Thursday, November 30, 2006

Former Heisman winner joins OVC sidelines

When Southeast goes to Samford next season, the Redhawks will face a Heisman Trophy winner. Pat Sullivan, who won the Heisman in 1971, took the job as Samford football coach late Thursday. He replaced Bill Gray, who was fired after the team went 3-8 this season. One of those defeats was a 19-14 loss Sept. 30 at Southeast.

Sullivan most recently was an assistant coach at Alabama-Birmingham. He was head coach at TCU from 1992-97 and has been at UAB since 1999.

He could very well be the coach who guides Samford into a new league. The school is considering a plan to leave the Ohio Valley Conference and join the Southern Conference.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Memphis takes a pass on Bell City's Bogan

It's looking less likely that Bell City senior Will Bogan, who committed to the University of Memphis in February, will play for the Tigers.

First, the talk around Memphis heading into November was that the Tigers had lost interest because Bogan hadn't developed over the summer as much as Memphis coach John Calipari expected. Then on signing day, the Tigers signed four players, including two - Philadelphia brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris - who might instead attend prep school next season.

Then last week, sophomore Kareem Cooper returned to the team, ending speculation that he might leave and free up a scholarship after he was suspended for breaking team rules.

Calipari now has all 13 scholarships filled for next season and says his 2007-'08 team is set - assuming, of course, that none of the Tigers bolt for the NBA after this season.

  • Sikeston High School grad Blake DeWitt helped North Shore defeat Waikiki 5-1 for the championship of the Hawaii Winter Baseball League last week. DeWitt, who ended the summer schedule with the Los Angeles Dodgers' Double-A team in Jacksonville, Fla., was among a long list of MLB players sent to the offseason developmental league; he hit .216 with 4 RBI and a home run in 26 games.

  • Sunday, November 26, 2006

    The new OVC: Is Samford already jumping ship?

    Samford found out as an independent school in the late 1990s that it wasn't welcome in the Southern Conference. But now it appears the league has changed its tune and is in talks with the Ohio Valley Conference member to jump ship.

    Southern Conference officials told the Birmingham News this week that the league is moving ahead with plans to expand, and indications are that Samford might figure heavily into its future. The idea became even more attractive when Tennessee-Chattanooga chose to stick with the Southern Conference despite interest from the OVC, so that gives Samford - an Alabama school - a potential rivalry game closer to home. The league's other members are College of Charleston, The Citadel, Davidson, Elon, Furman, Georgia Southern, UNC-Greensboro, Western Carolina and Wofford.

    The OVC hasn't said much, other than it hopes Samford stays on board.

    Friday, November 10, 2006

    The underside of the B.J. Smith saga

    On a weekend when its basketball teams plays Arkansas, its women's soccer team goes to the NCAA Tournament, and its football team plays an OVC rival, Southeast hopes nobody notices that its women's basketball coach just got taken to the woodshed.

    Word leaked out quietly Thursday about B.J. Smith's suspension, or in university PR lingo, "personal leave." The news ranks so far down on the school's sports web site that the leading scorer for this weekend's opponent, Tulsa, is described in greater detail than Smith's absence and the ensuing coaching change.

    There's already buzz that Smith, who rankled the Southeast status quo with a list of NCAA violations less than five years into his job, might not be back. The fact that Smith told the Southeast Missourian that he's staying quiet on the advice of his attorney puts the issue right up there between trouble and turmoil.

    But given Southeast's situation, nothing will come as a surprise. Athletic director Don Kaverman expects to hear soon from the NCAA over a list of violations uncovered first through an outside firm this year. The group found problems in seven categories, and the NCAA set out on its own investigation shortly after. The NCAA came up with a similar list of problems in the men's basketball program less than 10 years ago -- and their report came out shortly after Southeast showed men's coach Ron Shumate the door. Coincidentally, the NCAA report on the women's program is expected any day now.

    We should know soon if Smith's departure -- temporary or longterm -- is a pre-emptive move in response to the incoming NCAA report. The early speculation is focused on Smith's supervision of a class called "Coaching Basketball," which students say Smith missed more often than he attended. Another instructor took over the class on Thursday, the same day John Ishee became interim head coach of the basketball team.

    Southeast has replaced its football coach and men's basketball coach both in the past year. Both processes had the appearance of seamless, smooth transitions that have, so far, appeared to make both programs better. This time, if Smith's exit really is more than just a temporary leave, Southeast won't walk away from it without a black eye. And that's the bad news that Southeast can't ignore.

    Thursday, November 09, 2006

    South Iron starts basketball season on top

    South Iron is the top seed for the area's first boys basketball event of the season, the Arcadia Valley Thanksgiving Tournament. Pairings were determined by coaches Wednesday night.

    The Panthers open the tournament schedule Monday, Nov. 20 against No. 8 Bismarck. The day's other games are No. 3 West County vs. No. 6 Clearwater and No. 2 Park Hills Central vs. No. 7 Arcadia Valley. Fourth-seeded Ellington and fifth-seeded Lesterville play Wednesday.

    South Iron won the tournament a year ago.

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    Being nice and being realistic aren't always the same

    It hasn't happened in a while, but I think I've been accused of being mean.

    One of the "Gimme Five" items on our home page this week riled up fans who said I was being insensitive and unprofessional. The offense: One line that questions whether there might be a change among the football coaching staff at Sikeston High School next season.

    One of the anonymous comments that showed up in my e-mail today:

    "Being a high school coach is a tough job in today's society. Sikeston's quarterback broke his leg and their best running back had to be released ... Dealing with a lot of adversity is a tough job but the coaches make no excuses. It would be very professional of you to remove your comment on the front page."

    I don't envy coaches. It used to be bad enough that the hours were horrific and the pay was lousy. Now a coach has to worry whether the whacko dad of a third-string tailback might whip out a pistol over his kid's lack of playing time. It's a wonder anybody even wants to be a coach.

    But the pitfalls of the job will never qualify any coach for a free pass. A coach, like any other educator, is hired to achieve a defined set of standards, no matter how real or irrational they might seem, regardless of whether he's coaching Penn State football or summer league softball. And as high school sports become even more exposed and scrutinized through live ESPN coverage, TV shows like "Friday Night Lights" and online message boards, a coach's job won't get easier.

    If Sikeston or any other local high school has started to seriously talk about a coaching change, nobody's saying it out loud. Maybe they won't discuss it at all this year. Maybe it's pure speculation. But you can bet it's been the topic of conversation among fans, parents and students at several local schools, not just one.

    And unfortunately, all of our conversations won't be nice. But they also don't have to be.

    Wednesday, November 01, 2006

    Meet the SEMO Hall of Fame members Saturday

    The 2006 members of the Southeast Missouri Athletic Hall of Fame will be introduced before the start of SEMO's home football game Saturday against Tennessee-Martin. The new class includes Royal Tibe, football, basketball, baseball, track and tennis, 1919-1923; Charlie Brune, lifetime booster; John Schwepker, track & field, 1984-1988; Gray C. Harris, women's basketball, 1992-1996; and the 1976 baseball team.

    The teams play at 6 p.m. at Houck Stadium.

    Willie Ponder in a Rams uniform?

    The Post-Dispatch reports that Willie Ponder, cut last week by the Seahawks, was in St. Louis to talk about a spot on the Rams' roster, but he left without a firm deal. Ponder was a big part of Southeast's best teams under coach Tim Billings, then played for the Giants for three seasons. He was cut last week by the Seahawks to make room for a backup quarterback.