Camp is closing in.
I just got done taking the Ohio bar exam over a three-day period. (It wasn't as bad as people make it out to be.) I'll have the whole month of August off to cover sports and relax before starting a real job.
I plan to report from several practices to see how Rob Ianello's 4-3 defense and pro-style offense are coming along.
At the Mid-American Conference media day, the Zips were picked by a group of beat writers to finish last in the East division.
Temple, following a 9-4 (7-1) season, was picked to finish first. The Owls return 17 starters from last season, including all-conference running back Bernard Pierce. Temple received 17 of 20 first-place votes.
Ohio University received the other three first-place votes and are projected to finish second in the East. They are followed, in order, by Kent State, Bowling Green, Miami, Buffalo and Akron.
In the West division, Northern Illinois was picked first followed by Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Toledo, Ball State and Eastern Michigan.
Temple was picked to win the MAC overall, followed by Northern Illinois and Ohio.
What sport are you anticipating most?
-- Men's soccer was a penalty kick away from a national championship, and Caleb Porter returns with a roster full of high-end talent and a new-ish stadium.
-- Men's basketball has a young, revamped roster, including a Zeke Marshall that apparently is eating more than just salads finally.
-- Football has a new coach, new defensive scheme (amen), stud linebackers and high-ceiling quarterback.
I asked this question last year. It will be interesting to compare the results.
As I have spoken with folks about Rob Ianello, reviews have been mixed.
My personal interaction with him has been limited. But it's also specific to the media. I don't think it matters a whole lot how a coach treats reporters. The important interactions are with players and fans. For what it's worth, however, Ianello has always been friendly with me. He also has been more secretive than J.D. Brookhart, whose candor made him a reporter's dream.
But back to the important interactions. Word among current players is that Ianello has not hid his desire to start a rebuilding process. That means that contributors from last year won't necessarily be contributors in 2010 if Ianello believes there is a younger guy with more upside. Sources have told me that at least two starters from last season have sought to redshirt over fears that their final season won't yield the playing time they hoped. (I'm not sure why redshirting would solve that problem.)
And then there's the Shawn Lemon incident. The coach made a careless texting slip-up, which could happen to anybody. The problematic issue is: Should the coach be talking behind a player's back like that?
Many fans have shown their displeasure that the coach canceled the annual golf outing -- an event where fans can get a chance to learn more about coaches.
Ultimately, the next six months will be much more important in determining Ianello's reputation among fans and players. It comes down to a simple question: Does he win?
But in the mean time, I'll throw in my two cents of advice for the coaching staff, based off my five years of covering Akron's football program:
1) Ianello came to Akron from Notre Dame. At Notre Dame, the coaches are permitted (if not encouraged) to hold the attitude that fans are privileged to watch your games, and any interaction that coaches have with them is to be rare. At Akron, you have to nurture the fan base. And if you have bigger goals for the program, you'll have to spearhead a dive into new demographics. At Notre Dame, canceling a golf outing is no big deal; games will still sell out. At Akron, you're missing a chance to connect with lukewarm fans who are on the border between attending only the homecoming game or going all-out to get season tickets.
2) When you enter a new job as the person with ultimate power, you have to assure the stakeholders of their place in your plans. Within the dynamics of Akron football, fans are stakeholders. They put a lot of time and money into following a product that the typical Northeast Ohio sports fan does not. Obviously, stakeholders also include former players, whose scholarships and years of hard work are easily threatened.
With new seating arrangements at Lee Jackson Field, season tickets are going fast -- already having tripled last year's sales.
The home schedule opens with an exhibition game against VCU on Aug. 25. Click here for more ticket details.
Tom Wistrcill announced this week that he promoted Gregg Bach to take the place of departing Mike Cawood as the new assistant athletic director for media relations.
I've worked with Gregg for the past five years. He is the right man for the job. Congrats, Gregg.
Like him or hate him, LeBron James has been a good friend of Akron's basketball program.
He set up the contract with Nike. He brings notoriety to the program through comments in the national media. He organizes camps at Rhodes Arena. He held his second MVP ceremony here.
According to one Web site, the city of Akron might be distancing itself from the hometown hero by removing "Home of LeBron James" signs.
With that said...
LeBron James did us dirty.
He got the whole world's attention, only to tell them he left Cleveland. It was about "joining forces" with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
He gave us a half-ass excuse for leaving -- that the only reason you play basketball is to win championships. I have two big problems with James' reasoning.
First, Miami has no better chance to win in 2011 than Cleveland with LeBron. The Heat have five players under contract, and then they must beg veterans to join up at the minimum salary. Cleveland had a team that won more games than any other in the past two regular seasons. The Heat will be great, for sure. But they are built to wear down in June.
Second, winning a championship regardless of the circumstances is NOT the only reason to play. Taking that argument to the extreme, would you say that Adam Morrison (two titles) is having a better career than Karl Malone (none)? Winning a championship is much more impressive if it doesn't come as a result of salary cap maneuvering.
The real sad thing is, LeBron has suckered us into the position of not being able to pull in two free agents. He put the screws to Danny Ferry to make any trade to sacrifice the future for present gains. Because you had Antawn Jamison in March, you can't have Amar'e Stoudemire in July. It's simple.
I think most people could deal with him leaving, but under different circumstances. He embarrassed this region in front of millions of people. Maybe it's not "cool" for the Hollywood/NYC crew to be in Cleveland, but now LeBron James told the world that Cleveland isn't worth it -- even if you're born here, have friends and family here, and own a home here.
James said he's a loyal person, but he couldn't commit to a team that has done so much to accommodate his every whim. And then there's his treatment of Dan Gilbert, who was forced to watch television to find out his investment just tanked. What a schmuck way to treat a business partner. LeBron deserves every bit of backlash from Gilbert's letter.
And LeBron, you claim to "love" Akron. I call B.S. What is "Akron"? Is it the roads? The parks? NO! It's the people. And those people overwhelmingly loved watching you play on TV every night. A great majority is comprised of Cleveland sports fans.
As far as I'm concerned, LeBron, you're a coward. You're scared to death that you won't win a championship. You took the loser's way out, by going to Dwyane Wade's team -- a place where you won't be the focal point every night, a place where you won't take the blame when Boston kicks you in the teeth at home.
LeBron also has become poisoned by his own fame. He was once fairly humble. Tonight, you heard an egomaniac "taking his talents" to South Beach, speaking in the third-person, and talking about how he graced Cleveland with his presence over seven years.
Please allow "Mike Rasor" to offer some advice for Mr. James. You didn't do us favors. You have been one of the best-compensated athletes in the world, and a lot of that money came from pocketbooks of Cleveland fans in a crummy economy. We enjoyed the ride, but in the end, you refused to deliver on your promise of a championship. Don't play the victim card to us.
And thus, you start to see the whole picture. LeBron's ego has swelled so big, that he is downright petrified of any grand indictment against his legacy (i.e., "you didn't win a championship").
LeBron, I'm grateful for the memories. But you've let people down.
Some advice: 1) Swap out your treasured team of advisers that has led you to these decisions that not even a novice businessperson or PR operative would consider. 2) Find a new perspective on life -- one that recognizes your "friends" will disappear if you're in a bad car accident.
I think my dad said it best: "I hope he wins his championship in Miami and finds the fulfillment he expected is not there."
I think he's staying. I have several reasons.
1) LeBron's Nature -- I think he's been too careful over his career to make everyone happy, to say the "right" thing in front of media microphone, not to take a political stance, to be open-minded about playing in every NBA city. He has the personality of a "people pleaser." A person like that, in my humble nickle-psychiatric opinion, would shy away from setting up his hometown and region for a national embarrassment on ESPN in prime time.
2) All quiet on the trade front -- If James wanted to leave Cleveland, I think we would hear rumblings about a sign-and-trade. Surely, James would provide that courtesy to the franchise that spent every dollar and every moment to make him happy and comfortable. Such an arrangement would afford James the extra salary and sixth contract year that come with re-signing with your old team. I can picture him leaving, but not so publicly and not without a smidge of courtesy to Dan Gilbert or the fans.
3) Akron -- If there has been one consistent message from James, it has been his desire to win. But that's a cliche. If there is a second consistent message, it's his love for Akron and his desire to take the city to new levels. My blog polls are not scientific, but 61 percent of Akron fans said they would not support a LeBron James who wears a jersey not of the Cavaliers. James, who is indeed intelligent, would recognize that his mission for personally advancing the Rubber City would be awfully difficult if 1) almost 2/3rds of the city's sports fans hate his guts and 2) he's spending half the year in another state.
4) Recruiting Bosh -- On the contrary, James' recent actions have indicated his intent to stay in Cleveland -- even as he does his best to maintain a secret. Earlier this week, he recruited Chris Bosh, hoping to warm the new Miami Heat forward up to a sign-and-trade. If you don't believe in the town, how can you in good conscience pitch it to your good friend?
5) The "edge" persists -- After the season ended, James told Larry King that Cleveland has the edge. Nothing in the past month has changed that. Back then, James knew Miami or Chicago would have cap room for two or three max-salary players. He knew of New York's charm and New Jersey's potential for extracurricular dollars (that may or may not relate to the Russian mob. Just kidding ... but, no, seriously.). The Cavaliers made a great pitch to him last week (see video), and are currently pursuing trades that are certain to make Cleveland one of the favorites to win the East again. If nothing's changed, that "edge" should persist and matriculate into a final decision.
Potentially being the difference between multiple championship runs and multiple lottery appearances, LeBron's decision is on par with a Game 7 of the NBA Finals. I've gotta say, I'm nervous as can be.
To keep up-to-date with tomorrow's rumors and news, I'd recommend following these journalists on Twitter: Chad Ford (of ESPN), Jason Lloyd (ABJ), Brian Windhorst (Plain Dealer), and Chris Broussard (ESPN). Of course, you can also follow LeBron himself.
Usually, plans to build or renovate are delayed. Coming a penalty kick away from a national championship accelerated the process for the soccer team.
By the beginning of the 2010 season, the university will introduce a new look to Lee Jackson Field that includes a new set of grandstands, press box, team rooms and bleachers in both endzones. The student standing area will be preserved along the east and northeast corner of the field.
The plans originally called for only a new field surface by this fall, constituting Phase I. The additions to the fan seating and press box were coming later. The GoZips.com article says that an "outpouring" of community support is to credit for the Phase II acceleration.
Seating will almost double from 950 to 1650. Attendance, of course, will be much higher when you include those in the standing area.
No. I'm not "deleted." We're having some server problems over at Ohio.com. But I will appreciate your patience if my performance dips a little in the next month while I study for the bar exam.