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Monday, January 31, 2011

Superfan Daily: Weekend Roundup

Indoor Track

Millrose Games (IAAF Permit, VISA Championship Series)
Friday, Madison Square Garden, New York NY
Highlights: Nesta Carter (JAM) 6.52 60m, Ryan Whiting (USA) 21.31 SP, Veronica Campbell-Brown (JAM) 7.11 60m, Fabiana Murer (BRA) 4.74 PV
IAAF story / Results / Video

Aviva International Match (Aviva Series)
Saturday, Kelvin Hall, Glasgow SCO
Winner: Germany
Highlights: David Oliver (USA) 7.51 60H, Helen Clitheroe (GBR) 8:52.31 3000m
Athletics Weekly story / Results

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Evening Decathlete

What did we learn this week?

Bernard Lagat is not invincible.  We already knew this, of course, but with seven Wanamaker Mile titles to his credit it seemed like he couldn't lose at Millrose.  In my meet preview I said Deresse Mekonnen would give Lagat get the biggest push he'd had in quite a while at the Garden, but I incorrectly picked Lagat to win.  How did Mekonnen beat the master strategist?  By using basic indoor strategy.

In the third quarter, Mekonnen got ahead of Lagat.  Neither was really moving at full speed yet, as evidenced by their ability to run 55 seconds for the final quarter mile on the tight Millrose track.  In the last three laps, twice Lagat tried to pass, and twice Mekonnen accelerated enough to force Lagat wide around the turn and deny him.  Lagat had neither the time nor the remaining energy to try again.  Basic indoor strategy is to never let someone get ahead of you who could possibly fight you off in the race's late stages, but Lagat did and it was his undoing.

The Millrose Games and their telecast are better, but...  A year ago, control of the meet was handed over to the Armory Foundation, the people who run Manhattan's hugely successful indoor track arena.  This year they hired Tom Jordan, the longtime Prefontaine Classic meet director, to put on the show.  And the meet was better, with decently deep fields in most of the events and interesting new competitions, one pitting Jamaica versus the USA in the sprints and the other bringing in the world's best decathletes for a special multi-events competition.

But other things weren't so good.  Attendance was apparently way down, probably the worst since World War II or earlier--which is surprising given the area's fanatical group of  Jamaican expat track fans.  The highly anticipated 2-mile featuring Galen Rupp became a nothing race once he withdrew with illness.  And here are some tidbits from people who were there:
The only part that really was annoying was the loud blaring of AC/DC and other similar loud bands during the SP competition. It was horrible and then the field announcer (Dan O'Brien) asked the crowd for some noise. What for? No one could have heard anyone in the audience over the blaringly loud music. I don't hate loud music. In fact, I went to see Green Day's American Idiot a few days ago. I just don't like it with my track.
I couldn't agree more about the loud thudding music. In addition to being just plain annoying, having announcers try to talk over it constantly just makes the already difficult acoustics in the Garden so much worse. I barely heard an intelligible announcement all night, and I think that (along with the ridiculously amateurish use of the Garden's scoreboards) makes the all-important conveying of information to the crowd just about impossible, leaving a lot of people watching an event they can't really follow.
As far as TV presentation goes, certain things were much better. Ato Boldon had promised us marked improvement and to some extent it was delivered. ESPN brought in Tim Hutchings, who you may know as one of the British announcers on the IAAF world feeds that picks up (which is by itself an important indicator that ESPN/ABC both intends to win Olympics rights and thinks it can). There was intelligent use of basic video technology to seamlessly integrate races held before the broadcast began at 8 PM. And they were able to work around the 2-mile, which apparently was no longer deemed worthy of broadcast without Galen Rupp.

But other things stunk as much as they always have. While camera positioning was better for the shot put, for the women's pole vault we got the same old head-on shot looking down the runway. My real beef with Friday night's telecast was the same problem I always have with US track broadcasts: important numerical information should never be communicated solely by voice, but should also appear on screen. We should see on the screen how many laps are left in a race. We should see what the score is between Jamaica and the USA. We should see who the leaders in the shot or the pole vault are and what their on-screen efforts do for them. We should see what the standings in the multi-event challenge were right after each event. There is NO EXCUSE for this not being done.

Field events are ignored at track's peril. I thought two of the most interesting events of the whole night were the men's shot and the multi challenge. In the former, Ryan Whiting scored a big upset win over Christian Cantwell in a seesaw battle. In the latter, Ashton Eaton set two PRs (and passed on trying for another) and showed he's ahead of schedule to become the best decathlete in the world.

It's not just there, though. This week's college action was highly oriented to individuals rather than teams, but had few great track races. There were a lot of good times but some hoped-for matchups of top runners never materialized. By far the best competition of the weekend was the men's high jump in College Station, where Ricky Robertson of Ole Miss and Erik Kynard of Kansas State faced off. Going into the meet they were the top two on the NCAA list, and when the bar went up to 7' 6" (2.28m) they were the last two left. Mano-a-mano, the way individual sports are supposed to be. Kynard made the height, a new collegiate leader, and Robertson didn't.  No other single competition of the weekend offered up as much.

Some of the problems we have in track are related to the makeup of the sport itself. Runners can't compete too often, the best ones are pretty expensive for a meet director to bring in, and it's easy for them to duck each other by choosing different distances. These problems are more or less nonexistent in field events, though. Field eventers can compete two or three times in a week with few ill effects, they're always happy to pick up another paycheck, and the necessary specialization in a single event means they always have to go up against each other.

Over in Europe there has been a wise decoupling of field events from track and field meets, mostly during the indoor season, with positive effects. There are two different tours in eastern Europe that are high-jump only. Germany has its "Springermeetings" which usually have a high jump and a pole vault competition. England and France have a pole vault tour. Germany has an annual shot put meet, and outdoors there are some throws-only meets. The structure of these competitions allows them to be held in an ordinary gym, where a crowd of 2,000 or less could be a sellout. The low cost of assembling an elite field in just a couple of events, and universally underappreciated events at that, allows many of these kinds of meets to be held in rapid succession, which in turn builds media attention and a fan following. On Saturday Ivan Ukhov came oh-so-close to the world record in one of these high jump meets in front of a sellout crowd of eight hundred. (You must follow the link--the tininess of the venue is unbelievable and the proximity of the crowd is wonderful.)

Here in the USA only one group of field-eventers has figured this whole thing out, and that's the pole vaulters. They had their annual Pole Vault Summit this weekend, and street vaults and beach vaults are a staple of the summer. They were close to creating a professional pole vault tour last year but it fell through. (Arizona has a few throws-only meets but that hardly qualifies as an entire movement.) There's no reason that other field events can't do the same.

Jeff Demps may not be running track for Florida this spring. Or ever. We'll see. The defending NCAA champ in the 60 and the 100 (and the High School and American Junior record holder in the latter) also plays football at the University of Florida. Gator head coach Urban Meyer retired at the end of the season, apparently for good this time. The rumor (from reputable sources) is that the new coaching staff has told him he's not running track this spring--and if he does, he's done playing football.

It remains to be seen exactly what comes out of this. It might not be true. If it is, he might pick track instead, as there has been speculation that his long-term plans were headed in that direction instead. But even if he does, he then has the problem of paying for his 2011-12 school year. Football wouldn't do it, and UF's track scholarships are likely all spoken for given that national signing day is coming up this week.

Given that Demps got the crap beat out of him this fall, I can't see him lasting very long in the NFL. And he's on the cusp of being a legitimate worldwide superstar in track--which, while admittedly paying a heck of a lot less per year, is something he could do for the next ten to fifteen years, so he'd probably make more over his career as a runner rather than a running back. If he does choose track, he'll probably have to turn to the professional ranks after the end of this season.

The London Olympic Stadium row was predicted. Months before the final selection of the host of the 2012 Olympics, the Paris bid team already said the London Olympic Stadium would not honor its promise to retain its track. They thought it would either become another football stadium or be torn down completely. This comes to us from Jon Tibbs, the PR consultant retained by the Parisians, as reported in Athletics Weekly.
"There were six to eight IOC members at the time who were related to athletics who probably voted for London in the final rounds," said Tibbs. "We’ll never know but let’s assume they did. That includes Lamine Diack, Sergey Bubka, Hicham El Guerrouj and Nawal El Moutawakel. They were all under the impression that London would be leaving a lasting legacy for athletics."
Apparently the Parisians didn't go public with their doubts, else those people would have voted for Paris and London wouldn't have won. It was considered an upset at the time, and the conventional wisdom then was that Tony Blair's personal lobby made the difference. In retrospect it sure looks like the stadium promise was the difference, not Blair.

I'd also like to put down some money on the next IAAF presidency vote once this is all sorted out. If Coe manages to save the stadium, he'll win. If not, Bubka will be the unanimous choice.  As Tibbs said, it will not go over well if the IOC is hoodwinked into giving the Games to a city that had no intention of backing up the promise central to its candidacy.

Ryan Hall is not the best-prepared athlete in his family.  Hall mad his much-anticipated return to racing at yesterday's USATF Half-Marathon Championships, where he was beaten to second over the last 300 meters by Mo Trafeh.  The time was, by Hall's standards, nothing terribly impressive.  He looked OK.  But that's what he's raced like for the last several years.  Just OK.  And that's not going to win anything.

Wife Sara, on the other hand, ran a very good race on Friday night to win the 1500 at the Millrose Games.  Last year was quietly one of her best years ever and Friday continued it.  As Ryan has famously turned away from being coached by anyone but himself and his intuition (or divine inspiration, which are two names for the same thing), Sara has retained Deena Evans, her coach while in college at Stanford, where she was twice an NCAA runner-up at 5k.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Separated At Birth

Ryan Hall, from this morning's press conference

Yours truly, from 1992

Superfan Daily: What's On The Weekend

I'll let the Flotrack guys kick it off. All the weekend's action and previews after the jump.

Click below for more!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Superfan Power Rankings: College Women

Promised tomorrow, delivered ahead of schedule.

Remember, this is A way to rank teams, not the only way.  It is very much like the USTFCCCA regional rankings, but blends all the regions into one group. At the top, though, it is more reflective of national rankings.

1. Texas A&M 1) v LSU
2. Tennessee
3. Arkansas
4. LSU 2) v TAMU
5. Clemson
6. Indiana 1) v Purdue
7. Oklahoma
8. Central Florida
9. Texas Tech
10. Ohio State 1) v Michigan
11. Nebraska 1) adidas Classic
12. Southern Illinois
13. Stanford
14. Minnesota 1) Jack Johnson Classic
15. Michigan 2) v Ohio State
16. Mississippi
17. Penn State
18. Illinois 1) Illini Classic
19. Louisville
20. Texas 1) Hilton Memorial
21. Connecticut 1) NYRR Armory
22. TCU
23. Michigan State
24. North Dakota State
25. Iowa State

Most west coast teams, most notably Oregon, and some sun belt teams are absent due to a later start to their seasons.  They'll be in here soon.

Central Florida is an up-and-coming program, as noted by their #8 ranking here.

It's very early, and things can and will change, but Ohio State is the top-ranked team in the Big Ten.  The Buckeyes have never won a (women's) Big Ten team championship, indoors or out, and only have two runner-up finishes.

Early numbers suggest the SEC Championship could be a tight three-way race.

Superfan Daily: Men's College Power Rankings

Yesterday I wrote about the shortcomings of the USTFCCCA computer rankings for college teams, and promised a new system of ranking teams.  I've gotten some feedback about what people think is important and what they don't.
I think the best way to explain why I'm coming up with a system is to just let Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry say it.  From the January 2011 issue of Track and Field News, speaking about the increasing irrelevance of college track:
The...aspect that we've lost is that it's about Red beating Blue. Every other sport, including golf now, involves a team. We have to start being team-oriented, team against team. We've got to come away with winners and we've also got to come away with losers.

I think that's important to the development of the individual, not just for our sport. I think it's great for our individuals to be involved in something greater than self also and be a winner or a loser. I think that's part of the education process.

But I think our sport has to come back to this school trying to beat that school.

...what we should be doing in my opinion: having a great track meet where we really care about whether there's people sitting in the stands or not.

We've got to create an environment that is fan friendly...and they see this team has beaten that team...

So my Superfan Power Rankings are created with that attitude in mind, that the results of all scored meets have some meaning, not just the NCAA Championships. Obviously not equal meaning, but when you see this team beat that team it is then reflected in the rankings until either a) the teams meet again with a different outcome or b) it has become obvious that the head-to-head outcome was a fluke.

Let's also be honest about something: rankings and ratings ultimately don't matter. This is true in any college sport (besides football), but especially so here.  No team's ranking will put it at a disadvantage for winning the championship of the NCAA or its conference. As my high school coach used to say, if we know ahead of time who is going to win the trophies then we won't bother to have the meet.

Where rankings DO matter is in sports media. And I think we risk making ourselves look ridiculous by having a team win a meet and then fall behind the team they beat.  I also think it's important to be able to look at the rankings and have some indication of which team will win an upcoming meet, be it an invitational, dual, or conference championship, and the USTFCCCA computer ratings aren't terribly good at that.

The rankings are based only on this year, from both team results and a compilation of individual results. They combine the ability to compete at both an NCAA Championship-type meet and a conference-type meet. Teams are ranked only on what they have already done, thus very good squads with little to no competition so far this year (such as Florida and Oregon) are far below where they'll probably end up.

Rankings after the jump...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Don't Mess With Pole Vaulters

Hat tip to Pole Vault Power.

A New College Track Team Rankings System

Yesterday the latest USTFCCCA computer ratings came out. On the men’s side, LSU moved from #3 in the rankings up to #1. But wait, you say, didn’t Texas A&M beat LSU over the weekend? Yet the Aggies fell a spot from #2 to #3? WTF?

Now you see the ridiculousness inherent in the system. The USTFCCCA computer ratings are merely a numerically-based projection of the final scores at the NCAA Championships. And those are based entirely on times, heights and distances, not on any who-beat-who results of real competition.

Even the BCS system, for all its strangeness, would never drop at team below its recently vanquished opponent. I fear that the USTFCCCA ratings, the only real ratings we have in college track, would make us a laughingstock...if anyone were paying attention. It needs to be done better, but in a way that holds meaning.

More after the jump...

Superfan Daily: Your Track Vault Pick of the Week

In advance of Friday's Millrose Games, where Alberto Salazar's protoge Galen Rupp will race two miles, this week I give you a 1981 Sports Illustrated story on that year's great Millrose meet.
Alberto Salazar knew he was there—he had been there a long time—trailing behind him like a cape. But there was nothing more for Salazar to do now but push on, as fast as he prudently could. Pitched slightly forward in full flight, staring fixedly ahead, his face expressionless, Salazar had set a blistering pace in the 5,000-meter run at last Friday's Mill-rose Games. Rushing through the first mile in 4:13.8, a split suggesting a world indoor record in the making, the 22-year-old winner of the 1980 New York City Marathon had the Madison Square Garden crowd of 18,211 shifting in the seats. But more than the splits were stirring them now.

Directly behind Salazar, not more than two yards back as they raced into the final six of the 34-plus laps, was Suleiman Nyambui, a spindly-legged Tanzanian who was running 12 miles a day, back and forth to school, when he was all of eight years old. He has since developed into one of the world's leading distance runners. Nyambui (pronounced ny-ahm-boo-ee), a junior at the University of Texas at El Paso, won both the 5,000 and 10,000 runs at last year's NCAA outdoor championships. And, coming off that, the silver medal in the 5,000 at the Olympics in Moscow. Now Nyambui was waiting to kick for the world record.
The rest of the story...

What's On
The Beskydska latka, the second leg of the Moravia High Jump Tour, takes place today in the Czech town of Třinec. Stars to compete include Aleksandr Shustov, Jesse Williams, and Emma Green.
Meet website (in Czech)

A "Springermeeting" will take place today in the German city of Cottbus, featuring the men's pole vault and women's high jump. Stars slated to compete include Renaud Lavillenie, Bjorn Otto, Jerome Clavier, and Ruth Beitia. Will the crowd be chanting "Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!"?
Meet website (in German)

A "High Jump with Music" competition will take place today in the German city of Koln.

Track on TV
Olympics: Reliving the Glory: Atlanta '96, 7:00 PM tonight on Universal Sports
Endurance, 9:30 PM tonight on Flix
Bud Greenspan Presents: Beijing 2008 - America's Olympic Glory, 4:15 AM tomorrow on Showtime Extreme
Bud Greenspan's Athens 2004: Stories of Olympic Glory, 7:50 AM tomorrow on Showtime Family Zone

News Links
Runner's World's Racing News has all the headlines.

Dathan Ritzenhein pulls out of London Marathon with injury.  Alberto Salazar trashing to being in 3...2...1

A poll finds that 81% of Londoners oppose Tottenham's plans to remove the track from the Olympic Stadium. And in other track stadium news, Kingston's National Stadium is racing against time to have resurfacing work done before major meets are slated.

Nearly 34,000 Londoners have applied for 8,000 Olympic volunteer jobs.

The Millrose Games will have another Super 60 race, this time pitting athletes from four different sports.

Two Russians put up world-leading marks in Siberia on Saturday. Josh Norman, world leader in the 60 meters, will compete in Moscow next week, as will Brianna Glenn, who blogs about flying there.

The new USTFCCCA computer rankings are out, with LSU's men and Oregon's women both at #1. LSU just lost a meet against #3 Texas A&M, which officially makes these rankings the only thing that makes less sense than the BCS.

Steve Prefontaine would have turned 60 yesterday, leading TrackFocus to ask what would have happened had he not died young.

An Abebe Bikila biopic will be screened in Portland in February.

Houston's Conference USA pole vault champion is also Shasta, the school's mascot.

Flotrack Weekly features the return of Ryan Hall.  They also interview 400 hurdler Fawn Dorr.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Superfan Daily: Millrose Preview and Picks

Late last week the Millrose Games lineups were announced. Yesterday USATF re-launched its Pick N Win Game, the online pick-em contest that was so financially beneficial to your Superfan last spring.

TV coverage is live at 8 PM on ESPN2.  Ato Boldon tells us the coverage will be different and much better.  Here are my thoughts on the events to be contested Friday at the Garden...

Men’s 60 meters
This is part of a special USA versus Jamaica contest, scoring both men’s and women’s sprints. It looks like pretty much the best athletes available from each country. The stars (Bolt, Gay, Powell) don’t run indoors, and it looks like Walter Dix will skip the undercover campaign this year as well.

Of the rest, Nesta Carter, Yohan Blake and Trell Kimmons are the world’s best. Ivory Williams and Mike Rodgers are two of the next three best Americans. Oshane Bailey is an up-and-comer. I picked Carter to win, with Blake as my backup pick.

Morea after the jump...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Superfan Daily: Weekend Roundup

Cross Country
Antrim International (IAAF Permit)
Saturday, Antrim NIR
Winners: Mike Kigen (9 km), Charlotte Purdue (5.4 km)
IAAF story and results

Kenyan Armed Forces Cross Country Championships
Saturday, Nanyuki KEN
Winners: John Chepkwony (12 km), Linet Chepkirui (8 km)
IAAF story and results / Daily Nation article

Cross Internacional Juan Muguerza
Sunday, Elgiobar ESP
Winners: Leonard Komon (10.8 km), Sara Moreira (6.6 km)
IAAF story and results

Road Racing
Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon (IAAF Gold Label)
Friday, Dubai UAE
Winners: David Barmasai (2:07:18), Aselefech Mergia (2:22:45)
IAAF story and results

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Evening Decathlete

For the uninitiated, this is my weekly track-oriented version of "Monday-morning quarterbacking".

What did we learn this week?

The real story is getting out.  Earlier this week, the University of Delaware announced that it will demote its track and cross country teams from varsity to club status.  UD cited Title IX for cutting the teams.  There were the usual responses--blaming women for the downfall of man, etc--and my usual harping that Title IX had nothing to do with it and the excesses of football are the real cause.  Something different happened this time, though; at least a few people agreed with me.  And some independently.

Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman explained the imbalance between track and football:
The University of Delaware's football team recently wrapped up its season with 103 players on its roster. That includes four quarterbacks, 10 running backs, 14 wide receivers, 16 defensive backs and four kickers. As a proud graduate of the school, this makes me immensely happy. It was, after all, Winston Churchill who once said, "Life without a 16th defensive back is no life at all."
He went on to explain that there were essentially no savings to be had from the tiny and little-funded track team, but called the football team "a giant money suck" and suggested the real reasons behind the demise of the track program may not have been the ones cited by the AD.  It's like he read my playbook.  But he didn't.  We sound the same because we're telling the truth.
Pearlman's name might ring a bell.  He has written four books, one of which was a best-seller, and wrote the infamous John Rocker interview for SI.  So he's well-known, as as an SI columnist he's well followed.  His rant may have singlehandedly changed the perception of these kinds of athletic cuts.  I wouldn't be surprised if local beat writers start asking probing questions when an AD announces the death of track, swimming, soccer, or some other team.  Good on ya!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Superfan Daily: What's On The Weekend

All the weekend's action  is listed after the jump.  I'll let the Flotrack guys get it started!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Superfan Daily: Women's Dual-Meet Rankings

Following up on Tuesday’s rankings of men’s teams, these are the dual-meet rankings for college women’s teams.

Remember, these are a ranking of teams based on how they would currently fare in dual meets; teams which have not yet run their whole squad are not ranked. Notable such teams are LSU, Georgia and the whole Pac-10. Teams without a dual, tri or quad on their schedule are ineligible for ranking.

1. Texas A&M (meets LSU on Saturday)
2. Ohio State (1-0, beat #3 Michigan)
3. Michigan (0-1, lost to #2 Ohio State)
4. Tennessee
5. Texas Tech
6. Indiana (1-0, beat Purdue)
7. Nebraska
8. Kansas (1-0, beat Missouri)
9. BYU
10. Eastern Michigan (1-0, beat Toledo)

Track on TV
Reliving the Glory: Los Angeles '84, 7:00 PM tonight on Universal Sports

News Links
Runner's World's Racing News has all the headlines, including indoor track previews.

Let's Run's Week That Was in running.

Flotrack's Kick of the Week:

and Flotrack's Tasty Race of the Week:

More on the London Olympic Stadium situation: both bids could be rejected, and UK head coach Charles Van Commenee says England could become like Albania.

Millrose start lists are up.

Universal Sports' interview with Alberto Salazar about Kara Goucher's return to racing.

An update on Oklahoma star German Fernandez.

Notes from the New York Track Writers' weekly luncheon.

An update on new pro Curtis Mitchell.

Track Alerts feature on Jamaican quarter-miler Jermain Gonzales.

ESPN and Texas announced a partnership for a Longhorn TV channel. Texas Relays on TV, please!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Track Team Eliminated

This morning it was announced that the University of Delaware will eliminate its men's track and cross country teams, effective at the end of this school year.  The teams will technically still compete at the club level, but for all practical purposes the teams will no longer exist.  The headlines cited Title IX compliance, but the University's release said it was also partly a financial problem.

My immediate reaction was a rather snarky one, replying via Twitter that I was certain it was a football expenditure problem, not a Title IX problem.  I got a little bit of blowback for that.  I'll have to admit that the words "I don't have an opinion on this topic" will never cross my lips, regardless of what's being discussed.  Sometimes my opinions anger people, although (obviously) I think those people are just wrong.  Sometimes my opinions require further explanation, such as in this case.

I have more experience in these kinds of matters than most people.  My alma mater, Bowling Green, eliminated men's track and field in 2001.  Like Delaware, they said it was both Title IX and finances.  It took a little while, but I eventually learned that almost every statement released by BGSU was a lie.  What I've been able to find out about similar cuts from other universities shows the same basic pattern.

My experience is that athletic cuts almost never really are about Title IX compliance.  Rather, it's a problem of overspending which, for one reason or another, cannot continue.  The overspending is sometimes a chronic problem of the athletic department as a whole which has reached a limit due to its declining financial health.  Quite often, though, it's either because of a huge unanticipated short-term cost, or because of future grand plans which must be financed from somewhere.  And there's only one sport that both costs this much and has this kind of pull: football.

What most people don't realize is that football loses money.  Big money.  Some programs do make money, maybe about half of the 120 FBS teams (and only if you're using the most generous accounting system possible).  But the vast majority of the 126 FCS teams lose money, even the very good ones.  And, contrary to popular belief, a winning football team is often more expensive than a losing one.  Except for the BCS games, teams participating in bowl games lose money on the deal.  And this is not exclusive to the FBS level; Montana's AD reported losing $150,000 per year as a result of qualifying to two consecutive FCS Championship games.

Since ADs don't want to talk about losing money, Title IX is often used as a smokescreen in athletic cuts.  The 1972 law is often described as being about sports, but the original statute made no mention of it.  It merely said that educational programs receiving federal funds cannot discriminate on the basis of sex.  It's fashionable these days among conservatives or even some centrists to say that the law has gone too far.  But it's important to note how much different things were on college campuses before 1972.

Until Title IX was passed, colleges could and did have quotas limiting the number of female admissions.  Some universities refused to admit them at all, as did many individual colleges and/or programs at coed institutions.  This was done openly and without reservation.  A woman getting hired to work at a university, particularly in more prestigious jobs, was even more difficult than getting admitted (and the law's origins lie in that particular problem). 

Imagine this: mothers and daughters taxed, in part to support universities, at the same rate as their husbands and sons, but unable to attend or be hired.  Disregarding any issues of equal protection under the law, Title IX can be justified on a financial basis alone.  I'll be god-damned if my wife is going to pay the same tax rate as her male peers yet be denied the same access to employment and pay.  And all but the most crazed ideologues would similarly be adamant that their hardworking daughter not be denied a spot in a classroom in favor of a lower-achieving male.

Title IX is only a sticking point in sports because it's literally the only place in our educational institutions where we attempt a separate-but-equal system.  And just exactly what that means is difficult, because the original law is only one sentence long.  So the devil is in the details--the regulations made from the law that decide what it means to comply.  Commonly cited is a requirement that men and women participate in roughly equal ratio as their enrollment in the university in question.  It's sort of a requirement, not a hard and fast one, but it's far from the only issue.  Let's just say the situation can be rather complex, and not as simple as often made out to be.

Getting back to the situation at hand, Bowling Green did not have a Title IX problem in 2001, at least according to an article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education in June of 2001.  It was listed as one of 25 institutions that was doing things well in terms of gender equity.  What Bowling Green did have was an expensive football coaches' contract to buy out after he'd been fired, new Division 1-A membership requirements to meet, and plans for new facilities.  In the ten years since BGSU claimed it could not afford track's $200,000 or so per year, the university has spent $46 million on new facilities and upgrades to existing ones. You can find similar stories at Ohio U, Toledo, Fresno State, Ball State, Western Michigan, and just about everywhere else you want to look.

What about Delaware?  Do they really have a Title IX problem?  If we take the AD's word at face value, and some sacrifice must be made, the pain certainly is not being shared equally.  Of UD's 600 or so student-athletes, 105 are on the football roster.  This in the FCS subdivision, where only 63 scholarships are allowed among no more than 85 players, meaning that at least 20 of these players are non-scholarship walk-ons.  The very existence of those 20 walk-ons, most of whom rarely if ever get to play, are causing track and cross country to take the fall.  Whether this is right or wrong is not the issue; the issue is that the Athletic Director is not being fully truthful when he says that some sports have to be cut.  The truth is that he'd rather cut two entire men's sports (and the NCAA Sports Sponsorship and Grant-In-Aid funds that comes with them) than ask the football program to make even a minimum of sacrifice.

Remember what Montana's AD said about the FCS playoffs, and that they lost a significant amount of money by making repeated deep runs in the playoffs?  Delaware made it to the FCS championship game last fall.  You decide if this is a coincidence or not.

When these kinds of cuts are announced, ADs are right in one way when they cite Title IX.  The women's team would be going away if not for Title IX.  And I don't think the women would be eliminated instead of the men, but in addition to the men.

Superfan Daily: Your Track Vault Pick of the Week

As the Millrose Games are coming up soon, this week I give you a 1996 New York Times story on the year the great Bubka came to Madison Square Garden.
As a light snow fell, a man of relatively average height and weight wearing black knit cap, gray down jacket, corduroys and hiking boots emerged from the subway station at 50th Street and Broadway at 10 A.M. yesterday and then proceeded south on Broadway. Hardly any of the passers-by or anyone driving in an automobile seemed to take any particular notice. And why should they? After all, he was like everyone else trapersing the thoroughfare, other than that he was carrying a 17-foot pole on his shoulder.

What's On
The Ostravska latka, the first meet in the Czech High Jump Grand Prix, takes place tomorrow in Ostrava.

Track on TV
Bud Greenspan's Athens 2004: Stories of Olympic Glory, 12:45 PM today on Showtime Family Zone

News Links
Runner's World's Racing News has all the headlines: former college teammates Alan Webb versus Nick Willis at the Boston stop on the VISA circuit, the Lucas Verzbicas controversy, and more.

Various competition lineup announcements: The Meeting Pas de Calais in Lievin FRA on February 6 will have a bunch of stars; the Tokyo Marathon on February 27 will have Haile Gebrselassie against a formidable opponent, Gideon Ngatuny; Olympic 100 champ Shelly-Ann Fraser will open her season in Jamaica on January 29.

Phil Hersh's belated salute to Bud Greenspan.

The second installment of The Guardian's weekly Gonzo-style series on running in Kenya.

Classy: Nick Willis' upgrade to Olympic silver (after Rashid Ramzi's doping DQ) will be done at a track meet in Christchurch NZ next month. The things are usually done without the appropriate levels of pomp and circumstance.

Oklahoma adds a couple of midyear transfers.

Brianna Glenn bogs on pain management, and Tom Kloos of the Bay Area Track Club blogs on the face of victory.

Arkansas' head men's track coach Chris Bucknam's weekly press conference, and the press conference from women's head coach Lance Harter.

Not directly track-related, but nonetheless huge: Sports Illustrated has a lot of dirt on Lance Armstrong, and reportedly their article is much toned-down from the original. Super-anti-doping doc Don Caitlin doesn't come out looking so good. And the great guys at the Science of Sport blog tell us a bit more about the drug HemAssist, which Armstrong supposedly used. The Armstrong affair appears to be a much bigger crime than just sports fraud, and many people may be in very big trouble.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Superfan Daily: Men's Dual-Meet Rankings

Realizing that what makes for a good team in a one-on-one meet is often times much different than in a championship meet, Track and Field News for many years used to have a special ranking for college teams by their dual-meet competitiveness.  They abandoned this in the 1990s, because dual meets declined in popularity to the piont that they pretty much only existed in the Pac-10.  Things have reversed course these days, so I have brought back the dual meet rankings.

Back in December I posted some pre-season rankings, which bear some resemblance to these but not a lot.  The rankings below are based only on this season's efforts, so many teams who will rank highly in the future are absent from this ranking because they haven't yet gotten up to full gear.  Notables of that type include LSU, Georgia, and the entirety of the Pac-10.

For this reason, I'm only listing a top ten right now.  By the end of the season it will expand to the top 25.

Remember the rules for ranking:
a) only teams with a (scored!) dual, tri or quad on their schedules are eligible for ranking,
b) outdoor competition counts for more than indoor competition,
c) real meet results take precedence over theoretical meet results,
d) quality of defeated opponent(s) plays a role but a minor one

Men's Dual-Meet Rankings, January 18:
1.  Texas A&M (meets LSU on Saturday)
2. Arkansas (1-0, beat #5 Texas)
3.  Ohio State (1-0, beat Michigan)
4.  Indiana (1-0, beat Purdue)
5.  Texas (0-1, lost to #2 Arkansas)
6.  Iowa (1-0, beat Illinois)
7.  Akron (2-0, beat Temple and #10 Kent State)
8.  Nebraska
9.  BYU
10. Kent State (0-1, lost to #7 Akron)

Track on TV
Bud Greenspan's Athens 2004: Stories of Olympic Glory, 6:00 AM Wednesday on Showtime Family Zone

News Links
Runner's World's Racing News has all the headlines.

Meet lineup announcements: The New Balance Indoor Grand Prix will have Nick Willis, Alan Webb and Lucas Verzbicas in the mile; Reese Hoffa will throw at two meets in Australia in February and March; the Millrose Games has signed on World Champions Chistian Cantwell (SP) and Fabiana Murer (PV).

More on the London Olympic Stadium situation: The Telegraph doesn't want Britain to look like a bunch of liars, and anyway it belongs to the public (who paid for it); a former London mayor is horrified; and Crystal Palace (the team, not the venue) has taken Tottenham by surprise.

Defending World Marathon Champion Abel Kirui will skip the Worlds this summer in favor of a World Record attempt in Berlin.

Could the Japanese catch the Kenyans in marathoning?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Superfan Daily: Weekend Roundup

Cross Country
Cross de Itálica (IAAF Permit)
Sunday, Seville ESP
Winners: Leonard Komon (8k), Vivian Cheruiyot (8k)
IAAF story and results

Kenya Police Inter-Divisional Cross Country Championships
Saturday, Ngong Race Course, Nairobi KEN
Winners: Geoffrey Mutai (12k), Pauline Njeri (8k)
IAAF story and results

Cross della Vallagarina (EAA Permit)
Sunday, Rovereto ITA
Winners: Thomas Longosiwa (8.7k), Alemu Birtukan (5.6k)
IAAF story and results

Bay Area Cross Challenge
Sunday, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco CA
Winners: Ben Bruce (8k), Molly Huddle (6k)
Recap and results

Cross Ouest-France
Sunday, Le Mans FRA
Winners: Mike Kigen (9.1k), Wude Aleyew (4.9k)
Story (in French) and results

McCain Cardiff Cross Challenge
Sunday, Blackweir Fields, Cardiff WAL
Winners: Frank Tickner, Charlotte Purdue
Athletics Weekly recap

Road Racing
Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon (IAAF Gold Label)
Sunday, Mumbai IND
Winners: Girma Assefa (2:09:54 course record, Indian all-comers record), Koren Yal (2:26:56 course record, Indian all-comers record)
IAAF story and results

Inter-Prefectural Women’s Ekiden
Sunday, Kyoto JAP (9 stages, 42.195 km)
Winner: Kyoto Prefecture (2:17:16)
Highlight: Kayoko Fukushi, 31:53 10k leg
Japan Running News story, results and video highlights

P.F. Chang’s Rock n Roll Arizona Marathon and Half Marathon
Sunday, Pheonix-Tempe-Scottsdale AZ
Winners: Josh Cox (2:17:32 + 2:43:45 50k American Record), Sally Meyerhoff (2:37:56), Shawn Forrest (1:03:07), Madai Perez (1:11:49)
Velonews recap

Naples Daily News Half Marathon
Sunday, Naples FL
Winners: Nicholas Kurgat (1:03:26), Gebre Belainesh (1:09:58 course record)
Naples Daily News story and results

Indoor Track
UW Indoor Preview
Saturday, Dempsey Indoor, Seattle WA
Highlights: Lisa Koll 8:53.14 3k, Josh Norman 6.58 60m
Recap, video and results

Capital Perche
Saturday, Stadium Jean Pellez, Aubiere FRA (pole vault only)
Winners: Renaud Lavillenie (5.92m), Maria Ribeiro-Tavares (4.37m)
Story (in French) and results

North Rhine regional championships
Sunday, Leverkusen GER
Highlight: Silke Spiegelburg 4.65 PV

South England Championships
Sunday, Lee Valley, ENG
Highlights: Jeanette Kwakye 7.28 60m
Athletics weekly story

Ohio State 88, Michigan 74 (men)
Highlights: Matt DeChant (OSU) 19.44 SP, Thomas Murdaugh (OSU) 46.3 4x400 split
Recap and results

Ohio State 83, Michigan 78 (women)
Highlights: Christina Manning (OSU) 8.13 60H, Rebecca Addison (UM) 2:09.87 800m
Recap and results

Indiana 77, Purdue 59 (men)
Indiana 89, Purdue 47 (women)
Highlights: Faith Sherrill (IU) 17.92 SP, Andy Bayer (IU) 4:01.71 Mile, Kind Butler (IU) 6.72 60m
Recap and results

Arkansas 97, Texas 72 (men)
Highlights: Tarik Batchelor (UA) 7.98 LJ, 15.70 TJ
Recap and results

Kansas 91, Missouri 89 (men)
Kansas 99, Missouri 82 (women)
Highlights: Mason Finley (KU) 20.71 SP
Recap and results

Akron 82, Kent State 67 (men)
Akron 82, Kent State 69 (women)
Highlights: Matt Fleger (UA) 20.46 WT
Recap and results

Georgia 77, Clemson 68, Auburn 38, Miami 25 (men)
Clemson 77, Georgia 72, Miami 42, Auburn 23 (women)
Highlights: Briana Rollins (CU) 8.19 60H, Colleen Felix (UGA) 13.25 TJ
Recap and results

Leonard Hilton Memorial
Winning Teams: Texas-San Antonio (men), Texas (women)
Highlights: Mike Rodgers (pro) 6.66 60m
Recap and results

Texas A&M Conference Challenge
Wining Conferences: admit it, no one cares
Highlights: Gerald Phiri (TAMU) 20.81 200m, Texas A&:M (men) 3:06.49 4x400, Demetrius Pinder (TAMU) 45.56 relay leg, Jessica Beard (TAMU) 23.25 200m, Jasmine Simmons (Oklahoma) 12.97 TJ, Skylar White (Baylor) 16.97 SP
Recap and results

All the rest

Track on TV
Endurance, 10:00 PM tonight on Flix

News Links
Runner's World's Racing News has all the headlines: Josh Cox just missing a World Record, Kara Goucher's return to racing, and more. 

The new House of Run podcast is up.

The CARIFTA Games are likely to be canceled.

The Fukuoka Marathon has been upgraded to IAAF Gold Label status.

Yelena Isinbayeva has announced her indoor schedule.

More one the London Olympic Stadium fight: Usain Bolt backs West Ham, Tottenham Hotspur fans protest their team's plans.

Track and Field News lists the best marks ever by athletes who have not made their World Rankings.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Evening Decathlete

What did we learn this week?

The World Cross Country Championships are going to be very interesting this year.  Based on recent form, it looked like Kenyans Joseph Ebuya and Linet Masai were heavy favorites to win the individual titles. But then today's Cross de Italica race threw a wrench into the gears.

Masai, the 2009 World 10,000 meters champion, won her last two outings and looked very good while doing so. Today she ran against a loaded field and was beaten by Vivian Cheruiyot, the 2009 World 5000 meters champion. Cheruiyot has not been nearly as good in cross country as on the track, but today's result calls that into question. These two would appear to be the leading runners going into the Worlds, but there is also defending champion Emily Chebet-- who is a big question mark. She pulled out of today's race citing injury, and skipped the Edinburgh race last week in what appeared to be an inability to agree with race management on financial terms.

Ebuya, the defending World champion, had been continually beating good competition by remarkable margins. Today he finished a surprising fifth. It's entirely possible that he has over-raced and fatigued, which is not a good sign some two months before the Worlds. Leonard Komon, the world road record holder at 10k and 15k, took the win today. But if Ebuya is no longer considered the man to beat, I don't think that mantle now goes to Komon. Rather, it goes to Geoffrey Mutai, who stomped a deep field yesterday at the Kenya Police Service Championships, coming away the victor by 25 seconds.

Whether or not Mutai is even going to run at the Worlds is open to some question. He is one of the new breed of Kenyan runners, who runs very well at everything from the track 10,000 on up to the marathon and concentrates on the latter because that's where the money is. After the race he said "I will consider competing for selection in the World Cross team at the Trials only if I get assurances from Athletics Kenya (AK) I will be allowed to train at my camp." As you may know, Kenya's mandatory pre-Worlds national training camp is ridiculously hard, probably too hard, and many Kenyans have done their best running there rather than at the Worlds.

Normally, Athletics Kenya doesn't give a flying f*** what the athletes want, and would tell Mutai to take a hike. Depth of talent is so great that they can just take the next guy with no worries. But this week, national coach Julius Kirwa told Kenya's Daily Nation that he is worried about who he'd get and whether they'd be good enough to win the team gold medal. So Mutai at least has an opening.

Qatar is bidding on the 2017 World Championships. This comes to us from Alfons Juck's news service, who says local media in the tiny Arabian state are saying Doha definitely will bid. This has been rumored for quite some time already, but in the wake of the recent FIFA World Cup site selection for 2022 this takes on new meaning. The other cities considered likely to bid for 2017 are London and Istanbul. I figure the latter doesn't have much of a chance, and that London and Doha are the candidates that matter.

Reasons for the IAAF wanting to take the Worlds to Doha are similar to FIFA's reasons for bringing the World Cup there, but significantly different. FIFA's leading reason was to expand soccer's fan base to a new part of the world. The IAAF would like to expand track's fan base to the Middle East, but it's a bit of a hard sell considering that our female athletes are (at least nominally) treated as equal to men, and even more problematic is that they essentially compete in their underwear. The IAAF's greatest concern in terms of fan base is not really expansion but contraction--track's popularity in Europe and the USA is declining. For proof you need look no further than Germany, which probably has the strongest base of track fans in Europe, but whose state TV recently announced it will not carry live coverage of this year's Worlds in Korea. Thus Doha's location outside of Europe may be a strike against it in the eyes of the IAAF. But that's far from the biggest issue.

The second leading reason FIFA went with Qatar is money, and specifically graft in their case. It's hard to prove but we all know it happened. The IAAF likely doesn't have as much graft due to the simple fact that there's not much money in track. In fact it's often a money-loser, and this is why the IAAF would be interested in Doha. The Worlds local organizing committee usually has to have financial guarantees from its government, meaning that the locals are taking all the financial risk. Like the IOC, the IAAF has always depended on the kindness of others. That kind of cash is pretty hard to find these days, coming almost exclusively from either a) oil-rich nations or b) east Asian countries with still-expanding economies. The pattern is easy to spot: 2007 Osaka (b), 2011 Daegu (b), 2013 Moscow (a), 2015 Beijing (b). Score a big plus to Doha here.

But the biggest issue that will make a difference in the 2017 bidding is similar to FIFA's motivation in picking the 2018 World Cup hosts. There, it is commonly thought that England shot itself in the foot by its press publishing stories about FIFA's corruption. They were already behind Russia anyway, but making FIFA look bad eliminated any chance they had. The IAAF, being less corrupt, is far less concerned with a free and open press. Rather, they have reason to worry about dealing with the Brits on principle. The 2005 Worlds were initially awarded to London on the promise of a suitable stadium being built, but within two years the government reneged on the deal and those Worlds went to Helsinki instead. Considering that the UK made another guarantee to the IOC about the new Olympic Stadium being an "athletics [track and field] legacy", and the current kerfuffle which could easily break that promise, and the IAAF has to take any London bid with a huge grain of salt.

Ohio State knows how to do things. I went to the Ohio State versus Michigan dual meet yesterday in Columbus, and (with one exception) they made it a real spectator experience. They brought out a portion of the world-famous band to play in between events. They had t-shirt tosses and a raffle. Brutus Buckeye was there. They had a good announcer that kept us well-informed, and the scoreboard was very helpful too. The crowd, which I'd estimate at 600 or more, got really pumped. It wasn't a particularly close competition--the Buckeyes clinched with three events left to go--but it was entertaining. Head Coach Robert Gary borrowed a giant "Beat Michigan" banner from the football team, and brought in Flotrack to do a live webcast.

It was a men-only meet, meaning that there was only one team score to keep track of, and the meet went quick (just two and a half hours from beginning to end). The two women's teams met in Ann Arbor for an equally quick, well-produced, and much closer meet, which was surprisingly their first-ever matchup in a dual.

My one complaint? We were kept abreast of the team score, the most important thing in a dual meet, by PA announcer only. You could not see it anywhere. French Fieldhouse has two scoreboards, one used for track results but the other of the basketball tpe. The latter went unused yesterday but would have been the perfect place to keep track of the score.

By the way, one of the oldest major-college school records on the books could be broken. Ohio State's long jump record of 26' 8¼" has stood since May 5, 1935, when Jesse Owens lept and ran into history. Michael Hartfield, a JC transfer from Rend Lake, opened his Buckeye career yesterday with 25' 4", and had a foul that looked considerably longer. Another 16 inches is a long way, but the record has to go sometime...

Some coaches are terrified of their own shadow. When Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell famously said that "we've become a nation of wusses", he thought he meant moving an NFL game because of a snowstorm. He didn't know he was really talking about an unwillingness to score college track meets because someone will have to be last.

Yesterday Clemson hosted a quad meet with Miami (FL), Auburn and Georgia. Just those four teams and nobody else, and none of them split their squads with another meet. And they didn't score it. No. Team. Score. The only possible reason for not scoring it is because at least some of the coaches involved are not interested in being evaluated by others in terms of wins and losses. To me, this calls into question the entire purpose of their sports' existence. If losing is too scary, then you shouldn't compete. And I mean in anything, not just track.

Texas A&M head coach Pat Henry has recently made a compelling argument that this kind of wussitude is killing college track. He thinks we must emphasize the team aspect and most meets should be scored affairs with something on the line. I couldn't agree more, and it adds to my respect of him that he makes his case so strongly. But while Henry is talking the talk, he isn't walking the walk. Three of TAMU's four regular-season home meets this year are "conference challenge" meets that tally scores for conferences only, not individual teams. That's a nice diversion once in a while, but it's not the kind of "my team beat your team" competition that really drives fan interest in college sports. It really isn't an improvement over meets with no scoring at all, and that it is the default mode of competition means that our basic problem of a nonexistent fan base isn't being addressed.

Matt Tegenkamp may have some inside info on Alan Webb. Or maybe not. The two both compete under the umbrella of the Oregon Track Club, but with different groups and with different coaches. Either way, there's an interesting tidbit being debated.

Earlier this week Teg said one of his season's goals is to "finish top 3 [in the 5k] at USA Champs (it’s going to be a CRAZY competitive event this year with Lagat, Solinsky, Fernandez, Fam, Bumbalough, Jager, Derrick, Webb, and me)". Webb? In the 5000 meters? Oh, I hope so.

Webb has always been a miler and I think it's just because it's what he's always done. With best times of 1:43.8 in the 800 and 27:34 in the 10k, it's obvious that he can be competitive at a national level (and possibly international level) at whatever distance he wants to run. The big rap on Webb is that he's consistently failed to critically and dispassionately examine what happens and why. That's why he left Michigan and quit college running after a tough freshman year, it's why he's been so hard on himself emotionally after bad races, and it's why he's been so thoroughly outfoxed in championship races. If his new coach, Alberto Salazar, is able to do this for him, then Webb stands a chance to finally fully realize his tremendous physical gifts.

Webb is probably best suited to running the 1500 on the Diamond League circuit, but at championship meets like the Worlds and Olympics he's probably best suited to the 5,000. This is because distance races are fundamentally different depending on whether or not a pacemaker is present. With a pacemaker, a race is little more than a high-speed time trial. The field gets strung out quickly so there's no traffic, and the strategy is basically to run as fast as you possibly can. Webb has shown that he's good at this.

Championship races, on the other hand, tend not to be run hard from the gun, and have fast finishes with a lot of runners still in contention. Being able to win a medal in one of these requires being in the right place at the right time, and it sure helps to be able to accelerate quickly from a variety of paces. No one in recent memory does this better than Bernard Lagat. Webb has not been good at this type of running at all. Generally speaking, though, there's more room for error as the distance gets longer.

Someone with 1:43 speed and who probably could come reasonably close to 27:00 doesn't have to be a tactical genius in the 5k to have a shot at a Worlds or Olympic medal. Note that US men have only ever won four of those in the 5k. Let's hope Webb and AlSal go the unexpected route and take on the 5000 meters.

The USA has young shot putters coming along. Ryan Whiting, the 24-year-old who won six NCAA titles at Arizona State, started off his first fully professional season yesterday at Penn State with a world-leading 20.89 (68' 6.5"). Ranked eighth in the world last year and fourth in the US, he will likely beat out an aging Adam Nelson for a spot on the Worlds team, where is entirely capable of winning a medal or even gold. Yesterday wasn't exceptional for him, but right about where he should be starting off.

In Kansas on Friday night a youngster did have an exceptional day. While beating the hated Missouri Tigers in the annual Border Dual, Jayhawk sophomore Mason Finley put up a huge PR of 20.71 (67' 11.5"), which was the world leader until Whiting stepped it up the next day. Recall that at last year's NCAA outdoor championship, Finley was involved in a bit of a controversy when one of his throws was mismarked at 20.68 (67' 10"), which Finley said he did not (and could not) reach; 19.84 was his PR at the time. Finley is already 36 cm (14 inches) ahead of where Whiting was at the same age--and the season has just begun.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Michigan at Ohio State, "The Dual"

In just a few minutes, I'll be leaving Toledo for Columbus.  A carload of us are going to see Ohio State take on that team up north in a meet that has been dubbed "The Dual".

The meet had been an annual affair for decades but died out in the mid-90s.  Since the revival, which is a home-and-home indoor/outdoor series, Ohio State leads by a score of four wins to two.  I've doped out the meet, and Ohio State is a fairly strong favorite today.  But it's not impossible for Michigan to win. 

An early indicator will be the long jump, where Michigan's senior Robert Peddlar will got toe-to-toe with Ohio State sophomore (and northwest Ohio native) Korbin Smith.  Smith is the defending Big Ten outdoor champion, Peddlar the defending indoor champion.  If Peddlar can pull off the win, then Michigan has a somewhat of a chance.  Otherwise, the Wolverines will be in a big hole.

In terms of online coverage, there's plenty.  The meet schedule is hereFlotrack will have a live webcast beginning at noon.  I will be doing updates via Twitter.  Live results are online via Finish Timing.  And then there are the Facebook pages for the Ohio State and Michigan teams.

In what I consider to be a very smart move (in that  they're doing what I suggested a year ago), there are two Ohio State versus Michigan dual meets happening today.  The women's teams face off in Ann Arbor at the same time the men are competing in Columbus.  A home-and-home series splitting men's and women's teams has multiple advantages.  The meets can be much more tightly scheduled affairs if there's only one gender competing.  It's much easier to keep track of team scores if there's only one score being kept.  And, best of all, it doubles the exposure (and likely doubles the attendance).

Friday, January 14, 2011

Superfan Daily: What's On The Weekend

Cross Country
The Cross Internacional de Itálica, an IAAF Cross Country Permit meet, will be held in Seville on Sunday. It is so named because it takes place in the former Roman city of Itálica, looping through ancient streets and ruins.
The men's race is deep, with undisputed world #1 Joseph Ebuya; Teklemariam Medhin, the only man to have beaten him this season; Leonard Komon, world record holder for the road 10k and 15k; and Tariku Bekele, last summer's #2 track distance man.
The women's race is also deep, with Linet Masai, the dominant runner of late; Emily Chebet, the defending World XC champion; Vivian Cheruiyot, the defending World 5k champion; and Pauline Korikwiang, who won in Amorebieta last weekend.
Meet website / Wikipedia page
IAAF preview

The Cross della Vallagarina, an EAA Cross Country Permit meet, will be held in the Italian city of Rovereto on Sunday.
Meet website
FIDAL preview (in Italian)

The Kenya Police Service Cross Country Championships will be held at Nairobi's Ngong Race Course on Saturday. While undoubtedly deep, the exact makeup of the fields are up in the air; some previously announced runners, such as Linet Masai and Vivian Cheruiyot, are running the day before in Seville, and cannot possibly do both.
The Standard Preview

The first-ever Bay Area Cross Challenge will be held on Sunday in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. The meet is part of an attempt to create a domestic winter-season cross country circuit; there will be $9,000 of prize money on the line.
Leading men's confirmed entrants: Abdi Abdirahman, David Torrance, Belota Asmerom, Boaz Cheboiywo
Leading women's confirmed entrants: Molly Huddle (5k American Record holder) Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, Alissa McKaig, Megan (Metcalfe) Wright, Renee Metivier Baillie
Meet website

Road Racing
The Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon will be run through the Indian city on Sunday. One runner will be no stranger to India: John Kelai, who won the Commonwealth Games marathon last fall in New Delhi.
Race website / live webcast
IAAF preview / Hindustan Times / OneIndia News
The Rock n' Roll Arizona Marathon will be run in Pheonix on Sunday. Kara Goucher will make her return to racing after maternity.
Race website
AP preview / Arizona Republic preview

Indoor Track
Texas goes to Arkansas on Friday for a men-only dual meet.
Preview / Meet schedule / Start lists / Live blog / Live Results

Missouri goes to Kansas on Friday for a dual meet.
Preview / Meet schedule

The Washington Indoor Preview will have a couple of notable post-collegians running in the women's 3000 meters: Shalane Flanagan and Lisa Koll.
Meet schedule / Heat sheets
Paul Merca's preview / Flotrack coverage page

Texas A&M hosts a "four-conference challenge" on Saturday between teams from the Big 12, Southland, Sun Belt and SWAC. I wonder which conference will win...
Live webcast at Aggies All-Access begins at 1:00 PM EST
Preview / Heat sheets / Live results

Michigan goes to Ohio State for a men-only dual meet on Saturday. I will be there and will tweet updates during the meet.
Flotrack coverage page
Video preview
/ Meet schedule / Live results

In a brilliant home-and-home move, Ohio State simultaneously goes to Michigan for a women-only dual meet.
Meet schedule / Video preview

Indiana travels to Purdue on Saturday for a dual meet.
Video preview / Meet schedule / Live results

All other college meets

Vault Manchester, a stop on the pole-vault only Perche Elite Tour, will take place on Sunday.

Also on Sunday is the Capital Perche, another stop on the Perche Elite Tour, in the French city of Clermont-Ferrand.

Other minor European meets: the Demyanuk Memorial in Lviv UKR, the Reykjavik International Games, and the AAI Games in Nenagh IRL.

Track on TV (and the web)
Live web chat with Ryan Hall and Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, 2:00 PM Friday at
Texas A&M Challenge, live webcast begins at 1 PM Saturday at Aggies All-Access
Bud Greenspan's Athens 2004: Stories of Olympic Glory, Saturday at 9:55 AM and 8:00 PM on Showtime Family Zone

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Superfan Daily: Millrose Reversing Downward Trend

Over the last couple of decades, and especially the last few years, the Millrose Games have been declining in lots of ways.  A meet that used to sell out Madison Square Garden's 18,000 seats hasn't had an attendance of 12,000 in many years.  And while it no longer maintains an important place in the domestic sports year because track in general is not important, even within track circles it just isn't that big a deal anymore.

There are many reasons for this, but one big reason is that there's not as much to see these days.  The meet has far fewer competitions.  In 1983, for example, Millrose had the following men's races:
*60 yards (plus qualifying heats), 400 meters, 500 yards, 600 yards, 800 meters, mile, 5000 meters, 60 yard hurdles (plus qualifying heats), 4x440y clubs, 4x440y colleges, 4x880y
Last year we were down to these races:
*60 meters (final only), 600 yards, 800 meters, mile, 60 meter hurdles (final only), 4x400, 4x800

If you consider heats as races (and I don't see why you wouldn't), the men's slate of events is less than half of what it used to be.  Between 1983 and 2010 the women's competition has expanded, but not by all that much, and certainly not by the amount that the men's program has been cut. 

Consider this: domestic TV coverage of track is notable for its ability to waste time and avoid showing real competition, but over the last few years ESPN has shown us all the pro races at Millrose and still run out of things to fill air time.  They've gone to including the high school boys' and girls' mile races because there's not enough pro and collegiate level content for a two-hour broadcast.

One thing that has really disappeared from the scene is the long races.  Millrose hasn't had a men's race longer than a mile since 2003, when it had a 3000 meters.  Back in the 80s, though, they had a 5000--yeah, 34+ laps of that tiny track.  Cutting out one long race is a big deal in terms of content, not only because it takes a lot of time but because it allows attention to go to field events during the race's early stages.

A large part of why these longer races disappeared is because of an inability to bring in the top talent.  European meets have gained in strength while the US circuit has all but completely disappeared.  NCAA rules changes have discouraged the top collegians from competing in the elite races.  And, most of all, US runners haven't been competitive.  A meet promoter doesn't think much of a thirteen-minute race between what he percieves the public sees as a bunch of nameless, faceless foreigners, but the 1981 battle between Suleiman Nyambui and Alberto Salazar most certainly was good entertainment.  The difference is that it was close and a well-known American was in the hunt.

Fortunately, things at Millrose appear to be taking a turn for the better under the new management of the Armory Foundation.  A Jamaica-USA challenge in the sprints has inked most of the best stars from each country who compete indoors.  A three-event multi competition has brought in all of the best American decathletes.  Bernard Lagat will likely have a tough race on his hands in the Wanamaker Mile as he goes up against the defending world indoor champion.

And, in what I think is the most meaningful new direction, on Tuesday it was announced that the meet will bring back the two-mile race and it that it will feature Galen Rupp.  The meet is beginning to look somewhat like it used to, and hopefully especially so in terms of attendance and media attention.  It should come as little surprise that the Armory Foundation has hired Tom Jordan to direct the meet.  This is the man who took the Prefontaine Classic from just another west-cost meet to one of the very best in the world.

What's On
Rider goes to Monmouth today for a dual meet.

Track on TV
Running, 8:00 PM tonight on Showtime Family Zone

News Links
Runner's World's Racing News has all the headlines.

Let's Run's The Week That Was looks at how to beat the winter blues.

Huge news in the UK: Tottenham Hotspur plans to demolish the Olympic Stadium completely and start over if they win their bid to gain the site.  They are already considered a bit behind as compared to West Ham, the other bidder, and hopefully this puts them further behind.  But it goes to show how much football rules all in Britain, even more so than in the USA.

The IOC sticks by its extended-ban rule which would knock out LaShawn Merritt for 2012, but USADA head Travis Tygart says it has unintended negative consequences, namely that athletes inclined to assist anti-doping authorities might face an especially severe penalty for doing so.

News and notes from the New York Track Writers luncheon.  Apparently there are enough of them in New York to actually have an organization.

Athletics Kenya announces its selection criteria for the World and African Cross Country Championships...sort of.

Usain Bolt will run in Rome's late-May Golden Gala.  Paired with his stop in Oslo just a few weeks later, it's almost certain he will not run in either of the USA stops on the Diamond League, as their dates are similar.

Speaking of Bolt, TrackAlerts gives us an update on construction of his new Kingston sports bar.

Kingston's Gibson Relays were canceled due to track reconstruction at the National Stadium, but the work just might be done in time to still hold the meet.

Matt Gabrielson has dropped out of the USA Half Marathon Championships in favor of the USA Cross Country Championships a week later.  XC always loses out to the roads in the USA, and this is a nice change.

Comebacking Liu Xiang will run two indoor meets in Europe next month.

The USTFCCCA has released the pre-season Bowerman Award men's watch list.

The IAAF runs a profile on Russian high jumper Aleksandr Shustov.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Superfan Daily: Your Track Vault Pick of the Week

Today we have a Sports Illustrated article from 1965 profiling the start of the track season.
Two months ago the prospects for a successful indoor track season seemed about as rosy as winter slush. The combination of post-Olympic ennui and post-truce hostilities between the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Amateur Athletic Union made promoters wonder where they would get enough athletes to fill their programs or enough ticket buyers to fill their seats.

They need not have worried. What threatened to be one of track's dullest winters in years shows every sign of being its brightest and most exciting. Last week in San Francisco a crowd of 11,412 showed up at the Cow Palace for the first indoor meet of the season. No legitimate indoor records were jeopardized, but as a preview of things to come the meet was a rousing success.

First of all, it was revealed that there will be girls, lots of them. There will be plenty of visitors from abroad, too, the largest and most exotic group the indoor season has ever enjoyed. There will be imaginative new events that would have tickled P. T. Barnum. And finally, to assuage fears of the serious indoor track enthusiast that more cake than bread will be available, there will be lots of plain, nourishing competition.

Track on TV
Endurance, 6:00 AM tomorrow onFLiX
Running , 9:30 AM tomorrow on Showtime Family Zone
Prefontaine, 9:30 AM tomorrow on Showtime Showcase

News Links
Runner's World's Racing News has all the headlines: Millrose adds Galen Rupp and a 2-mile race, the Boston Indoor Games have a new title sponsor, and more.

Lolo Jones wins Mr. Universe's Tweet of the Week award.

Part 2 of iRunnerblog's interview with Shalane Flanagan.

Galen Rupp's 2011 season will have distinct and separate indoor and outdoor portions.

Olympic News: the USOC and IOC are opening discussions on a new revenue-sharing agreement, and GM paid big to be the lone auto advertiser for NBC's 2012 Olympic coverage.

TFN's Garry Hill says loud music and other histrionics get in the way of experiencing a track meet.  Agreed.  I've also noticed that a road race or triathlon that has a DJ is almost invariably poorly organized.

College news: Pre-season D-II rankings released, and Florida's super-sprinter/footballer Jeff Demps will miss the season opener (and maybe more).

Anti-doping news: The two Greek sprinters are finally in court for their 2004 Olympic antics, a key suspect in Operation Galgo has been found dead, an editorial explains how dope cheaters who pass tests are still found, and a researcher will probe into Kenyan running.