NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP COMPROMISED BY STADIUM SELECTION

     Butler versus U. Conn will go down as the most poorly played NCAA basketball final in history. Butler shot an embarrassing 18.8% from the field in their 53-41 loss, and U. Conn didn’t fare much better, hitting on just just 34.5% of their shots, going just 1-for-11 on 3-pointers.

“Without question, 41 points and 12-of-64 (shooting) are not good enough to win any game, let alone the national championship,” Butler coach Brad Stevens told the Houston Chronicle.

Sure, U.Conn’s size and defense was a factor, but that alone can’t explain the paucity of performance.  As I watched the game, I kept remarking to the wife as she lamented to poor quality of play compared to the NBA, “it’s not just them.  It’s the venue.  They’re playing in a football stadium, not a basketball arena.”

I recalled the year our TV crew attended a San Antonio Spurs game at the Alamo Dome before the RnR Marathon.   Like Reliant Stadium in Houston, the Alamo Dome was built for football, not basketball.  The site lines, ceiling height, the overall cavernous expanse threw off delicate spacial relationships and shot rhythms.  So last night,  not only was the momentus nature of a NCAA Championship weighing on the Butler kids, and the size of the U.Conn players, but the building itself contributed to the stinker of a game we saw.

One can only hope the NCAA site committee was happy with the revenue generated by the 75,000 people in attendance, because their decision to stage the Final Four in Reliant Stadium helped make this the worst display of basketball acumen in NCAA finals history.  As with most sports now days, it’s no longer about the game or the players.  It’s all about the revenue, and in the end the players suffer the ignominy for institutional greed.

END

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HOPE ON THE HORIZON?

     

     Hope is a fragile commodity, best supported by unwavering preparation and clench-jawed determination, qualities familiar to any who call themselves distance runners, regardless of the speed they may achieve. There is reason, then, to be hopeful in this spring of 2011 that the U.S. distance running momentum that peaked with Meb Keflezighi and Deena Kastor’s Olympic Marathon medals in Athens 2004 can be regained, and even surpassed. 

     Today, with modest support for U.S. distance running training camps coming from the USATF Foundation’s U.S. Distance Project and Running USA’s annual conference auction, joined by the more robust contributions coming from New York Road Runners Circle of Champions initiative, and Nike’s Oregon Project, the overall support for U.S. distance running is multi-dimensional, though still modest compared to the Japanese corporate model which pours millions into their professional camps.  We also have RRCA’s Roads Scholars program which contributes grants to individual runners rather than training camps. But with each new U.S. effort, the overall support gains added weight.  (more…)

CALCULUS OF A MARATHON WORLD RECORD 2011

     Since the marathon distance was finally established at 26 miles, 385 yards following the 1908 London Olympics, there have been 45 new men’s marathon world records set.  In that time the mark has dropped from 2:55:18   to 2:03:59, a 30-plus per cent drop in 103 years.  With the 2011 spring marathon season upon us Haile Gebrselassie’s 2008 world record 2:03:59 will once again come under fire.  Will it withstand another series of challenges?

The last two world records set in the U.S.A. came in Chicago, Welshman Steve Jones ran 2:08:05 in 1984, and Morocco’s Khalid Khannouchi posted his 2:05:48 in 1999.  Since then, the record has been the province of Berlin, with Paul Tergat’s 2:04:55 in 2003, then Haile Gebrselassie’s 2:04:26 in 2007 and his current 2:03:59 in 2008.

What factors, then, and in what order, are necessary to achieve a world record marathon? (more…)

Winds of Change Not Blowing in Carlsbad

    

     At the 20th running of the Carlsbad 5000 in 2005, Ethiopia’s Dejene Berhanu captured a third straight title (13:10), and country woman Tirunesh Dibaba set the ninth women’s world’s best time on the singular seaside course (14:46).  Steve Scott closed our Fox Sports broadcast with the following aside, after another freshening wind had come up with the late morning sun over the Pacific Ocean, causing the crucial second mile heading north along Carlsbad Boulevard to slow in comparison to the earlier run age-group races.

“If they ever want to challenge Sammy Kipketer’s 13-flat course and world record,” commented Steve, “they are going to have to move the start time of the men’s race to earlier in the day when the conditions are better.” (more…)

The Bizarro Running World: Soccer Seeks to Limit Athlete Spending

     Even as track and road running prize purses continue to stagger along at start up, 20th century levels, officials of the “beautiful game” soccer are placing curbs on runaway athlete spending at SoccerEx in Manchester, England.

In an effort to halt what’s called “financial doping”, UEFA, the European soccer association, has instituted new regulations that limit wealthy owners from subsidizing team losses incurred while paying high athlete transfer fees and salaries.  A top club like Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City lost $191 million in the year ending May 31, 2010, having spent more on wages alone than it earned in revenue. (more…)

Strands Fitness Steps Up to Pledge Challenge from Race Directors

     Corvallis, OR, March 30, 2011–Strands Fitness Event Registration (SFER) has announced that they will take up the challenge set by a growing list of race directors to help fund emerging American elite distance runners.  Strands Fitness will match the one-dollar pledge by race directors for all online event registrations. 

“It has always been a priority of ours to be good stewards of the sport,” said account executive Mike Reneau. “And what better way than to fund the athletes and coaches who have dedicated their lives to distance running.” (more…)

A Conversation: Director, USATF Foundation & USATF Vice-Chair Jack Wickens

    

     A retired executive with United Heath Group, Jack Wickens has been involved with the USA Track & Field Foundation since 2005.  Then in December 2008 he was voted onto the USATF board of directors after sweeping bylaw changes directed by the USOC reduced the board’s size from 31 members to 15.  As director of USATFF, Wickens heads up the USA Distance Project which supports training centers across the country.  A Bucknell grad, Jack ran on the track and cross country teams for the Bisons.

T.R.  Where does the USA Distance Project need to go to maximize it’s potential?

 J.W.>   We’ve been a godsend for Team USA Minnesota, the Mammoth Track Club, Zap Fitness, and Indiana Elite.  We have 10 or 11 elite training groups which are eligible for support, and we are funding about six or seven this year.  But we will have a mid-year evaluation to decide whether to add one or two more programs.”

 T.R.   You list ten “eligible” training centers, but only fund six or seven.  Some clubs like the Hanson’s-Brooks Distance Project in Michigan told me they have never applied for support, while Brad Hudson’s group Marathon Performance doesn’t receive a nickel.  Yet by having their names listed on the Distance Project website there’s an inference that they are being supported. (more…)