Phelps’s Mishap

Growing up as a swimmer, I learned about Michael Phelps early on. I was never really a fan of Phelps (I was more of a Ryan Lochte girl) until about two years ago. I began to realize the dedication and commitment he put into the sport. And as a mediocre athlete myself, I quickly began to admire his talent and perseverance. My initial reaction to this 8 medal Olympian swimmer’s bong picture was disappointment. But when I took a step back I realized everyone takes a hit every now and then.

In an ESPN article Phelps said, “I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment,” Phelps said in the statement released by one of his agents. “I’m 23 years old and despite the successes I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again.” He made a public apology and appears to have learned from his mistake. While many of his Olympic friends chose to stick buy him and accept the apology, not all of his sponsors did. AT&T Inc. and PowerBar nutrition bar makers Nestle SA, quietly ended their relationships with Phelps at the end of 2008. Neither company commented on the photo or describes the duration or their contracts.

Gossip columns all over the world are eating up the story of Phelps’s bong picture taken at a house party in North Carolina during Nov. 2008. This is the news of the week and it’s aggravating me. Writers all over the web are shocked and amused by his actions. Pictures have been posted all over the Internet. But where are the pictures of all the other people who were, no doubt, participating with him?  Sure, he’s an Olympic marvel and recently his fame has skyrocketed. But realistically, most athletes are probably inhaling from a similar glass structure. They just aren’t getting caught. Unfortunately, Phelps must have burned the brain cells that would have provided him with the common sense to not smoke weed at a residential party with people he might not have even known. Was his action disappointing to fans? Yes. Surprising? Not really.

Let’s face it the guy is inhuman when it comes to training and racing. After reading his book No Limits, with Alan Abrahamson, I received a mere glimpse of what real athletic training is. Practicing 550 times a year, including birthdays and holidays, is no bundle of joy. And after four years of this intense training for Beijing, Phelps was able to take a break for a few months. In one of his interviews with Sports Illustrated he described himself as “not a party guy,” especially since his DUI in 2004 and has reportedly never failed a drug test. Phelps was stated saying he had no interest in typical after hour activities. And really, how can he be a party animal? I’ve begun feeling angry toward the gossip columnists who are making it sound as though this is habit for him. Phelps stated in his book that during training season swimmers don’t have much of a life outside the pool. Eat, swim, eat again, nap, eat more and swim. And being an ex-competitive swimmer I can vouch for that statement. Phelps is 23 years old and wanted to have a little fun while he was off training. Are we really going to sit here and condemn him for that? He made a mistake and he owned up to it. I’m not saying what he did wasn’t a mistake because I believe it was. But it’s time to face this beautiful thing called “reality.” Human beings smoke weed from time to time. And regardless of whether or not Phelps is famous, outside of training, he’s human.











College Football Lagging Behind In Diversity

Who knew sports and politics had so much in common. In America, both are rooted deep in our social fabric and possess a certain irony. In fact, a bizarre connection is evident. The nation’s first African American president was inaugurated Jan.20. If you think that alone is a telling sign of the times, then you should focus on the sidelines of college football fields across the U.S. If you focus hard enough, it will become very clear.

It’s unfortunate that the giant step occurring in American politics isn’t true of college campuses across the United States — primarily at Division 1-A schools with football programs. At least in terms of perceived value, the sport is larger than the institutions which house them.

Frankly, it is astounding that a black man is ready to lead a nation in a state of economic decline, but black men are perceived to be incapable and unqualified to lead some of the nation’s top college football programs. The election of Barack Obama as our 44th president certainly serves as a sign of progress at the highest level, but there’s a lot of work to be done below the executive branch, where irony exceeds logic.

Over a month ago, only three of the men who served as head football coach at 119 Division 1-A schools were of African-American descent. That number increased to seven. It was not an attempt to catch up with other sports, but rather to save face by exercising a certain degree of political correctness. Furthermore, those seven have been reduced to coaching jobs at lesser schools, signifying the long overdue trend still has not made its way to a larger platform.

Not even college football’s governing body can offer a watershed moment. Although the NCAA cannot select head coaches, it can legislate change beginning with a rule that requires teams to interview a black candidate before hiring a coach. But the real power lies within the institution itself – one even more powerful than the NCAA that governs it. School presidents and athletic directors are pressured by wealthy boosters and a board of directors alike. Thus, those in power are forced to make their subordinates a priority, rather than much needed diversity.

Will college football ever change its rigid ways based on old traditions? Essentially the issue and politics are one in the same. Both involve a society seeking change in the current white-dominated system. Both bring large masses to congregate and unite. Citizens’ views comprise the approval rating of politicians, while college football uses a grading system to evaluate the aspect of fairness in the hiring process. Politics and sports are parallel even in their end results. Both try, to a certain degree, to succeed in reaching change.

If America can do it, college football can too.

USF Season Can’t Escape Tailspin

With a 49-16 pounding of USF on Saturday, surging Rutgers came one step closer to clinching a bowl berth, as the Scarlet Knights evened their record at 5-5. While Rutgers is beginning to gain momentum late in the season, USF finds itself in a downward spiral that is rapidly spinning out of control.

“It’s obvious we didn’t play very well,” USF head coach Jim Leavitt said. “Our football team is certainly down right now, about as down as you can get.”

Leavitt’s words, while referring to the loss, are a more appropriate summation of the Bulls’ season. The game’s result handed the Bulls their third consecutive loss, and the team’s fourth out of its previous five games. The Scarlet Knights’ 49 points also set a pair of records that the Bulls would like to forget: the touchdowns accounted for the most points allowed by the Bulls at Raymond James Stadium and the 33-point margin of defeat proved enough for the worst home-loss in school history.

Rutgers, on the other hand, extended the Big East’s longest current winning streak to four games, including Saturday’s win which was the third consecutive victory over USF. Quarterback Mike Teel is a large part of the team’s recent success. Against the Bulls, Teel threw for 294 yards and three touchdown passes, while also running from two yards out for an additional score.

Unlike its opponent, USF’s performance resembled more of the same of what fans seemingly witness on a weekly basis: failing to score inside the red-zone, costly penalties, missed scoring chances and harmful turnovers. In the first half, USF managed to keep up with Rutgers’ relentless attack, bringing the game to within four points in the second quarter. But as play resumed after halftime, both the offense and defense seemed to implode.

“We got our tails whipped in the second half. We couldn’t do anything,” defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said. “We played well the first half, then all of a sudden we couldn’t respond.”

In total, USF turned the ball over six times on offense, while the defense gave up 28 points in the second half after holding Rutgers scoreless in the first quarter.

“[The way we played] is disrespectful. The coaches did a great job, but we just didn’t do what we were supposed to do. This loss is all on the players,” linebacker Tyrone McKenzie said.

As a result of the loss, USF will finish the season with its first sub .500 conference record since joining the Big East. Despite USF’s deficiencies, coach Jim Leavitt attests that the Bulls will bounce back. In order to do that, the Bulls have to revert back to the formula that jumpstarted their success back in August.

“We got off to a great 5-0 start this season, but injuries and a lack of continuity have really hurt us a lot,” Leavitt said. “This is not the same team we were the first five games.”

USF’s Third Loss Puts Season in Serious Jeopardy

For the second time in less than a week, USF fell to another Big East opponent on the road. The 24-10 loss to Cincinnati will surely drop the Bulls out of the Top 25, and as the Bulls’ schedule drags on, this season proves not so different from the last. In both 2007 and 2008 USF got off to a strong start. Then came those painful mid-season slumps that transformed high expectations into utter disappointment. Thursday’s defeat marked USF’s third loss in its last four games, bearing an eerie parallel to the three-game losing streak of 2007. Last year’s loss to Rutgers came on the heels of a flawless 6-0 start, putting a damper on the remainder of the season.

“It’s miserable. It’s almost like last year all over again,” center Jake Griffin told the St. Petersburg Times. “I hope the university never schedules another Thursday night game.”

In fact, last year is looking better than what this season is shaping up to be. In 2007, the Bulls climbed all the way to the second spot in the BCS poll, but this year USF’s highest rank stood at #16. Last year’s upsets over Auburn and West Virginia proved the Bulls could compete against big programs, but three unexpected losses this season to less formidable teams left fans to reconsider.

Much like last Saturday’s loss at Louisville, USF gave up big plays, failed to score in the red-zone and were laden with penalties, but the Bulls’ struggling offense proved to be the difference maker that separated a much-needed win from a season-toppling loss. On the eve of Halloween, Matt Grothe’s performance appropriately resembled a nightmare. He threw three interceptions and only passed for 174 yards, half of his last game’s total. Trailing by 14 in the third quarter, Grothe failed to get the Bulls into the end-zone twice, once from inside the 10-yard line and again from near the goal line.

“When we had the ball inside the ten [yard line], not to convert there two times, there’s no excuse for that,” head coach Jim Leavitt told The St. Petersburg Times. “We have got to score points there.”

The Bulls defense proved just as futile. They allowed Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike to throw for 281 yards and two touchdowns while completing 20 of 28 passes. Pike’s performance contributed a large part to his team’s 39-point outscoring of the Bulls in the last two meetings.

A tough and emotional loss, the game really harmed USF in the standings. The Bulls currently sit in seventh place in the Big East, just atop woeful Syracuse, a single-win team so far this season. If the upcoming schedule is any indication, the Bulls may very well maintain their depressing state. After a much-needed week off, the Bulls return home on November 15 to take on Rutgers, who fortunately for the Bulls, is struggling. UConn, another victor against USF, then comes to town before the season’s conclusion.

Considering the Bulls’ season wraps up in Morgantown against Big East power West Virginia – a team likely to win the conference title – will the Bulls see another win all season?

Recent Upset Trend Makes Stop in Tampa

At the top of the Big East standings, a content, confident and possibly complacent Bulls team entered Thursday’s Big East opener with an undefeated 5-0 record. As a result, however, USF played with a target on its back and Pittsburgh hit the bull’s eye with a 26-21 win that is sure to drop USF severely in the AP poll.

Although the first official BCS standings don’t debut until later this month, there’s a very good chance USF’s national title hopes are over. Before Thursday’s game, Matt Grothe told The Tampa Tribune he felt the Bulls were in the same position as #1 ranked USC last week before they were upset by unranked Oregon State, and that hopefully the Pittsburgh game wouldn’t have the same outcome.

Unfortunately it did.

USF now joins Georgia, Florida, Ohio State and even USC as another one-loss team who expected to make a run at the Orange Bowl, but came up short.

In most cases, one loss will ruin a season. Both Miami in 2000 and Michigan in 2006 can attest. While it’s not impossible for one-loss teams to win it all – it’s even possible for a rare two-loss team to do it as LSU did last season – it is unlikely that USF will have the same luck.

Pittsburgh’s season-opening loss to unranked Bowling Green will haunt USF’s resume come December. Consider that any one-loss team from the Big 12 and potentially five from the SEC would jump the Bulls in the BCS because of schedule strength, their elite conferences and the number of “quality wins”, a term with a very ambiguous meaning.

The Bulls are now 0-2 on ESPN Thursday night games, with one more ESPN appearance still to come this season on October 30 at Cincinnati. USF must win out in order to receive a bid to a respectable bowl, but that includes beating West Virginia at Morgantown and UConn, who is considered to be the “sleeper” team in the Big East.

Luckily the Bulls don’t play again until October 18, giving them ample time to prepare for the tough opponents who lie ahead. Now the question shifts to whether the Bulls will even win the Big East conference, much less earn a spot in the BCS national championship game.

USF Starts to Fulfill Expectations

After three consecutive close wins, no one knew which USF Bulls team would show up against NC State on Saturday night: last year’s Bulls, who started the season 6-0 and pulled off upsets against high-ranked teams, or this year’s squad who continues to scrape by lesser opponents. USF’s 41-10 win over NC State in Raleigh better resembled last year’s team.

“I don’t think we’ve put our A game together yet,” USF center Jake Griffin, a senior, told The Tampa Tribune. “I think that’s what we need to do to prove we are a pretty good team.”

As they did in a win against Kansas two weeks ago, the Bulls earned their rank with a win over a tough ACC opponent. Hopefully the victory gave Bulls fans peace of mind for the remainder of the season, leaving little doubt which team will take the field this Thursday as Big East play kicks off.

Despite battling both the Wolfpack defense and a torrential downpour, USF scored on its first three possessions and set the tempo early while former Countryside high school standout quarterback Harrison Beck struggled to get NC State’s offense rolling.

Entering the game, the USF defense ranked fourth from the bottom in the nation in forced turnovers, causing only three all season. NC State, on the other hand, ranked sixth-best in Division I with twelve.

But Saturday defied these figures.

The Wolfpack turned the ball over twice in the second quarter, leading to two USF safeties. Even with key defensive players Brouce Mompremier and George Selvie out with injuries, the Bulls defense and special teams gave an equally impressive showing.

Looking ahead to Thursday, USF’s biggest concern is staying healthy. Carlton Williams left Saturday’s game in the third quarter with a badly bruised left hip, leaving his status against Pittsburgh uncertain, along with that of Mompremier and Selvie.

Matt Grothe continues to pick apart defenses each week, as USF dominates opponents in first-half total offense. In Saturday’s game at NC State, Grothe totaled 327 out of the team’s 502 yards of total offense by himself – let’s hope Thursday’s game at Raymond James continues the winning trend.

USF Continues to Win Ugly

The Bulls took home a 17-9 win over the Golden Panthers, who despite being an inferior opponent, kept the Bulls on a short leash.

The game marked the first time in USF history that the Bulls entered a contest as a four-touchdown favorite over a Division 1 opponent, but sloppy offensive play rendered the win far from pre-game expectations.

Coming off a pair of tense wins against UCF and Kansas, head coach Jim Leavitt did his best to keep his team focused while assuring his players and the media that the match against FIU was not to be taken lightly.

“If people really know football, they will understand that [it] is really going to come down to the end of the game. Emotions will be high, and it’s going to be that tight of a game,” Leavitt told The Tampa Tribune Saturday morning.

He could not have been more correct, and the win itself was ugly, even though it handed FIU its 26th loss in its last 27 games.

USF’s troubles on offense started early in the first quarter, as the Bulls fumbled three times on the first two possessions, but fortunately they only turned the ball over once. Mike Ford later scored on a two-yard run to give the Bulls a 7-0 lead and Maikon Bonani added a field goal to end the first quarter.

USF continued to drive the length of the field threatening to score twice, but dismal offense inside the red zone forced the Bulls to try another shot at three points. They came away with nothing, as Bonani’s 21-yard attempt was blocked.

For everything that the Bulls offense wasn’t, the defense was just the opposite. Heavy pressure from the defensive line continuously stuffed the run, holding FIU to just 40 total yards in the first half. But injuries to key defensive players Brouce Mompremier and George Selvie in the second half proved to be crucial.

After Mike Ford appeared to put the game away in the fourth quarter with a one-yard run in the endzone, FIU got a safety that cut the lead to 17-2. Running back Julian Reams then brought the Golden Panthers to within a touchdown after a 3-yard sprint across the goal line, which was FIU’s first offensive touchdown of the season. USF ended any effort of a last-minute comeback though by recovering the ensuing on-side kick.

“We got the win, but we should’ve played better,” Matt Grothe told the Associated Press.

Should have, and desperately need to. USF joins UConn as the only other undefeated team in the Big East, but the Bulls’ national championship hopes might end a little earlier than expected if the last three games are any indication. With a tough game at NC State this week and Big East play starting up after that, the Bulls have a lot of work to do if they want to remain in the polls.


[RW2]What is his position?