Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I wasn't even expecting to walk into the World of Outlaws trailer last night at Paducah International Raceway and walk out with something other than a driver roster. It's dirt track racing. What PR guy Tony Veneziano handed me was infinitely cool: four reporter notebooks and three World of Outlaws pens.

Total score.

Reporters on various beats are invariably offered some sort of work-perk schwag from their sources. In my contract, it says something like I'm not supposed to take it if it is worth $50 or more, but politely refuse or donate it to charity. Sadly, I haven't even been tempted with something so valuable. But, I have been offered other little things here and there that make my job pretty cool.

At the Missouri School of Journalism, we're told not to take anything from any source. By doing so, our credibily is skewed and we become "beholden" to our sources to write a positive story. This was after I freely accepted a basket of ribbon fries at a Lion's Club festival. I've learned there is a balance when accepting the schwag.

I learned best the perspective of ethical gift acceptance from a NASCAR reporter I met through my journeys. I was freelancing the 2007 NASCAR All-Star race for his paper when I was confronted with a line of tables chock full of free goodies in the press room. These ranged from then-Nextel Cup schedules to an actual free jug of Junior Johnson's moonshine. People in the media room were going nuts for the shine.

I told the reporter about my misgivings about taking free things from sources. His response was cheeky, but good: "If NASCAR thinks they can buy my allegiance with a free baseball cap, then more power to them."

NASCAR was, after all, giving out the goods to everyone in the room. Home Depot even sponsored pens, notebooks and Post-It notes. I came out of there with a cap I gave my dad and a small Craftsman Truck notebook I'm still using.

And if grandma offers me a cookie while I'm interviewing her son, I'll take it if I am hungry. Debbie Keeling offered me some sweet tea while I talked to her husband Gary. Turned out to be some of the best tea I've ever had and Debbie likely felt more like a proper hostess since I accepted.

At college sporting events, reporters typically eat for free and partake in some sort of low maintenance meal. Am I beholden? No. I, and other reporters, have likely just traveled a good distance to cover the event. The meal is more of a thank-you, please-come-again, token.

I come again.

For Ohio Valley Conference media days, the organization is kind enough to hand out guest gifts. I now have two thumb drives and a super travel mug. They are tastefully covered with the OVC logo, but since I'm not boasting the colors of a single team, I'll use them.

Lately I've been offered racing T-shirts. These I sadly must turn down. I adore racing T-shirts. The day-glo neon and angular cars spread across my shoulders make up some of my favorite garb. But to wear one shirt from one driver is to appear to favor that driver and not another. Sandy Mason, mom of Street Stock driver J.R. Mason, was crushed when I wouldn't even tell her what size I wear.

Trust me, I was crushed too that you offered to give me a really well-designed free racing T-shirt that I had to decline because of any perceived bias.

But Veneziano's schwag was appreciated. I had already been at the track more than two hours, had sweated myself smelly and was fixing to spend the rest of the night collecting dust with a bit of an attitude. I'm glad it was just pens and notebooks he offered me; had it been a WoO T-shirt, I don't know if I could have stood the temptation.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Racers tabbed 8th in OVC

I was a little shocked that the Murray State football team was picked to finish the conference in eighth place out of nine teams. Head coach Matt Griffin said the Racers deserved it after their 2-9 performance last season.

Personally, I feel the start of the season will be rough — likely a 1-3 start — but if the Racers can avenge last season's rout against Tennessee-Martin, I think they'll be OK for the rest of the season. I predict at least five wins, although a .500 season could be possible.

Remember, the games against this season's top three — Eastern Illinois, Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State — the Racers showed progress. The Racers were a touchdown away from a win against EIU and had some lapses on defense and special teams for unanswered scores with the other two. A win on the road against any of those three and they're looking good.

Jacksonville State was picked to finish the conference first, but that doesn't mean anything right now in the OVC. No team picked to finish first in the pre-season has done it since EIU did it in 2002. The championship prediction in 29 years has only been right 41.4 percent of the time.

So my question is, who has the best chance this season to get the title? Check out the poll to your right.

New NCAA football rules

At the Ohio Valley Conference football media day held at LP Field in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday, OVC coordinator of officials outlined some of the rule changes made in the offseason for NCAA football.

Jackson, who was an official for nearly 20 years in the Sunbelt and Southern conferences, is in his second year as coordinator.

Also, because Samford switched conferences, only nine teams remain that play OVC football, which allowed the number of OVC officials to decrease. The OVC will now have five crews of officials instead of six. No officials were fired, Jackson said; attrition took care of the seven.


Play clock —
The 15 second play clock has been eliminated. A 40-second play clock has been instituted to begin the instant the ball is dead on every play, just like in NFL games. The theory is that the pace of play will be faster and games won't last an eon. A play clock of 25 seconds will be administered under these conditions: penalty administration, charged team time out, media time out, injury time out, measurement, change of possession, following a kick, following a score, start of each period, instant replay review, and any other administrative stoppage.

Kicking — When a kickoff goes out of bounds, the receiving team has the option of taking the ball to the 40 yard line as opposed to the previous 35.

"Bill Belichick" rule — You can't film opponents play signals.

Chop block — The chop block has been defined and made into a penalty. The chop block has been defined as either a high-low or low-high combination block by any two players against an opponent (not the runner) anywhere on the field. Intent is key here as accidental grazes on the way to another player are not a problem.

Example: http://youtube.com/watch?v=vqiLlOybz9s

"Horse collar" tackle — It is now illegal to grab inside the collor or shoulder pad from the back and shoulders to institute a tackle. A 15 yard penalty will ensue. The tackle must be immediate and it is not a foul if it happens inside the tackle box. Tackling a quarterback by horse collar method while in the pocket is OK.

Face mask — Incidental face mask touching is no longer a 5-yard penalty. But it is illegal to twist, turn or pull the face mask and is a 15-yard penalty.

Head contact —It is illegal to initiate contact and target an opponent with the crown of the helmet. It is illegal to target and initiate contact with a defenseless opponent above the shoulders. When in question, the act will be a foul. Intent is all a key to the call here. Basically, this is a helmet punch to the head and neck area.

Sideline interference — Referees were spending too much time delaying the game to issue non-penalty sideline warnings. Officials will now only call sideline interference when they are actually impeded by a sideline member in their officiating duties. This will be a delay-of-game 5-yard penalty. No more warnings.
Also, if a school's marching band is playing while there is a live ball and it is preventing a team from hearing the play calls, the official can give a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct to the band.

Thanks to Jim Jackson for explaining the changes to everyone.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More on MSU softball

If you read Sunday's news centerpiece of The Paducah Sun and still want more information about Murray State's incoming softball program, I've got you covered.

Field No. 6 at Murray's Chestnutt Park will be the home of MSU softball.

All about Title IX

In 2004, Murray State invited Lamar Daniel to come to campus and evaluate its athletic Title IX compliance. Daniel found several problems that have kept officials busy making corrections and changes.

One of the biggest and most prominent changes has been the restructuring of the women’s sports programs with the addition of softball and the discontinuation of rowing.

Daniel is one of the leading experts on Title IX compliance, having worked with the Office for Civil Rights in his home state of Georgia for 20 years, in addition to conducting investigations into school compliance and writing manuals and literature used by the government. Just six months away from a second retirement, Daniel operates a consulting firm used by colleges all over the U.S.

A final evaluation of Murray State in December will be Daniel’s last official gig.

Title IX, a portion of educational amendments originally made in 1972 that prohibits gender discrimination in any program under any educational institution receiving federal aid, requires that school comply in three categories.

A school must accommodate female athletes based on interests and abilities, which schools comply with by meeting one of a “three-prong” test:

n Provide opportunities that are proportional to the gender's enrollment.
n Show continued growth in opportunity for the under-represented gender.
n Meet the interests and abilities of the student population.

Many schools choose the proportionality prong because of its visibility to inspectors.

“It’s not the easiest to me because you have to have a higher number of women’s sports and participants,” Daniel said.

Daniel sees schools all across the country cutting several sports programs from their lists because of budget cuts. For a school to choose to reach the proportionality portion of compliance, a football school can find compliance typically with six male sports and 10 for women. MSU has seven sports for men and nine for women.

The large number of scholarship football athletes skews the number of sports in a Division I program.

According to the roster on goracers.com, MSU will lose 20 athletes with the discontinuation of rowing, while softball will add 12 scholarship athletes, plus walk-ons. Equestrian could have as many as 50 athletes.

For the second category the awards of athletic financial assistance must comply with Title IX rules. Daniel called the third category a “laundry list” that is more subjective than quantifiable. Travel, housing, dining, and facilities are judged to be equal in affect to those offered to male athletes.

“That’s why you have consultants,” Daniel said. “You have to know how every sport operates and how they compare to others.”


A listing of local softball players who have gone on to play on the college level in the past four years:

Name, high school, college, college location

Division I
Brittany Scheer, St. Mary, Morehead State University, Morehead, Ky.
Sam Butts, Calloway County, Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, Tenn.
Kayla Fox, Calloway County, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Ky.

April Carter, Ballard Memorial, Mid-Continent University, Mayfield, Ky.
Brittany Edmonds, Marshall County, Bethel College, McKenzie, Tenn.
Ashley Simmons, Heath, Bethel College, McKenzie, Tenn.
Bristyn Prowell, Caldwell County, Brescia University, Owensboro, Ky.
Laura Slack, Marshall County, Campbellsville College, Campbellsville, Ky.
Dria Moore, Paducah Tilghman, Lindsey Wilson College, Columbia, Ky.

Junior college
Ambur Frizzell, Carlisle County, Shawnee Community College, Ullin, Ill.
Jordan Huston, Murray, Shawnee Community College, Ullin, Ill.
Megan Snow, Murray, Shawnee Community College, Ullin, Ill.
Kelsie Beardsley, Ballard Memorial, Shawnee Community College, Ullin, Ill.
Kortney Rose, Heath, Shawnee Community College, Ullin, Ill.
Jessica Pickard, Marshall County, Shawnee Community College, Ullin, Ill.