MONEY TALKS AND COACHES WALK!

The departure of Wisconsin Defensive Coordinator Dave Aranda speaks volumes about the current state of college football.   It seemed like just hours after the Badgers had played maybe their best game of the season, defeating favored USC in the Holiday Bowl, 23-21, it was announced that Aranda was leaving to become Defensive Coordinator at LSU. During three seasons at Wisconsin, under Aranda’s leadership, the Badgers had one of the best defenses in the country. So it was not surprising Aranda would be on the national coaching radar.   Some things were surprising, though. Aranda did not leave Wisconsin to become a head coach, but rather made a somewhat sideway move to be a DC at an SEC school.   And something that may have best explained Aranda’s move: His new annual salary will be a reported $1.3 million and be basically guaranteed for three years. That compares to $520,000/year he apparently was making at Wisconsin. The $1.3 million will probably be more money than many Division 1 head coaches are making – and a salary Wisconsin would be either unwilling or unable to match.   It also highlights the unfairness that now exists among college coaches and college athletes. If one of the Badger players had announced he was transferring to LSU he would have had to sit out the upcoming season. Not only does a coach not have to sit out a year, but he gets a huge raise to leave his former team.   Just in case anyone still wonders why college athletes are making more demands….     By John...

THE LABAHN ARENA AND UW FIELD HOUSE: A VERY LOUD FRIDAY NIGHT!

The buzz you may have heard last Friday night (December 4) on the University of Wisconsin campus wasn’t just from the bars on State Street.   At 7 pm, the Wisconsin women’s hockey team was hosting Minnesota at the sold-out 2,200 seat LaBahn Arena.   At 8 pm, the Wisconsin volleyball team was hosting Iowa Sate in a second round NCAA tournament match at the nearly sold out (5500+) UW Field House. The start time for the match was changed from 7 pm to 8 pm so it could be shown on the Big Ten Network.   Why all the excitement? Simple.   The UW hockey team came into the two-game series against the third ranked Gophers with a 16-0 record and the country’s No. 1 ranking.   The UW volleyball team came into the match against Iowa State having won 13 straight matches with an overall record of 25-6 and the No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament.   Both the hockey team and the volleyball team won Friday night – hockey in a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory over Minnesota and volleyball in an impressive 25-18, 25-15, 25-21 sweep of Iowa State. The volleyball team had advanced to Friday night’s match with a 3-1 victory over Oregon Thursday night. The hockey team followed up the 3-2 win with a 3-1 win on Saturday night before another sell-out crowd.   Not only was the Field House almost sold out, as one news account described it, there was a “rowdy crowd” at the match.   It was also a homecoming of sorts at the Field House for my wife Nancy...

COREY CLEMENT: THE SEASON THAT WASN’T

James White. Montee Ball. Melvin Gordon.   Next in line at “Running Back U” was Corey Clement.   2015 would finally be his time to shine, to be the #1 tailback for the University of Wisconsin.   No more being back-up. No sharing the spotlight. Clement, a junior, would finally be “the guy” for the Badgers.   It was expected he would be another great rusher for a program that throughout the years had some of the best in the country.   Wisconsin had the distinction of having not one, but two, Heisman Trophy winners – both power runners: Alan Ameche and Ron Dayne   The tradition was there and the timing was exactly right, or so we thought, with new Wisconsin Coach Paul Chryst, one of the best offensive play callers in college football.   Now, with the 2015 season almost over, except for the final game – a Bowl game, most likely the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, it has been an almost totally lost season for Clement.   And it’s not certain he will even play in the Bowl game and even more uncertain whether he will return for his senior season.   His numbers this year are something we certainly didn’t expect: 3 games played and 29 carries for 155 yards, most of those numbers coming against a terrible Rutgers team.   First, it was a sports hernia for Clement, which wasn’t known when the Badgers opened the 2015 season against Alabama. That injury and surgery that followed kept Clement on the sideline most of the season…although it often seemed unclear whether he could play...

STUDENT-ATHLETES AT WISCONSIN!

The Wisconsin football team’s final home game at Camp Randall Stadium is also always Senior Day.   Just prior to the game against Northwestern, 19 Badger seniors were introduced.  Ironically, the focus wasn’t so much for their on-field accomplishments, but rather their academics.   As they were introduced, it was noted what Degree they would be achieving at graduation: for example, Journalism or Real Estate and Finance.   It was interesting to know what their primary focus in school has been for the past four or five years (for the red-shirt players).   The most interesting of all may have been for starting Quarterback Joel Stave.  His degree will be in Civil Engineering…probably one of the most challenging majors a player could select.   Not bad for a QB who, if the Badgers win one of their two remaining games (Minnesota and the Bowl game) will tie for Wisconsin’s winingest QB ever (30) with Brooks Bollinger.   Stave has also been an Academic All Big Ten for 2012, 2013 and 2014.   Which made it even more disappointing that Stave was booed during the Northwestern game by Wisconsin fans.   By John...

MURPHY AND THOMPSON: FORMER PLAYERS CAN BE GREAT LEADERS!

We’ve all seen the camera shots during NFL games.  A quick scan to a luxury suite and a millionaire/billionaire owner cheering for their team.   A scene we’ll never see in Green Bay, WI.  Never at Lambeau Field.  Never for the Green Bay Packers.   The camera shot there would be of two former NFL players: Mark Murphy and Ted Thompson.  Murphy was a safety for the Washington Redskins and Thompson a linebacker for the Houston Oilers.   Today, they lead one of the most successful – and iconic – franchises, not only in the NFL, but all of professional sports.   Murphy is CEO and President of the Packers.  Thompson is the Packers General Manager.   Murphy and Thompson are employees of the Packers.  The team’s “owners” are the fans in Lambeau Field!  It is the fans who are the “stockholders” and throughout the decades have invested in this historic and unique NFL team.   In an era where professional sports has become more and more corporate, it is so fitting that the Packers remain a “bottom up”, not a “top down” business.  Players who often have incredibly short careers due to injuries will always have an opportunity in Green Bay to be executives as well as athletes.   Interestingly, neither Murphy or Thompson played for the Packers – and both have succeeded legendary leaders: retired Packers President and CEO Bob Harlan and NFL Hall of Fame General Manager Ron Wolf.   It is not coincidence.  The field the Packers play on is not named for a corporation.  It honors Curly Lambeau, the team’s founder and first coach....