August sports full of anticipation
August is the month of anticipation for all levels of athletes and sports enthusiasts. Just check out the moms and pops who have been chasing their pee-wee squirts in their over-sized football helmets around Hedges-Boyer Park. Then, flick the channel on Dish or Direct or Cable TV to feel the anticipation from the big league NFL guys grinding it out on the exhibition field for a roster spot or a starting position (aka Cleveland Browns pick local boy Hoyer over immature Johnny Football).
Nowhere, however, is the anticipation for unexpected upsets, shining seasons, and peak performances higher than in the high school and college sports scene where the calendar year begins NOW – in August.
Certainly many of Tiffin’s local schools anticipate success through efforts to “reload” their teams with talented players and coaches. A bit of familiarity is gone for the former MAL high schools in the community now facing a bit of a different landscape of competition in their brand new conferences.
Anticipation is begging the question of which local high school students will repeat a coveted state berth and which new faces will reach – or miss – a pinnacle athletic milestone. Lakota’s Makayla Dull (2013 Division II state champion) and Hopewell’s Bryce Gorrell (2013 Division III state qualifier) are two local high school golfers already blazing a trail of early successes on the links this month. Cross country times are fast for the start of the season (Carnival is around the corner), and finally, volleyball, tennis, and soccer action is underway.
Heidelberg (Ohio Athletic Conference) and Tiffin University (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conferences) are equally enthusiastic about the upcoming year in athletics. Based on 2013-14 post-season performances, the Tiffin University Dragons finished in the top 20 percent of all (300-plus) NCAA Division II institutions in the Director’s Cup race. Meanwhile, across the tracks, Matt Palm may have stepped down from the baseball coaching role after last season’s epic 30-plus winning season, but he remains at the helm of Heidelberg athletics, which has numerous teams looking to rank nationally.
This August was especially eventful for the NCAA, which had two landmark decisions that could shake up the membership organization in a fashion similar to 1973 when the three-division structure was initially created and freshmen were permitted to compete for the first time in history.
Forty-one years later, there is a new alignment of voting privileges in NCAA Division I athletics allowing Notre Dame and schools in the five “Power” conferences (the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12) to essentially draft their own legislation for issues such as cost of attendance stipends and recruiting rules.
The second piece of the summer shake up occurred when the NCAA lost its class-action anti-trust lawsuit for enforcing rules prohibiting athletes from receiving compensation for their names and/or likeness appearing on apparel, video games, and merchandise. Just a few short months ago, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that athletes at Northwestern University can be classified as employees and permitted to join a union. So, it seems, monumental changes may be the catalyst that triggers a potential armageddon for the supreme ruler of college athletics valued at almost a billion fat dollars.
The NCAA is well aware that fat dollars can’t buy everything and the balance between ethics and morality is a precious commodity that will never be underscored by a population of educators, parents, and students who comprise a mere fraction of the stakeholders in college athletics.
The future looks like the widening gap between the haves and have-nots in Division I athletics may create even more dissension among the ranks of presidents and administrators who are controlling resources the best way possible. Anticipation will gradually build through to the winter convention which ironically is located in none other than Washington, D.C., the nation’s capital, home of government and legislation.
On a side note, a bit more has been learned about the character of Ryan Parent, the field manager for the Tiffin Saints who left midway in the season. Parent formally served as an assistant coach for White Sands Pubfish Professional Baseball Club in Alamogordo, New Mexico. It seems the former manager was extremely well-respected and well-liked by players, support staff, and fans. In addition to being a volunteer firefighter, his day job has been in the Marine Corps Reserve unit as a gunnery sergeant and assistant training chief.
Unfortunately, the pockets of the ownership in small start-up leagues usually aren’t deep enough to retain valuable personnel, which is why it’s a struggle to keep good guys around long enough to make a real difference. The Tiffin Saints are in a tough position. However, where there is a will, there is still hope that the Independent League will grow behind good leadership and Tiffin will continue to be a home for a promising baseball club next summer.
Stay tuned next month for more interesting sports stories from around the globe to our corner of the world in northwest Ohio.
Bonnie Tiell is the associate dean of graduate studies at Tiffin University.