Thursday, March 27, 2008

College baseball hot stove

Keep an eye out on the college baseball scene the next couple months -- and we're not talking about anything that goes on between the white lines.

Mississippi State baseball coach Ron Polk, the winningest coach in the Southeastern Conference, is resigning effective at the end of the season, it was announced earlier today.

There was no immediate word on any successors, but you can bet plenty of names will surface -- especially with the stable of assistants Polk has sent into the head coaching ranks over the years.

No doubt, Jacksonville State coach Jim Case’s name will be among them. Case had two stints as an assistant at MSU – 1984-86 and 1998-2001.

His JSU contract runs to June 30, 2011. It includes a buyout clause of three month’s salary prior to December 2008, but none after that date.

And he may terminate the contract at any time to take an SEC job.

Polk is in his 29th year at MSU and 35th overall as a head coach. His 1,360 career wins ranks among the nation’s top 10 and fifth on the active list.

Willett on leaderboard

It's 10 a.m. in Alabama, the Golf Channel is showing the European Tour on TV and a familiar name is on the leaderboard.

Former Jacksonville State golfer Danny Willett is tied for the lead in the Andalusia Open in Spain with Lee Westwood and former Alabama player Jan-Are Larsen. They were all at 6-under.

Flip over to the European Tour Website and it will tell you the round is over with Westwood at 7-under and Willett and Larsen tied for second at 6-under.

"That's great, that's great, that's great," JSU golf coach James Hobbs said.

The Golf Channel will continue its coverage of the tournament throughout the weekend.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Somebody's always talking

According to the chairman of the search committee charged with reviewing applicants for Jax State's men's basketball coaching vacancy, the interview part of the process isn't set to start until Friday's meeting at the earliest. That's when the committee is expected to pare the field to about 5 to 7 candidates and begin preliminary telephone interviews.

According to a story in the Pine Bluff, Ark., newspaper, there might be some talks already going on behind those scenes. It seems former Arkansas State coach Dickey Nutt has "interviewed" for the JSU job already.

“Right now, the single most important thing is that I’m unemployed,” Nutt was quoted as saying in the Pine Bluff Commercial. “It’s a difficult time, there’s no question about that. I’ve been a coach for 25 years now and all of a sudden you’re unemployed now. It’s different. I believe that maybe there’s a plan out there somewhere. I’m weighing all of my options. I don’t feel like I’m above anyone.”

Here's a link to the story that references that "interview".

Makes you wonder if Montevallo coach Danny Young really hasn't been offered the job already, as been rumored on a coaching rumor website (and denied by him and JSU officials).

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Strikingly sharp

There's no telling what's going to happen in the rest of the game, but for the first inning at least it was easy to tell JSU righthander Nick Hetland was hitting his spots.

Even though he gave up a run in the first inning Saturday against Murray State, all 19 pitches Hetland threw in the inning went for strikes.

His first four pitches in the second were for a strike, too. That's 23 in a row. He didn't throw his first ball until the second pitch to Daniel Miller in the second inning, then came back and threw a strike.

He wound up with 28 strikes in his first 29 pitches. Check out Sunday's Star to learn if he stayed sharp or became a hard-luck loser (he trailed 3-0 after his first three innings).

Murray's Mike Perconte was sharp, too. He threw eight pitches in the first and five of those were for strikes.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Basketball boost or bust

Bravo for the Ohio Valley Conference for trying to enhance its basketball profile, but there’s a very real application in the solution that could negatively impact what league officials are trying to accomplish.

The OVC presidents approved Wednesday a basketball enrichment plan that affects the way teams will be able to schedule in the future. It goes into effect beginning in the 2009-10 season, obviously taking into account existing contracts for the upcoming season.

The plan calls for reducing the number of guarantee games to a maximum of two per season, allowing teams to play as many non-Division I games as they play guarantees, and play a minimum of half their non-OVC games at home (neutral site games not included).

To satisfy that plan, Jacksonville State could play Tennessee, Temple and Tennessee Temple twice or it could schedule Tennessee or Temple and Tennessee Temple. But the days of Tennessee State or anyone else playing four or more guarantee games are no more.

Back when JSU was in the TAAC/Atlantic Sun, Florida Atlantic once played its entire non-conference schedule in guarantee games.

If the purpose of the OVC's plan is to enhance the league’s basketball RPI -- it was the 29th-rated conference (of 32) this week -- limiting the number of games against the power conferences that it has little chance of winning is a good thing, but knowing coaches as we do, what’s likely to happen is teams will trade those high-major slots with winnable games against teams behind them in the RPI.

For Jax State, which is No. 339 (of 341) this week, that would be a difficult proposition, but you get the idea. It may help them get more games, though.

Other mid-major conferences have tried in the past to put safeguards in place to prevent that kind of thing, but there are no RPI minimums in place in the OVC’s plan. Final decisions on whether institutions are in compliance will be made by commissioner Jon Steinbrecher. Compliance with the plan will be tied to the league’s revenue-sharing program.

“I applaud our membership for their willingness to commit to systemic changes that should enhance our opportunity to succeed,” Steinbrecher said in a statement. “This shows that the OVC membership is not satisfied with the status quo. The basketball enrichment plan is part of a series of strategic decisions intended to enhance the Conference’s basketball programs.”