Givens it all for Middle Tennessee
1,810 The game's two winningest coaches, who have combined for a staggering 1,810 victories, clash Sunday when Texas hosts Tennessee (1:30 p.m. ET).
The Lady Vols' Pat Summitt, the all-time Division I wins leader (has anyone noticed how people seem to be forgetting she's tops in men's and women's college basketball as Bob Knight approaches Dean Smith's men's mark of 879 wins?), enters the contest with a 921-178 record in her 33rd season. Texas coach Jody Conradt, in her 38th season of coaching (including 31 at Texas), ranks second with 889 wins.
Conradt (who has 295 career losses) and Texas are undefeated at home this season, going 7-0. The Longhorns, however, are coming off an 80-52 drubbing by fourth-ranked Duke on Sunday.
Summitt is 16-11 all-time against Texas (all of their meetings have been in the regular season). Tennessee won the annual matchup last season, snapping a four-game skid in the series.
When the teams met on Dec. 1 last season, the Lady Vols' 102-61 rout was the Longhorns' sixth-worst loss in school history, and only the fifth time Texas gave up more than 100 points -- which hadn't happened since 1999. -- ESPN.com
It's been nearly six years since Jackson sued the Birmingham, Ala., board of education when he was fired after complaining that his girls high school basketball team did not receive the same support as the boys team. His case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, gaining national attention when the court ruled last year that Title IX protects people such as Jackson who seek action against gender discrimination.
That ruling helped spark a Nov. 30 settlement between Jackson and the Birmingham school board, which is to establish an equitable condition policy for female athletes in all of its programs. The board also will pay Jackson $50,000, and $340,000 to his attorneys.
"A battle was fought, and a victory was won," Jackson said. "It's a good feeling for me. All these people came together for a common good, and we now have a [system] in place we can watch develop and grow."
The settlement of Jackson's case has implications beyond Birmingham, and it comes at a time when Title IX supporters say decisions by the Bush Administration have weakened federal antidiscrimination laws. Last year, the U.S. Department of Education changed the rules for Title IX compliance, allowing schools to use Web-based surveys to determine interest in participating, and thus justify support for their athletic programs. In Jackson's case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Title IX protects whistle-blowers in addition to victims of discrimination. Lower courts had rejected that idea.
Doug Jones, one of Jackson's attorneys in Birmingham, says the settlement "puts Title IX cases back on the radar screen at a time when people are trying to question whether Title IX is appropriate."
To read George J. Tanber's complete story, click here.
On a periodic basis, we probably all make the pronouncement, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of."
Right now, this is my current "stupidest thing I've ever heard of," and this one might not be topped any time soon.
The NCAA officially announced Monday: "The NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics has issued a position statement calling for a ban on the use of male practice players in women's intercollegiate athletics."
You know, when the NCAA moved out of Overland Park, Kan., a few years back, maybe it shouldn't have stopped at Indianapolis. Perhaps it should have kept going east. Right now, I think the middle of the Atlantic Ocean might be a good spot.
It's lucky for me that the NCAA is gone from Kansas, because the headquarters was barely 10 minutes from my house. If it were still there, I'd probably have been arrested Monday for disturbing the peace by standing outside and screaming incessantly, "What in the world are you people thinking?"
You can read the entire "position statement" online and if you make it through without wanting to repeatedly beat your head against a wall (or, you know, somebody else's head), then you're doing a whole lot better than me. Among other things, it's paranoid, uninformed, reality-phobic, logic-devoid, silly and ill-conceived.
Unfortunately, this issue is going to be voted on at the Division III level in 2007 -- that proposal is to greatly limit the use of male practice players -- and the obvious fear is that Division II and Division I are next and might ban them altogether.
Check out the Women's Hoops Blog for more commentary on this lunacy (uh, warning: there is an f-bomb in there; I'd have a few here, too, except we're not allowed). Or go to various women's hoops message boards, where many posters make point after point after point after point about how wrongheaded this is.
Men's practice players have helped women's basketball get better. The idea that they take "opportunities" away from women in practice doesn't make any sense if you've ever seen how they are actually used.
Coaches use them to give everyone more productive reps, not just the starters. They use them to help simulate opposing players' strengths and weaknesses. They use them because they can constantly wear them out if need be; it doesn't matter if they're not as fresh and strong as possible for games.
A devastating injury demon -- anterior cruciate ligament tears -- afflicts females in this sport a great deal more proportionally than males. As scientific/medical research and weight-training methods advance, we all hope to see ACL injuries decrease markedly among women's hoops players.
But I'd guess the ACL factor alone has contributed a lot to women's hoops teams facing problems with having enough available, healthy bodies in practice over the years.
This "position statement" suggests that the answer is bringing in more women to the team -- as if there are talented, fit, competitive women who can practice and play at the necessary level just hanging around every campus wanting to join the team but being ignored because coaches want men practicing.
Does the NCAA's Committee on Women's Athletics think coaches are complete morons? That they don't scour every nook and cranny they can find to get eligible females who can help their teams?
Does the CWA not realize that when women's basketball players are working out on their own, the first place many of them go is the rec center on campus to play against men because they know it helps them?
But here's something else that is significant in this whole matter. Let's consider what being a practice player does for the men who fill that role. They are participating in something that's designed to contribute to the betterment, achievement and glory of women -- not themselves. They need to be punctual, responsible, willing to follow instruction, able to control temper flare-ups in the heat of competition, and eager to work hard toward something that helps other people.
Gee, you don't think any of that stuff is going to make them better human beings, partners and fathers, do you?
They are learning to respect women as athletes. They are taking that respect with them -- at least to some degree -- when they're around other men who don't think or feel the same way. Maybe they are changing a few minds.
Yeah, clearly we need to "eliminate" them. -- ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel
|Sylvia Crawley and Stephanie Lawrence didn't connect on an out-of-bounds play nearly 13 years ago. And then came the No. 1 moment in women's NCAA Tournament history.|
They were on the same wavelength that afternoon in Richmond. They still are.
Crawley is in her first season as head coach at Ohio, and Lawrence -- now Stephanie Lawrence Yelton -- is the associate head coach for the Bobcats.
"I love coaching with Stephanie, but it's almost scary sometimes because we think exactly the same," Crawley said. "We'll start talking and say the same thing at the same time to the same player.
"It makes coaching for me so much easier. We make such a great team together and have such fond memories together. We were part of a rebuilding process at North Carolina."
They played an unforgettable last game together. With seven-tenths of a second left, Lawrence, then a junior, was supposed to lob an inbounds pass to Crawley, a senior center, for what the Tar Heels hoped would be the game-tying basket in the 1994 NCAA title match.
But Louisiana Tech had that too well-covered. Crawley knew it and so did Lawrence, who called a time out. The new play went for broke: a pass to Charlotte Smith for an all-or-nothing 3-pointer. Of course, that worked, giving the Tar Heels the championship.
A few years back, Crawley relayed another twist to that story: Smith was so nervous she "zoned out" in the timeout, and as they walked back on the court she wasn't even sure what the new play was.
"It's you, Charlotte," Crawley told her, and quickly went over it. Yes, even then, Crawley was thinking like a coach.
Now all three of them -- Crawley, Lawrence Yelton and Smith -- are coaching. Smith is on Sylvia Hatchell's staff at North Carolina. Crawley and Lawrence Yelton keep in close touch with the "mother ship," as it were.
"If you cut us right now, we would still bleed Carolina blue," Crawley said. "It's a nice thing to be able to share with our players here. We've done where they're trying to go. They believe in what we're telling them."
Ohio is 5-2 heading into a game Wednesday at Auburn. The Bobcats started 5-0 before losses by three points at Missouri and by eight at home to Pittsburgh.
Being "home" is part of what drew Crawley to this job. Her hometown is Steubenville, Ohio, about a 2½-hour drive from the Bobcats' home of Athens.
"I've traveled to 16 countries, through pro basketball or USA Basketball," Crawley said. "To be able to come back home for me is very refreshing. I played so far away, and my family didn't get a chance to see much of that. They have the opportunity to support me know for the first time since high school, really. They're at every game."
Crawley played professionally overseas and here in the United States in the ABL and the WNBA. She had a long, solid pro career. And one somewhat charmingly goofy moment lots of women's hoops followers will remember her for: the blindfolded slam dunk at the 1998 ABL all-star game.
The stereotype is that guards are the ones who typically become coaches, more so than centers. Crawley shrugs at that.
"I was never a true center, except when I was at North Carolina," Crawley said. "But regardless, I've always been a student of the game. Late in my career as a pro, my coaches allowed me to be a player/coach on the floor. I think North Carolina groomed me for this.
"And it's easier for me to recruit the state of Ohio, because I'm a kid from Ohio who worked very hard and got opportunities to play against the best in the world." -- ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel