Commentary by Jason Enes
I am not one who normally voices my displeasure with postseason awards, but Wednesday the Big Sky Conference coaches got one award just plain wrong.
Wednesday morning, Portland State softball coach Tobin Echo-Hawk was named Big Sky Coach of the Year by the leagues’ seven coaches.
The Vikings won their fourth conference title, three in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference and this year’s inaugural Big Sky title and, according to the preseason poll the Vikings were the clear-cut favorite.
So explain to me how Idaho State head coach Julie Wright
did not win the award after she led a team that was picked to
finish last in the preseason poll, to instead take a share of the
regular season title and host the first Big Sky Conference
Last time I looked ISU, had the only winning record for the season of all the teams in the league, had five first team all-Big Sky selections, the conference player and freshman of the year and the only three unanimous all-Big Sky selections.
Not bad for a program that had just seven players when Wright took over three years ago.
Am I saying that Echo-Hawk isn’t a deserving winner? No, far from it. I just cannot grasp giving the coach of the year award to the coach of a team that did what everyone thought they would do.
ISU on the other hand shocked the conference and the nation with their explosive offense that rewrote the record books at ISU. The reason behind that success, none other than Wright herself.
Would things be different if the Bengals had won the Big Sky title? In my mind absolutely. Everyone loves the worst to first story, the Bengals were it in 2013, but losing on their home field to Southern Utah ended the story a chapter too soon.
Knowing Wright as I do I can only imagine how disappointed she might be by not winning the award, but a simple vote cannot take away from what this 2013 Idaho State softball team accomplished.
Like former ISU sports information director Frank Mercogliano put on Facebook today, it’s a travesty that Wright did not take home this honor.
I cannot agree more.
I can say with certainty that Wright was happy with this season, and Bengal fans should be as well. I can only assume that athletic director Jeff Tingey was thrilled to look out at the outfield berm at Miller Ranch Stadium and see 400 people in their lawn chairs and on blankets watching a program on the upswing only six years after being reborn.
The ISU softball program has had its fair share of problems before Wright arrived in Pocatello. But since she arrived, things have changed and will only get better in the future.
Big Sky softball coaches, you messed up, you picked the wrong coach of the year. I know nothing will change that decision, but you have made a lot of enemies in Southeast Idaho with it.
If you have not been out to Miller Ranch Stadium to watch the Idaho State softball team play this year, now is the time to do so.
With yet another come from behind win over Sacramento State Thursday, the Bengals will take on Portland State today in the Big Sky semifinals.
ISU has been put up insane offensive numbers this season and are now at 77 home runs on the season after hitting four on Thursday. Sophomore catcher Vicky Galasso is one of the top hitters in the nation and one of eight Bengals to earn All-Big Sky honors earlier this week after being named player of the year.
This team is scrappy, extremely talented and extremely fun to watch, I would spend more team here talking about them but have done that enough all season long.
ISU and Portland State take the field at 10 a.m. Friday.
A day after signing Ajak Magot, Idaho State head coach Bill Evans is adding another player to the Bengals roster. Jeffrey Solarin a 6-foot-4 wing from Northwest College in Wyoming has committed to play for the Bengals. As a sophomore at Northwest College Solarin averaged 17 points per game. Where he will play for Evans remains unknown, but he would be a good fit at either the two or the three.
Evans still needs to find a backup point guard as the rumors of senior Nick Mason continue to swirl. I expect to see a least two more recruits added to the roster before the season begins in October.
Commentary by Jason Enes
There was a time in the not-too-distant past that college sports were not the television-ratings juggernaut and money-making machine of today.
While many of us may still be getting over the destruction of our NCAA tournament brackets by Florida Gulf Coast and others following their favorite teams’ spring football practice, one big-name college football coach says college athletics are in a bad place. Honestly, I think I might agree with him.
“College athletics, particularly football, has changed dramatically throughout my career,” said Bill Snyder, head coach of Kansas State’s football team on 610 Sports Radio KCSP in Kansas City. “I think it’s in a bad place right now.
“It’s in a bad place for a variety of reasons. We’ve allowed it to become money driven. We’ve allowed it to become TV driven. We’ve allowed athletic programs or football programs to mean more to a university than what the university is really supposed to be all about.”
College sports has morphed over time from an opportunity for athletes to continue their playing careers at a higher level, into a business worth hundreds of millions of dollars to not only the colleges and universities but also the television networks.
Despite all the money generated by the football and men’s basketball programs, most of the athletic departments do not turn a profit.
So where does the money go?
Well, it gets spread within the department to help fund other sports, to equipment and to one of the biggest expenses for an athletic department, travel.
Take Idaho State, for example. Every season the football team needs to play at least two money games a year to help fund the department for the rest of the season. That means taking trips to Nebraska, Oklahoma, Georgia and BYU for large paydays and even larger losses on the field.
Are the embarrassing 50-point defeats worth a $500,000 check? For many FCS schools the answer is yes.
The ISU men’s and women’s basketball programs must also play money games each year for much smaller paydays than their football counterparts. They, too, are a necessity.
But to get to these games, the teams must take a two-and-half hour bus ride to Salt Lake City or a three-plus hour ride to Boise to catch their flights. Not exactly a barrel of laughs.
I have talked to numerous athletes and coaches over the years and almost everyone has said that they do not enjoy having to take a bus to catch a plane. With the addition of North Dakota to the Big Sky Conference this season, ISU and the other teams in the league now have to make a long and very expensive trip to Grand Forks at least twice per season.
ISU women’s basketball play-by-play announcer Mark Liptak told me a few weeks ago that ISU women’s head coach Seton Sobolewski said the trip to North Dakota last season was the team’s most expensive. The Bengals had to bus to Salt Lake, fly to Minneapolis and then catch another plane to Grand Forks.
A three-day trip with four flights and numerous hours of travel, not to mention the players are student athletes, so they must do homework. The life of an athlete is not as glamorous as most think.
“The last I heard, we were educational institutions,” Snyder said. “Certainly there is an education that takes place in football, and I understand all the parameters, but it’s not driven by values; it’s driven by dollars and cents.”
While I am a big college football and basketball fan and enjoy watching them whenever I can, I’m getting a little tired of the diluted national pizza chain bowl game played in late December by two teams that barely have winning records. But money talks and America will watch.
I hope the long-rumored expansion of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament continues to be a rumor and things remain as they are for the near future. I am thrilled that the BCS system is going the way of the dodo. I have a tough time believing that the playoff system proposed will be any better, but I guess we will see.
What is the solution to fix college athletics? I don’t know if there is one. As long as money continues to flow in and the public continues to watch, the status quo will remain.
“I can only speak personally,” Snyder said. “I’m grossly overpaid for what I do; that’s part of what creates the issue.”
“We didn’t grow up with it being the way it is right now,” Snyder said, referring to college athletics as a whole. “Maybe we’re just hard-pressed to accept change. We’ve been moving in a wrong direction, and I hope somebody can help put the brakes on at some point in time.”
Things will have to change, let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later.
For those who are unaware the spring signing day is next Wednesday April 17. At the moment the recruiting classes for the ISU basketball teams should be announced. While most of the early signees are already known, it will be interesting to see if anyone is added in the next few days.
On the ISU men’s basketball Facebook page earlier Thursday it was posted that two recruits were in town this weekend for a visit, who they are is unknown as the sources I have that would know declined to reveal the kids names.
Stay tuned to the blog for more information on recruits as it comes across and expect a story next week once things are announced.
On Saturday March 30 former Idaho State men’s basketball player Mike Lacey was arrested in Los Angeles on DUI and hit and run charges after crashing friend and current Laker Jordan Hill’s Bentley into the condominium complex Hill lives in.
Police found the destroyed vehicle unattended inside Hill’s condo. According to a Los Angeles dispatcher Lacey displayed signs and symptoms of alcohol intoxication while talking to police and was arrested.
Lacey and Hill were high school teammates and friends. Hill tweeted about the incident afterwards saying that he was fine it was a situation where a good guy made a bad decision.
No other information is available at the time, check back for updates as they develop.
Commentary by Jason Enes
When I interviewed former Highland High School and Idaho State basketball player Dale Wilkinson last week for a story, we got talking about his son and current Highland senior Clark and what his future will hold after his upcoming two-year LDS mission.
He told me that Clark likes to follow family tradition, which to me meant that Clark would be a Bengal when he returns to Pocatello after his mission.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Wilkinson announced via Twitter and then later confirmed to fellow Journal writer Kyle Franko he has indeed committed to play basketball for ISU.
Following in family footsteps indeed.
Wilkinson will have some big shoes to fill as his dad, Dale, played for ISU from 1978-82, but Clark is three inches shorter than his dad and a completely different player.
Dale was a 6-foot-10 jump shooter, while Clark, at 6-foot-7, has evolved over his career at Highland into a player who excels at playing above the rim, or, in layman’s terms, he likes to dunk the ball.
While Clark has improved every year during his high school career and established himself as one of the top players in the 5A ranks as a senior, those of us who have had the chance to watch him play are a bit sad he will not be suiting up for the Bengals this fall.
But expect a more focused and determined Wilkinson when he returns.
As someone who covers the Bengals this is a great get by ISU head coach Bill Evans.
Not only will Wilkinson give the team a player that cannot only play the post but shoot the ball, he will get more fans in the seats.
Fans like the local kids doing good, Wilkinson has done good things at Highland and it’s hard not to think those things would continue.
What this also shows is that Evans and his staff are keeping tabs on the local players.
I have seen Evans at numerous high school games in the city during the season watching games and I could only assume looking at some of the local players. While previous head coach Joe O’Brien did not spend a lot of time looking at the local athletes because of his ties outside the area, I expect Evans to keep a firm grip on the area during the remainder of his contract.
If I am a Bengal fan the Wilkinson signing not only excites me for the 2014 season, but also excites me for next season.
As we all know, the Bengals struggled scoring points and lost a bunch of close games, but run into any of the returning players for next year’s team one thing is clear, they will be improved.
A solid core returns, led by Chris Hansen and Tomas Sanchez. It will be interesting to see who Evans and his staff add to the team when the recruiting class is announced in a few weeks.
One thing we know for sure is that Wilkinson will be on the list and I for one am very happy to see it.
I know this may seem like a repeat post but I am still looking for people or teams for the weekly East Idaho Sports legends series that runs every Monday. If you know or are someone who like a story written about them please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (208) 239-3136 to leave story ideas and contact information.
Commentary by Jason Enes
As residents of Eastern Idaho, we’re aware that the weather can change at the drop of a hat.
Take a look at this past week for instance. Tuesday it was sunny and 60 degrees, Wednesday it rained and many of us woke up Friday to a fresh coating of snow.
Welcome to springtime in Idaho.
Because of the unpredictably of the weather, the spring sports season for local high schools is filled with postponements and cancellations. Since Wednesday, most of the events scheduled haven’t been played, and most will now have to fit the games in wherever they can during the remainder of the season — weather permitting, of course.
I was at a baseball game at Marsh Valley High School Wednesday, where the Eagles hosted the two-time defending 2A state champion Malad Dragons. It had rained all morning, but it wasn’t until I arrived at the school that I realized the game shouldn’t have been played.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the baseball field at Marsh Valley High School, it looks a little different than most out there.
The only dirt on the field is in the cutouts around the bases. The rest is grass.
I had never seen a field like this until visiting American Falls High School two seasons ago, but every time I have been to one, I’ve seen teams struggle fielding the ball. Wednesday was no different, but for entirely different reasons.
I arrived at Marsh Valley 30 minutes prior to the scheduled start time of 3:30 p.m., and I took one look at the condition of the field and figured there was no way the game was going to be played.
The home plate and first base areas looked more like a mud bog than any part of a baseball diamond. And after a couple hours without rain, Mother Nature again graced us with more rain. That time, it didn’t stop.
After watching the Marsh Valley baseball team work on home plate and first base for over 30 minutes, the field looked playable. But once the game actually started it didn’t take long for things to go south.
The driving rain made fly balls difficult to catch. After every three or four pitches, balls were swapped out to be either replaced all together or wiped off and put back in play. And then there was the mud, again.
It was a nuisance the entire game. Players struggled to get footing while in the batter’s box, pitchers were slipping and baserunners had trouble on the bags, slipping every time one of them touched the bag.
And then the kids wore it, a lot of it.
Malad pitcher Kyle Daniels tried to leg out a triple in the first inning and while attempting to beat the throw to the bag from the outfield, he slid head first into the base. While the slide was clean, the wave of mud that came up from the dive was something to behold.
Daniels was tagged out. When he got up the front of his white uniform was brown. I feel sorry for his mother because there is no way that uniform will ever be white again.
The weather was a factor the entire afternoon in what turned out to a close came through four innings. But as conditions continued to worsen my thought was, “When will the umpires call this game?”
It was getting to be unsafe and the constant work on the pitching mound and home plate further delayed an already slow game.
I got my answer in the bottom of the fourth.
With a pelting rain picking up in intensity, the home plate umpire came over to the score booth where I was sitting and said, “I would hate to call this game now with it being 2-1. I told both coaches they better make the best of the fifth inning.”
Both teams did just that. The Eagles used a couple of fielding errors to win the game. The question I raised to both coaches was why did the game continue?
Neither really gave an answer, instead providing the diplomatic answer that the conditions were bad for both teams. It was apparent neither was happy the game was played.
As someone who played baseball for 15 years, I know that the umpire has discretion on when to call off a game and that player safety is supposed to be taken into account.
It’s hard for me to believe this was the case in Arimo Wednesday.
Someone could have been seriously injured, as they could in any game, but this one never should have made it to the second inning.
When does safety take a back seat to getting a game in? I guess that’s the million-dollar question.