Sunday, November 28, 2004

MID-MAJORS FIGHTING FOR ARETHA--A LITTLE R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Folks around the national sporting scene categorize Long Beach State as a “mid-major”. A “major-major” would be a school belonging to a prestigious conference that plays all the sports-like football-and makes money along with the fun and games.

The big boys figure the role of mid-majors is to provide fodder for major-majors, maybe a little fear, but in the end a respite between their big conference contests. This matter came to mind recently for two reasons, the fuss about the Bowl Championship football series and our inspection of non-conference basketball schedules.

Given that assigned life-role, outfits like LBSU relish the chance to raise their RPI and give their chardonnay-sipping-quiche-eating cousins a serving of humble pie. This week the Niner nation circled their SUVs for trips to major-major UCLA for the baskets played Tuesday night and the NCAA volleyball first round coming up this weekend.

The LBSU ladies of the spike travel Friday night to face a Utah team (24-6) who they beat earlier this season. Both teams are better now. The other two Westwood tourney entries are LMU (17-11) vs. UCLA (18-10) with the Saturday night winner going to the Sweet 16’s at Seattle. In total an amazing six Big West teams—can you say a six-pack of mid-majors--made the field of 64 including UCSB who was shipped to a topugher regional at Georgia Tech.

BONUS BRUIN DUST--As a host to a mid-major the major-majors are required to extend normal courtesies. Press parking for example. UCLA recently asked that each person coming to cover for LBSU provide their driver’s license number. I quipped that likely the Bruins wanted to be sure that none of the Niner attendees improperly parked in a handicapped space. Quick with quip of his own, PT beat writer Frank Burlison opined that excessive parking violations of that nature would result in the issuance of a letter, a UCLA athletic letter.

Back to Beach bragging, Long Beach State’s latest ace lefthander, Cesar Ramos, was one the players on the initial watch list for the Wallace College Baseball Player of the Year award. He takes the ace title from the still-unsigned Jered Weaver who likely will not ink a Scott Boras developed deal until a day or so before spring training. He can not return to the Dirtbags because of his agent relationship.

Back to yesteryear, former Niner Coach Lute Olson's now has a Madison Square Garden winning streak of 11 games after Arizona beat Michigan in the semifinals of the Preseason NIT. Olson's first victory in the famed New York arena came in 1973 when he was coaching at Long Beach State.

More beauty news. If you thought that our town was a little blah the past couple of weeks, you were correct. Pound for pound the best athlete on the planet, our Misty May and new husband Matt Treanor were honey-mooning in Bora Bora. The queen of the sand is back and will be riding down Second Street Saturday as Grand Marshall of the Belmont Shore Christmas Parade.

Speaking of wheeling around, our retired pal Gordon Verrell covered the Long Beach basketball game at Charlotte and dared to complain about east coast highways, specifically North Carolina. “There's more construction in that state than on an ant farm. Of course, I took my pickup, not our car. As I'm sure you know, the only cars allowed on N.C. highways have big ol' numbers on the side.”

Last add moving news. A popular LBSU athletic staffer in the 80’s, Steve Holton, made the final cut at Cal Poly for their open athletic director post. The SLO search committee would like to have an AD by early next year. Holton had been athletic director at Northern Arizona since 1994 but left in a flap over a coach who upset players. During Holton's time at NAU, the Lumberjacks won 40 Big Sky titles, saw student athletes' grade point average above 3.0 in nine of the last10 semesters and saw an increase in athlete graduation rates and booster support.—DR. DAN

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