Tuesday, January 1, 2013

christmas presents

Technically it's already 2013 and Christmas was a week ago, but it's still not too late to look back at the year 2012 that was, and see who got a nice pile of presents from Santa and who got.....something else.  Without much further ado, the Naughty and Nice List from 2012.

-- Teresa Sullivan.  Let's face it, the top story of 2012 didn't take place on the field or in any locker room.  It started with the email that showed up in your inbox if you're an alum, announcing President Sullivan's abrupt "resignation," and more or less ended a couple weeks later with her reinstatement.  In between was a raging firestorm that caught national media attention.  The grace and class displayed by the president at the time was exemplary.

-- Mike Scott.  Now plying his trade with the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, Scott did something at UVA that's been all too rare for Virginia fans: he lived up to his potential.  Actually, he rather exceeded it.  His transformation from emotional fireball and rebound specialist to a complete basketball player was a joy to watch, and when an ESPN columnist failed to include Scott in the conversation for national player of the year, UVA fans did it for him.  And they were backed up by KenPom, whose statguruizing placed Scott among the top ten players in the country.  That was the kind of notoriety that had been sorely missing from UVA hoops of late.

-- John Swofford.  Look, Swoff has his critics.  Sometimes they're right.  But I don't consider myself one of them.  If the ACC falls apart, it'll be difficult to blame the conference commissioner, who's been creative, and mostly successful thus far, in his attempts to hold the league together.  His success in attracting Notre Dame, a school that gives the ACC badly needed cachet, should not be overlooked.  And even though the Irish aren't technically a football member of the league, their five games a season against ACC teams is not really that far from a full schedule, and should give the ACC a few barganing chips at the all-important TV rights negotiating table, which is really where leagues are held together or destroyed.

-- Tony Bennett.  Let's take a second and acknowledge our basketball coach, who got the Hoos to the tournament probably ahead of schedule, despite watching attrition and injuries whittle his team down to six and a half scholarship players by season's end.  And this season he has them threatening to go back to the Dance, again despite a major obstacle in the form of the extreme youth of his charges and a nagging foot injury to the team's only scholarship senior.

-- Mike Rocco, pre-transfer.  Let's face it: having Phillip Sims transfer in was a potential boon for UVA's offense, but it was also a really awkward situation.  During the season, Rocco handled the see-sawing as well as anyone could have demanded.  Few quarterbacks in UVA's recent history have been jerked around as much as Rocco was.

-- Most of the ACC's presidents, both current and future.  Their statement of solidarity doesn't guarantee anything long-term about the stability of the ACC, but it was the most they could've done under the circumstances and much appreciated by those of us who like the ACC, dammit.

-- Helen Dragas.  Stipulated: that it's the Board of Visitors' job to hire and fire the school president, that UVA faces a number of challenges that are not exactly existential but must not be underestimated, and that I have no real idea whether or not Teresa Sullivan is the person to handle those challenges.  That said, Dragas's orchestration of Sullivan's resignation this summer, sans actual BOV vote, was far more reminiscent of a banana-republic military coup than the lofty ideals of American governance.  It angered practically everyone associated with the school and cast UVA in a poor national light.  The story, fortunately, had a happy ending, and one hopes the board is a little bit chastened, as well as smarter, for the experience.

-- Wallace Loh.  The University of Maryland president who engineered the Terps' move to the Big Ten flat-out admitted that the only knowledge he had of athletic conferences was that "there are games."  This is a man with a PhD from Michigan, faculty stints at Texas, Houston, Vanderbilt, Washington, has been a dean at Colorado and Washington and a provost at Iowa, and is now president of Maryland.  All of these are schools with big-time college football in big-time conferences.  This is a man who's spent 30 years with his head so far buried in ivory-tower academia, in ambitious pursuit of the position he now holds, and hasn't learned anything about the athletic organizations to which his school belongs except "there are games."  And this is the kind of person in charge of making decisions about college athletics.  (But who would certainly be appalled at the idea of a non-degree-holding football fan being in charge of any academic decisions at his school.)  The truth here really is that Jim Delany played Loh like a fiddle, and the ACC is worse off for it.

-- Mike Rocco, post-transfer.  The flip side of Rocco's good behavior during the season was that he let loose the frustration afterwards.  He wasn't speaking untruths, but even some truths are better left out of the public eye.

-- Foot bones.  And those slightly above the foot, as well, like in the ankle area.  Broken bones have sidelined Jontel Evans, put an early end to Assane Sene's UVA career, and canceled the season for Malcolm Brogdon as well.  These foot injuries represent one of the bigger threats to UVA's hoops season.

-- Mike London's clock management.  The failure to call timeout at the end of the VT game is a much-pilloried decision (for the wrong reasons, and the criticism is misguided in that it obscures a much more egregious error earlier in the sequence) but it really was little more than a symptom of a larger problem: London barely knows what he's doing at the end of a half.  Sometimes he is left without a timeout when he really needs one; other times he leaves them on the board.  At least Pete Gillen had a philosophy, however maddening.

-- Special teams.  The #1 reason why UVA did not go bowling.  And make no mistake, for all its flaws, it should have been in a bowl.  Simply beat Maryland and Wake Forest, two other non-bowl teams in the ACC, and UVA finds itself most likely in the Independence Bowl.  Not a great assignment to be sure, but better than where we found ourselves in real life.

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