Sunday, December 30, 2007

You've seen the scores, so now the question: Who's No. 1?

Jackson is the boys basketball tournament champion at the Show Me Center. Hayti is the champ at Bloomfield. The Park Hills tournament will crown a winner Monday.

But in the next 24 hours, somebody has to rise to the top of the SemoSportsWeb Top 25 boys basketball poll. And we're looking for feedback.

Each week we get input from coaches, fans and the media to come up with our Top 25, and this one might be the toughest one of the season so far.

Bell City was No. 1 a week ago, but that was before the Cubs went 1-2 at the Show Me Center. Charleston was No. 2, then lost in a semifinal. Scott County Central was No. 3 and also lost short of the championship round. No. 4 Sikeston stumbled before the fourth day at Poplar Bluff and finished 3-1 there.

So whose run through the gauntlet over the past five days was more impressive? Was it Jackson's string of wins against Meadow Heights, Scott City, Cape Girardeau Central and Notre Dame? Or Hayti's wins against East Carter County, Portageville, Puxico and Doniphan? Or maybe a team that went 3-1 actually rose above the rest?

Who do you like?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Looking for surprises? So far, they're at Bloomfield

The Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament's first round was, at best, bland as burnt toast. The opening day of games at Park Hills produced a single upset, but a big one when 12th-seeded Ste. Genevieve knocked off fifth-seeded North County.

But the biggest eye-openers from Day 1 of Southeast Missouri's stretch of boys basketball Christmas tournaments came at Bloomfield, where three of the opening day's eight games ended with unlikely winners: fifth-seeded Dexter lost to Puxico, sixth-seeded Twin Rivers fell to South Pemiscot, and eighth-seeded Richland was knocked off by Portageville.

That sets up intriguing second-day matchups Thursday in the championship round, starting with top-seeded Hayti vs. Portageville at 4 p.m. Later games are ripe with rivalries: Bloomfield vs. league foe Puxico, and Bernie against nearby Malden. Thursday's other quarterfinal features Doniphan against South Pemiscot.

Predictions? Only about the weather, so take your umbrella if you're going to the night games. Aside from that, don't count out Portageville. Or, for that matter, underdogs Puxico, Bernie or South Pem. No tournament in Southeast Missouri is primed for an anything-goes finish like this one.

The Bob Sechrest Jr. Central Christmas Tournament at Park Hills might have produced the biggest surprise of the day when Ste. Genevieve bumped North County into the consolation round.

• In case Wednesday's opening-round games at Bloomfield, Park Hills, Saxony Lutheran, Cabool and the Show Me Center weren't enough, get ready for more today. In addition to a full day of games at each of those sites, tournaments kick off today for area teams at Poplar Bluff (which includes Poplar Bluff and Sikeston), Rolla (which features Festus and Salem) and Dyersburg, Tenn. (where NMCC's boys and Poplar Bluff's girls compete). Check out the links on our home page for the full schedules at each site.

• Check back throughout the day Thursday, Friday and Saturday for scores from each site updated as they come in. And thanks to everybody who already had helped us keep the latest scores posted, whether by sending them by e-mail ( or by text message from a cell phone (send to 573-979-5929 any time, 24 hours a day).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Summing up the state polls, local blogs and more

The state high school basketball polls released this week by the Associated Press show almost the exact same results as the first polls a year ago.

Last year, eight boys teams and six girls teams from across Southeast Missouri were in the first statewide poll of the season from the Missouri Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association, almost identical to this year when eight boys teams and five girls team were in today's first rankings of the season.

None of our region's teams are No. 1, but a couple are No. 2 (the South Iron and Bell City boys teams) are No. 2 in their classes, and the boys teams from Scott County Central, Charleston and Sikeston join the Naylor and Portageville girls teams in the top five.

A few other quick hits:

• If you haven't checked out Mark Unterreiner's blog, click here to see his take on last week's Sikeston-Notre Dame boys game, which set off several days of debate that hasn't let up. The rivalry between Notre Dame and Sikeston has become one of the most intense ones in the region, and there's a good chance the two teams will meet up again in the district tournament.

• The final list of area high school football leaders will finally find its spot online by the end of the week. The list is the only one to include all 33 high school football teams in the region.

• Last but not least: As part of our new high school scoreboard page (which followed the demise of the ticker on the home page), there's also a new e-mail to send local scores from the 80-plus schools in the area —

We'll also have a new number to send scores via text message on your cell phone in time for the Christmas tournaments that begin Dec. 26.

Friday, December 07, 2007

A big weekend for high school basketball -- on the court and off

Back-to-back championship nights highlight high school basketball this weekend, and it only gets busier from here through the end of December.

After knocking off the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the Top 25, Charleston and Jackson face off at 8:30 p.m. tonight for the championship of the SEMO Conference Tournament. It's a game that should help set the schedule for the Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament later this month; coaches meet Sunday to determine the bracket.

On Saturday, coaches meet early to pick the bracket for the 16-team Bloomfield Christmas Tournament, where Hayti has a slight edge over what shapes up as a remarkably competitive field.

Also Saturday, championships are on the line during the afternoon at the Chaffee Invititational for girls basketball teams, and finals are Saturday night at the Gene Steighorst Tournament for boys basketball teams at Hillsboro.

The busy weekend paves the way for a long list of tournaments and spotlight games through the month. Campbell, Clarkton and Ellington all host Christmas tournaments in the next two weeks, followed by traditional holiday tournaments at Park Hills, Bloomfield, Poplar Bluff and Cape Girardeau for boys and at Twin Rivers for girls. Single-day events include the Perryville Hoopfest on Dec. 15 and the startup Pepsi Showdown at the Show Me Center on Dec. 22. Click here to follow schedules for local tournaments in our forum.

Joe Bowling's new sports radio show on KYMO-FM 105.3 has already grown from a two-hour format to three hours in just three weeks on the air. This week's lineup includes the usual format with call-ins and discussion with local sports media and coaches, along with details about this weekend's Marshall County Hoop Fest in Benton, Ky. The event features 10 games Saturday, highlighted by top-ranked Oak Hill Academy and Chicago Whitney Young, which features Michael Jordan's son on the roster.

The show airs from 9 a.m. to noon each Saturday.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Wow, what a run so far for high school hoops

One of Missouri's longest losing streaks ended. An even longer one almost did.

The No. 1 team in Southeast Missouri lost. So did No. 3. And the new No. 10 team wasn't even on the radar before the season started.

Two weeks into the high school boys basketball season, it's starting to look like a repeat of the college football season, where the most unlikely teams rise to the top, fall, rise. Then fall. And rise. And on and on.

First, the streaks: Delta C-7 ended a losing streak with its first win in 42 tries, a 63-52 defeat of Senath-Hornersville in Senath's own tournament Friday. It's the first win for the Chargers since a win over Risco in February 2005; they were 0-18 last season and 0-20 the year before.

At the Caledonia tournament, Kingston came within five points of ending its losing streak at 93 games, the longest recorded in Southeast Missouri (the previous was 92 by the former Arbyrd High School, which combined with Cardwell to form Southland).

According to the published recap, Kingston cut the lead to a point with 1:20 to play, but Bismark hit four of its final six free throws to pull away. Kingston's last win was in February 2003 against Bunker, and now an intriguing home date with Grandview (0-5) awaits Dec. 11.

• We've already seen surprises in the high school boys basketball season, but Salem's defeat of Jackson for the Farmington Invitational title is, hands down, at the top of the list so far. Salem was seeded No. 6, Jackson was seeded first. Salem was unranked in our Top 25, Jackson was No. 3 (although that changed with our new Top 25 posted Sunday night, which featured Salem at No. 10). That sends Jackson into this week's SEMO Conference Tournament with a loss, and the schedule is hardly forgiving. Click here for the full lineup this week at Sikeston High School.

On Friday, No. 1 Scott County Central lost to Bell City in the Oran Invitational finale, adding more changes to the Top 25. It's shaping up to be an anything-goes season among teams across the region, and that should mean a Top 25 with a lot of changes as the season progresses.

• We'll have a new poll on the SemoSportsWeb home page this week, but the last poll asking for the area's high school football MVP puts Waylon Sparkman of Perryville out in front of Ryan Sawyer of Fredericktown. We'll post the final results this week, along with the final top 10 leaders in four categories (passing, rushing, receiving, tackles) among the 33 high school football teams in our area.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Riverbend Classic, state championships and the week ahead

Scott County Central and Bell City looked in midseason form, but Charleston's form was a little less definite during the weekend's Riverbend Classic.

You had to wonder what former Charleston coaches Bobby Spencer and Lennies McFerren were thinking from their seats in the New Madrid County Central bleachers as they watched the Bluejays commit almost two dozen turnovers against Memphis Central.

Charleston coach Danny Farmer was probably right when he told the Standard-Democrat that Memphis Central might be the toughest team in the event — maybe one of the toughest teams on the Bluejays' schedule. But to see a Bluejays squad slip and slide through an early-season game was rare, regardless of the opponent.

• Look for a pair of photo galleries by Joe Bowling and Al Jones from two of Friday's games on our home page. They're the first two galleries from what we expect to be a busy basketball season, so check back regularly for new galleries.

• Eminence has turned into the first surprise team of the season with a pair of wins at Van Buren's Current River Shootout. Wins over Clarkton on Friday and Doniphan on Saturday vaulted coach Pete McCluer's Redbirds up the newest SemoSportsWeb Top 25 poll.

• Waynesville defeated Belton for the Class 5 state football championship Saturday in St. Louis, probably not much comfort to Jackson fans who watched their team drop a 25-14 game at Waynesville in the semifinal round. MICDS, which knocked New Madrid County Central out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals, lost to Harrisonville in the Class 3 championship. Thayer, which eliminated Hayti in Class 1, lost to Orrick in the title game.

Click here for a full recap of the playoffs in each class.

• Although boys basketball events at Arcadia Valley, NMCC and Van Buren kicked off the season last week, a full week of tournaments usher in the season with gusto this week. See the schedules here for several of this week's events. If you have schedules and brackets that we're missing, add them to the forum or send an e-mail to

Monday, November 19, 2007

Our first poll of the season has a familiar team at No. 1

It really does seem like old times with Scott County Central at No. 1 again.

Our first SemoSportsWeb preaseason Top 25 basketball poll was posted on our home page today after several days of conferring with area coaches, fans and athletes, not to mention hours of looking through stats, records and rosters for more than 80 local boys basketball teams.

The consensus? Well, there really wasn't one. Notre Dame was mentioned as the No. 1 team among plenty of folks heading into the season. Sames goes for Charleston, Jackson, Sikeston and Festus. All them got a push for the No. 1 spot before the final poll was settled.

That kind of split vote should lead to another anything-goes season much like the one we saw last year, and don't be surprised to see teams like Festus, Poplar Bluff, Hayti and Cape Girardeau Central climb back into the top tier of local basketball after sub-par seasons a year ago.

Just like last year, our Top 25 poll (expanded from a Top 20 poll last season) will be updated every week. And as always, leave us your feedback on our message board, through an e-mail ( or on our MySpace page ( — it just might be enough to sway our rankings next time around.

• Southeast's football season is finished, and only one team from the region remains alive in the high school football playoffs (that team is Thayer, which plays at noon Saturday for the Class 1 title in St. Louis). But if you're up for more college football in person instead of on TV, Southern Illinois (10-1) hosts Eastern Illinois (8-3) in Carbondale in the first round of the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) playoffs at time to be determined Saturday.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Heeb overcomes a tough introduction to new job in Illinois

How's this for an introduction to college coaching: David Heeb, the former Bell City and Scott County Central boys basketball coach who took over at Robert Morris College in Springfield, Ill. this season, arrived on the job in August to find that he had four players on his team. He added three more, and another player was granted a fifth year of eligibility.

The roster stands at nine players now, including Latoya Gipson, a freshman from Sikeston.

The Eagles are 2-3 so far and make their closest stop to Heeb's former schools Dec. 8 against Shawnee Community College in Ullin, Ill.

• Former SEMO men's basketball player Paul Paradoski is saying good things about his transfer from SEMO to Missouri-St. Louis. He described to the Post-Dispatch this week that he and coach Scott Edgar "butted heads" and "didn't get along," leading Paradoski to transfer after last season.

Paradoski, a Vianney grad, started 53 games as a guard during his first two seasons at SEMO, then saw his playing time dwindle when Edgar arrived before last season.

"It's a whole new world," he said, "school-wise and basketball-wise."

• Goreville (Ill.) High School senior Kenton Parmley signed with Southeast Missouri State on Wednesday. A career .415 hitter with 121 RBIs in 132 games, Parmley considered Central Arkansas, Eastern Illinois and junior college Oskaloosa-Walton. Parmley is a 6-foot-1, 175-pound shortstop.

Another Southern Illinois standout is going to the Big 12: Luke Hileman, an all-conference star in football and baseball, signed to play baseball with Baylor.

• Look for the SemoSportsWeb Top 25 preseason poll for boys basketball Monday with updates to follow each Monday through the season. Want to submit your votes for our Top 25? Send your preseason rankings to me at and they'll be tabulated into our first poll.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Time to start thinking hoops: Help us pick our Top 25

The high school football playoffs are still ahead for a few local teams, but it's already time to start work on SemoSportsWeb's preseason Top 25 boys basketball poll.

And that's where we're looking for your input. We know Scott County Central, Charleston, DeSoto, Jackson, Farmington, Notre Dame and a few others will rank toward the top, but who else? Leave a comment here with your picks for our preseason poll (leave us your Top 25 or just a few, your choice), or send an e-mail to and see the final results when our poll is announced Monday, Nov. 19. Check back every week through the end of the season for the new rankings.

For a refresher on last season, click here to see SemoSportsWeb's final Top 20 poll for the 2006-'07 season.

• On the subject of polls, Perryville fans turned out in big numbers over the past week to push Waylon Sparkman into the lead ahead of Fredericktown's Ryan Sawyer as Southeast Missouri's football MVP. We'll keep the poll open on the SemoSportsWeb home page until the final local team has finished its playoff run, so don't forget to vote on our home page.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New galleries from Friday night, plus a recruiting note

Four days of computer glitches and connection problems brought updates on SemoSportsWeb to a crawl, but we're back today with four photo galleries and well over 120 images from a big Friday night of high school football games. Click the home page to check out the images from Farmington-Festus, Chaffee-Hayti, Potosi-Fredericktown and Park Hills Central-Ste. Genevieve.

District standings are updated as well, and check back through the day for the new SemoSportsWeb football rankings, which will include a change at the top after Farmington's loss Friday.

Will Compton of North County says he hasn't changed his mind about his commitment to Nebraska while coach Bill Callahan tries to get the Cornhuskers back on track. Compton, a senior and among the state's highest-ranked recruits, said in an e-mail over the weekend that he doesn't expect to change his mind about Nebraska any time soon, although he has official visits scheduled to Mizzou on Nov. 10 and to Illinois on Nov. 17.

Compton also was mentioned Monday in a Daily Nebraskan story that detailed the confusion and uncertainty among Nebraska recruits. "(I)t's just a confusing process right now because you committed to the coaches, you committed to a program and a coaching staff and built all these relationships with commits and the coaches," Compton said.

• Compton has the eyes of Nebraska fans on him, but Ryan Sawyer of Fredericktown is the online favorite among high school football fans in our area so far. He's in a huge lead so far in our Southeast Missouri football MVP voting, leading second-place Aaron Baker of Farmington and third-place Adam Zweigert of Jackson. Click on the home page to make your choice. We'll have the poll online until the end of football season.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Is sportsmanship on the slide? MSHSAA stats say yes

Are we a state full of bad sports? According to MSHSAA numbers, we're at least heading in that direction.

There were 376 football incidents reported to the MSHSAA from games in 2006, up from 272 the previous year. A story in Tuesday's Jefferson County Journal looks at MAFC schools' bouts with disciplinary action.

On the subject of football, be sure to vote for this season's Southeast Missouri high school football MVP. Scroll down the left side of our home page and make your choice among 12 options, or leave a comment with your own pick.

So far, Fredericktown's Ryan Sawyer has stormed through early voting for a huge lead, maybe no surprise considering he's put up well over 1,000 yards in the Blackcats' 8-0 run so far.

One of this week's top matchups features Fredericktown vs. Potosi on Friday. Check the SemoSportsWeb home page over the weekend for photos from that game. We're also planning photos from Ste. Genevieve vs. Park Hills Central and at least one other game. See the full schedule for this weekend's games here, and click here for district standings.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Who is Southeast Missouri's football player of the year?

Parity among Southeast Missouri's 33 high school football teams has allowed several players to put up big numbers with just weeks to go in the regular season.

Now that several athletes are rising to the top, it brings up the question: Who's the best of the best? If you could pick one person to build a high school program around for the next four years, who would it be?

I have a couple of names in mind, and, more than likely, you do too, so check out the poll on the left side of our home page and let us know your pick among the 12 that have generated the most buzz and put up some the best numbers in our region.

On defense, there's Nebraska recruit Will Compton of North County, William Norris of Hayti, and Waylon Sparkman of Perryville. All three have been among the area's leaders all season.

Offensively, quarterbacks Aaron Baker of Farmington, Kory Faulkner of Ste. Genevieve, Blake Parr of Kennett, and Jordan Politte of Potosi are on track to pass for well over 1,000 yards this season.

Or maybe the area's premiere athlete is a running back: Ryan Sawyer of Fredericktown, Demetrius Terry of Crystal City, and Adam Zweigart of Jackson, whose teams are a combined 20-1 heading into district games.

How about a mix of offense and defense? Shaun Jones of Hayti powers his team at quarterback and on defense, where he leads the region with nine interceptions. At Thayer, Michael Lowther is an offensive and defensive workhorse and leads the unbeaten Bobcats in rushing yards, return yards, interceptions and tackles.

So you tell us: Who's our area's No. 1 football player?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Southeast's approach to PR adds fuel to the fire

The good thing about Southeast Missouri State University's athletic department? They sure keep us guessing. And thinking. And talking.

Especially talking, since Southeast usually doesn't.

This week, No News Is Good News University stumbled its way into the media with two more headlines, first when football player Tim Holloman was declared ineligible for the rest of the season. Within three days, blogs were buzzing with news that basketball player Brandon Foust is in hot water with the school after a legal run-in on campus.

And the word from Southeast? A few standard company lines followed by a hush job. And what we've learned from Southeast athletics is that if the brush is good enough, and the rug big enough, any bad news can be swept away quickly.

T.J. Walls' injury? B.J. Smith's firing? Hardly worth a mention from the university, juding by the school's glaring lack of explanation in both cases. The result? Rumors. Assumptions. Worst-case scenarios.

Welcome to the Larry Craig School of Public Relations.

Sure, the school says honesty in sensitive situations violates privacy. Makes sense. When an award-winning coach is cut loose for unspecified violations (Smith), or when a star football player is suspended for unspecified reasons (Holloman), or when a popular athlete is said to be immobile and facing a life-threatening injury (Walls), we're best left to use our imagination, let rumors fly, or even better, forget about it.

Southeast has never had a problem using paper to issue lengthy news releases on its multitude of championships, its athletic awards, its community interaction. Its accomplishments draw headlines in local print media with regularity.

So far, it's won no rewards for its openness.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Jerrod Hull brings another title back to Southeast Missouri

It's been a good season for Scott County racers embarking on new traveling racing circuits.

Two weeks ago, Joey Mack of Benton clinched the championship of the first-year Mid-South Racing Association, a late model circuit based in Arkansas. On Friday, Jerrod Hull of Sikeston wrapped up the title in the inaugural season of the Midwest All Star Series when that tour's final event at Jacksonville, Ill., was called off.

Hull, a familiar winner in sprint events across the region, finished 232 points ahead of MASS runnerup Robbie Standridge of Springfield, Ill.

Among others from Southeast Missouri, Tim Montgomery of Fredericktown was seventh in the final MASS points; Tyler Thompson of Cape Girardeau was eighth; and Joey Montgomery of Fredericktown was 10th.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Area's list of 1,000-yard performers grows with four local names

Four Southeast Missouri high school football players have reached the 1,000-yard season mark at the halfway point of the regular season, and a handful of others are primed to get there over the final five weeks of the schedule.

Jordan Politte of Potosi became one of the region's first of three 1,000-yard passers Friday in a defeat of Perryville. Heading into the final five games of the season, Politte has thrown for 1,097 yards.

Quarterback Kory Faulkner of Ste. Genevieve toppled the 1,000-yard mark in the Dragons' win Friday over Herculaneum, putting him on track to rival his 2,222 yards passing as a sophomore last season.

A third quarterback, Aaron Baker of Farmington, has thrown for 1,033 yards and rushed for 553. At that pace, Baker could have 3,000 yards of total offense by the end of the 10-game schedule.

After five weeks, QBs Ben Mills of Dexter (662 yards), Tyler Hoog of St. Pius X (650 yards passing), Chase McClendon of Charleston (621 yards), Shawn Crump of Festus (593 yards), and Blake Parr of Kennett (570 yards) also stand to reach the 1,000-yard mark.

Among running backs, Demetrius Terry of Crystal City was the first to reach four digits, which he did Friday when his team reached 5-0 for the first time in three decades. Terry has carried for 1,016 yards this season.

Others are in line for 1,000 yards based on the first five weeks, led by Ryan Sawyer of Fredericktown with 967 yards rushing. On the list behind him: Adam Zweigart of Jackson (746 yards), Michael Lowther of Thayer (735 yards), Jake Vonderbruegge of Hillsboro (650 yards), and Kris Cottner of Perryville (630 yards).

On defense, William Norris of Hayti and Joe Gyurica of St. Pius X lead the region's 33 teams with 57 total tackles and are primed to reach 100 by the end of Week 10. Kevin Moore of Herculaneum has 52.

Football rankings are out, and a look ahead to the weekend

Jackson and Thayer debuted in state football rankings released today by the state's sports media.

In Class 5, Jackson (5-0) debuted at No. 5 heading into the Indians' annual rivalry game Thursday against Cape Girardeau Central at Houck Stadium.

In Class 4, Farmington is No. 4 after a 42-0 defeat of Sikeston.

In Class 1, Hayti is No. 4 and Thayer No. 9, both of them 5-0.

Three Southeast Missouri team received votes this week: Crystal City, Festus and Park Hills Central.

• If you haven't checked out the photo galleries from Friday night's high school football, click onto our home page for three galleries from Friday night. Keith Hente shot the Farmington-Sikeston matchup, Jake Kreulen was at the North County-Poplar Bluff overtime game, and Al Jones photographed Hayti's win at Charleston.

On each gallery page, click the link to the photographer's e-mail address to get information on ordering high-resoluation reprints of individual photos.

• The local short-track racing season is winding down quickly, but two local tracks are finishing the season with a bang this weekend.

At Farmington, St. Francois County Raceway expects a big field of sprint cars for its annual Queen's Royale, which rewards its winner $5,000 on Saturday. To the south, Malden Speedway hosts two days of racing Thursday and Friday with a full schedule of events each night, topped by late model and modified racing both nights.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Brian Murph waiting for his shot at the pros

Kansas is off to a quick start, but for the first time in two seasons, the Jayhawks are doing it without New Madrid County Central all-stater Brian Murph, who left the Big 12 last season as one of its top punt return threats.

Murph completed his eligibility last season when he led the team with almost 500 yards in receptions and scored four touchdowns, including a 129-yard game against Nebraska. Murph told me this week that he's finishing up his final two courses this semester and expects to play professionally by this time next year.

"I'm also looking for a new agent," he said. "I felt like my other one didn't do everything that he was supposed to do."

• Photo galleries were posted Monday from Friday's area high school football games, and look for more photo coverage on SemoSportsWeb from throughout Southeast Missouri as football season continues. We're planning more galleries from games this week, including North County vs. Poplar Bluff and Farmington vs. Sikeston.

If you haven't seen Friday's photos, click here for Al Jones' Caruthersville-Hayti photos or click here for Keith Hente's Jackson-Sikeston gallery.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Six football teams still in the hunt for an unbeaten finish

The list of unbeaten high school football teams in the region was trimmed by three Friday in a day of surpising lopsided finishes.

Perryville (3-1) lost for the first time this season at Park Hills Central, which is 4-0. At Scott City, the host Rams (3-1) had allowed just 13 points through three games, then gave up 42 points to Fredericktown (4-0) in a loss. And Festus, No. 3 in the SemoSportsWeb poll, lost to up-and-coming Fox 18-14 and fell to 3-1.

The last of the undefeated teams in Southeast Missouri are Farmington, Park Hills Central, Jackson, Crystal City, Hayti and Thayer. Of the six, Park Hills Central and Crystal City have emerged as the biggest surprises, and Demetrius Terry added an exclamation mark to the Hornets' strong start by running for more than 250 yards against Festus. At least half of that six-team pack stands a great chance of running the tables on the regular season and going into the district schedule at 7-0.

• Valle and Malden avoided the prospect of an 0-10 season Friday when both won, and formerly winless Cape Girardeau Central won for the first time Thursday. That leaves Grandview, DeSoto, Hillsboro, East Prairie, Portageville, St. Pius X, Caruthersville, Herculaneum and Salem as the region's only teams still looking for a win.

• Sikeston was 2-0 after early-season wins, but the Bulldogs have dropped two in a row, including a lopsided 42-0 finish against Jackson. It's not the kind of momentum Sikeston wants heading into Friday's home game against Farmington, ranked No. 1 in the poll. The Knights hounded Hillsboro 37-19 Friday. See our gallery of photos from the Jackson Sikeston game here.

• Is anybody still unconvinced that Fox might be the real deal? The program hasn't had a winning record in so long that coaches weren't even sure when a Post-Dispatch reporter asked Friday after the Warriors defeated Festus 18-14. It was the first time this season Festus allowed a point this season.

"I don't think any of the other teams will take us lightly anymore," running back Alex Pisoni said. And why should they? Fox is 3-1 in the Mississippi Area Football Conference's Red Division, owing its only loss to Farmington in Week 1. The Warriors are in a Class 6 district with Mehlville, Northwest and Oakville.

• Chaffee picked up its second win of the season over a Walnut Ridge, Ark., team that was expecting its own breakthrough Friday. The Red Devils are 2-2 under second-year coach Charlie Vickery and have an intriguing date Friday with their biggest rival, Scott City.

• One basketball note: Chris Trimmer was Dexter's boys basketball coach last season and was at Ste. Genevieve before that. He left Dexter for a Windsor coaching job that put him closer to his family, but he recently resigned from that position because of Meniere's disease, a disorder of the inner ear. The Jefferson County Journal described Trimmer's off-the-court battle in a story here.

Friday, September 21, 2007

What to look for heading into Week 4 schedule, plus a few notes

There are plenty of big questions going into tonight's Week 4 high school football, especially at East Prairie, where Gary Scott was picked this week to replace Jason Aycock as head coach for the rest of the season. Check out the full report on our home page.

But it doesn't end there, because today's games will either end or extend hot streaks for several local teams.

At Ste. Genevieve, the host Dragons (2-1) host Crystal City (3-0) but are expected to play without junior QB Kory Faulkner, who's nursing a knee injury.

At Sikeston, Jackson (3-0) visits the Bulldogs (2-1) in what has traditionally been a SEMO North toss-up.

Fredericktown and Scott City both are 3-0, but one of them will lose tonight when they meet at Scott City. Perryville and Park Hills Central also are both 3-0 and play tonight in an MAFC showdown.

Check our home page throughout the night for updated info and scores for all 33 football teams across Southeast Missouri.

• Auto Tire & Parts Racepark in Scott County will host a budget-minded version of the popular late model class tonight in a special appearance. The crate late model class will compete along with pure stocks and cruisers. Sprints will return next week.

• Thanks to everybody who's jumped on our MySpace page. We're at 550+ friends and growing. We'll add more content to our MySpace page as time goes on, so look for us at

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Updates on Ste. Gen injuries, local schedules and a new basketball shootout

Ste. Genevieve quarterback Kory Faulkner said Sunday that his knee injury might not be severe enough to keep him from being back on the field soon.

Faulkner, a junior, left Friday's game with a knee injury in Ste. Genevieve's first possession. He sat out the rest of the game, and Ste. Genevieve lost 21-14 to unbeaten Perryville. The Dragons host Crystal City (3-0) on Friday.

Faulkner is scheduled to have his knee examined Monday. He said he's hopeful that a knee brace is all that stands between him and a return to the Dragons' lineup.

• Faulkner threw for 2,222 yards last season as a junior and already had more than 800 yards of offense after two games this season, making him an early leader as Southeast Missouri's top player of the season. With their teams 3-0, Hayti's Shaun Jones and Perryville's Waylon Sparkman have turned into two of the region's best defensive players and join Faulkner on that list. Ryan Sawyer's 267-yard rushing game Friday for unbeaten Fredericktown quickly pushed him toward the front of the line with a handful of names from Crystal City, Farmington, Festus and Jackson.

• Could Kennett be 5-1 approaching the district playoffs? After losing 34-7 to Hayti on Friday, Kennett's next three opponents are East Prairie, Portageville and Malden — which are each 0-3. At the opposite end is Caruthersville, which is 0-3 and faces Hayti (3-0), Festus (3-0) and New Madrid County Central (2-1) in the next three weeks.

• Looking for a game this week? Fox at Festus promises a classic clash Friday between a high-scoring Fox offense and a Festus defense that has set the standard among Southeast Missouri teams by shutting out its first three opponents (Seckman, Dexter, Hillsboro) 120-0.

Elsewhere Friday, Fredericktown and Scott City meet in a battle of 3-0 teams. Same goes for Perryville and Park Hills Central, both 3-0. At Malden, either the host Green Wave or Portageville will pick up their first win, and at Hillsboro, host Grandview and Valle also will try to improve to 1-3.

• The lineup is set for the inaugural Pepsi Challenge, a one-day high school boys basketball event that will bring teams from three states to the Show Me Center on Dec. 22. The games: Farmington vs. DeSoto at 10 a.m.; Poplar Bluff vs. Fort Zumwalt South at 11:45; Cape Girardeau Central vs. Vienna, Ill., at 1:30 p.m.; Lafayette vs. Pinckneyville, Ill., at 3:15; Notre Dame vs. Gateway Tech at 5; McCluer North vs. Memphis White Station at 6:45; and Jackson vs. Webster Groves at 8:30.

And in case you still don't think basketball is getting closer, winter sports practice begins Oct. 29.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Updates on local football, Mitch Craft and more

Can Farmington run the table and head into the district playoffs unbeaten? We'll have a good idea Friday night after Farmington, No. 1 in the SemoSportsWeb poll, heads to Waynesville in what might be Friday's most intriguing high school football matchup.

Waynesville (2-0) picked apart its first two opponents — Joplin and Kickapoo — by a combined 87-26 and host the Knights (2-0) Friday on a stadium recently covered with synthetic turf. It's the first of four 2-0 teams still ahead for Farmington; Sikeston, Windsor and Festus are still to come, and local rival North County (1-1) waits in Week 9.

The list of unbeaten teams could be cut in half this week when several 2-0 teams go head-to-head. Click here to check out the complete schedule for all 33 Southeast Missouri teams.

A few other notes:

• Cape Girardeau Central might be one of the most surprising teams so far — not because the Tigers lost to Parkway North and New Madrid County Central, but more because of the lopsided finishes. Coach Lawrence Brookins' Tigers have been outscored 117-23 and host an unbeaten Blytheville, Ark., team this week. The only sign of a breather comes in Weeks 4 and 5 when Central plays St. Charles and St. Charles West, which are both 1-1. Unbeaten Jackson and unbeaten Fort Zumwalt North fill Weeks 6 and 7.

• Former Central quarterback Mitch Craft says he's working to get back on the football field — possibly at Southern Miss, where he played in 2005 and '06 after redshirting in 2004, or even at South Carolina under defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix, who worked with Craft when Nix was defensive coordinator at USM. For now, Craft is rehabilitating hamstring injuries that caused him to miss three games in 2004. He said his chances of playing at USM again are 50-50, but he could formally become a Gamecock as soon as January.

• With the start of fall sports, bloggers Mark Unterreiner, David Unterreiner and Jay Bartolone have ramped it up a level to keep up with pros, colleges and more than 80 high schools across Southeast Missouri — but we're aiming even higher. If you're a local athlete or a fan willing to jot down a few thoughts and opinions once or twice a week, you could join our team as a blogger. And if your passion is photography, you could show off your photos of local sporting events on and make a few bucks at the same time.

Are you game? Let's talk. Drop me a note at

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tough times force two local tracks to shut down

How tough has it gotten for local racetracks? Bad enough that two local tracks abruptly announced this week that they're shutting down early — one because of economic reasons, one because of staffing problems.

At Poplar Bluff Speedway, owner Shon Stuart announced on the track's Web site that the track can't afford to stay open for its final two months of the schedule. Stuart said in the note that the track will race just once more in a season finale October 20.

"Everyone thinks race tracks make a ton of money," Stuart wrote. "I got news for you. They don't. And that is the No. 1 reason I'm closing for the year."

The track has competed on Saturday nights since opening in April 2004.

Up the road, Fredericktown Raceway's season is over ... again. The track announced two weeks ago that it would close because of low participation, then changed course two days later and said it would stay open, but without its Late Model division. Its season came to an end again this week when owners Curley and Anne DeBold said the track has sufferend "staffing issues," Anne DeBold wrote in a posting online.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cincinnati looking past SEMO? Plus news on local hoops events

They're already crowing in Cincinnati about a 5-0 start, no doubt helped along by a Wednesday item in the Cincinnati Enquirer touting a rise in season ticket sales and enthusiasm for first-year coach Brian Kelly.

But for Southeast fans making the drive for the nighttime kickoff, don't expect overflow crowds for the Aug. 30 opener. The Bearcats' Nippert Stadium seats 35,000 fans and last season finished a distant last in the Big East with an average attendance of 20,373. The 7,559 season tickets sold through Aug. 12 are little more than the 6,464 sold last year, about half of which were never used.

• A hat tip to Al Jackson, who passed along the recently released list of participants in the Poplar Bluff Showdown, an annual boys basketball tournament in late December. Sikeston will compete in the event for the first time since 2000, joining host Poplar Bluff, Jackson (Tenn.) Liberty, Union City, Tenn., Kennesaw (Ga.) Harrison, Little Rock (Ark.) Mills, Raytown South and Maplewood-Richmond Heights. The two teams in last year's championship game — Forrest City, Ark., and Vashon — aren't in this year's field.

• Organizers of the Heartland Hoopfest are finalizing their fourth annual event, which this year will be at the Show Me Center. An announcement about the event's new sponsor is expected soon. Last year's one-day schedule at the Perry Park Center in Perryville featured eight games with teams from Missouri, Tennessee, Indiana and Illinois.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Competition for SEMO's opener, plus a new look for UT-Martin

Four quick notes heading into a hot and humid weekend:

• The Cincinnati Enquirer says there's a battle brewing for the starting quarterback spot at Cincinnati, where Southeast will open its football season with a Thursday night game Aug. 30. Junior Dustin Grutza is gaining preseason buzz over Wake Forest transfer Ben Mauk.

• What's the reward for Tennessee-Martin's breakthrough 9-3 season a year ago? Besides gaining new respect in the OVC, the Skyhawks also gained new uniforms. The new ones already are drawing comparisons to Auburn, but your chance to judge them in person comes Oct. 27 when the Skyhawks play at Southeast. UTM opens the season against Southern Mississippi.

• Practice started Monday for fall sports, and several teams open the season in less than two weeks. Baseball, softball, girls golf and girls tennis begin the season Aug. 20; volleyball, boys soccer, boys swimming and diving and cross country begins Aug. 27; and football starts Aug. 30. Locally, the only football game set for an Aug. 30 kickoff is Windsor at DeSoto; other teams open the next day.

• And finally, SemoSportsWeb has joined millions of others around the world with a page on MySpace. The page is new and still being fine-tuned, but more content will come. In time, it will be a great spot to meet other sports fans from here and around the world, plus get loads of news and information. For now, sign up as our friend on MySpace and get alerts sent to your MySpace inbox with the latest breaking news.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Our preseason football poll is just around the corner

With the start of August comes the next step in getting ready for the high school football season at, which means we're almost ready to put together the region's only poll for all 32 high school teams in Southeast Missouri. Look for that poll to come out in mid-August, a couple of weeks before the first games of the season.

Last season's poll is online here, and we've also posted schedules here for teams across Southeast Missouri, including the SEMO Conference and Mississippi Valley Conference. Look for the final additions of Salem and Thayer soon.

• Another site update: Basketball info from last season is being updated this week on our high school pages, and new year-by-year basketball archives should be up soon for several teams, including Gideon, Hayti Jackson and Malden, among others.

• Summer baseball is winding down, but not before Jackson hosts the American Legion zone tournament starting Thursday. Because of a quirky rule that guarantees the host team a spot, Jackson is in with a 23-27 record, even though it was one of the first teams out of last week's tournament. Other teams are Dunklin County, Imperial, Manchester and Anheuser-Busch of St. Louis.

• Two local auto racing notes: Saint Francois County Raceway near Farmington takes a break from weekly events Saturday because of the county fair, which is held on the racetrack's fairground site. And Sikeston sprint racer Hunter Schuernberg won at I-69 Speedway in Marion, Ind., last week, hish first win at I-69 this season.

• The buzz that Beef O'Brady's sports pub might open a location in Cape Girardeau comes as good news not just to diners who love Buffalo wings, but to local schools and sports leagues looking for sponsorships. The 208-restaurant chain has gained notoriety for its active sponsorship of local youth leagues and sports programs wherever it builds, and last year it gave away $34,000 in college scholarships. Plans are to have the restaurant open by Christmas.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Minor league baseball? Here? Sounds familiar

Kevin Winters Morriss couldn't mask the glowing optimism in reporting Sunday for the Southeast Missourian about the on-again, off-again and now on-again prospect of Cape Girardeau landing a minor league baseball franchise.

Granted, it's the same media source that nearly wet itself in curious excitement over a band of traveling teen golfers last week at Dalhousie. And in Kevin Winters Morriss' defense, he did warn against "anyone getting too excited" not once, but twice.

Mayor Jay Knudtson, he of eternal optimism and photo ops, stoked the flames of big-time baseball pipe dreams with his revelation that — and again, we're warned, don't get too excited — that our cozy 'burg by the river might possibly potentially sort of somewhat be interested in eventually exploring the notion of maybe looking into it.

In other words, it ranks right up there with the possibility that NASA will launch future shuttle missions from a local Wal-Mart parking lot.

Kevin, we like you. Your animated larger-than-life mug on makes us chuckle every time we see it.

But here's a little history, since you're not from here.

Less than five years ago, Mayor Man With A Plan was glowing with the prospect of helping bring indoor football to the Show Me Center. Before that, it was minor league basketball. Before that, it was minor league baseball. And so the cycle goes.

It seems every year that guys with deep pockets grow weary of making the drive from Cape Girardeau to St. Louis to catch a ballgame, or some other town gets something — anything — that makes Cape Girardeau look a step behind. In this case, Marion, Ill., landed a Frontier League baseball team, so Cape Girardeau leaders are scratching their heads and plotting their next move in the eternal game of oneupmanship.

Later this year, if history holds true, SEMO football will amble toward a season opener and provide enough distraction that the minor league talk will fade to a quiet grumble about what could be done, should be done or won't be done because nobody will step forward to do it.

With enthusiasm, dedication and creative financing, a minor league franchise might work in Cape Girardeau. Would it thrive? That's hardly a given. Local sports consumers have shown they'll flock to watch a winner, but there's less tolerance for a losing minor league team with unfamiliar names and faces.

Sure, it would be nice if Mayor No. 1 Sports Fan has an inside line to the area's biggest bankrollers and can lead the charge to put together a leadership group, help secure public funding and make the most difficult sales pitch in Cape Girardeau history.

But as Kevin Winters Morriss warns, don't get too excited.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Street & Smith makes its FCS picks; catch SEMO vs. Cincinnati live

Street & Smith's college football preseason magazine — one of the more high-profile among the batch that shows up each year — has picked Eastern Illinois No. 14 and Tennessee-Martin No. 18 in its preseason FCS (formerly Division I-AA) poll. Also of note is SIU, which is No. 20.

Other notes:

• ESPN announced this week that SEMO's season-opening football game at Cincinnati on Thursday, Aug. 30 will be broadcast, albeit online only via the network's site. The site will offer live broadband coverage of the game, which starts at 7 p.m.

• The AJGA's Dalhousie Junior Championship drew thin crowds offset by what appeared to be the most intense week of media coverage of any local sporting event in recent memory. The tour will return to Dalhousie in 2008 and '09, but will the crowds? Or the over-the-top media coverage?

• Malden Speedway called off its racing program June 22 because of personal reasons among the track's owners. A special event for the USCS sprint series scheduled that night has been moved to July 20.

Seth Harrell, a former linebacker at SEMO and Jackson High School, will join the Sikeston High School sidelines this fall as an assistant. He joins the staff being put together by new coach Kent Gibbs.

• Local high school football schedules show few surprises or changes this year, the second year of a typical two-year cycle for most schools. The biggest change was the scheduling of a game between Charleston and Portageville on Sept. 14, their first regular-season matchup since 1974; Charleston had an open date last year, and Portageville dropped Fulton Co., Ky.

Both New Madrid County Central and Chaffee gained open dates this year; NMCC lost Centralia, Ill., from its schedule, and Chaffee lost Rector, Ark.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lindy lets a SEMO name slip, plus a look ahead to the weekend

A national publication is picking SEMO defensive lineman Edgar Jones to be one of the best college football players on the Football Championship Series (formerly Division I-AA) level this year.

Trouble is, Jones graduated last year, a fact that must have gotten past the editors and forecasters behind Lindy's annual football guide. They made the same slip with Alex Miller of UMass, who also made Lindy's preaseason All-America team, even though he graduated, too.

Just in case that doesn't shake your confidence in Lindy's preseason predictions, the magazine picks Ohio Valley Conference member Tennessee-Martin No. 17 in its poll. Eastern Illinois is 19. Others of note are Southern Illinois at No. 12 and Appalachian State at No. 1.

Among things to do this weekend ...

• The annual Perry County Community Rodeo opens Friday and wraps up Saturday at the East Perry Fairgrounds near Altenburg. Events start both nights at 7:30 p.m. Four of the IPRA's eight points leaders are entered, along with a host of local competitors, including Jeremy Nice of Jackson, Matt Cissell of Perryville, Jerry Seabaugh and Brent Menz of Delta, Jeremy Brocke of Cape Girardeau, Chris Evans of Benton, Brian Glueck of Friedheim, Steve Reisenbichler of Perryville, and Carey Margrabe of Gordonville.

• Fredericktown Raceway hasn't held a night of auto racing since closing in late 2004, but the track is scheduled to reopen Friday night with new owners and management, who say the track will have a newer look after months of renovations. Racing starts at 7 p.m. Crate-style late models and open-wheel modifieds are among the weekly classes.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Baseball highlights the week for local high school and KIT teams

As busy as last week was with state high school championships, the OVC tournament and sectional baseball and soccer, this week's schedule isn't slowing down much.

Two Southeast Missouri teams are still in the hunt for a state high school baseball championship, and both play semifinals Wednesday starting with West County vs. Houston at 10 a.m. and Valle vs. New Haven at 4 p.m. The semifinals and finals will be in Springfield.

Moving up a level, the Sikeston Bulls of the KIT League begin their second season Friday at Owensboro, Ky., with new management, including first-year coach Jamie Puckett, a Sikeston High School graduate. Fred Johnson is the team's new general manager. The Bulls open the home schedule the following Thursday.

The KIT's Farmington Firebirds also open the season Friday on the road at Fulton, Ky., and open their home schedule the following Friday.

The Capahas, Cape Girardeau's amateur summer baseball team, begin their 41st season Friday against Valmeyer, Ill.

This week's other local baseball option is the Frontier League's Southern Illinois Miners, a new Class A team in Marion that opens their home season tonight against Evansville at the new Rent One Park. But good luck getting in: The game is sold out.

Another big debut is set for Friday with the opening of Fredericktown Raceway, which last competed in late 2004 and has underdone massive renovations over the past several months. Crate-division late models and modifieds are among the classes scheduled to compete each week.

One last racing note: The Midwest All Star Series event that was rained out Friday at Auto Tire & Parts Racepark near Benton is expected to be rescheduled, but no date has been set.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Almost nine months later, a new landscape for local sports

A national sports columnist this week lamented the growing popularity of local sports web sites, bashing their tendency to glamorize high school athletes and elevate them to superstar status.

Gone are the days when high school athletes enjoyed the thrill of competition, he says, instead replaced by the thrill of touting an athlete's sports accomplishment in front of a worldwide web audience.

Of course they're the opinions of a newspaper columnist, whose industry faces a startling crisis in both circulation, ad revenue and overall public perception, and whose industry helped begin the perceived crisis that has him grumbling now.

Truth is, when debuted Sept. 1, the intent was to serve as a sort of archive of local sports information. The plan to feature historical information on local sports teams, racetracks and other venues that was already available through a variety of sources and a little research. Our goal was never to be an updated news site.

And yet over the past nine months, as our region's other media sources dropped the ball again and again, we found ourselves pursuing and scooping one story after another, then watched as other media tried to catch up days later.

Will Bogan's move from the University of Memphis to SEMO was news here days before it reached other outlets. The same goes for more than a dozen local coaching hirings and firings. SEMO basketball player injuries, defections and other scoops. Even brackets and live championship results from a half-dozen local Christmas basketball tournaments, including one sponsored by the Southeast Missourian.

Thanks to determination from the almost 50,000 visitors to our site, and thanks to bloggers David Unterreiner, Jay Bartolone and Mark Unterreiner, we've had a tremendous nine months, and we've done it with exclusive news and original opinions, largely avoiding the recycled headlines that you already saw in local newspapers.

As we head into the summer, I'd love to hear your ideas for making our site better and to continue our evolution. E-mail me at, or head back to our home page and share your opinions on our feedback form.

And thanks for a great run so far.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

What we'll see in light of the MSHSAA vote

A measure to split private schools and public schools in separate playoffs wasn't just defeated this week. It was blown out of the water by a 321-92 vote. MSHSAA members, whose votes were announced Thursday, emphatically said they like the playoffs just the way they are.

Except, of course, in football, where schools voted to change the playoffs starting in 2008 to include district champions and second-place finishers. That puts the MSHSAA under pressure to find a fair way to organize the overlapping playoffs, which would see district runners-up go on the road to play at district champions in the round of the playoffs.

One of the most overlooked votes was a milestone that has been defeated in the past: the establishment of an affiliate registered school category for small private schools that can't or don't want to become full MSHSAA members. Under the ARS plan, schools can register as affiliate members and schedule MSHSAA members for regular-season contests. In the past, schools such as Eagle Ridge Christian School in Cape Girardeau and New Salem Academy in Marble Hill have pushed for a similar rule and the scheduling benefit that it brings. Expect most (and maybe all) of the eligible private schools across Southeast Missouri to take advantage of the membership program.

ARS teams still will not be eligible for the MSHSAA playoffs.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

You think the MSHSAA situation is extreme? Check out the news from Florida

While Missouri coaches and administrators debate the pros and cons of their vote whether to split high schools into two individual associations, state legislators in Florida have taken it upon themselves to do that.

But now the real surprise: The whole process is being done without the involvement of coaches, administrators or even the Florida High School Athletic Association, which oversees state high school sports.

In a vote Tuesday, the Florida Senate voted to push the state's private schools out of the FHSAA and into their own private organization. That means the schools would have their own playoff system, much like the proposal that's being debated in Missouri. The biggest difference, however, is that in Missouri, individual schools were given a vote (those results should be known later this week).

In Florida, officials at the FHSAA said they were never even notified of the Senate measure, nor were they included in any discussions.

"Nobody said anything to us," FHSAA commissioner John Stewart told the St. Petersburg Times in this story published Wednesday.

The measure is expected to be approved by the House this week, then will go to Gov. Charlie Crist for his signature.

The bill's top supporter says he introduced the measure because the FHSAA is "rude" and "arrogant" and doesn't listen to the complaints of its private school members.

And yet the head of the Florida Council of Independent Schools told the Times that his group didn't doesn't even support the bill. Most of Florida's private schools don't support the split either, he said, even though it appears on the fast track toward being approved.

The bill will allow private and public schools to compete during the regular season, then stage separate playoffs with the public and private champions meeting at the end of the playoffs for a final championship game.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A weekend of bad sports, from baseball to NASCAR

We began the weekend with a Major League manager belittling and berating the media. We finished it with furious race fans throwing beer cans onto a NASCAR race winner.

Fittingly, in between, NFL teams were digging into their wallets and preparing to pay mega-salaries to top draft picks who at some point be subject to being raked over the coals by fans, coaches, media and others who don't know when or how to hold back for the good of sports.

Tony La Russa's tirade against the Post-Dispatch over its critique of the Cubs was silly at best, shameful at worst. La Russa's been around the block. He's felt the heat of the media, and he's heard its praises. But to express outrage when the media portrays a rival baseball franchise with pin-point accuracy borders on hysteria. Maybe it's just his way of getting the media ready for dealing with new St. Louis University coach Rick Majerus.

At the other end of the spectrum were scores of NASCAR fans who showed the class of Liverpool soccer hooligans when Jeff Gordon won Sunday at Talladega, a victory that gave him one more win on NASCAR's victory list than the late Dale Earnhardt. The pro-Earnhardt fans' angry reaction: pelt the track and Gordon's car with hundreds, maybe thousands, of beer cans.

Blame it on the Bud if you want, but fan reaction like Sunday's will cost everybody in the long run, from local grassroots racing to the highest level of NASCAR. Sponsors cringe when they see fans chuck beer cans onto the track in front of a national audience. Families think twice about buying race tickets. From there, the dominoes begin to fall.

It was hard to imagine that such a big sports weekend would produce such poor sportsmanship and lack of class. Even worse, both were on a national stage for the world to see.

In retrospect, the solution looks easy. La Russa actually needed a beer to settle down, and NASCAR fans in Talladega each needed one less.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

New baseball team vows it will be ready, even though work remains

The new Frontier League team set to play across the river this year in Marion, Ill., promises it will be ready to play ball next month as scheduled, even though there's a lot of work still to be done to the new stadium under construction near Interstate 57. A story in Thursday's Marion Daily Republic highlighted the issues still faced by builders, but team officials say progress is steady.

The new Southern Illinois Miners will open their home schedule May 29 against Evansville. See the full schedule on their site.

• Backup center Dionte Perry won't return to the Southeast men's basketball team for his senior season. The news was confirmed this week, even though just seven days earlier coach Scott Edgar and local media scoffed when Mark Unterreiner reported on his blog that a player was leaving the program.

The Redhawks moved quickly and supposedly have already offered Seward County (Kan.) Community College sophomore Hank Harris a scholarship, which he's expected to accept.

• The news is sketchy surrounding Rick Majerus and his future as coach of St. Louis University. Some reports are saying that they're close to a deal, but others are speculating that Majerus hasn't decided whether he wants to return to coaching or remain at ESPN.

If their choice is Majerus, the announcement will come within a couple of days, possibly even Friday.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A mix of insight: SEMO, Jay Spoonhour and Ben Hansbrough in the mix

A few notes while we collectively ponder why SLU waited until now to fire Brad Soderberg:

Toby Carrig has a piece of advice for the PR arm of Southeast Missouri State University: Just be honest. His Southeast Missourian column published Tuesdayprovides a step-by-step account of how SEMO stammered, bumbled and fumbled its way toward explaining the recent injury to football player T.J. Walls.

While SEMO's pattern of sweeping bad news under the rug and flooding local media with good-news PR fluff is nothing new, it's been historically fueled by local media that has too often quietly played along. To the credit of the Southeast Missourian, Carrig's insight on SEMO's selective, hush-hush style of community relations comes in the wake of its own actions that might be reversing the newspaper's trend of covering the local university's athletic department, including recent document requests and aggressive reporting.

Taxpayers, boosters and fans across the region deserve nothing less, and the Missourian's newfound burst of investigative journalism can only make SEMO a better and more accountable university.

• Bad news for fans of Jay Spoonhour who lobbied for him to replace Gary Garner last spring: He didn't get the job at University of Missouri-Kansas City either. He was one of three coaches interviewed to replace Rich Zvosec, but he was passed over when West Virginia assistant Matt Brown was hired late last week.

Spoonhour is an assistant at Texas-San Antonio last season.

• Poplar Bluff grad Ben Hansbrough likely faces a more high-profile role if he chooses to stay at Mississippi State for his sophomore season. The team lost two starters this week when twins Reginald and Richard Delk of Jackson, Tenn., said they are leaving the team, leaving Jamont Gordon to run the point and Hansbrough and Barry Stewart in the mix as forwards. Reserve forward Bernard Rimmer is also leaving the team.

Hansbrough, which hasn't commented publicly about plans to leave MSU, reportedly has confided in friends that he has considered leaving MSU before next season. The school also hasn't commented.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Pace's hasty exit wasn't good for anybody, or was it?

How quickly did Lisa Pace want to put SEMO behind her?

She didn't just take a moving van out of town. She took a rocket ship. If her past month was drawn out in cartoon form, she'd play the part of the RoadRunner leaving Wile E. Coyote looking confused underneath an anvil in the shape of Kenneth Dobbins.

Pace, who lasted seven seasons under two women's basketball coaches at SEMO, didn't last two months under new coach John Ishee. By the time she said yes to the Eastern Kentucky assistant job, she already had car keys in one hand and a road map in the other. You get the feeling she would have walked from Cape Girardeau to Richmond, Ky., if she had to.

Her reward? She leaves an assistant coaching job at Southeast, where she was part of two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, to coach at EKU, a team coming off an underwhelming 12-18 season. Sure, the Colonels have tradition, but this isn't the same powerhouse that won three OVC titles during Pace's days there as a star athlete. The past 18 months saw the OVC women's basketball balance of power shift heavily from the hills of Kentucky toward the hills of Missouri.

But EKU presented stability. Southeast, where the Redhawk logo has officially been replaced by a question mark, couldn't match it. Despite all its wins and its prized recruits that arrived before coach B.J. Smith was fired in December, SEMO's future is about as muddled and uncertain as it's ever been.

Ishee's appointment as head coach last month was a slap in the face of the players, who overwhelmingly disapproved of his hiring, and it was a slap in the face of Pace herself, who saw opportunity pulled out from underneath her. As a result, Ishee has no staff at his side, having lost Pace and assistant coach Jenni Lingor, who lasted less than a full year. Also vacant is the assistant job Ishee held before he was promoted to replace Smith during the past season.

Pace's goodbye to SEMO came in the form of an icy glare, judging from Ishee's tepid remarks Monday in the Southeast Missouri. "Coach Pace, from my understanding, is going back to Eastern Kentucky," Ishee said.

Going back? Or escaping?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Dodgers assign DeWitt to spot in Cal League; is Hansbrough done at MSU?

The Los Angeles Dodgers have rekindled their affiliation with the Cal League, and that's led to a new home for former first-round pick Blake DeWitt of Sikeston.

The Dodgers signed a player development contract back in the fall with the Inland Empire 66ers, one of 10 teams in the longrunning league that kicks off its season this week. Among the top prospects on the 66ers' roster is DeWitt, a third baseman who spent last season with the Vero Beach (Fla.) Dodgers and played during the winter in a Hawaiian league. DeWitt is already expected to put up big numbers with the 66ers.

• There are rumblings that Ben Hansbrough's time at Mississippi State might be limited. According to sources, the former Poplar Bluff all-state basketball player has talked to friends and family about leaving the school, where he just wrapped up his freshman season. There's been no announcement from the family or the school.

• Now that the FBS-level schools (formerly Division I-A) are playing 12 games a year, more and more are looking at FCS schools (formerly I-AA) to fill out the schedule. Case in point: Cincinnati hosts SEMO to kick off the season August 30. One of the most-mentioned games for 2007 is Michigan's home date against Appalachian State, which will earn about $400,000 for playing at The Big House. Michigan fans are already lamenting the likely mismatch in this Charlotte Observer story.

• After a whirlwind of college basketball coaching changes in the past three weeks, there's still lingering buzz that SIU head coach and former SEMO assistant Chris Lowery will be contacted by Texas A&M, which lost Billy Gillespie to Kentucky last week. Lowery signed a seven-year deal worth $750,000 per year last week, but with it comes a buyout that's said to be less than $500,000 if Lowery leaves for another program.

• Speaking of college basketball coaches, here's the Big 12's newest addition: Frank Martin of Kansas State, hired Friday to replace Bob Huggins. Martin is a 41-year-old former Kansas State assistant coach who was fired from Miami Senior High in 1998 for violations the Florida High School Athletic Association called "more excessive than any school ever investigated." Martin claimed innocense, yet his days at the high school were so notorious that he was the focus of an entire chapter in a book called "Sole Influence: Basketball, Corporate Greed and the Corruption of America's Youth."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Garner finds a home back on the bench, this time in Iowa

Fired Southeast men's basketball coach Gary Garner will be back on the bench soon, this time in the NBA's developmental league.

The new Iowa franchise of the minor-league group announced its coaching staff Thursday, and it's headed up by 39-year-old Nick Nurse, a former basketball player at Northern Iowa. Garner, 63, will be his assistant.

Garner spent nine seasons as a head coach at SEMO and took the Redhawks (Indians, at the time) to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 2000. He was fired after the 2005-06 season and replaced weeks later by Scott Edgar.

• How's this for a big debut season: Former SEMO women's basketball assistant Kevin Emerick took his Jefferson College team to the NJCAA national women's basketball tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., in his first year with the Hillsboro school. His team went 1-2 in the double-elimination tournament, ending its season last week at 31-5. And he wasn't shy about describing his exit from SEMO in 2005 after his one and only season there.

"At Southeast, the experience was very good," Emerick said in a story published by the Jefferson County Journal. "It was a great school and a great program. There were just some violations going on. I just didn't want to be involved with those things."

The violations, which turned out to be more than a half-dozen infractions revealed by an independent investigation last year, came under coach B.J. Smith, who was fired in November. The school is still awaiting an official finding from the NCAA.

Ryne Harper, a senior guard at Clarksville (Tenn.) High School, says he's gotten interest from SEMO and Austin Peay. Harper said he hasn't been offered a scholarship from either school. He's also a shortstop and pitcher on Clarksville's baseball team.

• The Jefferson City News-Tribune just wrapped up a multi-part series on the potential split between public and private schools that could threaten the MSHSAA. An index of all the stories in the series is here.

• The 2007 football game scheduled between OVC member Jacksonville State and the SEC's Mississippi State looks unlikely now, and that might cost JSU a six-figure check for breaking its contract.

The problem stems from JSU scheduling Mississippi State on Sept. 22, the same date the OVC already had scheduled JSU against Eastern Kentucky in a conference game. EKU says it's unwilling to reschedule, so that means JSU will likely have to pay a penalty to Mississippi State for backing out of the deal.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

SEMO is thinking football (and a big-money opener)

The slow evolution of SEMO's football schedule -- which was first updated on in early February -- appears to finally be complete, although still unofficially.

The Southeast Missourian said on Sunday that SEMO's final remaining date (Sept. 8) is likely to be be filled by Southwest Baptist, a Division II school in Bolivar. So far that appears to be the only game not yet sealed by contract. As reported here several days ago, SEMO will not play Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech this season, but it added last season's bottom two Gateway Conference teams -- Indiana State and Missouri State -- plus BCS bowl qualifier Cincinnati, a Big East school that will play this season with a new coach and new quarterback. That game will be worth more than $200,000 to Southeast.

SEMO isn't the only OVC team going for big bucks this season against the NCAA's newly named FBS (Football Bowl Series) schools. The others in the '07 football season: Murray State at Louisville, Eastern Illinois at Purdue, Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky, Samford at Georgia Tech, Tennessee Tech at Auburn and Tennessee-Martin at Southern Mississippi.

Other items of interest over the weekend:

Josh Sain of Jackson (Tenn.) Liberty Tech said Saturday that SEMO is still one of his final three college choices, even after a personal visit last week from Alabama coach Mike Gottfried, who flew to Jackson and offered Sain a scholarship in person. Sain, a 6-foot-5 senior foward, scored 14 points at the TACA East-West boys all-star basketball game in Nashville last week, and he was the Class AA tournament MVP a week earlier after averaging 25 points in three tournament games. He said he will choose Bama, SEMO or Middle Tennessee State.

Lauren Scannell, who spent two seasons on the SEMO volleyball team and graduated last year, will coach the first-year boys varsity volleyball program at her alma mater, Belleville (Ill.) Althoff. Her team's season begins this week.

Rick Christophel is the new football coach at Austin Peay, SEMO's newest football opponent in the OVC. Christophel was the Govs' quarterback from 1971-74 and spent the past 13 seasons as an assistant coach at Alabama-Birmingham. The announcement came Friday.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Coaching changes: Who's coming, who's going

Tubby Smith's hasty retreat from Kentucky isn't the only coaching shakeup coming to light late this week, although it might be the most surprising -- especially to the insiders who never connected the dots between Smith and the open Minnesota job until the announcement Thursday. (A note for UK fans: A couple of sources are mentioning Texas coach Rick Barnes as No. 1 on the Wildcats' wish list so far).

But that one down, here are others of local interest:

  • Austin Peay is expected to announce its new football coach in the next few days. The OVC school brought five candidates to campus over the past few days for interviews: former Alabama-Birmingham assistant and Austin Peay quarterback Rick Christophel, former Elon and East Tennessee State head coach Paul Hamilton, current interim head coach Steve Haywood, former Samford assistant Shawn Gregory and former Alabama assistant Dave Rader. One of them will replace Carroll McCray, who resigned in February.

  • We posted the link at when the story broke Wednesday afternoon, but in case you missed it: Former SEMO assistant Keno Davis is the new men's basketball coach at Drake. He took over for his dad, Tom, who formally announced his retirement this week. Some Drake boosters are grumbling because Drake didn't have a formal search, even though the school said in early 2006 that the job would go to Keno when it became open. Keno was a SEMO assistant for four seasons under Gary Garner, also a former Drake coach; he left SEMO two seasons before Garner was fired.

  • SIU's Chris Lowery is being mentioned as a frontrunner for the Michigan job, and he's already gaining buzz in the Iowa search now that Steve Alford is going to New Mexico. The way SIU exited the NCAA's Sweet 16 with a bang Thursday's loss to Kansas, it'll be stunning if Lowery (also a former SEMO assistant) is still at SIU next season.

  • Among local high schools, it's being mentioned elsewhere online that Jason Long is out as boys basketball coach at Clarkton -- surprising (if it's true) in light of Clarkton's just-completed 23-4 season, but maybe not so surpring because of what fans say is Long's lukewarm support around town and among parents. There's also talk of a coaching change at South Pemiscot, odd timing (if it's true) after the Bulldogs reached the Class 2 state quarterfinals just days ago and lost to eventual state champ Wellston. I'll try to find out more and post it here.

  • Coaching changes that are confirmed are Frank Killian, who stepped down as coach at Cooter (where he's also the high school principal), and Chris Miller, who e-mailed me late Wednesday to confirm that he's leaving Zalma for a job at Southern Reynolds (Ellington). And two of the six MAAA boys basketball jobs were filled this week when Ste. Genevieve and Potosi hired coaches.
  • Monday, March 19, 2007

    Turned down by SEMO, Rod Barnes lands a new job in Georgia

    Rod Barnes, the fired Mississippi coach who was one of three final applicants for SEMO's men's basketball job, was hired Monday as the basketball coach at Georgia State, a Colonial Athletic Association team.

    Barnes was one of three finalists for the Southeast job after former coach Gary Garner was fired. The job ultimately went to Scott Edgar. Jay Spoonhour was the other finalist at SEMO. Spoonhour later became an assistant head coach at Texas-San Antonio, and Barnes was an assistant coach at Oklahoma this season.

    Barnes was the 2001 Naismith national coach of the year after Mississippi finished with a school-record 27 wins and landed in the Sweet 16. But after earning NCAA bids in three of his first four years at the school, Barnes was fired in March 2006 after four straight losing seasons. He was 141-107 in eight years at Mississippi, his alma mater.

  • The news appeared here first last week, but in case you haven't heard: Samford is on its way out of the OVC and likely off the Southeast sports schedules, at least in football. Samford will play the 2007-'08 season as an OVC member before moving to the Southern Conference.

    The move is effective July 1, 2008. Samford, which is a private school in Birmingham, Ala., has been a member of the OVC since 2003. The move will leave the OVC with 10 member schools after the 2007-08 school year and give the SoCon 12 schools, which will allow it to create two divisions.

    There's already talk that the OVC eventually could pursue Southern Illinois-Edwardsville as a member; SIU-E is in the process of moving up from Division II and will compete at the Division I level with the 2008-'09 season.

    At least for the upcoming football season, the OVC will have 10 member schools with the addition of Austin Peay. Once Samford leaves after this season, that number drops to nine.

    Unless a school is found quickly, Samford's move will create two open dates on SEMO's basketball schedules. The Redhawks would play 18 league games instead of 20.

  • Thursday, March 08, 2007

    What's the ultimate price of Ishee's promotion?

    Good luck finding a story more intriguing than John Ishee's. Or a season more captivating. Or a promotion potentially more divisive.

    Ishee's elevation from interim head coach to B.J. Smith's official $75,000-a-year replacement Monday came as the program's exclamation mark to its OVC tournament championship roughly 48 hours earlier. Local media praised the school for its brilliant choice, in the same breath saying that the team -- which overwhelmingly was against Ishee's hiring -- needed to stop bitching and play ball.

    Unfortunately, it's not that easy. And so far, they're not the only ones complaining.

    Ishee came along as a basketball assistant just in time to see the Redhawks picked near the middle of the OVC women's preseason standings. He was moved to interim head coach in early November when Smith was suspended over allegations that he frequently skipped a university class he was assigned to teach. A month later, Smith -- facing the prospect of being fired -- accepted the school's resignation package.

    Fast-forward to Nashville, Tenn., where Ishee's team celebrated its second straight OVC tournament championship and a berth in the NCAA women's tournament next week. Ishee is the league's coach of the year, his team is 24-7. Fans are happy.

    But while local media continued to press SEMO to hire Ishee as Smith's replacement, team members were vocally critical. Ishee wasn't their man. Not every booster was on the Ishee bandwagon, either. They still aren't.

    The SEMO job is Ishee's first as a head coach at a Division I school. His team this year was recruited by Smith and his assistant coaches, who aren't committed to join Ishee next season. Ishee's biggest success so far: being available to fill the gap when Smith made his ultimate job mistake.

    Southeast will lose two seniors to graduation, giving Ishee a talented group that should return in the fall. There's talk that the friction in the program could lead to team members leaving after this season. Even the ones who stay will always be Smith's players, recruited to play for him, in his system, sharing in his successes.

    For Ishee to truly make this group of players his own will require more talent and ability than we've seen so far.

    Noteworthy ...

  • Seth Harrell has joined the staff at Truman State as a volunteer assistant coach. Seth originally signed with Mizzou after graduating from Jackson High School, then transferred to Southeast in time for the 2004 season. Truman State, a Division II school in Kirksville, was 6-5 last season.

  • Kearney High School has filed a complaint with the MSHSAA and says that it might have a claim to the 2004 state basketball championship won by Vashon. The teams met in the '04 state final, but Kearney suspects that Vashon was using ineligible players and wants an investigation. The Riverfront Times has the story here.

  • Sunday, March 04, 2007

    Local reporting keeps ethics stuck in a fog

    If the past month is an indication, sports ethics and credibility among Southeast Missouri media continues to plummet. Surely, rock-bottom can't be far away. Or maybe we're there already and don't even know it.

    Example: Southeast Missouri's biggest newspaper, where much of its credibility was ushered out as part of its 100th birthday celebration a few months back, can't seem to decide whether it wants to play the role of local sports booster or basher. Or maybe both, depending on which department gets the call. Good judgment doesn't appear to stop it from accepting both roles, which isn't a good thing if you're a newspaper.

    (Just to be clear, and in the interest of full disclosure, I worked for three of the area's daily newspapers in the past: the Standard-Democrat in Sikeston, the Daily Statesman in Dexter, and the Southeast Missourian in Cape Girardeau. They're part of the Rust Communications chain that consists of more than 40 newspapers.)

    Side A: The sports department, where the reporter assigned to cover SEMO sports -- with an inpartial approach, readers assume -- went online last week and chastised fans and readers who criticized or questioned Scott Edgar's debut season with the men's basketball program. Never mind that the team just finished the season with an 11-20 record. It's the kind of statement that doesn't just blur the line between being a fan and being an unbiased reporter, it knocks down the whole wall with a sledgehammer (in Redhawks colors, of course).

    Side B: The same newspaper crowed like a rooster with its multi-part expose of Bell City basketball and alleged wrongdoings in the school's athletics program, ultimately parading a sports broadcaster's personal credit history through a Sunday edition with all the grace and civility of a Nuremberg trial. The reporter implied that the broadcaster was evasive and shady with unknown whereabouts, overlooking his contact information readily available on popular message boards -- a fact that the sports department might very well have known.

    Of course, both situations cast the reporters far, far from the center. The idea of balance and fairness disappeared not long after the byline. Both instances should leave readers skeptical when the next story assignment comes along that demands objectivity (which, as even novice journalists know, is every story assignment).

    Sandwiched curiously between both situations was an incident in February that led to the firing of a news copy editor and news reporter over an ethical violation, along with an editor's note in the newspaper trumpeting the firings and the newspaper's hard line on upholding its standards.

    It's frustrating that in a time when online media, cable television and other news outlets continue to steal customers and send newspaper circulation even further down, local reporting can't escape itself. For every step forward, there's always another step back. And for every step back, the cliff gets just a little closer.

    Other notes ...

  • SEMO hasn't formally announced its football schedule yet, peculiar since its opponents were posted here last month. These dates are firm so far: Aug. 30 at Cincinnati, Sept. 15 vs. Indiana State, Sept. 29 vs. Eastern Illinoi, Oct. 13 at Eastern Kentucky, Oct. 27 at Tennessee-Martin, and Nov. 10 at Missouri State. The other dates will be filled by OVC opponents. SEMO was 4-7 last season.

  • Auto Tire & Parts Racepark, which returns to racing this season for the first time since closing abruptly in June 2004, is scheduled to open April 13. Events will be on Friday nights with new management.
  • Sunday, February 25, 2007

    He said, she said, he said: Bell City in the thick of MSHSAA's mess

    If you're not yet lost in the fog that hangs over the sports programs at Bell City, Naylor and Scott County Central, you're one of the lucky ones. Or maybe it's better not to know the sordid details, since the whole series of accusations is so ridiculously complex, ego-driven and routinely distorted, it's best left to the message boards and small-town coffee shops where the whole mess has sprouted like a fungus.

    You probably at least know all the major players: Bell City despises Scott County Central, Scott Central doesn't like Bell City, Naylor doesn't like Bell City but does like Scott Central in part because of family and attorney ties, and in part because Scott Central doesn't like Bell City.

    On the sidelines is a state sanctioning body whose rules enforcement ability changes with the weather, a newspaper with a list of ethical problems that would fill a Sunday edition, and gaggles of fans, coaches and administrators with an inability to set aside ego and pride.

    The count, for those with scorecards: three investigations (Bell City, Naylor and Scott Central), two civil suits (one by Heeb, one by Naylor) one suspended coach (Heeb), one district basketball title wiped out(Naylor), two Cooksons (the Scott Central coach and Naylor superintendent) and one attorney (who represents both Heeb and the Naylor schools).

    The only potential winners in any of this are the graduating seniors who, in a few months, will grab their diploma, walk out the door and get the hell out before more walls come tumbling down. Pity the juniors who have to stick around another year. With a little luck they'll learn from their peers' mistakes and in a few years find a better way to run our high schools and the groups responsible for their oversight. The losers: Naylor, for looking like a snitch; Scott Central, for appearing vindictive; and Bell City, for the uncanny ability to piss off so many people.

    It's reality television played out on a Southeast Missouri stage, full of the same potentially divisive outcomes and legions of viewers that come and go with the storylines.

    At least with reality TV, we can turn it off once it gets impossible to watch.

    Sunday, February 04, 2007

    Local athletes on MySpace: How much do you want to see?

    Maybe you're familiar with Maybe you're not.

    But chances are, the next high-school-aged athlete you see probably is. And there's a good chance he or she has already created a page on MySpace, probably full of personal information, photos, likes and dislikes and comments from other MySpace users. And it's all there for you, me or anybody else to find within seconds.

    In fact, MySpace pages have become so popular among high school and college athletes that schools like Louisiana State and Northwestern have suspended athletes because of inappropriate content. College coaches routinely scrutinize the pages of potential recruits, and some coaching staffs appoint assistant coaches to randomly check MySpace pages of current athletes throughout the school year to avoid potentially embarrassing or illegal content.

    The athletes, of course, can avoid all of this by adhering to what one college coach calls the "Grandma rule." If your MySpace page includes anything that you wouldn't want your Grandma to see, you should remove it. Another solution: MySpace users have the option to click the "private" setting that prevents any unauthorized visitors from seeing the page's content. Consider it the online version of closing your curtains at night before you get undressed.

    And now the dilemma: Would you look through those bedroom curtains if they're left wide open? already has already posted dozens and dozens of personal web sites of athletes and sports personalities from across the region, all of them available on our links page. But we're on the verge of taking what appears to be the unprecedented step of listing the links to the MySpace pages of familiar names in Southeast Missouri sports, whether they're athletes, coaches or others involved in local sports.

    There are good arguments on both sides. Some people have told me that MySpace users never intended for their personal pages to be made available to the average web user, so they should remain that way. Others counter that unless users mark their profile as "private," it can be seen by parents, teachers, school administrators and coaches within seconds anyway. And besides, should they have something to hide?

    I'm eager to hear your thoughts. So far there's a list of about 30 MySpace pages ready to add to our links page with more to come; most of them are mature, interesting and hardly scandalous, but some of them don't come close to meeting the Grandma rule.

    The question is: What do we do?

    Sunday, January 07, 2007

    Local racetracks vow '07 revival, but at whose expense?

    Plans are on to reopen Auto Tire & Parts Racepark near Benton. Same goes for Fredericktown Raceway. It should be good news for race fans who haven't seen either track wave a green flag since 2004.

    But between talk of new ideas, new rules and new promoters, the one question that won't go away: Are fans willing to give either track another chance?

    At ATPR, Sikeston business owner Billy Clayton last week said he will reopen ATPR and compete each Friday with a lineup of sprints, modified and stock cars. John "Curly" Diebold revealed his plan late last year to bring the Fredericktown track back to life with crate late models and modifieds headlining the program each Friday. ATPR last competed in June 2004, and Fredericktown closed three months later.

    In the two years that both tracks have sat quietly, involvement at the area's existing tracks has leveled off and, in some cases, gotten worse. At Farmington, Malden and Poplar Bluff, promoters have seen turnouts go stagnant or drop off, while more and more local competitors have given up on a pasttime that has become increasingly cost-prohibitive because of gas prices and equipment costs.

    Essentially, the message fans have sent local tracks over the past several years: We're moving on without you.

    Add to that the disadvantages already entrenched for ATPR, which last made headlines in 2004 when the promoter at the time refused to pay prize money to a national touring series, then abruptly closed the track and was taken to court over a lease disagreement. At Fredericktown, track owners there are bracing for a battle with nearby St. Francois County Raceway for local fans who tend to commit to just a single night of local racing instead of two.

    Marketing savvy, business management and commitment by managers will determine the fate of both tracks, and the signs could become clear within weeks of opening. But to win over fans, both are already in danger of losing a race that keeps getting harder to win.