Juan Nieves Changes Sox Now Pitching Coach In Boston

Juan Nieves, a former bullpen coach with the Chicago White Sox, was hired as the Boston Red Sox‘ officially introduced Juan Nieves as the club’s next pitching coach.New Sox manager John Farrell said hie long-standing relationship with Nieves was important in Nieves landing the job after five seasons with the White Sox.“His ability, his communication and my understanding of Juan and what’s important to him as a person, as much as a pitching coach, those were all factored into the ease of communication, which is going to be a major component once we get into in-game input that he’ll have in the dugout,” Farrell said. “I feel with our rapport and existing knowledge of the guys on the pitching staff already, this is a very good fit and a very good tandem.”It was believed that longtime pitching coach Rick Peterson was the favorite for the job — a baseball source last week told ESPNBoston.com that Farrell was “all in” on Peterson. Farrell said he was impressed with all four candidates who interviewed (Marlins pitching coach Randy St. Claire and Royals bullpen coach Steve Foster were the others) but Nieves got the job for a number of reasons.Farrell expressed the importance of communication between the manager, the pitching coach and the entire pitching staff, and his confidence in Nieves’ ability in that area.“The ease of our working relationship will really foster that,” Farrell said.Another aspect to the decision to hire Nieves was his longstanding working relationship with White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.“He’s learned under a longtime pitching coach that has had a lot of success in his own right in Don Cooper and this is a very good fit for the Red Sox,” Farrell said.Nieves agreed.“It’s an easy fit first of all because I’m only changing Sox,” he said. “It was a great fit knowing John from a long time in Puerto Rico and we actually played on the same team. We were able to talk a lot through the years.”Nieves has spent a total of 15 years working with Cooper and plans on bringing a lot of those philosophies to Boston.“Establishing a structure for the guys and stay on that course,” Nieves said. “To create some stability for the guys is very important. read more

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The NBA Haters Ball

WORST USE OF TIMEOUTSLos Angeles ClippersFor the most part, teams know that defenses play better coming out of timeouts than offenses. There’s no cross-matching to worry about, and no early-shot-clock semi-transition rush job to stamp out. Every time an offense called a timeout in 2016-17, the ensuing play was worth about 3.5 points per 100 plays for the defense compared to typical halfcourt offense. So the offense generally needs to cram enough value into that time to make it an even proposition — advancing the ball late in the game, or subbing in shooters, or trying to take the air out of a run. For some teams that’s possible. For a team that digs as deep a hole as the Clippers, good luck.The Clippers got 10 points worse per 100 plays every time they called a timeout. This is confusing, because the Clippers had one of the best halfcourt offenses in the league, ranking fourth at 98.6 points per 100 plays. But after timeouts, that rate shrunk to 88.7. It’s not just a matter of inferior bench players coming in after the timeout, either: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, both excellent halfcourt players, fall off significantly after timeouts. Paul’s typical halfcourt offense is good for 101.2 points per 100 plays; he falls to 87.7 after timeouts. Griffin’s falls from 96.6 to 84.7.After timeout stats tend to be noisy, and in 2015-16 the Clippers were one of the better teams in the league in those scenarios. But in 2016-17, no team lost more steam during breaks than the Clips. 6Ed DavisPOR17.24.32.118.0 LEAST DEFENSIVE PLAYERAndrew Wiggins, Minnesota TimberwolvesThanks to a draft-day trade, Tom Thibodeau is reunited with defensive stopper Jimmy Butler, and not a moment too soon. Butler will be joining forces with the single most catastrophic defender in the league: Andrew Wiggins.Using the NBA’s player-tracking data to look at shots defended and how those shots turned out,1These values are based on shot location, defender location and other variables. The “expected” value is based on what a shooter would make against an average defender given shot distance and the time on the shot clock, and the net value displayed is the difference between that expectation and the result that the defender allowed. we can see who’s making a positive impact, who’s making a negative impact, and who’s making the most impact. 8Miles PlumleeCHA10.82.50.818.3 MOST OVER-AMBITIOUS SHOOTERMarcus Smart, Boston CelticsAt a certain point, you just have to admire the confidence.Marcus Smart was not the worst 3-point shooter in the league this season. But he was the worst 3-point shooter who routinely took a lot of threes. Smart took 4.2 3-pointers per game in 2016-17 and made 28.3 percent of them. Only two players in the 3-point era have taken four or more 3-pointers per game and shot a worse percentage than Smart did this season: Mookie Blaylock in 1997-98 and Latrell Sprewell in 1994-95. And it’s not like Smart was launching nothing but bad shots, either — 3.1 of his 3s per game came on spot-ups, which are usually high-quality looks. But Smart shot 31.2 percent on those.Smart contributes in other ways — mainly through being Point Guard Ben Wallace — and his shooting percentage did, briefly, see an uptick in the playoffs. That’s enough to make him useful, at least on a team that gets stomped by the Cavs. WORST SINGLE GAMEJamal Crawford, Los Angeles ClippersIn a lot of ways, 36-year-old Jamal Crawford is miraculous. In his 17th season, Crawford played 26.3 minutes per game and averaged 12.3 points on 52.6 percent true shooting, just a hair under his career mark. But on the nights he doesn’t have it, he really doesn’t have it.On January 8, Crawford played the single worst game of the season by any NBA player. In a home win against the Miami Heat, Crawford put in 31 minutes and went 1-for-12 on 2-point shots (0-for-4 from three) while collecting one rebound, one assist and two turnovers. He came out of the game with a break-even plus-minus, though any success the Clippers had was mainly due to a great game from Chris Paul (19 points, 18 assists, 1 turnover) and Heat players Dion Waiters, Rodney McGruder, Wayne Ellington and Willie Reed going a combined 7-for-32. MOST OVER-AMBITIOUS DUNKERMarquese Chriss, Phoenix SunsThe missed dunk is one of the more universal plays in basketball. In a split-second, it has a neat little narrative arc: the audacity to leap in defiance of gravity and the instant comeuppance. Some players experience this more than others. Marquese Chriss experiences it more than anyone.Chriss missed 26 dunks this season, four more than second-place DeAndre Jordan … on 146 fewer attempts. Chriss’s 79.8 shooting percentage on dunks is the worst mark Basketball Reference has on record for any player who tried at least 100 dunks in a season.Not all missed dunks are of equal difficulty, of course. Dwyane Wade getting stuffed by the bottom of the rim in a playoff game is not the same as Chriss blowing in-traffic NBA Jam dunks. But there’s a certain charm to Chriss’s misses, like he knows they aren’t “all worth two points” and he’s determined to collect the difference, even at the cost of the two points. WORST LINEUPLos Angeles Lakers’ youth On the one hand, it’s frustrating that the Lakers have to sell off their best young players in order to get out from under contracts that were bad news from the moment they were signed. On the other hand, hoo boy, those young players really, really didn’t play well when they were all on the court together.D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance, Jr. played 108 minutes across 20 games this season — not a huge sample, but not quite nothing, either. By pure net rating, they were the second worst lineup in the league (-28.3 points per 100 possessions), trailing an especially grim configuration of Sacramento Kings. But it’s not so much the margin that was demoralizing about the group as it was the humiliating way in which it was run up.Out of 103 non-free-throw scoring plays against this Lakers’ lineup, 24 were dunks. (For comparison’s sake, the league-average team would figure to allow 10.3 dunks for every 103 buckets.) Not mere layups, not simple wide-open shots — dunks! A quarter of all points from the floor scored on the Lakers’ Team Of The Future were on dunks, as though the goal of the defense was to corral the opposing team into the most efficient route possible on the way to the rim. PLAYERTEAMMIN. PER GAMEPTS. PER GAMEOFFENSIVE REBOUNDSTOUCHES PER 36 MIN. 5Tristan ThompsonCLE30.08.13.717.5 Source: nba.com 1Jakob PoeltlTOR11.73.11.514.8 Tonight at New York’s Pier 36, the NBA will host its first annual awards show, heaping praise on the best and most outstanding players of the season. We are here today to do the opposite. The players no one passed toNBA players with the fewest touches per 36 minutes, 2016-17 4Noah VonlehPOR17.14.41.817.5 LEAST OFFENSIVE PLAYERTristan Thompson, Cleveland CavaliersThe player to whom no one passes the basketball is a typically a well-earned title, and one held by the inimitable Bismack Biyombo for the last few years. This season, however, Biyombo’s offensive role has, erm, flourished. He averaged a robust six points per game for the Orlando Magic after posting the highest usage rate of his career, at 13.2. But with Bismack abdicating the throne, who is the least passed-to man in the league?Finding players to whom no one passes is easy thanks to the NBA’s player tracking data. Take the number of “front court touches” (that is, the number of times a player touches the ball on the offensive end of the floor) and subtract the number of offensive rebounds he collected, and you’ve got something close to the number of times he was passed the ball. 9Omer AsikNOP15.62.71.518.5 3Salah MejriDAL12.32.91.317.0 7Roy HibbertDEN14.24.61.118.3 Unsurprisingly, the list of players who don’t see much of the ball fit a profile: big men who are on the floor for defense and rebounding, not scoring. Strictly speaking, Jakob Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira see the least of the ball on a per possession basis, which is probably to be expected on a team with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. But a little ways down the list is another name, and a bigger number: Tristan Thompson played 30 minutes per game for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but was passed the ball just 14.6 times per game and 17.5 times per 36 minutes.Thompson isn’t as offensively bereft as many of the other players on the list this season or in seasons past. He has good instincts in pick-and-roll and finds space off the ball (or at least, puts himself in positions where LeBron James can find him). But he also has by far the smallest offensive role on the team. Kevin Love, who has seen his role reduced drastically from his superstar days in Minnesota, got 37.8 touches per 36 minutes. James got 66.8; Irving got 67.2; even Iman Shumpert, who cannot dribble, pass or shoot, got 30.1. Richard Jefferson, who was drafted when Thompson was 10 years old, got 26.8.Like Marcus Smart, Thompson has other skills that are important to the Cavaliers. They trust him with important responsibilities. Just not with the basketball. 2Lucas NogueiraTOR19.04.41.416.7 Possession by possession, there are a few defenders who are as bad as Wiggins. When Wiggins contests a shot, opponents have a 56.1 effective field goal percentage; when they are unguarded, they have a 56.4 eFG percentage. Fundamentally, getting a shot up against Andrew Wiggins is the same as getting an open shot.Wiggins’s deficiencies are too many to list quickly, but at root the issue seems to be basic effort. He barely jumps to contest shots, doesn’t run hard to close out, and gets lost watching the ball.But the truly destructive part of Wiggins’s defense is how much of it there was. In the way that defenders like Draymond Green or an in-his-prime Tony Allen seem to be in all places at all times, challenging seemingly every shot on the floor, Wiggins is omnipresent in his awfulness. He defended the 10th most shots in the league, by far the most by a below-average defender. Most teams do their best to hide their weak defenders, but opponents seek Wiggins out like no other defender in the league. 10Willie ReedMIA14.55.31.819.1 read more

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What Does Kevin Durants Injury Mean For The Warriors

FiveThirtyEight More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Embed Code Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. This week’s show was taped live at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston. On this episode (Mar. 8, 2017), we talk to Baltimore Raven John Urschel, who is pursuing his Ph.D. in mathematics at MIT during the offseason. Next, we break down what Kevin Durant’s injury means for the Warriors’s postseason prospects. Finally, we investigate some interesting NHL trades and ponder the merits of building a hockey super team. Plus, we turn our regular significant digit segment into a quiz!Links to what we discussed:John Urschel explained his decision to head back to school for The Players’ Tribune last year.Urschel was recently named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list.FiveThirtyEight’s Kyle Wagner wrote about why Kevin Durant’s injury showed how much the Warriors needed him.The Kevin Shattenkirk trade was a no-brainer for the Capitals, notes The Washington Post’s Steve Allen.Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky says that the Ben Bishop trade was startlingly smart. read more

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Thad Matta earns 300th win in Ohio State mens basketball season opener

OSU freshman forward Jae’Sean Tate in action during a game against Marquette on Nov. 18 in Columbus. Credit: Lantern File PhotoOhio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta notched his 300th win as the Buckeyes defeated Mount St. Mary’s 76-54 in the team’s first game of the season.Matta, who is in his 12th season with the team, became OSU’s all-time winningest coach during last season’s Big Ten tournament. His OSU teams now have a record of 300-94.“I’ve always said that I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to be here at Ohio State,” Matta said. “It goes back to (Alex Haley’s) old saying, ‘When you see a turtle on the fence post, you know it didn’t get there by itself.’ That’s definitely me on that fence post.”Sophomore forward Jae’Sean Tate said Matta is deserving of his record.“That’s just another stat to add to his résumé, he’s a wonderful coach, he’s a wonderful guy and hopefully we have many to come this year,” Tate said.Tate, who missed the Buckeyes’ exhibition game against Walsh with a sprained ankle, helped lead the Buckeyes to victory with an impressive offensive showing. His 21 points were one shy of tying his career-high, and his two 3-point field goals nearly equaled his season total from his freshman campaign (three). “It definitely boosts my confidence. I’m still not where I want to be, so I have to continue to work, I can’t rest on that,” Tate said.Matta said as a coach it was rewarding to see Tate’s hard work pay off.“Jae’Sean was good. It was so exciting when he let his first three go, to see it go down. I’ve seen that kid, how diligent he’s been in terms of his work ethic and developing that,” Matta said.Two of the more veteran players on the roster, junior forward Marc Loving and sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop, led the team in minutes with 35 and 38, respectively, but it was freshman center/forward Daniel Giddens who made one of the biggest impacts of the afternoon.The 6-foot-9 Mableton, Georgia, native made his presence known with 11 points in 26 minutes of hard play.“For myself individually, I just have to build on what I did today and just want to make this season a successful one,” Giddens said.Matta said he was impressed with Giddens’ play.“Daniel was everywhere. He was showing his chest, helping, getting back to his man,” Matta said. “The thing I love about Daniel is that effort is never going to be a problem for him. He’s a kid who cares, he is starving for extra work, he’s starving for finding ways to improve his game.” Giddens appeared to be calm on the court, but the freshman said he was “freaking out”  internally.“I’m not going to lie, I was nervous. I’m still nervous. This is new to me,” Giddens said.Other freshmen members of the Scarlet and Gray also made their presences known. Guard JaQuan Lyle put up 12 points, the third-highest of the team, and guard A.J. Harris came off the bench, showing off his publicized speed and energy. Meanwhile, guard Austin Grandstaff nailed a 3-point attempt, his first and only shot of his young career. The Buckeyes started the game strong going into the half with a 42-21 lead and a team field-goal percentage of 56.3 percent. The Mountaineers tried to mount a comeback in the second half, at one point cutting the deficit to 13 points.“I painted the picture at halftime, I said this is what could happen and it did. We got a little bit complacent,” Matta said. “We didn’t have the pace we needed in the second half.”Turnovers were an issue for the Buckeyes throughout the game, something Tate said will get better as the season goes along.“Having such a young team, being the first game I think that played a role in that. With two freshman point guards and so many young guys, we’ll mature as the season goes on,” Tate said.Matta said the turnovers were due to not making the simple play, and there’s still a lot of teaching needed for a young Buckeye team that has games both Tuesday and Friday. “I just told them after the game, ‘You guys want to play in the NBA? Well, you’ve got an NBA schedule this week,’” Matta said. “We’ve got to prepare for Grambling, but we also got to look at what we need to get better at.”The Buckeyes are set to take the court again at the Schottenstein Center on Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Grambling State. read more

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Frontcourt provides relief in Ohio State womens basketballs 9770 win

OSU forward Alexa Hart (22) looks for space around defending Virginia Cavaliers forward Sydney Umeri (44) on Dec. 21 at the Schottenstein Center. Photo Credit: Greg Bartram | USA TODAY SportsThe Ohio State women’s basketball team has relied heavily on the explosiveness of the nation’s top-scoring duo during the 2015-16 season.That wasn’t the case Thursday evening at the Schottenstein Center against the Indiana Hoosiers.Top Buckeye guards, sophomore Kelsey Mitchell and senior Ameryst Alston, were held in check early on in Columbus, prompting the OSU frontcourt to come alive. The extra effort was definitely needed for the No. 5 Buckeyes (11-3, 3-0) to fend off Indiana (9-6, 1-2) at home, 97-70.“They came out ready to play right off the jump,” OSU junior forward Shayla Cooper said. “We had to match their intensity, and once we matched it we actually took it to another level after that.”The Buckeyes have struggled immensely with their perimeter defense this season, ranking dead last amongst Big Ten teams in 3-point defense. A lack of outside pressure has allowed teams to attack OSU with an onslaught of long-range jumpers from the tip.Matters were no better on Wednesday when Indiana opened up the first quarter of play shooting 4-of-6 from beyond the arc.“I think putting more pressure on the ball, not letting them see the open man,” Cooper said of the team’s solution to Indiana’s hot start.Multiple missed layup opportunities also stymied OSU from overcoming Indiana. However, OSU sophomore Alexa Hart and Cooper continued to work the interior, sparking a 10-3 run that knotted the contest at 18 after one quarter of play. Hart registered a double-double on the night, scoring 18 points and collecting 13 rebounds.Despite breaking out of an early shooting slump, the Buckeyes still could not entirely pull away from the Hoosiers. That’s because OSU’s elite scorers Mitchell and Alston continued to be held in check by Indiana, combining to shoot 4-of-18 from the field in the first half.“The way (Indiana) came out, the way they shot the ball, I think that prevented us from doing things that we usually do,” Mitchell said.Nevertheless, OSU’s presence in the post continued to eat away at Indiana. Cooper provided a 14-point first-half spark off the bench, leading a Buckeye frontcourt that outscored the Hoosiers 32-18 in the paint over the first 20 minutes. Cooper finished the night shooting 10-of-16 from the field, tallying 23 points and eight rebounds.“I like the energy and it gives us a different look when she comes in,” OSU coach Kevin McGuff said of moving Cooper to the bench.The Scarlet and Gray brought a 40-35 advantage into halftime and built some early momentum after the break. OSU’s first 3-point conversion two minutes into the second half from Mitchell brought the Buckeyes’ lead to seven and led to an Indiana timeout.Mitchell, who finished with 23 points on the night, led the team with 15 points in the third quarter on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the field, opening up a 12-point lead heading into the final quarter.“Sometimes when you’re not sure about yourself and you have a slow start it can wear on you,” McGuff said. “But I do think we have a lot of confidence about how we’re playing.”OSU continued to pull away via not letting up on the Hoosiers, sustaining an aggressive and pesky press on defense. That tenacity brought the team’s turnover margin to a plus-10 mark by the game’s end, and helped the Buckeyes finish with 16 points off of turnovers and 23 offensive rebounds.The Buckeyes will continue their Big Ten schedule with a matchup against Rutgers (10-4) on Sunday. Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. at the Schottenstein Center. read more

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Crew enters home playoff contest in need of goals

An unmistakable confidence has pervaded Columbus Crew training sessions in the week leading up to this Saturday’s home-leg playoff match against the Colorado Rapids, despite trailing 1-0 in total goals scored. “We are very confident that we can overcome this deficit,” said Columbus head coach Robert Warzycha on Thursday. Warzycha’s assertiveness has rubbed off on Crew players. Andy Gruenebaum, who will be the Crew’s starting goalkeeper Saturday, is relishing the pressure. “We’re all very confident, it is true,” Gruenebaum said. “No one is freaking out, there’s no frantic behavior. This is what we play for, to be the higher seed and to have this game at home.” The Rapids were aggressive and took advantage of defensive miscues by Columbus en route to a 1-0 win at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in the opening leg of the series on Oct. 28. Gruenebaum hopes to guide the Crew to a stronger defensive showing Saturday. “As a defensive unit, we need to keep a high line and maintain pressure on the ball and their big playmakers like Conor Casey and [Omar] Cummings,” Gruenebaum said. Robbie Rogers started in the midfield for the Crew in the first leg match at Colorado and provided insight into Saturday night’s must-win contest. “It’s positive in the locker room right now, we’ll be keeping the ball better and we’ll tighten it up on defense,” he said. With the Crew organization expecting a sizable turn-out for Saturday’s match, Rogers sees the loyal Columbus fan base as the final piece of the winning equation. “Just being here at home with all the fan groups is special,” Rogers said. “We have a close connection with all the people in this stadium. They’re the best in the MLS, so the atmosphere is going to be in our favor. This is in our hands.” read more

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Which conference has the recruiting edge

The SEC has secured an upper hand in college football. The conference has won the last five BCS National Championships and finished last season with six schools ranked in The Associated Press Top 25, one more than any other conference. The Big Ten, which has appeared in two BCS National Championship Games, is one of the conferences vying for second billing. The facts point to an SEC advantage on the field, and this advantage might start in the classroom. Compared to schools in the Big Ten, most SEC institutions fall short academically. U.S. News & World Report ranks every university in the country each year based on average acceptance rate, retention rate, graduation rate and SAT and ACT scores, among other criteria. In these rankings, SEC universities fall short of those in the Big Ten. The average ranking for an SEC school is 99th. Big Ten schools come in at an average of 53rd. Michigan State, the lowest ranked school in the Big Ten, is tied for 79th nationally with the fourth-best SEC school, Alabama. The Big Ten consists of 11 universities and the SEC has 12 institutions. These lower academic standards might be an asset in recruiting high school players as they lengthen the list of available recruits and therefore directly affect on-field performance. “What the SEC will do is several teams will sign more borderline kids. They take more chances on kids that may or may not qualify,” said Scott Kennedy, director of scouting for Scout.com. “A Big Ten team doesn’t want to have three or four borderline kids on their list.” Steve Helwagen, staff writer for recruiting website Bucknuts.com, agreed. “I think that that is pretty obvious that some of those (SEC) schools can get the at-risk kids,” Helwagen said. “It doesn’t take a math wizard to realize that gives them an incredible competitive advantage if they are able to pull from a larger pool of players to build their roster.” SEC schools hauled in 73 of Rivals’ top 250 high school prospects in the 2011 class, compared to only 27 for Big Ten schools. Despite the apparent correlation between poorer academic performance and better recruiting classes, Ohio State coaches don’t see a problem. “I don’t think our admissions policies have hindered us at all,” quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano said. “We try to do our best to recruit the best student-athletes we can find.” Besides college rankings, the SEC also falls short in the Academic Progress Rate. APR is “a term-by-term measure of eligibility and retention for Division I student-athletes that was developed as an early indicator of eventual graduation rates,” according to the NCAA website. Big Ten schools rank 46th on average in APR, versus a 53rd-place average for SEC universities. One SEC coach said academic deficiencies are not an advantage. “Illinois, Ohio State, they are going to recruit the same kids that we recruit,” Auburn safeties coach Tommy Thigpen said. “All of us fall in the same line. With the exceptions of the Stanfords and the Dukes of the world, we all go after the same kids.” Thigpen, a Rivals 2011 top 25 recruiter, has recruited in both conferences. He was on the Illinois staff from 2003–04. Coaches from Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Tennessee declined to speak with The Lantern. Barry Every, a national analyst for Rivals, also fails to see any advantage from academics. “The SEC schools still have to meet the minimum standards to get into school as the Big Ten schools,” he said. “They have the same standards as Michigan State and Michigan.” The NCAA Division I requires a student-athlete to have a minimum of a 2.0 high school GPA and a sum ACT score of 86, averaging to a 21.5 on the 36-point scale, to be eligible, according to the organization’s website. Though these marks are uniform across all D-I schools, individual university requirements are often much higher. For example, Michigan’s most recent freshman class averaged an ACT score between 28 and 32, according to the university’s website. Thigpen admitted Auburn’s willingness to “hold a kid’s hand,” but said the school would not do so for an entire team of athletes. OSU running backs coach Dick Tressel, differing from his fellow OSU assistant, Siciliano, indicated that the school’s higher academic standards help focus the staff’s recruiting. “Early on in the process, there are so many prospects that we have directed away from (at-risk recruits) a little bit,” Tressel said. “Hey, we’ve got these higher standards so we just have some early decisions to make.” Though the role of academics might be disputed, the idea that SEC schools gain an advantage from their location faces little opposition. The seven states that house SEC schools produced 87 top 250 recruits in this year’s class compared to just 38 from the seven states representing the Big Ten. As recruits are added to the list, the disparity becomes further magnified. “It’s just where they are located,” Every said. “Approximately 2,500 high school players a year sign D-I; 500 of them are coming from two states (Florida and Georgia) from the Southeast.” SEC coaches have taken notice. “For us,” Thigpen said, “the pool is bigger of skilled athletes.” Location aside, academics do seem to play a factor. The top-five-ranked schools in the SEC and Big Ten (Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State), as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, secured only 12 top 250 recruits. The top two schools, Vanderbilt and Northwestern, did not manage one. Though it might not be the biggest point of emphasis, the willingness and ability of the schools in the SEC to recruit student-athletes with lower academic results might help them on the field. “The standards are almost exactly the same for everyone,” Kennedy said. “The leniency of the schools to sign those players and wait for them to see if they will get in is a little more lenient in the south.” read more

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UNC head football coach Everett Withers joins Ohio State football staff

Everett Withers, the current interim head coach of the University of North Carolina football team, was hired Wednesday to join new Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer’s staff. Withers will be the assistant head coach, as well as co-defensive coordinator under Meyer, according to a press release. Withers will split defensive coordinator duties with current OSU head coach Luke Fickell. However, Meyer previously said Fickell will call plays for the unit. In his fourth season at UNC and his first as its head coach, Withers led the team to a 7-5 overall record and an appearance in the Dec. 26 Independence Bowl against Missouri. Withers will stay with the Tar Heels to coach its bowl game. A UNC football team spokesman declined to comment to The Lantern regarding Withers’ departure from the university. OSU did not immediately make Withers’ contract details available. Withers is currently in his 24th season as football coach of both NFL and college teams. Withers began his coaching career as defensive coordinator at Austin Peay in 1988 and would eventually hold other collegiate coaching position at Tulane (1991), Southern Mississippi (1992-93), Louisville (1995-97), Texas (1998-2000) and Minnesota (2007) before becoming UNC’s defensive coordinator and secondary coach in 2008. Withers has also served as defensive backs coach for the NFL’s Tennesee Titans from 2001-2006 and oversaw defensive quality control for the New Orleans Saints in 1994. The Independence Bowl Dec. 26 is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. kickoff while Fickell will coach OSU in Jacksonville, Fla., Jan. 2 when the Buckeyes play Florida in the Gator Bowl. read more

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NCAA approves tougher violations rules Gene Smith sees improvement in flawed system

The NCAA Board of Directors released a new, more stringent set of rules Tuesday for enforcing athletic programs’ adherence to codes of conduct. The new rules try to simplify and accelerate what has traditionally been a long and complicated rule-enforcing process. The rules also aim to increase the severity of the sanctions and make punishments more uniform instead of treating things on a case-by-case basis, according to the announcement posted on ncaa.org.  Among the most notable changes involve holding head coaches more accountable for the actions of their staff. Now, violations by any member of the staff will reflect on the head coach, unless he or she can prove their personal effort for an “atmosphere of strict compliance.” There was also a change in tiers of violations. Rather than categorizing a violation as “major” or “secondary,” there will now be four levels, with a level one violation being the most “severe breach of conduct.” The NCAA could potentially disqualify a team for multiple years of postseason play and fine the program millions of dollars for a level one violation. Other consequences for various levels of infractions include harsher scholarship reductions, recruiting limits and head coach suspensions. Suspensions for coaches as well as programs can range from 10 percent of the season to a full season. The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions will expand from 10 members to 24, speeding up the infractions process and handing out violations in a more timely manner. In Ohio State football’s case, this could have meant serving out OSU’s bowl ineligibility during the 2011 season rather than the current season. The last of the most significant changes in the new set of rules includes a more consistent penalty system. Sanctions will no longer be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and the new standards will ensure equal treatment – and punishment – across the NCAA. NCAA President Mark Emmert said the rules aim to eliminate the temptation for teams to do whatever it takes to win. “We have sought all along to remove the `risk-reward’ analysis that has tempted people — often because of the financial pressures to win at all costs — to break the rules in the hopes that either they won’t be caught or that the consequences won’t be very harsh if they do get caught,” Emmert said. “The new system the board adopted today is the result of a lot of hard work and membership input devoted to protecting the collegiate model.” OSU athletic director Gene Smith said he agrees with the new rules and says they help to solve a “flawed” system. “I am supportive of the new legislation,” Smith said. “It provides clarity and transparency to a system of enforcement and infraction management that was flawed. It also will improve the ability for cases to be handled more expeditiously.” Emmert began the process of establishing a new set of rules in August 2011. The new enforcement structure will take effect on August 1, 2013. Dan Hope contributed to this article
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