Wednesday, November 30, 2011

View From the Stands: Swim Fans Rejoice!

                                                   Hip Hip Hooray!

Okay swim fans, is everyone here?  There's A LOT going on, good stuff.  How 'bout Urban Meyer going to Ohio State?  Wait, wrong sport........ sorry.

First up, Speedo is about to unleash it's big secret today, the Speedo Fastskin 3.  Guaranteed to make all you swimmers faster than Michael Phelps during the last 50 of a 200 fly.  It's FINA-approved so it must "look" normal.  I'll never forget everyone sitting around the Today Show in '08 looking like crosses between Aqua Man and extras from some rubber fettish film.   I noticed there's not a lot of media yet (as of midnight the night before) but there's this:

Secondly, Ryan "Jeah" Lochte has been nominated by Kelli Anderson as Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year.  It's a great article.  As a swim fan it makes me proud of "our" athletes who work so hard....usually not for the nearly the same fortune, fame and glory as say, an NFL or NBA player who is always on the cover.  This is great for the sport.  Kelli's article is here:

Lastly, 2011 AT&T Winter National Championships begin on Thursday in Atlanta.  Our very own Chris Desantis and Michael Gustafson will be there so, if not for any other reason, check it out.  They've worked really hard on their mash-up and they've got some some really hot dance moves.  The psych sheet can be found here:

Good stuff!  Yippee!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

MSU Bears Men take the Northwestern TYR Invitational

Yeah... I know what you're thinking.  Who cares about the Bears.  Right?  I understand that this blog isn't supposed to be my MSU Bears showscase or anything, but as Supreme 2nd Assistant Editor in Chief of The Swim Brief blog, I wanted to take this special chance to rub the win in Mike Gustafson's grubby little face in the hopes of starting an annual MSU vs Northwestern blog fight.

The meet was close the whole way with the two teams trading the lead down to the end, and they threw in some pretty stellar swims along the way too.  With such excellent competition, I hope my Bears head up there next year... but mostly so I have a reason to tell Mike to stick it.


Results here if you're interested.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Late Night Snack: A Feel Good Post

Sheeeeeesh.  When did things get so serious around here?  I thought I'd throw up a small warm-fuzzy for everyone to say, "WE'RE BACK!"  Happy 2011-2012 season, everyone.

This lovely little story comes to us from Howard County, Maryland.  The Columbia Association has announced a blocked-off time for "Women Only Swimming."  The need for this comes from Howard County's growing Muslim population and the fact that many Muslim women felt uncomfortable swimming in a co-ed situation but they very much wanted to swim.   The Columbia Association felt that not only Muslim women had a need for a "women's only" swim time but other women might also feel more comfortable swimming at these times for other personal reasons.  The reserved times are scheduled during "slower" parts of the day.

New York City Parks and Recreation also has "women only" swim times at the Metropolitan Recreation Center and some universities are also implementing a blocked-off time for women only.  At George Washington, some complained citing concerns over the program "infringing on other's civil liberties."

Personally, I think this is nice.  It brings a population to the pool that would otherwise be excluded.  I have always found the swimming community to be especially inclusive and this is yet another example.  There will be arguments against this, I'm sure.  I just like how the swimming community opens itself up to people from all walks of life.  Water is universal.  So throw on those "burqinis" ladies and get in the pool!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bears in Briefs: or "Why I Can't keep My Mouth Shut Anymore."

This is the proof that I was there.

Fine. I have been awakened from my stress-induced blog-hibernation. I can't keep my big fat trap shut anymore. Last month I wrote up a blog out of frustration but I didn't post it. Upon re-reading it I decided that I was being petty and I was letting the distant past taint my typically fair and balanced view of collegiate swimming.

The blog I wrote was about my beloved alma mater, the Missouri State Bears, winning the Men's side of the Show-Me Showdown, an early season meet between every college swim team, at every level, in the state of Missouri. My Bears pulled off the upset and beat the nationally ranked Missouri Tigers. Hells yeah!

There is a great rivalry there with an awesome history. Well, maybe not so awesome... the Tigers never seem to want to admit when the Bears beat them. In 1992, MU tried to cheat at the SIU invite by putting their stud sprinter in too many events and our fearless leader Jack Steck went apeshit. He is called the Bobby Knight of swimming because of days like this you know. That was Brian Hoffer's first year on the job and even after that incident I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He seemed like a nice enough guy. He backed down and we went home with the better score. Water under the bridge, right?

Then a few years later, when the new Mizzou pool was built and they hosted the first Show-Me Showdown, they were too embarrassed that their men got beat by the Bears-- so they decided to go against the meet info and score an exhibition event so that they could win a meet they had actually lost. That sent the Bears home with a bad taste in their mouth. Tiger blood tastes kind of sour I guess. Everyone there knew they won, but who do you report it to when the host team changes the rules?

Ya know, if my school had just built me a big, fancy multi-million dollar pool I might feel compelled to put a spin on the results of the maiden voyage... but I probably wouldn't tell an outright lie. That just sucks.

That's okay. We got beat by MU once during my four year career as a Bear. If we won all the time it wouldn't be much of a rivalry, right?

Anyway, this year MU and MSU are back to racing again after a few seasons of well needed cool-off time. They had been refusing to match-up in recent years. Coach Rhodenbaugh and Coach Steck finally decided to set bad blood aside and resume competition. Wonderful! I have heard great things about Roddy and have already seen Mizzou move into uncharted territory in his first season. I thought maybe the Tigers had grown up a little with new leadership. Apparently not, though, as when the Bears' men won the Show-Down in October 2011 the results were awfully hard to find on-line. As a matter of fact, when I finally found them they had no scores attached. AND... two newspapers in Columbia, Missouri reported that Mizzou won both the Men's and Women's divisions of the meet!

What?! The Bears and their group of nervous underclassmen bested Mizzou by over 60 points!? Since when is that second place?

Still, I wanted to give Roddy the benefit of the doubt. I mean, it really could have been a miscommunication. We all know campus and community papers like to report about the 20 IM and the 400 breach-stroke and other stupid careless crap all the time. One of the newspapers did make a correction to their online paper the next day after taking complaints. Maybe it was just a freshman reporter being an idiot and wasn't a reflection of the MU program. Maybe Coach Rod had nothing to do with it. I typed up that blog but never posted it. I held my tongue.

But alas... No. last night my blood boiled. You see, this week Coach Steck was thrilled to be hosting Mizzou once again at Hammons Student Center Pool. It had been a few years since they dualed. With a new coach and new team, he was excited that they were going to come down to the ghetto and be forced to wonder how a team with so little advantages can be so fast. The MSU pool is an out-dated bunker compared to the MU pool. Every detail is pathetic in contrast. Their budget is a mere fraction of that of the Tigers. There were many in our state political base who wanted to keep MSU down, forcing the school to continue as SW Missouri State forever, because Mizzou Alumni were offended that a school so much less impressive could share their status as a major state school. The name change finally happened, but MSU is still considered the underdog in nearly every rivalry they have ever had. They are scrappers. They are junkyard dogs. They always are in a position to have to prove themselves.

...and Coach Rodenbaugh's troops-- they showed up at this dual that they could have played off as insignificant, fully dressed for battle. They wore brand new LZR's right out of the box! Championship meet suits! The Bears took them on in briefs!

I ain't making this up. They essentially showed up at a
knife fight with a gun-- which is a nice compliment to my Bears, I guess.

The biggest reason I am pissed?... This was stacked up to be an awesome dual on the men's side: Their 400 free and 400 medley relays were both 3:22 and 3:03 on the season. These were two very evenly matched teams and this should have been a barn-burner of a meet. If I had paid for admission, I would have felt ripped-off. Every Mizzou male had his thighs covered with compression fabric. (Well, except for the divers of course.) Every MU man and woman but one, Dominique Bouchard, had a LZR on, and Bouchard just happened to get embarrassingly reeled in on the last 50 of the 200 fly by MSU's Roni Balzam on her way to setting the pool record with her 2:04.59. MSU set another meet record on the men's side when Vitaly Baryshok swam 1:38.22 in the 200 free, one of his three individual wins of the night in a brief.

Of course, in a meet with 18 pool records set between men and women, those were lost amongst the mess of an outrageously fast dual. An unnaturally fast in-season dual, I should say. Results are here.

Sorry if I seem overly bitter. I don't want to sound like a sore loser and I certainly don't want anyone to think my attitude has anything to do with the feelings of the MSU coaching staff. I just, well... as a loyal alum, I can't help but feel robbed. When people look at the score of this dual, and see it as an overwhelming win for the Tigers, I want them to know that the playing field was not level. So many times as a mid-major, the Bears have been accused of resting and shaving and suiting up when they pull off the win against a Goliath. I want to make sure that everyone sees this. MSU is a damn good team this year, and they are capable of hanging with even a top 25 ranked team like Mizzou. This meet was closer than the score indicates, and I only wish Mizzou had the nuggets to face their ever-underdog in-state rival with all things equal. Of course, then they would have to admit that this lowly mid-major is a respectable rival, and that just wouldn't be prudent for a big time program moving into the SEC, would it?

This was dirty pool and I ain't afraid to say it. Coach Rhodenbaugh, please!... The next time you face my Bears, treat them with the respect they have been earning for decades. This rivalry deserves that. My generation, and those before and after mine, deserve better. Jack deserved better treatment in his final season. I don't claim to understand your motivation for wearing your fancy pants last night, but I can't help feeling utterly let-down with the feeling that fair play was not honored.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sound familiar?

There's so much going on today, I struggled to pick one topic. Maryland Swimming is under serious threat, a prospect that is completely terrifying. The first set of College dual meet rankings is set to be released later in the day. But you won't hear about either of those things if you turn on sports center. The sports world's gaze is firmly fixed on State College, PA. But this is a swimming blog! And still it might be the most important swimming topic of the day.

For those that haven't been following, news broke over the weekend that long time Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky would be indicted for committing sexual crimes against minors. That part of the story should be all too familiar to the swimming community, as the details of allegations against Sandusky poured out. They detailed how he used his position of authority and children's charity to get access to and abuse children.

Equally troubling are the indictments of two Penn State officials, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Vice President Gary Schultz. Both are alleged to have been given a first hand account of Sandusky having anal sex with a ten year old boy, but the only action they took was to ban Sandusky from Penn State main campus facilities. Head football coach, Joe Paterno and Mike McQueary, the graduate assistant who reported the incident to Paterno and the administration, aren't in any legal trouble, but they certainly are in moral trouble over their hesitance to do anything more than send it one step up the line.

It's both heartening and depressing to see the response. After "nothing to see here" response from Penn State president Graham Spanier, the board of trustees stepped in and seem to be moving swiftly to hold the administrators accountable. Is there even one person in a position of significant power in swimming that has taken action to hold coaches accountable? Or are they all in "nothing to see here" mode?

The masses seem to have no trouble publicly calling for the heads of Paterno and others. In swimming the response to our powerful people putting themselves before victims remains largely muted. The public outcry has already yield a pretty dramatic outcome: Paterno announced as I was writing this blog that he would be retiring at the end of the year. It may not be enough, but the thought of Paterno stepping away was pretty unthinkable a week ago.

There are certainly some positives to swimming existing mostly far out of the limelight. It keeps the majority of our athletes fairly well grounded. It means that as a college coach, I get to coach student athletes rather than running a minor league for the pros. The down side is this- there is almost no one outside of swimming to hold the most powerful people in our sport accountable. When Joe Paterno is in trouble, he has to hide from a ravenous media that wants him to answer the hard questions. When Chuck Wielgus is under fire, he gets lobbed a few softballs from Swimming World Magazine, shuts down access to anyone else and we're all supposed to forget it ever happened.

Penn State is a lesson to the swimming community- but is anyone listening?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

About those deadlines...

"If you hang up this phone, the offer is gone"

That's the line that many college prospects are facing and have faced over the last few weeks. In the cutthroat world of college recruiting, deadlines are an effective way for schools to get commitments. While the above is perhaps the most extreme example, most scholarship schools use deadlines to varying degrees. If you're a prospect or parent (or even a college coach) you may be wondering why.

The reason is simple. Most schools over-recruit. The process is similar to filling job positions. When you have one job opening, you don't only interview one candidate. You likely interview several. Ultimately you will decide who you want the most and offer them the position. They may say yes, and you can give every other applicant your regrets. Or they say no, and you move on to the next person down the line.

But the college recruiting system for swimming has a few more variables. For one, the list of openings can be somewhat fluid, depending on roster caps or minimums. And unlike most job systems where there is a somewhat structured pay range, college swimming programs are free to cut up pieces of scholarship cake however they want.

If a college coach puts a swimmer on a deadline, it is because they are interested in having that swimmer above a group of other swimmers they are currently recruiting. They want a final answer on whether they can have the swimmer so they can either move on to plan B (or C, hopefully not D). Therefore, it's easy to understand why some colleges are in such a rush. Everything else they do hinges on each particular commitment as they try to construct a recruiting class.

At the same time, I think that there is a right and wrong length for these deadlines. Deadlines like the one that led this post off or of 24 hours are unfair to the prospect making the decision. They are not against NCAA rules. They prey on the natural loss aversion of humans. Prospects are put in a position where they may be sacrificing something if they don't say yes in a very compressed time.

Whenever we negotiate with prospects at Georgia Tech, we typically set deadlines of 1-2 weeks. They are also often open for negotiation with the prospect. Sometimes I wonder if we are being naive in not setting more extreme deadlines. Are we costing ourselves in the competitive landscape? I can see the other side of the coin: extracting commitments with high pressure tactics can't always yield good long term results.

If you're reading this, where do you stand on deadlines? What is fair to the coach and what is fair to the prospect? What gets the best long term results?