Friday, June 29, 2012

vote for the 2011-2012 Cavalier of the Year

Voting is now open for the fourth annual FOV Cavalier of the Year.  I've done my bit; now it's your turn.  Select a candidate on the right who you think is most deserving.  I don't have any criteria and I'm not telling you how you should vote; vote how you like.  I do have my own opinion on who I'd pick, but I only get one vote same as you, and I'll wait to use it so you don't see one lone vote sitting there early on and make the obvious inference.  (Also, please do only vote once; the site should prevent you from voting early and voting often, but if it doesn't, you know, honor code and all that.)

Voting will remain open for two weeks, and on Friday the 13th (ooooooo) of July, the winner will be crowned.  The whole point of the exercise is to shed a little light on the widespread achievements of our elite athletes, so read each of the mini-bios (linked below) if you haven't already.  Happy voting.

Brittany Altomare (women's golf)

Will Bates (men's soccer)

Morgan Brian (women's soccer)

Meredith Cavalier (women's swimming)

Briggy Imbriglia (men's diving)

Jarmere Jenkins (men's tennis)

Chase Minnifield (football)

Josie Owen (women's lacrosse)

Mike Scott (men's basketball)

Matt Snyder (wrestling)

Steele Stanwick (men's lacrosse)

Sidney Thorston (rowing)

Keith Werman (baseball)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

FOV Cavalier of the Year: #11/#12/#13

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as the Cavalier of the Year. What are the criteria for the award? You decide; that's the beauty. I nominate the 12 athletes that I think have been the most outstanding during the latest season of UVA athletics, and provide a short summary of their accomplishments. You choose the winner in a poll that goes up after all 12 have had their moment in the spotlight. In fact, there are 13 this year, and the list of nominations is here.

Over the next few weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University this year. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; part of the point is to emphasize that UVA is about excellence across the
entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines. The previous winners are Danny Hultzen (2009, 2011) and Diego Restrepo (2010); today's athletes are Brittany Altomare, Morgan Brian, and Chase Minnifield.
Brittany Altomare - Women's golf


Team accomplishments:

-- 4th-place finish at NCAA championships

Personal accomplishments:

-- NGCA second-team all-American
-- All-ACC
-- Qualified for U.S. Women's Open
-- Advanced to round of 16 at Women's Amateur Public Links championship
-- Won Massachusetts Women's Open

I think this is the first time I've nominated a golfer for this award.  It's certainly not one of the higher-profile sports.  But very quietly, the women's team is one of the more successful teams at the University.  They were ranked as high as #2 at one point in the season, dropped outside the top 25, and recovered to finish fourth at the national championships.

Brittany Altomare is the star of this team; she consistently places among the top golfers in the country at every event.  She's a junior and has received both all-ACC and all-America recognition all three years of her career, and by the way is also on her third trip to the US Women's Open, which she played her way into at the sectional qualifiers.  Very quietly, Altomare is out there representing the school and bringing home accolades too; UVA just finished 15th in the Director's Cup, and the women's golf team was the biggest contributor to that save the rowers.  These kinds of performances should get more recognition than they do; hence, this nomination.

Morgan Brian - Women's soccer - Midfielder


Team accomplishments:

-- Reached ACC semifinals
-- Reached NCAA quarterfinals

Personal accomplishments:

-- Soccer America Freshman of the Year
-- ACC Freshman of the Year
-- Herrmann Trophy semifinalist
-- NSCAA first-team all-American
-- Gatorade National HS Athlete of the Year
-- Played for U.S. U-20 national team

It's hard to get nominated for this as a freshman - you basically have to do what Morgan Brian just did, which is to sweep up a host of FOY awards and be one of the best (if not the best) players on the team.  The ladies' soccer team enjoyed something of a resurgence this year; they were in the NCAA quarterfinal for the first time in six seasons, and it was partly due to your national freshman of the year: Brian.

She's such an accomplished player, in fact, that she also plays on the national U-20 team, which happened to win the CONCACAF Gold Cup and will play at the U-20 World Cup later this summer.  It helps that that team's coach is Steve Swanson, who also coaches UVA, but in the end it doesn't matter: Brian would've been selected by anyone.  She scored 11 goals and - perhaps even better - registered eight assists this season for UVA, making her an easy choice for FOY.  She's the first UVA women's soccer player to win the national FOY award, and it's pretty clear UVA has itself a bright rising star for a few years to come.

Chase Minnifield - Football - Cornerback


Team accomplishments

-- 8-4 regular season record, Peach Bowl invitation

Personal accomplishments:

-- First-team all-ACC
-- Lowe's Senior CLASS Award finalist
-- Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist
-- Recipient of Pop Warner National College Football Award
-- CBS Sports 2nd-team all-American
-- Yahoo 3rd-team all-American
-- Phil Steele 4th-team all-American

Even being the son of a Pro Bowl cornerback, Chase Minnifield was kind of overshadowed in the past.  Not so this season; Minnifield made the transformation from "the guy who's a son of an NFLer" to "Chase Minnifield, star in his own right."  Minnifield was a lock-down cornerback who registered three interceptions despite nobody throwing at him all season (he grabbed six in 2010, when people hadn't yet learned their lesson.)

Minnifield was one of three UVA first-team all-conference selections, and just about everyone that selected all-American teams included him on some level.  His 13 career picks are sixth on the UVA all-time list - but it might not be the interceptions he's best remembered for.  At Florida State, Minnifield sprinted downfield in hot pursuit of FSU's Bert Reed, who'd slipped his defender and looked headed for a sure touchdown until Minnifield ran him down at the one-yard line.  It turned out to be the game-winning play in UVA's biggest win of the year: FSU failed to score the touchdown and settled for three - and the missing four points meant they had to attempt, and ultimately miss, a game-winning field goal rather than run out the clock for the win.  UVA's resurgence on the football field was one of the big stories of the year in UVA sports, and Minnifield was the best of the bunch.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

recruiting board update

Well damn, you guys.  Just one week after whining that recruiting was going too slowly for my tastes, the board is now so shuffled I hardly know what to do with myself.  We probably took more steps toward making the 2013 board irrelevant this past week than in any other week so far; there truly isn't that much recruiting left to be done any more.

More in depth analysis after the changes:

-- Moved OT Brad Henson, OG Jack McDonald, and DT Donta Wilkins from blue to orange.  Woo- MF'in-hoo.  That pretty much wraps up O-line recruiting for the year, among other things.  The Hoos missed out on the two instate targets (you remember Braxton Pfaff and Parker Osterloh) but ended up with a better OL class than if they'd landed those two.  Now you see why I said it was a great thing for the Hokies to land them both but not a terrible thing for us to lose them.

-- Moved CB Kirk Garner from green to orange.  Double woo hoo.  Garner and Wilkins got this whole wild week started, and Garner combines with Tim Harris to give the 2013 class a nasty good pair of defensive backs.

-- Removed LB Peter Kalambayi from blue; committed to Stanford.

-- Removed LBs Buddy Brown and Larenz Bryant from green; committed to Temple(!!) and South Carolina, respectively.

-- Removed WR Zach Bradshaw and ATH Myles Nash from yellow; committed to Penn State and Rutgers, respectively.  Bradshaw had been very high on South Carolina previously, so the Gamecocks had a very good and very bad week all in one.  Probably came out ahead overall, though; Bryant is a heavily-recruited consensus four-star.

-- Added TE Kyle Chung to yellow.

-- Re-added RB David Williams to red.  I don't really think we'll get him, but there must be something going on - he included UVA in his top ten just recently after leaving us out before.  It's probably a top ten the same way Taquan Mizzell has a top ten, with like seven or eight of them not actually have a legitimate chance, but what the hell, after all those names disappearing we need someone to keep the board full.

So there was some bad news and a lot of good news this week.  The bad news is the sudden dearth of linebackers after things looked so bloody promising.  That said, we already have two very good ones in the fold and will probably look to get at least one more.  The three most likely options in that regard: Oren Burks, Doug Randolph, and Reggie McGee.  Burks is a VT target as well.  Randolph is the most highly-rated, but can't seem to decide whether he wants to be recruited away from his Stanford commitment or not.  McGee is the most lightly recruited and probably the third option behind the other two, but would be the fourth Good Counsel prospect in this year's class.

The good news, obviously, was the wave of commitments, which among other things finished up O-line recruiting.  It's not too often you nail down all of your top targets at a position, but the Hoos have essentially done that here, as well as at cornerback with Harris and Garner.

The four commitments this week brought the total to 15, which is to say we're awfully close to closing the door.  At most I think we might have room for 20.  With only six players left in the blue or green section, the coaches would probably take them all if they could to get them to 21, although if Burks or Randolph decided to commit the coaches might tell the other thanks but no thanks.  (Then again, they might not.)

It probably won't come to that.  The inn is fuller than it looks because Wyatt Teller and Taquan Mizzell both have reservations and both will probably get on board.  If I had to rank those six players from most to least likely to eventually be Hoos, I'd say this:

-- Mizzell
-- Teller
-- Tevin Montgomery
-- Burks
-- Hamilton
-- Randolph

Mizzell seems to be serious about his interest in West Virginia, but this is a case where the 757 relationships developing at UVA will probably pull him to Charlottesville.  Teller is a strongish UVA lean but Michigan makes me nervous.  More nervous than VT does.  If the story is true about him talking up UVA to other recruits while in Blacksburg for a camp, he ain't going to Tech.  But we have to make it through an Ann Arbor visit that he seems dead set on taking; the best-case is that he doesn't ever go.

I think McDonald's commitment is likely to influence Montgomery.  In fact, though I think Montgomery is the third-most likely of that group to be a Hoo, if he does commit he'll be the next one to do so.

The coaches will go after Burks hard in order to finish up the linebacking corps of this class.  I think it's 55-45 that Burks ends up here.  In other words, close, but a slight lean our way.  Hamilton is the opposite; I think 55-45 he goes to Tech.  Randolph seems most likely to stick with his pledge to Stanford after all's said and done.

So if you're looking for predictions: I think we reel in the top four on that list and miss on Hamilton and Randolph.  That would give us 19.  If we don't get Burks, we go after Reggie McGee or maybe Marcel Ngachie, yet another Good Counsel prospect.  Either one of them would commit yesterday if the coaches really pushed.

But let's say we do get the top four - then what?  It's possible we'd then be done, but there's one more wild card: London's propensity to surprise us in January with a 757 name we've never before heard of.  Think Mason Thomas and Divante Walker.  I don't know what the likelihood of that is, because I've gotten really good in past years at declaring us done and then being as surprised as anyone by the final commitment.

At any rate, 2013 recruiting just went from still wildly uncertain to a question of finishing touches, all in one week and by adding four top-priority guys.  At this point, the rest of the recruiting cycle will be 95% about following those six names.  And all six of them could easily commit somewhere in the next month.  I'm not wild about the idea of the recruiting cycle continuing its continental drift backwards towards junior years, but at least in the case of this class it means Mike London has done a helluva job.  Again.

Monday, June 25, 2012

weekend review

I said some time ago that I wouldn't bother ripping apart the new playoff ideas until they'd settled on a final one - no point in getting worked up over what were obviously leaks of less than half the info.  More economical to blow my stack over something that exists, instead of repeatedly blowing my stack over what might exist.

So they've finally decided on the format and it's so milquetoast I don't really even have a chance to blow my stack.  So I saved a lot of effort, really.  Proud of myself.  And that's saying something coming from me, Mr. GTFO-And-Off-My-Lawn, you rotten kids and your playoffs.  So we have a committee, and they'll play the semifinals at like the Orange Bowl and the Sugar Bowl or something, and then sell the championship game to the highest bidder, and the participants will be decided by a committee just as with most other sports.  Just please say you'll play both the semis on New Year's Day or thereabouts and I'll be a little more placated.  As it is I hate playing the championship on like January 9.  Whose dumbass idea was it to play the game on a Monday?

Things I don't like:

-- That it looks like the Rose Bowl, which will be one of the rotating hosts, will slip further into the future and away from tradition.  This is coming from a guy who thinks that Miami and Oklahoma winning the game in successive years was an unforgivable besmirchment of the game and tradition in general, so maybe you don't care as much.

-- Not enough emphasis on conference champions.  There is a mushy requirement for the committee to give preference to conference champions, but the shitstorm that will ensue when an SEC runner up is picked over a one-loss conference champ is highly predictable, and is the likeliest route to playoff expansion.

This latter point is not because of my getoffmylawnitude - rather, it's because it doesn't do enough to drive Notre Dame into a conference.  And when I say "into a conference" I mean "into the ACC."  Notre Dame's AD Jack Swarbrick got an equal seat at the table in the discussions - 11 conference commissioners and Swarbrick.  (And do you think anyone was really listening to the WAC?)  That in itself is a legit reason to harbor a small distrust of the process, and ensured that Notre Dame will likely get to continue having its cake and eating it too.  Latest on them is that the Big 12 is actually their most likely destination, because the Big 12 will happily let them stay football-independent on the condition that they schedule a bunch of Big 12 teams each year.  If the ACC wants to lure Notre Dame they will have to emphasize the cultural fit - and worse, likely have to kowtow on the revenue-sharing issue, and create some kind of uneven distribution, which as the Big 12 proved creates its own set of problems.

So I'd have to say that the idea of Notre Dame to the ACC is more or less on life support.  The conference is not going to waver on its stand of being in for everything or nothing, and it shouldn't.  Uneven revenue sharing is dicey.  I mean, you offer it to ND as their carrot and you know Florida State is gonna want that action too.  With the uproar over FSU and Clemson basically settled down, it looks like the ACC is a 14-team conference for the near and even medium future.

************************************************************

-- This weekend it broke that LB Caleb Taylor will transfer to ODU.  In case you're thinking it opens up another spot in the class of '13, it doesn't - it's just part of the attrition that's going to happen in order to free up the spots we're already filling.

-- Tomorrow appears to be D-Day as far as the Teresa Sullivan presidency is concerned.  Prediction: the BOV votes 8-7 to reinstate Sullivan, and we have to wait until Governor McDonnell makes public his decision on Helen Dragas's reappointment before we know whether Sullivan will come back.  As usual, this stuff is like the Supreme Court: anyone who claims to know anything is probably lying.

If reinstated, Sullivan will essentially be bulletproof, but I also think this incident decreases the likelihood her contract will be renewed when it's actually up, which I think is three years from now.

-- It has been a huge weekend for commitments, both to us and to other schools.  There are now 14 commitments, which means the class is close to being closed out.  On Wednesday there will be the standard update, but also an assessment of the remainder of the recruiting season.

Friday, June 22, 2012

FOV Cavalier of the Year: #9/#10

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as the Cavalier of the Year. What are the criteria for the award? You decide; that's the beauty. I nominate the 12 athletes that I think have been the most outstanding during the latest season of UVA athletics, and provide a short summary of their accomplishments. You choose the winner in a poll that goes up after all 12 have had their moment in the spotlight. In fact, there are 13 this year, and the list of nominations is here.

Over the next few weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University this year. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; part of the point is to emphasize that UVA is about excellence across the
entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines. The previous winners are Danny Hultzen (2009, 2011) and Diego Restrepo (2010); today's athlete's are Matt Snyder and Keith Werman.

Matt Snyder - Wrestling - 125 lbs


Team accomplishments:

-- 11-1 regular season record - best in school history
-- 2nd at ACC championships
-- Tied for 28th place at NCAAs
-- Spent entire season ranked in top 25

Personal accomplishments:

-- ACC champion at 125 pounds
-- 2-2 record at NCAA championships (#11 national seed)
-- VaSID all-state
-- ACC wrestling scholar-athlete of the year
-- CoSIDA third-team academic all-American
-- NWCA all-academic team
-- Lawn resident

You want to know what UVA's latest up-and-coming sport is?  It's not football or basketball - they don't count because they've been good before and will be again.  It's not baseball - the Hoos are too well-established these days.  Try wrestling, where UVA's program history is just one of basically existing.

That's changing, though, and UVA's wrestlers are starting to pile up the ACC individual championships, and the team is moving swiftly up the ladder.  Matt Snyder is one of those; in fact, his 11-seed at the NCAAs makes him one of the nation's top 125-pound grapplers.

So while Snyder is one of the top wrestlers on the team, he's even better in the classroom.  There are about 3,500 fourth-years in any given year at UVA, and only 108 Lawn rooms, one of which was occupied by Snyder.  We had several athletes nominated for academic all-American status by CoSIDA, the sports info directors' association, and Snyder was the only one to actually receive the distinction.  You could argue that makes him our top student-athlete.  That's a big deal at a school that prizes academic achievement in its athletes as much as it prizes athletic achievement.

Keith Werman - Baseball - Second base


Team accomplishments:

-- NCAA Regional host
-- 39-19 season record

Personal accomplishments:

-- Second-team all-ACC

All right, I'll admit: there's a little bit of a lifetime-achievement aspect to this nomination.  Keith Werman - known to fans as the Ninja - is not necessarily the most-decorated of nominees we've had.  Hell, he didn't even get picked in the MLB draft. (He was, though, the only UVA position player to earn any all-ACC recognition this year, and by the way it's the second time he's been selected for that.)

That said, ask anyone who the best ballplayer is on this squad, which overachieved like you wouldn't believe this season, and this is the likely answer.  Werman wasn't drafted because he's tiny and will never hit for power, but the technical aspects of his game are flawless.  His knowledge of the game is so expansive, in fact, that he was this season's backup catcher in addition to his second base duties.  Werman was the team's best glove man with his .991 fielding percentage exceeded only by Jared King (who's a first baseman and thus most of his "chances" involve catching a throw.)  As a three-year starter and senior leader, it couldn't have been plainer Werman was the heart and soul of this year's team, even as the #9 hitter.  Though overshadowed on the stat sheet (which isn't to imply he can't measure up - all-ACC, after all) Werman is a fan favorite and the consummate ballplayer; it's truthfully impossible to justify another selection off the baseball team for COTY.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

recruiting board update

Let's see if we can't finally focus on the supposed theme of this blog, which is sports, and not the politics of running a university.  (Hint: no.  Can't do it.  But today's message will be humor-only.)

It's Wednesday, so it's time for a recruiting board update.  UVA picked up another commitment this past week in WR Keeon Johnson, which has to mean we're done with wide receivers now, right?  Well, I don't think they'd turn down a commitment from DaeSean Hamilton, but the number of receivers we needed before Johnson committed was zero, so nothing's changed in that regard.  Johnson (who is from North Carolina) picked UVA over Notre Dame and all the instate schools, so that's something.

Let's get on with the updates:

-- Moved WR Keeon Johnson from yellow to orange.  Something about those NC boys making a big leap like that; LaChaston Smith did the same thing.

-- Moved WR Zach Bradshaw from green to yellow.  Though Bradshaw isn't strictly a WR, I think the class is still closing in that area and Bradshaw is looking into other places with apparently more interest.

-- Removed LB Yannick Ngakoue from yellow.  Committed to Maryland.  Great pickup for them, not a great loss to us as we continue to be in excellent shape in the linebacker department.

UVA is in a frustrating place right now with recruiting where a lot of the really, really top targets are all said to be favoring UVA, all of them want to take visits to other schools to do their due diligence, and none of those visits are scheduled or if they are, they're not til like mid-August.  Folks fitting this description to various degrees include Smoke Mizzell, Jack McDonald, Wyatt Teller, and Donta Wilkins.  Others, like DaeSean Hamilton, Oren Burks, Buddy Brown, Tevin Montgomery, etc, appear to be in no hurry whatsoever to make a decision.  There've been commitments lately, but the coaches just can't seem to get that one that would get the ball really rolling.

Basketball-wise, UVA lost out on Matt Thomas this past week with his commitment to Iowa State; some have called it a minor blessing since it seemed as though Thomas duplicated the skills we already have on the roster.  That may be, but it still bugs me like hell to lose a basketball recruiting battle like that because they're so much harder to win, and when you get really close you've got to wrap them up.  Compared to good basketball players, good football players grow on trees.

However, the Hoos are getting back in the game with Jaren Sina, and it looks like shutting down for a while didn't hurt them at all.  Sina is absolutely a guy you can win with, and since our point guard recruiting is getting so little traction anywhere else, this is one I'd unequivocally love to see wrapped up in our favor. Get it done Tony etc. etc.

Now, about our dear Board of Visitors. What's left of it.  With Mark Kington's resignation yesterday, they're down to 15 members; Kington's resignation was more important than you think because he'd simply have been elevated to rector upon what is sure to be Dragas Malfoy's failed bid for re-appointment come July 1.  The total number of resignations over this whole affair has been pushed to four, including Teresa Sullivan herself.  But we're not here to further dissect this, at least not today.

Today is for humor, and let me just say that we've been fortunate that the general non-UVA reaction to this has not been denigration of the school, but actually a touch of sympathy for a world-class organization being jerked around by its unelected leadership.  To that end, people write funny things about it:

-- Rector Dragas's statement, translated into plain English
-- The Declaration of Independence

Both come highly recommended, but my God if you never read anything else on the Internet read the Declaration thing.  The writer wins at life the Internet and everything.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

FOV Cavalier of the Year: #7/#8

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as the Cavalier of the Year. What are the criteria for the award? You decide; that's the beauty. I nominate the 12 athletes that I think have been the most outstanding during the latest season of UVA athletics, and provide a short summary of their accomplishments. You choose the winner in a poll that goes up after all 12 have had their moment in the spotlight. In fact, there are 13 this year, and the list of nominations is here.

Over the next few weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University this year. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; part of the point is to emphasize that UVA is about excellence across the
entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines. The previous winners are Danny Hultzen (2009, 2011) and Diego Restrepo (2010); today's athlete's are Mike Scott and Steele Stanwick.

Mike Scott - Men's basketball - Forward


Team accomplishments:

-- NCAA tournament 10 seed

Personal accomplishments:

-- First-team all-ACC
-- VaSID State Player of the Year
-- Sporting News, Basketball Times third team all-American
-- NABC first-team all-district
-- Oscar Robertson Trophy, John Wooden Trophy midseason watch lists
-- Four-time ACC Player of the Week

Sometime in the middle of the season, while Mike Scott was having his way with opposing defenses, some ESPN writer gave his list of Wooden Award candidates and failed to include Scott.  Thus was launched, as a form of protest, the Mike-Scott-as-Chuck-Norris theme, in which Mike Scott can do everything Chuck Norris can do (cure cancer, divide by zero) except also beat him at hoops.  Mike Scott does not rebound; he has taught the ball to sit, stay, and come.

Perhaps more relevent to the COTY discussion is the comparisons Scott evoked.  Sincere debate was held as to whether he was the greatest UVA hoopster since Ralph Sampson.  Such was the development of his talent, and it was a real pleasure to watch his skills evolve.  As a freshman he was a tenacious rebounder and little more; as a senior, he owned the glass and was often completely undefendable.  Play him hard and he could power his way around you; sag off and he'd calmly hit his favorite fallaway jumper.  His passing was excellent and of course, the rebounding never went away.

If the COTY turns into a popularity contest, Scott is the runaway champ.  It's hard to find a more dedicated and intense player.  You want my take on the debate: he's not quite Ralph Sampson, but he's in the same breath as Sean Singletary and Bryant Stith.  Watching him evolve from fiery freshman to wise and sagacious senior was one of the biggest pleasures of my UVA-fan career.

Steele Stanwick - Men's lacrosse - Attack


Team accomplishments:

-- NCAA quarterfinals

Personal accomplishments:

-- Turnbull Award: National Attackman of the Year
-- USILA first-team all-American
-- Tewaaraton Trophy finalist
-- Lowe's Senior CLASS Award finalist
-- ACC Player of the Year
-- Three-time ACC Player of the Week
-- Third Cavalier and 46th historical player to join 100/100 club
-- UVA all-time points leader

Actually, I want you to think about that last bullet for a second.  All-time points leader.  Steele Stanwick started his career as basically the third attackman; a guy who could sling a shot into a tiny space that nobody else could see, but was well overshadowed by major-league names like Garrett Billings and Danny Glading.  He finished it as maybe UVA's all-time greatest player.  With the incredible parade of lacrosse superstars that UVA has churned out over the decades, we were perhaps privileged to watch the best of them all, right here, this season.  Stanwick didn't even need the whole season to break Doug Knight's points record; the team left games on the table by losing in the first round of the ACC tourney and the second round of the NCAAs, and still played three games after Stanwick broke the record.

A stellar tourney run to last year's national championship helped him to last year's Tewaaraton Trophy - lacrosse's Heisman - and Stanwick was a legitimate threat to repeat this year.  He's a two-time ACC Player of the Year - only the fourth player in ACC history to win the award more than once, and the first Cavalier to do so.  The Turnbull Award is no slouch of an achievement either; it's been handed out since 1946, and Stanwick is the fourth UVA winner and the first since 1996.  Think of all the names that have gone through the program since then without having won it.

I really don't think my meager words do justice to the kind of player Stanwick has been.  In hockey terms he's half Nick Lidstrom (never, ever, ever, in the wrong place and always quietly making the right play) and half Alex Ovechkin, breaking out the kind of play where you have to see it to believe it and even then you don't believe what you saw - like his goal against Maryland, and you know which one I mean.  Stanwick was a strong second-place finisher in last year's COTY race, and I expect he'll be strongly in the running this year as well.

Monday, June 18, 2012

dragas malfoy and the chamber of secrets

With apologies to J.K. Rowling.  This is what happens when massive nerdery meets righteous angar.  These are some excerpts from the story.... bet you didn't know she was really writing the story of UVA's struggles with a suddenly rogue Board of Visitors.....

...p.112 - "'I'm the new BOV rector, Casteen,' said Malfoy, smugly. 'Everyone's just been admiring the brooms the governor's bought us.'  Casteen gaped, openmouthed, at the seven superb broomsticks in front of him. 'Good, aren't they?' said Malfoy smoothly. 'But perhaps the faculty will be able to raise some gold and get new brooms too.  You could raffle off those Cleansweep Fives; I expect a museum would bid for them.'  The BOV howled with laughter. 'At least no one on the faculty had to buy their way in,' said Sabato sharply.  'They got in on pure talent.'  The smug look on Malfoy's face flickered.  'No one asked your opinion, you filthy little Mudblood,' she spat."

...p.222 - "'What's up with you, Kington?' snapped Malfoy.  'Stomachache,' he grunted. 'Well, go up to the medical school and give all those Mudbloods a kick from me,' said Malfoy, snickering.  'You know, I'm surprised the Daily Progress hasn't reported all this loss of fundraising yet,' she went on thoughtfully.  "I suppose Sullivan's trying to hush it all up.  She'll be sacked if it doesn't start soon.  Father's always said old Sullivan's the worst thing that ever happened to this place.'"

...p.262 - "'Dreadful thing, Sullivan,' said Malfoy lazily, taking out a long roll of parchment, 'but the Visitors feel it's time for you to step aside.  This is an Order of Suspension - you'll find all sixteen signatures on it.  I'm afraid we feel you're rather losing your touch.  How many donors have we lost now?  Two more this afternoon, wasn't it?  At this rate, there'll be no more donors left at UVA, and we all know what an awful loss that would be to the school.'  'Oh, now, see here, Helen," said McDonnell, looking alarmed, 'Sullivan fired - no, no - last thing we want just now - ' 'The appointment - or suspension - of the president is a matter for the Visitors, McDonnell,' said Malfoy smoothly. 'And as Sullivan has failed to raise any funds - ' 'See here, Malfoy, if Sullivan can't do it,' said McDonnell, whose upper lip was sweating now, 'I mean to say, who can?'  'That remains to be seen,' said Malfoy with a nasty smile. 'But as all sixteen of us have voted - '  Hunter Smith leapt to her feet, her white hair grazing the ceiling. 'An' how many did yeh have to threaten an' blackmail before they agreed, Malfoy, eh?' she roared.'

...p.334 - "'So!' she said. 'You've come back.  The Visitors fired you, but you still saw fit to return to UVA.'  'Well, you see, Helen,' said Sullivan, smiling serenely, 'the other fifteen Visitors contacted me today. It was something like being caught in a hailstorm of owls, to tell the truth.  They'd heard that John Simon threatened to quit and wanted me back here at once.  They seemed to think I was the best woman for the job after all.  Very strange tales they told me, too.....Several of them seemed to think that you had threatened to curse their families if they didn't agree to fire me in the first place.'  Malfoy went even paler than usual, but her eyes were still slits of fury.  'So - have you started fundraising yet?'  'We have,' said Sullivan with a smile."

*****************************************************

I slay me.  Meanwhile, we're right here in worse-before-it-gets-better mode.  (Although, bad developments can look like pretty good ones when you're in the mood for some rabble-rousing.)  2,000 people showed up to protest outside the Rotunda where the BOV met today - and to welcome President Sullivan as she arrived to give her statement.  (I'd link that, but it's a paywall message board so it wouldn't be much use.)  Reportedly, Helen Dragas's handpicked interim successor has refused to take the job.  Smart guy.  Provost John Simon is threatening to resign, and some of UVA's biggest donors are suddenly closing their pocketbooks.  Other pledges have been rescinded.  The faculty is in open rebellion, declaring a total lack of confidence in the BOV and threatening to ignore any replacement.  Some have up and quit.  (Can't blame 'em.  I'd have a hard time working for someone dumb enough to work for this BOV.)

If Helen Dragas wanted to address an "existential crisis" - her words - at the University, part of which involved faculty retention, I can't think of a dumber thing to do than piss off 100% of the professors and administration, remove (directly or indirectly) the entire leadership foundation, alienate the school's largest donors, and totally undermine all confidence in the people charged with the school's stewardship.  What a shitshow.

I highly recommend you read President Sullivan's statement.  It's rather lengthy.  But she did an excellent job of taking the high road and at the same time addressing the issues that led to her firing.  Where Helen Dragas insisted on secrecy and opacity in the name of "confidentiality," Sullivan laid out the issues and clearly stated her side.

You can also read Dragas Malfoy's, which by my count is at least the third she's issued since last Sunday.  She certainly knows how to flower up a paragraph with empty words.  "As Visitors, we have the very highest aspirations for the University of Virginia: for it to reach its fullest potential as a 21st century Academical Village, always rooted firmly in our enduring values of honor, integrity and trust."  "We seek to elevate access, affordability, quality and diversity for every student and each patient."  Did you fire a president or write a new mission statement??  There's at least one outright lie in there - see if you can spot it; it ironically contains the word "truth" - but the most interesting thing is how she keeps repeating the word "heard."  She acknowledged having "heard" the faculty's "concerns" in her statement to them last week, and she once again "heard" them today.  Twice again, actually.  Once in having "heard" our "demands for a fuller explanation" - and then not giving one.  And therein lies Dragas Malfoy's problem: there's so often a tremendous gap between hearing.... and listening.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

FOV Cavalier of the Year: #5/#6

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as the Cavalier of the Year. What are the criteria for the award? You decide; that's the beauty. I nominate the 12 athletes that I think have been the most outstanding during the latest season of UVA athletics, and provide a short summary of their accomplishments. You choose the winner in a poll that goes up after all 12 have had their moment in the spotlight. In fact, there are 13 this year, and the list of nominations is here.

Over the next few weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University this year. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; part of the point is to emphasize that UVA is about excellence across the
entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines. The previous winners are Danny Hultzen (2009, 2011) and Diego Restrepo (2010); today's athlete's are Sidney Thorston and Meredith Cavalier.

Sidney Thorston - Rowing


Team accomplishments:

-- National champions (second title in three years)
-- 12th ACC championship

Personal accomplishments:

-- Coxswained the First Varsity Eight to its first-ever national title
-- NCAA first-team all-American
-- CRCA first-team all-region

Rowing is such a weird sport from which to try and nominate an individual athlete for anything.  How can you tell who's the best rower on a particular boat?  On the other hand, the rowing team has been maybe UVA's most successful over the last three years, and certainly the most successful this season.  Hell, here's a fun fact: the ACC starting holding rowing championships in 2000, and there've been 52 races since then, only five of which have seen some team other than UVA in first place.  So it's impossible to ignore this sport in any COTY discussion.  We have to pick somebody.

Sidney Thorston is the coxswain on UVA's First Varsity Eight boat, which is sort of the glamour event of rowing.  At the NCAA championships, there are three events, and the 1V8 is worth as much as the other two combined.  If two teams finish tied, the one that wins the 1V8 finishes higher.  And this was the first year in UVA history that the Hoos have won that event's national title.  In fact, there weren't many races this year where our 1V8 didn't win.  Whenever they faced off against the nation's top teams, they came out ahead.  At both the NCAA and ACC championships, the Hoos trailed heading into the 1V8 race, where a victorious result clinched the win.  At the NCAA's, in fact, they won by practically a boat length.  Not even close.

So you can look at this nomination one of two ways: a vote for Thorston could just be a vote for the whole team, but she's got a whole raft of accomplishments of her own, too.

Meredith Cavalier - Women's swimming - Freestyle/backstroke


Team accomplishments:

-- 10th ACC championship
-- 17th at NCAA championships

Personal accomplishments:

-- 200-yard backstroke ACC champion
-- Member of three ACC champion relay teams
-- 2012 Olympic Trials qualifier in 100- and 200-yard backstroke
-- Swam three events at NCAA championships (100, 200 backstroke, 50-yard freestyle)
-- 8th-place (All-American) finish in 200 backstroke

I have a policy of only choosing one athlete per sport for COTY nominations, which makes it ridiculously difficult every year to choose just one lady swimmer.  They all tend to dominate the ACC championships and go to the NCAAs swimming multiple events.  First-place finishes are routine.

What it means is that whoever ends up as the nominee always has a strong case.  This year, Meredith Cavalier might not quite be the most decorated swimmer on the team (I'm not saying she isn't, I honestly don't know) but she's clearly among the elite, and what stands out is her versatility.  Even individual medley swimmers (all four strokes in one race) usually have a specialty stroke.  She's one of the best freestylers on the team, but she's also one of the best backstrokers in UVA history - her 200 back time is a hair away from being a UVA record.  Cavalier has swam (swum? swimmed?) in both ends of UVA's medley relay (not at the same time) as a backstroker and freestyler.  And of UVA's 12 qualifiers for the national championships, Cavalier was one of only four to qualify in two separate individual strokes.  And if all that isn't enough for you, you really could do worse than to literally vote for a Cavalier for Cavalier of the Year.

Friday, June 15, 2012

an open letter to helen dragas, rector of the board of visitors of the university of virginia

Dear Rector,

Congratulations.

Your weeks - perhaps months - of hard work have paid off.  You have succeeded in removing President Teresa Sullivan from office, and soon the search will begin for a new president, one that matches your "bold and visionary" outlook for our esteemed University.  It may or may not have occurred to you that the faculty and students at the core of the University's mission - that of educating young minds - might resist this change; nevertheless, your "bold and visionary" actions have borne fruit.  Like a general in the army of a banana republic, you gathered your cohorts and lackeys, corralled as much support as you could through whatever means necessary, and swiftly commenced your coup d'etat.

In doing so, you, from your unelected position, have succeeded in placing yourself above the faculty, students, and administration of the University that you are charged with governing.  The congratulations that I offer, therefore, should ring cold and hollow, if you have the sensitivity to criticism that you claim.

It seems, however, that you do not.  You "hear," but do not listen.  Though the faculty has called for transparency in this matter - a reasonable request considering the momentousness of the decision - you have deliberately turned a deaf ear, hiding behind reasons of decorum and "sound employment practices" - your words.  As if it were sound employment practice to suddenly and shockingly demand a popular and effective president step down without offering a reason for your behavior.

As if it were also sound employment practice not to fully vet a candidate before hiring her.  For, whatever our opinions of Teresa Sullivan, it appears that, less than two years after taking the position, she did not meet your standards.  Why, then, was she hired in the first place?  And why should we, as you've asked, wait to judge this decision until a new hire is found, when by your own standards your hiring practices are suspect?  We, the alums, do not think you bungled that hire, but apparently, you do; why, then, should we believe you'll do better this time around?

In short, your conduct and the conduct of the BOV has been disgraceful.  You have been asked for clarity by the people you serve: the faculty, the students, the alumni, and you have rejected all.  You have placed your politics and yourself above those you serve.  It is my understanding that your term ends on July 1 and it is my fervent hope that your appointment will not be renewed.  In fact I expect that it will not, as the governor cannot possibly be so politically blind as to endorse such a politically poisonous action as you have taken.  Nevertheless, your resignation would be greatly appreciated.  The BOV will meet on Monday, June 18, at 3:00 to discuss candidates for an interim president; the purpose of this letter is to request your resignation as rector and your appointment to the board before that time.  You owe it to the next president, for there will be a natural distrust of any hire you make; they will of course be seen by some as the product of a tainted process at best, and at worst, the puppet of a board that could not tolerate backbone from those it hires.  I admit that it is a short-notice request, but you must also admit that it is more time than you gave President Sullivan.

Regards,

Brendan

***************************************************************

Commence commentary.  Obviously, Helen Dragas is unfit to lead or even participate in the search for a new president; even if she had good reasons, like catching Teresa Sullivan streaking the Lawn yelling "fuck this place" in a bath-salt-addled zombie binge, she has mishandled the process from Day 1.  The people who actually constitute the university deserve better than what she has offered.  It has already rolled one head; the head of the Darden School Board of Trustees, Peter Kiernan, resigned his position over his role in the firing, which largely involved gathering support towards the coup d'etat and keeping it all a secret.  Like the old joke about a thousand lawyers at the bottom of the sea, it's a good start.

It shouldn't stop there.  Dragas and her assistant rector, Mark Kington, should be next to go.  Neither should be involved in any way in naming the next school president.  If their actions thus far haven't been bad enough, the mere fact that they badly underestimated the reaction should be enough to prove how out of tune they are with their constituency.  (Perhaps "subjects" would be a better term, as none of us ever elected them.)  We can't throw the whole BOV overboard, of course, but the removal of the generals should send enough of a message to the rest of the board as to the acceptability of their actions.

This theory about the ouster suggests that it boiled down to Sullivan's resistance to allowing Goldman Sachs to offer online education programs through the University.  This was also alluded to by the Hook in a brilliantly titled article named Cabal Hall.  I have no idea if this is true; I have no idea if even Goldman Sachs has anything to do with anything.  If there is any truth to it, it'd be eerily reminiscent of Pixar's film Ratatouille, in which the nasty bad-guy chef wanted to use the name of the elite Parisian restaurant to serve TV dinners.

I might finally add that the following sentences are as disgraceful as anything:
Mr. Caputo will be participating from 340 Lake Avenue, Greenwich, CT 06830. Mr. Fralin will be participating from 2917 Penn Forest Boulevard, Roanoke, VA 24018. Mr. Kirk will be participating from Third Security LLC, 735 Market Street – 3rd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103.
That's the list of members of the BOV that will participate in the Monday meeting via teleconference.  I fervently hope none of these three were among those who joined Helen Dragas in her coup.  To fire our president and then not even be bothered to be there in person to name a replacement would be absolutely appalling.  Especially if you only have to drive in from Roanoke.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

recruiting board update

We will see if I can go another day or two without turning this space into a mouth-foaming rant about the ham-handed and misguided (to put it nicely) firing of Teresa Sullivan.  I'm betting not.  Meantime, here is your weekly recruiting board update.

-- Added DE Jack English to orange.  English represents (most likely) this year's sole "camp commit," a player who earns an offer through his performance in front of the coaches.  VT offered at their camp, we offered at ours, English is a UVA legacy, and so: commitment #10.

-- Added WR Brian Lemelle to yellow.

-- Moved DE Dajaun Drennon from yellow to red.

-- Removed WR Paul Harris and DE Naim Mustafaa from red.  The latter committed to UGA; the former is "focused" on a ton of other schools which are not UVA.

English's commitment tightens up the space left for people outside the core group that the coaches are pursuing.  There isn't a lot of discretionary space left, if any at all.  Of the players in blue, pretty much all of them have a reserved spot if they want it.  So do a lot of the green ones, especially, say, Kirk Garner, Buddy Brown, or Larenz Bryant.  And there really is a decent chance we end up with every single one of those prospects in blue.  If that happened I would do the happy dance of happiness, but it would also mean room for, like, two or three more players in the class.  So I don't know who the next commitment will be, but I bet it won't be a surprise.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

the recruit: Sadiq Olanrewaju

Name: Sadiq Olanrewaju
Position: OT
Hometown: Rockville, MD
School: Salisbury School (CT)
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 280

24/7: 84; three stars; #76 OT; CT #5
ESPN: 75; three stars; #92 OT; CT# 3; Atlantic #115
Rivals: 5.7; three stars; #42 OT; CT# 3
Scout: three stars; #33 OT

Other offers: West Virginia, UConn, Rutgers, Temple

Less than a week after Brendan Marshall broke the ice on the 2013 class, Mike London "struck again" as they like to say in recruiting parlance.  London offered Sadiq Olanrewaju in early March; his recruitment began to really hit its upswing shortly after as other East Coast schools started rolling in.  Then, just as quickly as it started for Olanrewaju, it ended - it turns out that UVA was basically his dream school.  I quote from Rivals and Scout: "You can ask any of my friends. Since late in my freshman year, I've always talked about attending Virginia." ... "It was kind of my No. 1 going into the whole process."

Olanrewaju probably would also have gotten offers from at least Boston College and Maryland had he not cut it short, and more eventually.  He's got a prototypical tackle body that colleges covet, standing 6'5" or 6'6" depending on who you ask, and he carries his 280 pounds extremely well.  ESPN also notes his "superior arm length."  There's no question he's got the physical tools.

That scouting report goes on to emphasize Olanrewaju's "dominant" run blocking skills but implies that his pass blocking needs work - though he has the tools to make it happen.  He's quick on his feet and a pretty good pass rusher on defense (but don't get any ideas - he's too big for a DE in London's scheme.)  It's not a surprising scouting report - pass blocking is so much about technique while run blocking can be done in high school by outmuscling your man.

Part of the reason Olanrewaju was so high on the Hoos from the start is because he's actually much more local than Connecticut.  He's originally from Maryland, and upon his transfer to Salisbury he reclassified back a year; this discussion implies it was at least partially because he started high school very young.  A poster claims he entered his freshman year at age 13, so even though he'll be a fifth-year senior, it seems he's really just getting back to his age group.

This is a light year for offensive linemen in the recruiting class.  UVA will probably only take three.  As of now, Olanrewaju is the only one, but I expect one more tackle to be added.  All that said, Olanrewaju's path to playing time could be a short one.  As with every O-line recruit, a redshirt year is ideal, but chances are good that in 2013 we'll be breaking in two new starters, which also means two new backups.  Those starters will probably (hopefully) be some combination of Sean Cascarano, Kelby Johnson, and Jay Whitmire.  Depending on who settles in at guard and who at tackle, the freshmen of 2013 will be lurking just outside the depth chart.  But Cascarano graduates after that year.  So there's a real shot at early playing time for this class's freshmen, and Olanrewaju could appear on the depth chart as soon as his redshirt freshman year and probably not much later than the year following.

Monday, June 11, 2012

weekend review

File another one in the we-can't-have-nice-things-around-here department: on Sunday, the UVA Board of Visitors announced it had fired our very popular and very new school president.**  Teresa Sullivan will be president only just long enough to wrap things up and hand off to an interim president, and will be gone before the students get back to school.

The BOV's email to alums shed as much light on the decision as a broken flashlight, which was disappointment piled on top of disappointment because when you're going to fire a highly popular school president, "philosophical differences" just don't cut it.  Naturally the BOV is in a tough place there because it's bad form to air the dirty laundry, but claiming a need for "bold and visionary" leadership is the academic equivalent of "giving 110% percent."  At least when a coach is fired, you know bloody well why and don't need to be told.  A slightly stronger explanation would've been appreciated here, and the impromptu press conference as posted on YouTube is so useless in that department that I'm not even going to bother linking; it would imply that watching it would not be a waste of 3:47, and that would be false.

Fortunately, the UVA staff was treated to that slightly stronger explanation, and that too was posted online.  Cutting through the bullshit essentially reveals the BOV thought Sullivan wasn't a strong enough fundraiser.  A fair enough reason, I suppose, to make a change in leadership, but it speaks to a giant failure in leadership (and not in the president's chair) when you hire a president while the economy is gasping for breath, and you can't look two years into the future and see the need for fundraising.  Perhaps they were spoiled by John Casteen, who could've tossed two quarters at a homeless guy and extracted a donation pledge of five dollars in the process.

What the BOV is basically saying here, then, is that the president is not an academician, but a money factory.  There's hardly any need to hire a PhD for the position if you can't appreciate Sullivan's efforts in that regard; she even taught a class herself, and her husband is a law professor who was added to the faculty.  As a leader, you couldn't have asked for better.  Sullivan didn't see herself as a resident of the ivory tower.  Anecdote: when I learned she was hired at UVA, being that she came from Michigan I posted a question on the U-M boards to see if there'd be anyone who knew anything about her.  As it turned out I accidentally broke the news to her staff, a member of whom had nothing but glowing words about the kind of boss she was.  By all reports she was no less a boss - and accessible president to boot - at UVA.  These qualities, apparently, do not go appreciated.  Or they do as long as they're accompanied by the ability to gladhand your way to El Dorado.

This is an athletic blog, so here's the athletic viewpoint: UVA just fired its own biggest fan.  Sullivan was spotted in Baltimore when the lacrosse team was winning a national title, and in Omaha when the diamond nine were in the College World Series.  She was there to congratulate the rowing team on its national titles, and she was there to congratulate the club polo team on theirs.  The club polo team.  She said at her introductory press conference that a school president ought to know the difference between a 4-3 and a 3-4 defense, and she frequented the JPJA on winter nights.  Maybe she should've spent all that time fundraising instead.  Worse yet: in the sports world we're at a time when UVA's sports teams need a strong voice helping to keep the ACC together and position the school for the best should the worst happen.  And right as the ACC is having an identity crisis, we have no advocate anymore.  Let's hope the summer passes uneventfully.

**They used the same wording that the school did in announcing the departure of Dave Leitao: "mutual agreement" to step down etc. etc.  Gee, how lucky we are at UVA that the people we no longer want to employ just up and fire themselves.

************************************************************

-- Sean Doolittle, who was for UVA baseball fans what we thought was the pinnacle of moundsman prowess until Danny Hultzen came along, made his MLB debut for the Oakland A's this past week.  I wouldn't consider the news that notable - over the next few years we should have a decent showing of MLB debuts, almost all of them with Seattle - but the way he's announced his presence is something else.  On Tuesday he struck out the first three hitters he faced.  On Friday he faced four batters and let two of them score; on Sunday, he faced six and struck out five.  Nine Ks in four innings; if Nolan Ryan had kept up that pace he'd've recorded over 12,000 of them.

Chances are that when the AL gets its book on Doc, he'll come back down to earth.  For now, though, it's the kind of debut any pitcher would love.

-- Another decent, down-to-earth read on the FSU/Big 12 situation.  You'll notice a lot of that furor has died down, and thank heaven for that.  Andy Haggard, the blabbermouth chairman of the FSU board of trustees, is now the former chairman, and the new chairman is being a lot more prudent in his words.  The Big 12 meetings came and went last week and expansion was not on the menu.  It would seem, if previous guesses were accurate, that Texas got its way yet again.  Surprise.

This week and next, more BCS meetings are being held, and it won't be long before some substantive announcements appear instead of the half-assed leaks designed to gin up public support and leverage for one side or another in whatever debate they're having.  Expect the announcement to set off at least another round of speculation, but keep your eye on how Notre Dame is treated in the deal.

-- You can tell this is a blog about the University of Virginia because I just used six paragraphs on the change of occupancy at Carr's Hill.  How many SEC fans know who their school's president is, and of that number, what percentage cares?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

FOV Cavalier of the Year: #3/#4

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as the Cavalier of the Year. What are the criteria for the award? You decide; that's the beauty. I nominate the 12 athletes that I think have been the most outstanding during the latest season of UVA athletics, and provide a short summary of their accomplishments. You choose the winner in a poll that goes up after all 12 have had their moment in the spotlight. In fact, there are 13 this year, and the list of nominations is here.

Over the next few weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University this year. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; part of the point is to emphasize that UVA is about excellence across the
entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines. The previous winners are Danny Hultzen (2009, 2011) and Diego Restrepo (2010); today's athlete's are Briggy Imbriglia and Jarmere Jenkins.  (And yes, tomorrow I'll have my outspoken-as-always opinion on the rather unwelcome change of leadership on Carr's Hill.)
Briggy Imbriglia - Men's diving


Team accomplishments:

-- ACC champions (15th title)
-- 15th at NCAA championships

Personal accomplishments:

-- School-record meet score of 376.50
-- NCAA Zone A champion (platform diving)
-- UVA's first-ever diving all-American with HM mention at NCAAs
-- Academic all-ACC (second selection)

We like to debate things like, "is so-and-so the best athlete since such-and-such?"  Fill in your own blanks.  This year that particular mad-lib was filled in with Mike Scott and Ralph Sampson.  That was because there aren't a whole lot of people willing to get in heated Internet debates about the swim team.

Even if there were, there'd be no need for the debate: UVA has never had a better diver than Francis Joseph "Briggy" Imbriglia.  And it's not even close.  The school record that he broke during the ACC championships was his own that he set a few weeks prior.  Historically, UVA's men's swim team has won its championships despite never getting any points from its divers; Imbriglia's 13 points at the ACC meet this year went a long way toward the narrow margin of victory.

He's also only the second UVA diver to compete in the NCAAs (the first in about 30 years) and the first to compete at the NCAAs in all three diving events - 1 meter, 3 meter, and platform.  Also first to win a zone (regional) championship etc. etc.  Point is, most everything Briggy Imbriglia does these days has never been done by a UVA athlete before, and he's no slouch on the academic side either.  It makes him one of the easiest choices I've ever had for a COTY nomination.

Jarmere Jenkins - Men's tennis - #1 singles


Team accomplishments:

-- ACC champions (6th consecutive year)
-- Reached NTI (indoor) national semifinals
-- Reached NCAA final

Personal accomplishments:

-- Three-time ACC Player of the Week
-- ITA singles all-American
-- USTA Futures doubles champion at Plantation Open (with Drew Courtney)
-- Winner of VNB Challenger Sportsmanship Award
-- 17-3 record at #1 singles

The men's tennis team is so damn good that it's practically automatic they have a representative.  And there are a lot of good choices.  Freshman Mitchell Frank, for example, was the ITA Rookie of the Year, and had the team's best record.

But I have a policy of only one per team, and the long list of quality possibilities means that the men's tennis nominee is a standout player every year.  Not only was Jenkins a team captain who played #1 singles almost the whole year, he took part in a lot of "extracurricular" tennis tournaments too.  For example, Jenkins (as well as women's tennis coach Mark Guilbeau) helped the US to victory in the 2011 Master'U BNP Paribas Championship, an intercollegiate international tennis tournament.  Jenkins is the first UVA player ever selected by USTA to participate.

Jenkins also plays on the USTA Futures Tour, where he and Drew Courtney took the doubles title at the Plantation Open, Jenkins's second doubles title on the tour.  And in the world of actual NCAA competition, Jenkins finished the year ranked #4 in the country, with his best win of the year coming against Duke's Henrique Cunha in a two-set sweep - Cunha was ranked #4 at the time and finished the year #5.  Every year there's a strong COTY entry from the tennis courts, and it's no different this time around.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

FOV Cavalier of the Year: #1/#2

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as the Cavalier of the Year. What are the criteria for the award? You decide; that's the beauty. I nominate the 12 athletes that I think have been the most outstanding during the latest season of UVA athletics, and provide a short summary of their accomplishments. You choose the winner in a poll that goes up after all 12 have had their moment in the spotlight.  In fact, there are 13 this year, and the list of nominations is here.

Over the next few weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University this year. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; part of the point is to emphasize that UVA is about excellence across the
entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines. The previous winners are Danny Hultzen (2009, 2011) and Diego Restrepo (2010); today's athlete's are Josie Owen and Will Bates.

Josie Owen - Women's lacrosse - Attack


Team accomplishments:

-- 17th consecutive NCAA tournament selection
-- ACC semifinals

Personal accomplishments:

-- Tewaaraton Award nominee
-- IWCLA All-American
-- All-ACC team
-- ACC all-tournament team
-- CoSIDA academic all-district

If the goal of this award is to celebrate the kind of high-achievement scholar-athlete that the University of Virginia churns out on a pretty routine basis, we could hardly have picked a better example to start the process with than Josie Owen.  Named a team captain, she led the women's lacrosse team in goals and assists (42 and 35, respectively), shooting percentage (.538), and even draw controls with 46.  Owen was also among the team leaders in ground balls and caused turnovers, despite playing offense and not defense.

Naturally this got her plenty of recognition.  Owen was an easy choice for ACC all-everything; she was second in the ACC in assists and in points per game, the only player to appear in the top eight in both, and you can throw draw controls into her top-eight listings as well.  Quite possibly the most well-rounded star in the conference.  This is the kind of thing that made her one of the 25 players in the country nominated for the Tewaaraton Award - lacrosse's Heisman.

And we wouldn't be UVA if we didn't take pride in accomplishments in the classroom, either; in the fall, Owen was named an IWCLA academic all-American in the fall, and earned all-district academic honors from CoSIDA (the sports information directors' association.)  With her versaility on the field and success in the classroom, Josie Owen might just be the most well-rounded of this year's nominees.

Will Bates - Men's soccer - Forward


Team accomplishments:

-- 31st consecutive NCAA tournament selection (longest active streak in the nation)
-- ACC semifinals (and eliminated Wake Forest for like the fiftieth time in the last five years to get there.  UVA soccer : Wake soccer :: Duke lacrosse : UVA lacrosse.)

Personal accomplishments:

-- Team-high 14 goals
-- First-team all-ACC
-- Second-team NSCAA all-region

Maybe the best measure of a player's value to a team is what happens when he's forced to watch from the sidelines.  Will Bates earned those accolades and scored 14 goals this season despite sitting out the final six games of the Hoos' 21-game season with a year-ending injury.  Without him, UVA lost to Boston College and couldn't muster even a single goal in their final two games.

With him, the UVA soccer team was tough to stop.  At times - if I dare use this word pertaining to soccer - explosive.  Bates scored the game-winning goal in the 84th minute against Maryland, who at the time was #2 in the country and undefeated, and assisted on the other in a 2-1 win.  He was ACC player of the week for that.  His 14 goals were not only team-leading, they were the most in a season by any Hoo since Yannick Reyering also scored 14 in 2005......and this was with less than three-quarters of a season, mind you.  Nobody has scored more than 14 since Alecko Eskandarian was stalking opposing goalies and scoring a whopping 25 in 2002.

There's no doubt at this point that Bates has established himself as the dominant Cavalier soccer player of his time, and when you do that you're an obvious choice for a COTY nomination.  Let's hope next year we get to see him healthy and unimpeded.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

recruiting board update

Did I say that we'd have at least one commitment this week that I could move to the orange section?  I did.  I sort of expected that to happen because of the junior day event, not because of another totally out of left field verbal.

Well, not totally.  LaChaston Smith has been on the board for a few weeks.  Still, his commitment is a surprise.  A very pleasant one, though; Smith is a high-caliber recruit, and his presence won't change our pursuit nor our position with other high-caliber linebackers.  It's like playing blackjack and getting a $100 bonus for getting three sevens in a row.  I did that once and it was awesome.  So's this.

Not all the week's developments were that awesome, so read on.  As ever, here's the board itself.

-- Moved LB LaChaston Smith from yellow to orange.  A rare move, but I like it, and not just because we added another quality linebacker to go with Micah Kiser.  No, if players never committed from the yellow section, there really wouldn't be much point in having it.

-- Removed DT Maurice Hurst from blue.  I guess in a way I could say the same about this move, but it's a lot suckier that way.  Really, I always had this feeling Hurst would commit to Michigan (which he did); there were reports brimming with confidence from both sides (UVA and Michigan, that is) but Hurst had visited UVA and not Michigan.  When you're in that great of shape without a visit yet, the visit is a clincher more often than not.  The only thing that surprised me was the speed of the commitment.

-- Removed DT Henry Poggi from yellow.  Also to Michigan, and his other finalist was Alabama.  I like to see this, of course, but if you'd asked me my ideal scenario I'd'v'e sent Poggi to U-M and Hurst to UVA.

-- Removed DE Tashawn Bower from red.  Bower's top ten doesn't have UVA in it, and that came out a few weeks ago, but I'd read he might visit for the junior day.  He didn't.  So that puts an end to that story.

-- Added LBs Yannick Ngakoue and Reggie McGee and DE Shaun McGee to yellow.

Also - finally - ESPN dropped most of the rest of the evaluations they'd been sitting on.  Which means that stars now fill almost the entire board.  The biggest surprise: Corwin Cutler is in the newly-minted ESPN 300, and our highest-rated prospect.  Higher than Micah Kiser, higher than Tim Harris.  Weird for a guy with no offers but the one he committed to - and ESPN acknowledges that lack of offers in their writeup and says "haters gonna hate, this dude's good."  Last year, Maurice Canady got a lot of people really excited because he put up some freakish stats as Varina's emergency quarterback, but I was a little more reserved because Canady has always been bound for defensive back.  The athleticism will transfer, the skills do not.  But Cutler is a QB all the way - it'll be interesting to see if he can have a Canady-like season and validate the very glowing report.  One strike against ESPN, though: Cutler is listed as coming from Indian River, but he transferred to Ocean Lakes, where he played last season.

Next major milestone is football camp, which may or may not see any kind of action.  There aren't but about 9-11 more spots left in this class, and a few are reserved - there's no way the coaches recruit over Taquan Mizzell or Wyatt Teller, for example.  Still, I sort of get the feeling that most of our recruiting will be wrapped up by the fall.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

2011-2012 Cavalier of the Year nominations

As I mentioned yesterday, Friday will mark four years of existence for this tiny little corner of the Internet.  Four years is a full span of college eligibility.  Four years of writing this blog means I've been doing it longer than I was actually a student.  (No, ya jerk, I didn't drop out - it takes less than four calendar years to finish a four-year degree is all.)

Every year, the traditional birthday celebration is really a celebration of the outstanding athletes wearing the Virginia uniform.  Ours is an athletic department that strives for excellence in every field (and court, pool, and so on.)  That's something to take pride in - that we don't have a school with an attitude that most of these sports exist for the sole purpose of fulfilling a requirement so we can keep playing football, like certain other schools.  Nor are we forced to slash and burn the budget and put an end to scholarship opportunities like certain other schools.  Every year, we highlight the achievements of the best of the best by nominating and then selecting the Cavalier of the Year.  These are this year's nominations, in alphabetical order:

Brittany Altomare - Womens' golf
Will Bates - Mens' soccer
Morgan Brian - Womens' soccer
Meredith Cavalier - Womens' swimming
Briggy Imbriglia - Mens' diving
Jarmere Jenkins - Mens' tennis
Chase Minnifield - Football
Josie Owen - Womens' lacrosse
Mike Scott - Mens' basketball
Steele Stanwick - Mens' lacrosse
Matt Snyder - Wrestling
Sidney Thorston - Rowing
Keith Werman - Baseball

Here's how this works.  The nominations are my choice.  There are 12 every year.  (EDIT: If Mike London can take a mulligan and add another deserving name to the list of team captains, then I get a mulligan too.  I've added another name to the list, and we have 13 noms this year.  It's a very deserving athlete.  I won't tell you who.  If you've been following really closely, maybe you can figure it out, and I don't care if you do, but just to keep things on the level I'll refrain from saying who the 13th name is.)  The winner is your choice.  Over the next couple weeks there'll be posts detailing the selections and what makes them a deserving candidate.  They'll be in random order and two at a time.  After that's done, I open up the voting for another couple weeks, and you choose the athlete.

Past winners are as follows: 2009 and 2011: Danny Hultzen, and 2010: Diego Restrepo.  There's no prize, unfortunately - no plaques or trophies or red-carpet ceremonies in New York.  Yet.  The only thing that happens is a silly photoshop of the winner.  Still, it's a fun exercise.  The first two profiles will drop on Thursday.  Let the debates begin.

Monday, June 4, 2012

baseball postmortem

So it's the offseason.  Not just the football offseason or the basketball offseason but the offseason.  It began last night when, twice, the UVA nine failed to capitalize on late-inning opportunities to score at least a game-tying run, and lost by one.  In both games, the overarching story was an early-game inning of doom, followed by long stretches of shutout pitching while the bats tried to claw back in, one run at a time.

I mean, you can probably guess what I'm gonna say about this really.  If you think it includes "rebuilding year," "hosted a regional anyway," and "helluva job just getting to this point anyway considering the absolute decimation of last year's team" then you're very astute.  I mean, some teams in rebuilding years don't even make the tournament (coughTexascough) and most settle for a regional 2 or 3 seed.  I'd've liked to see, say, Keith Werman's career end with another trip to Omaha, but given the obvious flaws in this team, that might fall under the realm of "getting greedy."

With the MLB draft ongoing, we'll shortly learn what the odds are of keeping certain key players.  Of course the seniors are gone, and there are only three, but they all played huge roles: Keith Werman, Shane Halley, and Justin Thompson.  That's the second baseman, closer, and probably the most dependable middle reliever, at least for a good long midseason stretch.  Plus it's my policy to assume all the three-plus-year players (juniors, redshirt juniors, and redshirt sophomores) are gone too, but that's not really the case.  I think what we need is a quick look at who's eligible to leave via the draft:

-- Definitely staying:**

INF Rob Amaro (rSo.)
C Chace Mitchell (Jr.)
RHP Joel Effertz (Jr.)
LHP Aaron Stull (Jr.)

Of course, the reason they're not getting drafted is because scouts never got to see them.  The most likely to make an impact next year is probably one of the pitchers, especially if they can carve a niche as a bullpen arm.  Effertz failed to win a starting job, either on the weekends or weekdays, but should have at least an outside chance to try again.  Mitchell lost the catching competition to Nate Irving, who's not giving it up.

-- Could stay:

OF Colin Harrington (rSo.)
UT Reed Gragnani (Jr.)
RHP Whit Mayberry (Jr.)
1B Jared King (rJr.)
RHP Scott Silverstein (rJr.)

Let's not act surprised if anyone from this list signs with an MLB team.  But let's also not act surprised if some of them go totally undrafted.  Mayberry especially - teams aren't real likely to just jump on a guy fresh off Tommy John surgery.  Silverstein is not especially draftable; his ERA ballooned to 4.48 and worse, he walked too many hitters.  King had a hot start, hitting in the very high .300s after the first few weeks, but his batting average flopped to .263 by season's end.  He struck out far too often, although he also drew just a bazillion walks.  (51, to be exact.)

Of this list, King is the most likely to be drafted and leave.  He could raise his stock precipitously next year if he hits like we know he can, but he's also got the leverage this year.  Mayberry is the most likely to stay, his money-making year having been totally derailed by arm trouble.  Gragnani, too, dealt with scout-scaring injuries.  Harrington is the wild card.  He's a top fielder who could play either corner outfield position in the pros, or even be tried at perhaps second or third base, and he's a very good contact hitter.  An MLB team will probably find those skills useful.  But he's also in the enviable spot of having another leverage year next year if he passes on this one, meaning he can hold out for the perfect deal.

-- Probably gone:

3B Stephen Bruno (rSo.)
RHP Branden Kline (Jr.)
SS Chris Taylor (Jr.)

The only thing working against Bruno is his size.  He stands only 5'9", and that's keeping in mind that every height listed on official rosters is a lie fudged.  He absolutely lit it up at the plate, especially in the second half of the year, and finished with a .370 batting average, 23 doubles, 6 homers, and a .983 OPS.

Taylor also has the necessary pro tools and had a good enough year to be highly draftable.  Kline was maddeningly inconsistent sometimes, but scouts will love his competitiveness and his stuff, and if they can harness both and put a little healthy weight on him, they'll find a #3 starter in the bigs.  I'm not counting on any of these guys coming back.

**Keeping in mind that when I say "staying" it's in reference to draftability only.  There are other reasons someone might leave, obviously, and I don't have that crystal ball handy and never will.

The thing about this year's draft is the new MLB rule that really cracks down on huge signing offers.  Teams have a cap they can spend and if they go too far over that cap, they risk losing first-round draft picks for as many as the next three years.  So you'd better really like someone if you're going to offer over-slot money.  Folks are very curious as to what the effect will be on the college game.  My best guess: More high schoolers will choose college, because teams won't be able to offer so many huge contracts to go marinate in single-A ball for a while.  But more juniors will leave.  Even if picked in like the 40th round.  If the frugality domino-effects that far down the line, college seniors will get offered basically nothing - it's always been a take-it-or-leave-it deal, and now even more so as teams scrimp for money to use elsewhere.  Juniors will want to leave while they still have any negotiating power at all.

Our worst-case scenario for 2013 is replacing the whole infield.  It's likely we'll need at least three.  Best stab at a 2013 lineup:

C - Nate Irving
1B - Jared King
2B - Reed Gragnani
SS - Brandon Cogswell
3B - Nick Howard
LF - Derek Fisher
CF - Brandon Downes
RF - Mike Papi
DH - Kenny Towns

That doesn't account much for incoming freshmen, although there aren't many position players in the class.  It's very pitcher-heavy - George Ragsdale is really the one name to remember who might fill an infield slot.  That could be third base, as Howard's future could easily be on the mound.  (Or second base with Gragnani taking the hot corner.)  Downes usurped Mitchell Shifflett's center field position as time went on in the season; even though Shifflett's hitting wasn't bad, Downes clearly provides the superior bat.

On the mound, only Artie Lewicki will really have a weekend job nailed down.  Mayberry will clearly be in the mix, as long as he's healthy.  A closer will need to be determined, which could well be Kyle Crockett.  Silverstein, if still around, probably will need to re-earn a rotation job, and he'll have tough competition from the freshman class, particularly from Nathan Kirby and Josh Sborz.  Kirby, you'll remember, was a potential top-ten pick (not top ten rounds - top ten overall) and was so adamant on matriculating at UVA that he refused to go through MLB's medical screening process.

Sometime this month, as I usually do, I'll scrape together some mini-profiles of the incoming recruits.  And as usually happens, some of them may not show up, having decided by the August deadline to take the money and go pro.  Hopefully this year it'll go like I said, and our recruiting classes won't be so decimated.

Also, tomorrow we kick off the traditional FOV birthday celebration.  I'm afraid we can't hold a candle to the Queen's diamond jubilee, but this week is this blog's fourth birthday, so we'll party in the usual fashion.  I'll let you be surprised tomorrow if you don't know how this works.

Friday, June 1, 2012

the recruit: Brendan Marshall

Name: Brendan Marshall
Position: QB
Hometown: Gaithersburg, MD
School: Our Lady of Good Counsel
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 210

24/7: 83; three stars; #46 pro-style QB; MD #27
ESPN: 76; three stars; #29 pro-style QB; MD #14; Atlantic #70
Rivals: 5.6; three stars
Scout: three stars; #49 QB

Other offers: California

Bill Lazor likes to keep the quarterback cupboard very well stocked, and take at least one every recruiting cycle.  (Often two, as we've seen.)  That particular box was checked very early this year, and could've been checked even earlier if things had fallen into place faster.

With Mike Rocco pretty well entrenched and Greyson Lambert as part of the 2012 class (not to mention Matt Johns) the UVA quarterback situation wasn't really amenable to pulling in a top-level prospect this year.  The coaches went after the big three instate guys - Hackenberg, Burns, and Hodges - but the former two quickly committed out of state.  When the coaches started realizing that Bucky Hodges was going to VT, they went for their next target: Marshall.

"Whitey" Marshall comes to us from one of those places that you always want to have a presence: Good Counsel.  They were beyond a doubt the best team in the DC area last year and might be again this year.  Last year it was their offense that led them to success - or at least got all the credit for it.  Marshall was the new guy on the block (replacing previous starter Zach Dancel), and he had a ton of weapons at his disposal.  Teams tried to shut down his running game and see what kind of stuff he was made of, and he was up to the task.

Even so, Marshall didn't have to throw much for Good Counsel to win.  When he did, he impressed, but with guys like Wes Brown and Stefon Diggs around him, Marshall only needed to throw about 12 times a game, and didn't put up mindblowing stats as a result.  This year might be a better test of his abilities; Brown and Diggs are gone, and though he's got guys like Andre Levrone (another UVA commit) to replace them, the truth is that Good Counsel's offense doesn't have the eyepopping talent it used to.  (The defense is completely loaded, though, so I'll be surprised if they don't again go undefeated.)

Plainly enough, Marshall is a pocket passer.  He doesn't look the part of an athlete and given the lack of any mention of athleticism whatsoever in his ESPN scouting report, it's probably not present.  That report is full of praise for the technical aspects of Marshall's game: "takes pride in his drops, footwork and ability to freeze defenders," "very good at reading coverage," and so on.  He doesn't have the zing on his throws that causes scouts to reach into their pockets for that fourth star, but he can lay it in there beautifully.

Those scouts are pretty well in agreement as to Marshall's abilities, as it turns out.  ESPN appears higher on him than the others, but they're way behind the others in the number of prospects they've rated and there'll probably be some that move ahead of Marshall and place him right in line with the other services.   Had he not committed so soon - he dropped barely a month after Signing Day - he'd certainly have garnered a few more offers, mostly from teams who didn't get their first choice at QB.  As it is he really only got the Cal one, and depending on which source you read, maybe also Stanford and Syracuse.  (The Stanford one is not that likely unless it came a looong time ago - that's where Ryan Burns went.)

You know how the depth chart is in front of Marshall.  When he gets here next year he'll be in line behind all sorts of guys.  Mike Rocco will be a senior, Phillip Sims and probably David Watford a junior, and there'll hopefully be two redshirt freshmen as well.  ("Hopefully" because it would take either great catastrophe or great stupidity not to preserve the redshirts of Lambert and Johns.)  So Marshall might be the most galactic lock to take a redshirt that we've had in some time.

He'll still be one year behind Lambert and Johns, though, without a year of separation (which is why it was so hard to get any top-tier names.)  Looking three seasons into the future, Lambert is pretty likely to take over the starting job for a couple years, and if he doesn't, Matt Johns probably will.  And who knows who'll be signing in 2014 or 2015.  Marshall is going to have to absolutely fight tooth and claw to ever earn "the" starting job.  His technical proficiency will ensure he's always in the fight, and he could rise to top backup relatively quickly; whether he can ever take the next step and start some games probably depends on the health and learning curve of the competition.