling teams at the UN New York Headquarters which was the first of its kind in wrestling provided a very appropriate and unique opportunity for preserving this sport at the Olympics.ˈ
IRNA asked Bender how come the US Wrestling Federation had not invited the Iranian Greco Roman Wrestling Team for participation at the friendly competitions. Bender said, ˈThe Rumble of the Rails wrestling competitions were held between the US and the Russian Free Style champions during the previous years, but this year these competitions had also a special objective, which was preserving the presence of wrestling in Olympic Games.ˈ
At the end the US Wrestling Federation official pointed out that the Free Style wrestling is more attractive in the United States, saying, ˈThe Russians had requested to face our teams with a combination of their Free Style, Greco Roman, and womenˈs teams, and since the Free Style Iran-US wrestling competitions have been historically attractive, and your country does not have the womenˈs wrestling sports field, we accepted the Russiansˈ request, but if the Iranian team would not have been invited, the Russians, too, would have brought only their Free Style team.ˈ
Having cancelled their Los Angeles competitions schedule, the Iranian Free Style Wrestling team is scheduled to arrive back in Tehran on Saturday morning.
Weighing of Free-Style Friendly Iran-US-Russia Wrestling Championship games was held at New York UN Headquarters and Iranian wrestlers found their competitors in the friendly games.
According to the IRNA correspondent at the UN Headquarters, Tuesday morning local time here, the head coaches and wrestlers of these three countries, Islamic Republic of Iran, the United States, and the Russian Federation, who had come to the headquarters of this international body on an invitation extended to them by the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) also had a meeting with the press.
The coaches and champions of the three major world powers in wrestling at this press conference unanimously asked for keeping the wrestling competitions at the Olympics.
Photos: Teams From U.S., Iran, Russia Back Olympic Wrestling – Wrestlers from the United States, Iran, and Russia have appeared jointly at the United Nations to promote the value of wrestling. The teams, which are in New York for a wrestling exhibition on May 15 at New York’s Grand Central Station railway terminal, hope to apply pressure on the International Olympic Committee to keep their sport in the Olympics. 5/15/13
The major issue around the axis of the upcoming trilateral friendly championship is obviously these three countriesˈ shared concern about keeping the attractive wrestling games in the Olympics.
Then it came time for the weighing and the three countriesˈ champions mounted the scales one after the other amid a very friendly and athletic atmosphere.
The Iran-US Friendly was held on Wednesday, 3:30.
The trilateral friendly was broadcasted live on a number of US TV channels.
American, Iranian and Russian wrestlers hope their unity will sway the IOC to keep their sport in the Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee has recommended the sport be dropped for the 2020 Games.
US Coach Zeke Jones says: ˈWeˈre going to show the world that the United States, Iran and Russia, through the vehicle of wrestling, we can bring people together.ˈ
This is the fourth straight year a major wrestling exhibition has been held at a famous New York City locale to raise money for charity. But the event takes on an added significance after Februaryˈs unexpected IOC decision.
Iranˈs National Freestyle wrestling team overpowered its opponents from the US on its soil, in a friendly match, Iranˈs Mehr news agency reported.
The match took place in New Yorkˈs Madison Square Garden, where Iran came out victorious with a 6-1 final score.
The fans waving Iranian flags and stomping on the temporary bleachers were treated to a show of dominance by the wrestling power, as Iran was visiting the United States for the first time in a decade.
ˈItˈs typical Iranian. Wherever we go, they do the same thing,ˈ two-time world champion Mehdi Taqavi Kermani said through a translator after winning his match at 145-and-a-half pounds. CBS News reported.
Iran also was also scheduled to face the US in Los Angeles on Sunday.
In March, Iranˈs Wrestling Federation confirmed that the US authorities sent an invitation to the Iranian side, which was accepted.
Iran and the US had recently joined forces to try and keep the wrestling from being excluded from the 2020 Olympic Games.
The friendly match was organized in a move to let the International Olympic Committee change its decision about excluding wrestling from the 2020 Olympic Games.
AFP reported citing the executive director of USA Wrestling, Rich Bender that US ˈneeds the backing of Iran and Russia, to preserve the wrestling, and this goes beyond politicsˈ.
Bender noted that Iran is one of the powers in wrestling and can defend the gameˈs credibility.
Speaking at a ceremony hosted by the Iranian Wrestling Federation, he said he hoped that, with the ˈcomprehensive unityˈ among the wrestling power-houses, the IOC will change its decision.
The head of the Iranian Wrestling Federation, Hojatollah Khatib, said he hopes that ˈthis unprecedented unityˈ can change the International Olympic Committeeˈs decision.
The IOCˈs executive board in February voted to drop wrestling as one of the core sports of the games. That means it now joins seven others – baseball, softball, karate, squash, roller sports, climbing, wakeboarding and Wushu – vying to be selected as an ˈadditional sport.ˈ
Wrestling is now one of the eight sports seeking to fill one spot in the 2020 Olympics. The IOC board will meet May 29 in Russia to recommend a short list, with the final decision in September.
Wrestling first appeared in 708 BC and has only ever been left out of the Olympic program once before in 1900.
Wrestling has an ancient history in Iran, dating back when Persian kings would battle their opponents in epic matches. The sport attracts millions of followers across the country, and unofficial figures say tens of thousands actually go to the mats.
Iran was one of the first nations to criticize the move to scrap the sport, dubbing it a ˈbig blowˈ to the countryˈs sport which has been medal winner for the country.
Iran and the United States have at least one urgent interest in common: Their wrestling federations are teaming up to salvage wrestling for the 2020 Olympics after the Olympic Committee recommended dropping the sport in February 2013. The Iranian and American teams are holding friendly matches – the last previously scheduled to be held in Los Angeles on May 19, but cancelled – to raise the sportˈs profile before the committee makes a final decision in September.
Despite tensions between their governments, the American and Iranian wrestling organizations have developed a unique relationship over the past two decades. Iranˈs national team has competed in the United States 10 times since 1995.
US participation in Iranˈs 1998 Takhti Cup marked the first visit by an American sports team since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The team has competed in Iran 10 other times since then. Rich Bender, executive director of USA Wrestling, discusses the US-Iran wrestling relationship.
Garrett Nada: What is the nature of the US-Iran wrestling relationship?
Rich Bender: We have a positive and strong relationship built on years of competition. The US team has been to Iran 11 times. I have been on four of those tours, and the atmosphere has always been really positive. We have been greeted with open arms. Iranians have shown our athletes a great deal of respect on and off the field of play. Iranians have a high degree of wrestling knowledge, and they appreciate high-level competition. They have been really supportive of our athletes and have cheered them on. Most US-Iran interaction revolves around competitions and exchanges, with the exception of our current joint effort to keep wrestling in the 2020 Olympics.
GN: How are Iran and the United States coordinating their efforts to keep wrestling in the 2020 Olympics?
RB: I visited Iran for the freestyle World Cup in mid-February, less than a week after the Olympic committee recommended dropping wrestling. After I landed in Tehran, I immediately started talking to my Iranian counterparts about ways to collaborate.
The international wrestling federation and 177 nations, including Iran and the United States, have launched a coordinated effort to retain wrestling as an Olympic sport. Our two federations are hosting the Los Angeles and New York matches in conjunction with ˈWorld Wrestling Month.ˈ
GN: What difference do matches like these have on diplomacy with Iran? What is the role of sports between nations?
RB: Sports are a force for good. They bring people together. And interaction increases understanding and lowers barriers. Love of sports is a commonality even among nations that see things differently in terms of politics and religion.
ˈPing-pong diplomacyˈ had a positive impact on the US-China relationship in the early 1970s. The exchange of players helped pave the way for President Richard Nixonˈs 1972 visit to Beijing.
Wrestling in particular is one of the best sports to provide the opportunity for collaboration. The upcoming exchanges in Los Angeles and New York will feature some intense matchups. But the events are solely about raising wrestlingˈs profile. The US and Iranian teams want to make a strong case for keeping wrestling in the Olympics.
GN: How do the two teams compare?
RB: Iran, Russia and the United States have the top three teams in freestyle wrestling. Iranˈs team won six medals at the 2012 Olympics, including three golds. Iran has won 38 medals in wrestling since 1948. In the 2012 games, the US team took four medals, including two golds. The United States has won 129 medals in wrestling since 1904. Iran won the freestyle World Cup in February 2013. Russia took second place, followed by the United States.
GN: How do the US and Iranian wrestling styles differ?
RB: Neither team has a particular style. The great thing about wrestling is that no technique necessarily works better than another. The athletes use a diverse range of styles and skill sets. There are similarities on both sides of the mat. Some wrestlers tend to be very technical, while others focus on their power.
GN: How often do the teams compete? How do the athletes and coaches get along?
RB: We meet just about every year at the World Championships, sometimes at World Cups and some other competitions. The United States regularly attends Iranˈs annual Takhti Cup. The teams have a mutual respect for each otherˈs skills.
The head coaches of the two teams, Zeke Jones and Gholam-Reza Mohammadi, actually wrestled against each other in the early 1990s. So the rivalry between the two teams has some history.
The current rivalry dates from the finals of the 2012 Olympics. Jordan Burroughs beat Iranˈs Sadeq Goudarzi for the gold medal in the 74 kilo weight class.
One of the most interesting matchups in the upcoming tour will be between 120 kilogram heavyweights Tervel Dlagnev and Komeil Qasemi. Iranˈs Qasemi beat Dlagnev for the bronze medal in the 2012 Olympics.
Friendly meets and exchanges provide opportunities for interactions off the mat, including occasional team meals together. But for the most part, athletes from both teams tend to stay in competition mode and focus on the matches.
Iranˈs wrestling team has competed in the United States 10 times:
1995 World Championships in Atlanta, Georgia
1995 World Cup in Chattanooga, Tennessee
1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia
1998 Junior World Championships in Primm, Nevada
1998 World Cup in Stillwater, Oklahoma
1998 Goodwill Games in New York City, New York
1999 World Cup in Spokane, Washington
2000 World Cup in Fairfax, Virginia
2001 World Cup in Baltimore, Maryland
2003 World Championships in New York City, New York
Garrett Nada is a Program Assistant at USIP in the Center for Conflict Management.
(Copyright 2013 Iran Primer; Published with permission)
… Payvand News – 05/17/13 … —
Article source: http://www.payvand.com/news/13/may/1134.html
Random musings from a befuddled mind as I try to catch up with what has been a busy weeks in the Permian Basin sports world:
– Both Midland High and Lee are three weeks into their spring practice now, but I’m obviously more familiar with the Bulldogs as they’re my beat come football season.
I haven’t made it to as many practices as I had hoped this spring due to my commitments to softball and particularly track this spring. But I have seen two of the three MHS intrasquad scrimmages and there are two areas that stick out most in my mind.
First, the running back position has the potential to be very prolific next season. Sophomore Darius Reed is getting a lot of reps right now and has great size for a high school back. I really like the vision he’s shown and he runs with impressive power. He’s not a burner by any means, but he’s going to have some strong runs just because he’s tough to bring down.
Also turning heads is freshman Chris Douglas. During Thursday’s scrimmage, Douglas was getting a lot of first-team reps. He’s a similar runner to Reed with similar size. I would say Douglas might have a little more speed to offer.
In the three seasons I’ve covered the Bulldogs, I’ve had the pleasure of covering two of the most prolific backs in the program’s history with Tyler Middleton and Jacoby Webster. And while their wasn’t an individual who posted huge numbers last year, the tandem of Lance White and Xzavier Martinez was productive.
And White is yet to step on the field this spring due to the success of the baseball team. He’s making a big difference for the Bulldogs on the diamond this postseason, too. Martinez has moved to safety and is making plays in practice. He had a nice interception in front of two-year letterman receiver Mazelle Justice on Thursday.
I will say a true speed threat could be lacking in the backfield as White is more of a between the tackles runner as well. Don’t be shocked if Martinez, who coach Craig Yenzer told me ran a sub-4.4 40 this spring, still gets some reps in some packages on offense once the fall rolls around. Speed like that needs to be utilized.
I don’t expect Middleton or Webster like numbers from any of these backs, but expect a contingent of maybe three to provide a very good ground game. In the past, Yenzer has utilized a two-back system very successfully. With Middleton and Webster, it was about a 70-30 timeshare. I’m betting touches between backs will be even more spread out this fall.
- The other aspect catching my eye is on defense, and not just one position, but the entire unit.
This group is aggressive and opportunistic. In the 45 minutes I was at practice Thursday, I saw the first group force three turnovers. They’re not just looking to make tackles, they’re looking to strip the ball and cause fumbles.
The Bulldogs’ defense made incredible strides over the last few years under Shane Fletcher. Now that Tim Anuszkiewicz is leading the defense again, the group hasn’t missed a beat. And I’m sure Anuzkiewicz will be quick to point out what veteran assistants like Jeff Streun and Bryan Sledge mean for this group’s continued development.
- Speaking of Fletcher, as I was sitting with him at McAllister’s Deli on Big Spring St., interviewing him for the story I wrote about his retirement, the song “Home” by Phillip Phillips came on and it couldn’t have been more appropriate.
Being a Midland High grad, you can tell the job he’s held for the past 11 years have meant more than words can say to Fletcher. He’s been at the center of the most successful era in the program’s history, and make no mistake, Fletcher has had plenty to do with its success.
In fact, he deserves as much credit as any assistant at Midland High. Fletcher is one of the biggest reasons the Bulldogs have the participation numbers they currently do.
Over the past couple years, I’ve really gotten a chance to know Fletcher, and I always looked forward to stopping at a track meet or during a practice for a conversation with him. One of the aspects of this job I do enjoy most is the relationship I’m able to form with coaches and athletes. The same can be said of Fletcher.
I never had a doubt when talking to him that the main reason he was a high school coach was because of the relationships with athletes. A lot of coaches say that, but it was very genuine coming out of Fletcher’s mouth.
He will certainly be missed and I hope to see him in the stands, or maybe on the sidelines, from time to time.
– How about that Midland ISD coaching carousel?
It just seems to never end this season. Three out of the four varsity basketball coaches in MISD will be in their first year with the program this season.
I’ll start with the hire of MHS girls coach Wes Torrez. I’ve only spoken with him three times, but I am impressed. He carries himself well, and any time a guy is being heralded as the best young head coach in the Panhandle by legendary Canyon coach Joe Lombard, then color me impressed. Lombard’s affirmation should be highly valued.
I spoke with Amarillo Globe News sports editor Lance Lahnert at length about Torrez this past weekend, and not a bad word was uttered about him. When it comes to the most important part of dealing with a coach as a beat writer, I only want someone that’s easy to work with. That’s one reason I will miss Ron Berry being with the Lady Dawgs.
But so far, Torrez has been very easy to speak with and seems like he will make my transition to a new coach pretty simple. And he’s quite the fiery competitor on the sidelines from what I understand. That should make for some fun MHS-Lee games with him and Morgan Fowler both being demonstrative.
Could also mean more gray hairs for my goatee.
– The boys basketball coaching situation is definitely interesting, though.
With Chris Packer and Charles Tatum, you got two former players coaching at their alma mater. Both hires were kind of, “No, duh” picks.
I compared this to the Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech hire. Had the Red Raiders passed on Kingsbury this time and he experienced success as head coach of another program, it would be almost unforgivable for the Tech administration — a group still under a lot of fire from fans with the handling of the Mike Leach situation.
Packer was very popular as a coach at Lee, and Tatum is nothing short of a legend at Midland High as a star player on the Bulldogs’ state title team in the 1990s. They had to be the picks for their particular schools.
As soon as both jobs came open, those of us in the office automatically said “Packer” for Lee and “Tatum” for MHS as the favorites to get the job. The two are very good friends as well. Tatum was actually going to be one of Packer’s assistants prior to the MHS job coming open.
That friendship, competitive attitudes and a desire to win at their alma maters should make the Lee-MHS rivalry a fun one on the hardwood for some time.
I just hope they can take steps to returning the two basketball programs back to the high level they once played at. But that’s another can of worms to open.
– I spent the first few days of my road trip in Austin for the UIL state track meet, and as I’ve written in this space before, it’s without a doubt my favorite event to cover each month.
Not only does it give me a nice weekend in Austin, the meet itself is the best high school sporting event in the state each year. After a full year of dealing with parents complaining about everything they see on a court or field, it’s nice to be at a sport where there is minimal animosity.
And in Texas, it’s often an opportunity to see some of the top track athletes of tomorrow. Guys like Cameron Burrell, who is the son of two-time Olympic gold medalist Leroy Burrell, could be a future Olympian in the 100 meters.
Beaumont Ozen’s Tony Brown also has Olympic potential in the 110 hurdles after he set a new Class 4A state record in the event, and was also second to Burrell in the 100 meters. Brown is quite the football player, too, and is considered one of the top prospects in the nation for next year’s recruiting class.
While state didn’t go the way Greenwood’s Jody Lively, Morgan McKee and Kam Williams might have necessarily hoped, there is no experience like the state track meet. That was plain to see after talking to all three of them following their events.
And my personal thanks to The Greenwood Three for making that trip possible for me.
– Off the high school path for a bit and into Juco baseball. What an awesome experience the Midland College baseball team is about to have.
The Juco World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., is a great sporting event. I had the pleasure of following Howard College to a national title there a few years ago when the Hawks had a record-breaking 63-1 miracle season.
Covering a team that successful is something I know I will never experience again. The fact I was there writing about and calling most of those games on the radio is very special to me and Grand Junction is where the story concluded.
Current Midland RockHounds pitcher Zach Neal was the ace for that Hawks squad, and he recounted a bit of the experience to Oscar LeRoy at the beginning of this season. Oscar now gets to make a trip to Grand Junction, and I would gladly take his place there.
The community of Grand Junction loves hosting the Juco World Series, and they seem to have a special affection for teams from Texas at the event. You will see kids running around with balls, caps and gloves trying to get autographs from any of the players. It’s almost like being at batting practice before an MLB game.
Kudos to Midland College for getting there for the first time in program history. There are a lot of guys with ties to Midland high schools on that team making major contributions right now. All the more reason for this community to rise up and really give the Chaps some support.
– Sticking with baseball but taking it to the major leagues, where are all the “Rangers fans” who were jumping ship after what the national media termed a disastrous offseason for the ball club? If they’re back on board, they should be branded with the Texas “T” as a reminder of their lack of faith.
The Rangers are now 41 games into the season and have the best record in the majors. It’s also the best start in franchise history.
But they lost Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young, while losing out on the bidding war for Zack Greinke and not securing a deal for Justin Upton. Missing out on all of that is bad news for the Rangers.
Is it? Is it really? I wrote a column about this shortly after Hamilton defected to the Angels, predicting the Rangers would be just fine. The front office of Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan deserve more faith than they got from the media and the bandwagoneers. They turned around one of the worst organizations in baseball and made it a perennial contender, and set an example that other franchises in the league are trying to follow.
I had a self-professed mancrush on Hamilton, but quickly fell out of love with him after he pretty much quit playing from July of last year until the end of the season. Fortunately for Rangers fans, he still hasn’t started playing again.
His upside is still tremendous, but the off the field and mental issues with the guy simply isn’t worth it. He’s still not showing any hustle in the outfield, swinging at pitches no where near the strike zone and coming up with crazy excuses by the boat load.
This is the not the Josh Hamilton that won the AL MVP. It’s not the Hamilton that nearly hit a game-winning homer (if it wasn’t for a now common bad play in the outfield by Nelson Cruz) in the 2011 World Series.
He seems completely disinterested with baseball right now, and I won’t be shocked if he retires sooner than later.
As for the other guys I mentioned, only Napoli and Upton have lived up to their hype. Still, Napoli strikes out way too much, and is sure to cool off this summer. Upton, though, is finally living up to his potential, and he would have looked nice in a Rangers uniform.
Greinke continues to be injury prone, and both he and Hamilton was badly overpayed. Bravo, Rangers, on not overspending on either player.
When you’re consistently rated as having one of the best farm systems in baseball, there comes a time that system has to start paying off. That’s what is happening in Arlington.
Rookie pitchers like Justin Grimm and Nick Topesch are giving the Rangers solid performances in most opportunities. And that’s needed for a depleted pitching staff that should at least be getting Colby Lewis back soon.
It also helps that Yu Darvish is living up to his hype and looks like one of the best pitchers in baseball. First-year batting coach Dave Magadan has the Rangers using a better approach at the plate as well. The biggest difference is in Ian Kinsler, who actually looks like a legit leadoff hitter this year with more patience at the plate and fewer popups.
Certainly the team has to finish better than it did a year ago, but make no mistake, the AL West title still goes through Arlington.
Wyatt, 65, is suing B-CU, accusing it of breach of contract and age discrimination after he was fired in 2009 and replaced by then-39-year-old Brian Jenkins. Circuit Judge Terence R. Perkins said he would issue a ruling on Wednesday after the nonjury trial this week at the City Island Courthouse Annex.
Wyatt was fired on Nov. 23, 2009, two days after the Wildcats were pummeled 42-6 by rival Florida AM in the Florida Classic. While Wyatt had a record of 90-54 in 13 seasons, his last season was a losing one at 5-6.
One of Wyatt’s attorneys, Peter Heebner, argued in his closing statement that B-CU broke its contract and that it owed Wyatt $1.2 million. He said Wyatt had a contract that automatically rolled over unless he received an unsatisfactory evaluation. Wyatt’s evaluation in 2008 was satisfactory, he said. And he did not receive an evaluation in 2009.
“There is no sense in the coach’s mind that for some reason he was getting some kind of unsatisfactory evaluation,” Heebner said.
Barry Postman, an attorney representing B-CU, said the contract allowed for Wyatt to be terminated if the university wanted to make a “programmatic change” or large-scale change in the program. Postman argued that firing Wyatt to take the program in a different direction was just such a programmatic change.
Postman said the drubbing by Florida AM in 2009 sparked the change and not age discrimination.
“The big game that led to the programmatic change was two days before the firing so it was not age discrimination,” Postman said.
The rout at the hands of the Rattlers was referred to at times as the straw that broke the camel’s back and led to Wyatt’s dismissal. Another of Wyatt’s attorneys, Kelly Chanfrau, said the defeat was indeed the last straw but, she said, the camel’s back was age discrimination.
During testimony Friday morning, B-CU athletic director Lynn Thompson said after the Florida AM defeat, the university decided to remake its entire program and dismiss Wyatt.
Thompson also testified that Wyatt did not like guaranteed income games in which big schools pay smaller ones to play.
“They pay you an enormous sum of money to come and compete,” Thompson said.
An attorney for B-CU asked if the college expected to win those games.
“We go into the game truly expecting to win but knowing that the deck is stacked,” Thompson said.
Besides revenue, the right game can bring tremendous exposure, he said. Thompson added that alumni had been unhappy with the program’s progress.
Defense attorney Heebner asked Thompson whether Wyatt had not suggested scheduling a game against the University of Florida Gators. Thompson said he had but it was never a serious consideration.
Thompson denied ever saying that the university wanted to replace Wyatt with a younger coach.
Wyatt was 5-6 in three out of his last four seasons and lost to FAMU in three of those four years: 2009, 5-6 (loss to Florida AM); 2008, 8-3 (loss to FAMU); 2007, 5-6 (beat FAMU); and 2006, 5-6 (loss to FAMU).
Wyatt led B-CU to its first two Division I-AA (now Football Championship Subdivision) playoff appearances in 2002 and 2003.