Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Beating Some Very Long Odds

Fortunately, the chances of anyone being involved in an auto accident and breaking their neck are very slim. The odds of that happening to the same person twice within less than a year have to be astronomical. Imagine how Clayton Matthews must feel, then, because that is exactly what happened to him.

Rather than a sad story, however, it is one of hope and determiniation. Matthews, still only 24 years old, was a key player on the James Madison football team before his injuries. He still managed to earn his degree and is now an assistant coach working for his father Mickey, the Dukes head coach.

Clayton Matthews can't show his receivers how to stretch out and catch a pass, but I suspect he's shown them many things much more important than that.

Click here to read more about Clayton Matthews' story on

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

TOTFF: Part1, Episode 13: "Coach In a Blue Dress"

After suffering through another football game which resulted in a blowout loss, Conrad retreats to meet his new friend Frankie at the "Chaps and Spurs" sports bar. During the course of that night and the next morning, Conrad learns a lot more than he wanted to know about Frankie.

Click here to read "Coach In a Blue Dress"

Monday, September 25, 2006

Dreams of a 6-year old come true...15 years later

Daniel Evans made his first start at quarterback for NC State last Saturday night on national television. He was on his home turf, a field he first ran across as a six-year old with dreams of emulatling his dad. Daniel's father Johnny was also a Wolfpack quarterback in the 1970's who married the homecoming queen and had quadruplets. Daniel's brother Andrew is also on NC State's football team as a walk-on receiver.

Daniel has not married the homecoming queen yet, but his first start was a success. Evans threw the game winning 34-yard touchdown pass with 8.5 second left in the game to upset Boston College.

Click here to read Lenox Rawlings' column in the Winston-Salem Journal about Evans

Sunday, September 24, 2006

College Hoops: NCAA Coaching Changes

In this week's Inspin column, I list the coaches who changed jobs since the end of last season who I believe will make the biggest impact next season. Bob Huggins, Mike Davis, and Kelvin Sampson are among the familiar names.

Click here to read "NCAA Coaching Changes"

Friday, September 22, 2006

Young Wins Battle With Ewing's Sarcoma

Courtesy of the University of New Hampshire Official Athletics Site

DURHAM, N.H. – Sophomore outside hitter Holly Young (Dennisport, Mass.) of the University of New Hampshire volleyball team recently won her battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of children’s bone cancer, after a lung scan she was deemed “cancer free” on August 21, 2006.

Young was diagnosed on December 13, 2004 at New England Baptist Hospital in Boston during her freshman season in Durham. She started to feel pain in her leg during her senior year in high school early in 2004. Young originally went to have a lump on her right leg checked during her freshman year in Durham and was sent for a battery of tests. Kenneth Leavitt, a podiatrist at Baptist Hospital was the first to discover the tumor in her leg after taking x-rays and set up an appointment with Dr. Mark Gebhardt, the chief of orthopedic oncology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Dr. Gebhardt ordered additional tests and arranged for Holly to begin chemotherapy with his colleague, Dr. Holcombe Grier, a well respected oncologist at the Jimmy Fund Clinic and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. In May of 2005, Young had surgery at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston to remove a tumor and underwent a procedure in which the doctors removed a six-inch piece of bone from her right fibula.

“Having to take a year off from school upon diagnosis was one of the most difficult experiences of my life,” said Young. “It would have been even more challenging had I not had the love and support from my head coach, Jill Hirschinger, and my teammates. Jill did so much more for me than I could have ever expected. From organizing the Volley for Holly fundraiser to Holly’s Wall, she did everything in her power to support my family and me. When I returned to school, she threw a welcome back fiesta at her house with my team and continued to drive me to appointments in Boston. I can’t thank her enough for everything she did for me in the past year and a half. She is an amazing woman, coach, and friend.”

With the treatment that Young received, there is a 30% chance of a two-year, event free survival and of that 30%, six of 17 patients showed a positive response. In Young’s case however, the prognosis was delayed and was caught very late, because as an athlete, they usually play through pain and injury. The cancer had spread to her lungs and in the words of the medical community the chances were “unacceptably poor.”

Young went through 26 sessions of chemotherapy over a span of one and a half years, beginning in December of 2004. Young spent most of her time during therapy at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children’s Hospital.

“While I was in the hospital my parents, Bernie and Carolyn, made the three hour round trip to Boston from Cape Cod daily. Having them there really helped me get through it. In their absence my doctors, nurses and the Jimmy Fund staff couldn’t have been more caring and helpful. They made each and every visit to the clinic a little more bearable. I would like to thank them for everything they did and continue to do, not just for me, but for the entire cancer community,” said Young.

Young participated in many programs, including the Dream Street Foundation, which is organized like the Jimmy Fund and gives children with similar illnesses a chance to talk and get to know each other. The Dream Street Foundation provided a stay for 20 kids in a Tucson, Arizona spa, where she discovered she was not the only Division I athlete to have cancer. While on the trip to Arizona, Young met Graham Tatters, a men’s soccer player from University of North Carolina-Charlotte who was diagnosed with T-Cell lymphoblastic lymphoma approximately two years ago.

Young is now back on campus taking classes and while physically recovering is attending every practice in hopes of one day getting back on the court. Young is also a member of UNH’s varsity diving team and is one of only a handful of Wildcat athletes to participate in varsity two sports on campus.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Indiana Coach Back on the Job After Brain Surgery

You could make a lot of bad jokes about a college football coach with a losing record having brain surgery, but for Indiana University's Terry Hoeppner the operation he endured on September 13 was all too real and, I suspect, not very funny.

He was back at the school on Wednesday at a Board of Trustees meeting making a pitch for a major investment by the school in upgrading its athletic facilities. He told the media, "Considering 168 hours ago I was just getting out of surgery, I am honored to be anywhere."

Hoeppner's Hoosiers rallied around their coach, who will return to the sidelines a week from Saturday. It didn't result in a win last week, however. Indiana fell to Southern Illinois 35-28.

Then again, the most important victories are often won off the field.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

"From Dead End to Defensive End"

We hear a lot of talk about how young men growing up in bad neighborhoods count on using sports as their way out. Some of them actually do make it out and take advantage of the opportunity.

Ronald Talley, a defensive end for Notre Dame, is an example of someone who used his athletic gifts to gain the opportunity to get out of a bad situation. It's one thing gaining an opportunity, but it's another to do something with it. Talley is doing just that. The junior is starting on the defensive line for the Irish while pulling down a 3.0 GPA. He hopes to become a movie producer where the only bullets he would see are fake, not from the shootings on his block at home.

Click here to read "From dead end to defensive end" in the Chicago Sun-Times

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Heart Stoppers and Hail Marys

I had the opportunity to participate in a poll this summer where I was asked to rank the most exciting finishes in college football since 1970. The results have just been published in the outstanding book "Heart Stoppers and Hail Marys: The Greatest College Football Finishes (since 1970).

The book was compiled and written by Ted Mandell. It is actually the second edition of this project, the first having been published in 2000. The book also comes with two CD's that contain the audio from 78 of the 116 games included. Another nice touch is that the games are not limited to Division 1-A--the little guys get some love here.

Despite the noteable exclusion of the Maryland-Miami game in 1984 (The Terps came back from a 31-0 halftime deficit to win 42-40), I find this book to be a must-have for any serious college football fan.

Click here to order "Heart Stoppers and Hail Marys" at

TOTFF: Part 1, Episode 12: "An Addition to the Family"

In this week's thrill-packed, spine-tingling installment of "Tales of the Fighting Ferrets" (gee, I hope I'm not overselling it), Conrad is surprised by a new roommate, survives his broadcast debut with Troy Flemstone, and draws closer to his new friend Frankie.

Click here to read "An Addition to the Family"

Monday, September 18, 2006

NCAA Shows Some Heart, Allows Others to Lend a Hand

You may have already heard the story of Clemson defensive back Ray Ray McElrathbey, a 19 year old who has temporary custody of his 11-year old brother Fahmarr while their mother is fighting through a drug problem. Offers of financial support came in to Ray Ray, but the NCAA initially ruled that would count as a dreaded "special benefit" and he could not receive the help. Fortunately, the ruling was reversed and McElrathbey will be allowed to receive donations to help him care for his brother.

Click here to read's Gene Wojcieckowski's column on the story

Sunday, September 17, 2006

This Season's Cinderella

George Mason captured the imagination of the nation by reaching the Final Four in the NCAA Tournaments last season. Are there any potential mid-major Cincerella stories this season?

Click here to read my column to find out

Friday, September 15, 2006

Good News: Slaton Answers Snub With Yards, Not Words

West Virginia's Steve Slaton showed a national television audience last night that he is undoubtedly one of the best running backs in the country, and could be on his way to dropping the "one of" from that description. He ran through gaping holes, small cracks in the line, or zipped to the outside and ran around the Maryland Terrapins, making the defenders look like their namesake, a turtle.

Ironically, or sadly if your a Maryland fan or alum like I am, Slaton wanted to be a Terp. Coach Ralph Friedgen wanted him, but then changed his mind and pulled the scholarship offer. Slaton wound up in Morgantown and, as they say, the rest is history.

Slaton admitted before the game that "I'm going to be a little more amped," he said. "I want to show them what they missed out on." He showed plenty early, gaining 149 yards and scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter alone. Slaton wound up with 195 yards for the game.

After his team's 45-24 loss, Coach Friedgen said about Slaton "He's a great player. What more can I say? He has great speed. He's a fine young man. I hope he wins the Heisman." That probably won't happen.....this season.

Steve Slaton is only three games into his sophomore season. If you are a college football fan, you'll be hearing a lot more about that name.

Click here to read "Slaton shows Maryland's coach error of his ways" from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Good News: "Boston U Cleans Up Foul Language at Games"

If you are watching a sporting event at Boston University, watch your mouth. School officials have announced a new policy banning swearing along with sexist and racist chants.

BU's Dean of Students, Kenneth Elmore, said, "We wanted to make clear that games should be spirited and lively. But standing and shouting obscenities does not have a place. I don't equate school spirit with the yelling of obscenities."

I absolutely could not agree more. Of course, students have already complained about a violation of freedom of speech. Being college students, some will rebel. I personally hope BU stays firm and creates a safe environment for all fans to enjoy their games.

Click here to read "BU moves to clean up foul language at games"

Good News: "College shine spotlight on America's service members"

The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) and the Wounded Warrior Project have joined forces for the 2006-07 sports seasons.

The Wounded Warrior Project is a nonprofit organizaiton that helps U.S. soldiers recover from severe war-related injuries. NACDA will work with the group to get wounded soldiers involved with their respective athletic programs as speakers, participants in ceremonies, or honored guests at games. This cooperative effort will also include fund raising activities by NACDA member schools to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project.

John Fernandez is a coordinator for the project who was a captain of Army's lacrosse team in 2001. He lost his right leg and left foot while serving in the military in Iraq and says, "the bottom line is, people are forgetting about what's going on in Iraq. A lot of people are getting hurt -- 20,000 people have been injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. It's very important to get [that information] out there. It makes people think a little more about the sacrifices that are being made."

I'm sure one thing people in red states and blue states can agree upon is that our nation needs to take care of those who serve and come back with physical challenges. I'm glad to see college sports lend a hand to this effort.

Click here to read's "College shine spotlight on America's service members"

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Good News: "Macdonald battles back from cancer to lead RPI"

Kirk MacDonald has an excellent 2004-05 season playing for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute hockey team. He was their leading scorer and put in their biggest goal of the season on national television.

The fact he did it while suffering from testicular cancer was only the first part of a special story that comes our way through

MacDonald missed last season after undergoing a series of four operations and numerous complications. During the ordeal, he lost 73 pounds but not the support of his family, teammates, coaching staff, and the team's fans.

MacDonald is back on the ice, working out with the team and preparing for the team's October 15 opener.

Click here to read "MacDonald battles back from cancer to lead RPI"

TOTFF: Part 1, Episode 11: Changing Directions

In this week's thrill-packed episode of "Tales of the Fighting Ferrets," Conrad checks in with his daughter and makes a new friend at the local sports bar. The Ferrets' field hockey team also makes it through a game without maiming anyone for the first time this season, and reporter Jimmy Harris is trying to, dare I say, ferret out Freddie's past.

Click here to read "Changing Directions"

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Good News: "Lacrosse player a study in courage"

When an individual is trying to overcome a daunting physical obstacle, it is helpful to be able to focus on a specific goal to strive toward. That applies to Nick Collelouri, a lacross player for Hofstra University. At least he hopes to be one again as he fights back from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Joseph Santoliquito wrote a piece for telling the story of Collelouri's battle and the support he receives from his family, teammates, and coaches to return to the lacrosse field whole and healthy.

Click here to read "Lacrosse player a study in courage"

Monday, September 11, 2006

Heading for a Fall

In my latest college hoops column for Inspin, I pick teams that are used to achieving success that will fall short this year. I don't want to give it all away, but it's not a good year to be a Michigan State or West Virginia fan, among others.

Click here to read "Heading for a Fall"

Good News: "Aggies' Dodge can't walk away from 9/11"

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 impacted the sports world as it did every aspect of life in the United States, then sports impacted the recovery and restoration of "normalcy" in the aftermath.

There are many stories of how individuals in the college sports world got caught up in the events of 9/11, and Pat Fords of tells one of Mark Dodge, who was in the Pentagon when it was struck by American Airlines flight 77. Dodge's 3rd Infantry Regiment was quickly mobilized as part of the response team.

After that harrowing experience, Dodge decided he wanted to attend college and play football. He is currently a linebacker at Texas A&M and made seven tackles in his first game last week. He also gained a sense of perspective. He told Forde, "This is more fun than I can ever dream of. One bad day here is a lot better than a very good day overseas [in the military]. If you complain about anything here, you're crazy."

Click here to read the entire piece, "Aggie's Dodge can't walk away from 9/11"

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Mondays with Myles Brand

Over at the Double-A Zone, the official blog of the NCAA, blogger Josh Cantor has resumed hosting the "Mondays With Myles" podcasts every Monday. That's Myles as in Myles Brand, the president of the NCAA.

Josh has invited me to solicit questions from my readers to submit to Mr. Brand for a future show. So, if there's something you've always wanted to ask him (keep it real, please), post a comment here and I will forward your question to Josh.

Good News: Competitive On the Field, Courageous In Life

"Do you define what you are, or are you defined by it?

How do you ever really know, unless who you think you are is taken away? "

That's how ESPN writer Graham Hays started his wonderful piece on Fresno State's Rachael Donaldson. When she arrived on campus, she saw her self as a softball player. Now, having survived a scary bout with cancer, she views life differently, on a much broader scale.

She continues to inspire her teammates and anyone who knows her despite the fact that her playing days are over. Rachael's mother, who was her first coach, assumed that role as they worked together to fight for Rachael's life.

Click here to read "Cancer survivor model of strength to teammates"

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Good News: A Student, Then an Athlete

UCLA cornerback Alterraun Verner is hardly your typical freshman big-time college football player. First off, he is the youngest player in the Pac-10; his 18th birthday is not until December 13. Secondly, he did not have to sweat his test scores and wait to see if he would be eligibile to play football this fall. He arrived on campus with 28 advanced placement credits from high school.

Verner's major is in math and applied sciences and he is considering entering medical school once he graduates, probably well before the normal four year schedule.

He can play a little football too. In his first game last week, he returned an interception for a touchdown, forced and recovered a fumble, and made two tackles.

Verner is someone who can truly be called a student-athlete.

Click here to read "UCLA: Playing It Smart" in the Los Angeles Daily News

Friday, September 08, 2006

Good News: Ted Ginn Sr. Working With Tomorrow's Stars and Leaders

During Saturday night's mega-game pitting #1 Ohio State and #2 Texas, the nation's eyes will be on Buckeye stars and Heisman Trophy candidates QB Troy Smith and WR-KR Ted Ginn Jr. Both players were mentored at Glenville High School near Cleveland, Ohio by Ginn's father, Ted Sr., the head football coach.

Ginn Sr. saw an amazing 21 of his players sign college scholarships last season, 15 of them with Division 1-A , and every single one of them was academically eligible to play this season. As great as that is, Ginn has much bigger plans to reach out and help youngsters on and off the football field.

Ginn told CBS Sportsline writer Dennis Dodd, "It's about putting a kid in position for life."

Click here to read Dodd piece on Ted Ginn Sr.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Good News: Player's Sacrifice for Team Inspires Scholarship

A Hope College basketball player's selfless act is having an effect far beyond her team's recent national championship season.

It's led to creation of a scholarship that will help other students in perpetuity.

When the Hope women's basketball team made it to the playoffs this past spring, NCAA regulations required that only 15 players could suit up for the competition. Hope's MIAA championship squad had 16 members. Rather than make it necessary for Coach Brian Morehouse to choose or perhaps for one of her teammates to sit out the remaining games, junior guard Becky Bosserd of Sparta stepped forward and volunteered to spend the rest of the season in her street clothes.

The gracious gesture earned the admiration of her coach, her team mates and also Hope's loyal fans. One of those fans, community member Rob Zaagman, has decided to celebrate it by establishing an endowed scholarship at the college in her name. The "Rebecca Bosserd Scholarship Fund," available starting with the new school year, is intended for any student with financial need who, in keeping with Bosserd's example, has shown commitment to servant-leadership or volunteerism.

"I really feel that what she did was very significant, but really it goes much deeper than that," said Zaagman, who was among the Hope fans who made the trip to Springfield, Mass., for the Final Four in March. "It's more a recognition of character than one event."

"I think this is just one way of saying 'Thank you, Becky, for doing something
tremendous for other people,'" he said. "What she did is never going to be forgotten."

Morehouse agrees that Bosserd's sacrifice reflects a remarkable consideration of others.

"It's probably the most unselfish act I've ever been a part of in my 10 years as a head coach, and I think it's a great reflection on both Becky and her parents as far as how she was raised," he said. "She exemplifies everything that we want in our players. She is selfless. She puts the team first in everything she does."

"I couldn't have more respect for a person than what I have for Becky and what she did," he said.

Even though she had been on the sidelines during most of the tournament run, she was the coaches' choice to accept the national championship trophy.

"When we went out to get our championship trophy, Becky was the first person that we sent out there and then our four captains followed behind her because we felt what she had done was really what our team was all about," he said.

Bosserd notes that she didn't struggle with her decision to miss the NCAA games.

"That way no one else would have to sit out," she said. "I did it and I never looked back."

Bosserd is a 2003 graduate of Lowell High School and the daughter of James and Jane Bosserd of Sparta. A biology major, she is interested in a career that involves working with animals, possibly specializing in fisheries in wildlife. She worked at the Outdoor Discovery Center south of Holland this summer.

Zaagman, who works in quality assurance at Haworth Inc., had never even met Bosserd prior to establishing the scholarship, other than briefly along with other members of the team during the college's championship celebration back in Holland in April. As a result, she never saw the recognition coming. "I was pretty surprised," she said, when she learned about it earlier this summer.

For Zaagman, Bosserd's team-first sacrifice focused his growing interest in
supporting Hope students in some way. Since moving to Holland in 1992, he had come first to appreciate the campus and the college's positive presence on downtown during walks through the neighborhood, and then the students that he met as he volunteered in the community, and then the college itself as he learned more about Hope's program.

"Endowing a scholarship is something that I had in the back of my mind for a period of time now," he said. "As time went on, I felt that I wanted to try to help students down the road have an opportunity to have an education at Hope."

"I definitely wouldn't do something like this if I didn't think that the college had more than earned it," he said. "So for me, this is a tremendous investment also."

Thanks to Hope SID Tom Renner for this story

The CourtMaster on ACC Nation

The guys at the ACC Nation podcast show, Patrick Hite and Chris Graham, were kind enough to have me on their program this week. We talked about the first week of ACC football and Tales of the Fighting Ferrets.

Click here to listen to the program

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Good News: Adelphi U Raises Money for Kids With Cancer

For the past three years, Adelphi University and its Athletics Department have teamed up with Winthrop University Hospital's Cans for Cancer Program to raise money for kids with cancer. The program requires the collection of redeemable recycled cans and bottles. There are receptables placed throughout the Garden City campus for students, faculty, staff, etc. to put their cans and bottles in.

All 18 Adelphi athletic teams are responsible for collecting and sorting the bottles and cans and placing them in a large storage bin. Then, the Cans for Cancer Center picks up the items. This is a massive undertaking that requires year-round committment from the Athletics staff. At the end of the 2005-06 season, Adelphi had raised over $7000 for the program. They celebrated by hosting a Fun Fest for children from the Cancer Center on August, 27, 2006. (see attached photos) The carnival-style festivities included games, prizes, food and more.

The Cans for Cancer initiative involves schools, corporations, restaurants, country clubs and community members. Adelphi University was the first college to partner with the Cans for Cancer Program.

Click here for a photo galary of the Fun Fest

Thanks to Adelphi's SID Suzette McQueen for the story.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

TOTFF: Part 1, Episode 10: "Leading the Followers"

Freddie is approached to run for political office, the Farnsworth field hockey team is assaulting their opponents, and the water polo team is having trouble staying afloat-literally. Just another week at the office for our hero Conrad.

Click here to read "Leading the Followers"

If you haven't check out "Tales of the Fighting Ferrets" it's not too late to go back to the beginning and catch up with the story from the start.

Monday, September 04, 2006

College Hoops: Looking Ahead to Atlanta

This week my Inspin columns flip over to college basketball, and I take a look at the early favorites to reach the 2007 Final Four in Atlanta. Florida has an excellent chance of repeating, but North Carolina and Kansas will be their toughest challengers.

Click here to read "Looking Ahead to Atlanta"

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Good News: Coming Back from a Horrible Knee Injury

During the final game of the 2004 football season, Maryland's Josh Allen suffered a knee injury that resulted in his left knee just dangling from his leg. He tore pretty much everything one can tear in a knee and wound up with his leg immobilized for 10 weeks. He also couldn't shower or bath for three weeks, adding insult to injury.

In this article from the Baltimore Sun, Allen talks about his rehab. Here's one quote:

"The whole time, the thing that got me through it was believing in God, and that what is meant to be will be," he said. "If I'm meant to come back from this and play football again, it's gonna happen. If it's not, I feel good knowing I put everything into it."

He'll step on the field for game action tonight for the first time since the injury, a feat which will stand out more than any yards he gains or the result of the game.

Click here to read "After enduring painful rehab, Allen hopes for gainful season"

Friday, September 01, 2006

"A father's love will take the field"

Colorado State's football season has not yet begun, but their long-time head coach Sonny Lubick has already had his prayers answered. Coach Lubick will have the opportunity to run out on the field for the opener with his son Marc, an assistant coach and now a cancer survivor. This story from the Denver Post shows us the dose of perspective the elder Lubick has received from this trial and the preserverence his son has displayed in fighting back.

Click here to read A father's love will take the field"